Ripeness

It’s hot out there. The heat can be hard to work in but, I’m not mad at it because the heat brings the ripeness. The warm temperatures allow the tomatoes to turn from green to red, or yellow or pink or whatever color the heirloom is determined to be.

a preview of the Pink Boar

a preview of the Pink Boar

The tomato harvest has started but it’s still light, I have to search through the vines to find only a few baskets of cherry tomatoes and a couple of pounds of the early heirloom tomatoes.

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As the high temperatures continues and the farmer find themselves taking more shade breaks, the tomatoes will quicken their pace of ripening until there is no need to hunt for ripe tomatoes, they will just be covering the plant from top to bottom. So I’m enjoying these hot days because it means that later I can have more tomato sandwiches!

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Waiting on the Popcorn

The popcorn crop is not ready for popping yet, it was all harvested weeks ago but the wait continues. Most years I’m eating bowls of fluffy popcorn by the second week of November. I shouldn’t be surprised as I stare at my empty bowl,  because I planted the popcorn a little later than I planned, the spring is always such a whirlwind.

The cornstalks left behind

The cornstalks left behind

Day after day the popcorn is silently drying, I like to think I’m helping by willing the kernels with all my energy to dry out to that perfect balance of 14% moisture content. Every couple of days I test the popcorn by randomly selecting kernels and trying to pop them on the stove top. The popcorn is getting close to popping and my popcorn obsession continues to increase. As I wait for the kernels to be perfectly dry, I try to distract myself by searching for antique shellers, heirloom seeds, vintage corn collectibles, historical popcorn records; pretty much anything corn related I can get my hands on. I’m not sure when my popcorn obsession started but I just find heirloom popcorn fascinating.

I spent last night reading about popcorn history

Yes, I spent last night reading about popcorn history …

 

The Spirit of Autumn

I spent the week picking pumpkins, cornstalks, and gourds for both the farmers market and my house. My jack-o-lantern is carved and hanging out on my porch awaiting Halloween visitors.

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One of the many things I love about autumn is the continued tradition of decorating with crops. During these modern days we are so often, removed from nature and encouraged to embrace state-of-the-art sleek things. So it warms my heart to see people excited and passionate about displaying bumpy rustic biodegradable treasures.

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As a farmer I am constantly surrounded by vegetables and I see each crop as beautiful and intricate. But few crops receive so much excitement across the generations, as pumpkins do. At the market people can’t wait to pick out their perfect pumpkin. Finding the size that they want, then they examine the skin finding the right color and texture. They look for an expressive stem. Lastly they pick up the pumpkin to see if it feels just right. Then with a beaming smile they proclaim I will take this one!

Musquée de Provence pumpkins

Musquée de Provence pumpkins

Some days I feel like I am helping customers to adopt a family pet as they tell me, that they will take very good care of the pumpkin and it will live a long and happy life in their home. My normal response is, “That is wonderful and when you are tired of looking at it you can roast it up and eat it!” To my surprise this comment startles some customers, you would never dream of eating their dear pumpkin.

Back to the Market

Today I returned to the farmers’ market.  It was a lovely sunny day with new and old customers coming to my booth to check out my organic bounty.  I had freshly dug green garlic by the bunch.  This is one of my favorite things to eat in the spring.  You can cook, with it like you do garlic cloves or you can use it like a leek or green onions; think potato green garlic soup or whole grilled green garlic tossed with olive oil and salt.

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But the main thing that filled my truck was green seedlings.  I had arugula, swiss chard, green onions, lettuce, sugar snap peas, leeks, kale, dill, and mustard greens; all set in 6 packs ready to find their forever home.

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Today was also the roll out of Quarter Acre’s Fill Your Garden loyalty program. This involves loyalty punch cards, for every $6 worth of seedlings you purchase, you get a hole punch. After you get 20 hole punches, you will get a free seedling 6-pack of your choice.

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Thanksgiving Brew

This Thanksgiving our house was filled with friends and family.  Like many others we spent the day preparing food to load our table with a bountiful feast.  The dishes include vegetables I grew at Quarter Acre Farm like the mashed potatoes and baked winter squash.  As well as local produce like sautéed brussel sprouts from a neighboring Sonoma Valley farm, and apples for our pie from the fruit farm across from me at the farmers market.

Yukon Gold & Purple Viking

Yukon Gold & Purple Viking

But in addition to all the cooking in the kitchen, we have an outdoor cooking activity as well, brewing beer.  The annual Thanksgiving brew has varied over the years we’ve done an Irish strong red ale, an amber lager, and a cream ale.  This year it was a honey wheat.  Everyone gets involved from mixing, to straining, to timing, to supervising with a wine glass in hand.

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I believe creating food and drink with others is so fulfilling because it achieves some of our basic needs as humans; nourishment and camaraderie.  Now to wait for the beer to finish fermenting.

Pumpkins, Winter Squash, and Gourds Oh My

The weather finally feels like autumn and the pumpkins are out in full force.  My farmers’ market booth has transitioned from boxes of heirloom tomatoes and tons of pints of cherry tomatoes to piles and piles of pumpkins, winter squash, and gourds.  Its time to decorate your table and door step with squash, fall is here.

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This year’s pumpkin varieties include: New England Pie, Winter Luxury, Long Island Cheese, Jack Be Little, and Black Futsu.  All of them will be tasty in a pie or a curry.  For more interesting shapes and colors check of the winter squash, this year I grew: Baby Blue Hubbard, Red Kuri, Butternut, Delicata, and Buttercup.  These winter squashes will easily store for 3 to 6 months bringing you through the cold winter months into the spring.  I love using all the pumpkins and winter squash varieties as decor and then one by one roasting them up and eating them.

Black Futsu pumpkins

Black Futsu pumpkins

 

Feelings of Fall

The mornings are chilly, the sun sets sooner, and the vineyards are changing color; it is fall.  With fall comes the harvest of fall crops: pumpkins, winter squash, and gourds.

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But even with these feelings of fall, tomatoes have not given up their dominance in the field.  So I still, find myself eating lots of tomatoes.  But now my meals are more than just simple tomato sandwiches. I want to make warmer dishes and spend more time in front of the stove.

Tomatoes and garlic roasting

Tomatoes and garlic roasting

I’m turning up the heat and making sauce, soup, and even roasted tomatoes.  Some to eat today and some preserved for eating later.  Currently the pumpkins and winter squash are just decoration on the table but soon they will find their way into pies, risotto, soups, and more; to keep me warm through the winter.

Harvest For Now and Later

During this time of year the main task on the farm is harvesting.  The tomatoes are ripening so fast that almost everyday some row of plants need to be harvested. Just week, I harvested over 70 pounds of cherry tomatoes. I’m starting to see tiny tomatoes in my dreams!

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But I love tomato season because I love eating tomatoes. Right now, I’m eating them at every meal  and making sauce to freeze for the winter.  Remember tomato season won’t last forever so enjoy them everyday while you can.

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Cherry tomatoes in the dehydrator and heirloom tomatoes being made into sauce

 

Tomatoes Tomatoes Tomatoes

The field is full of ripe tomatoes!  I’ve been harvesting the plants a couple of times a week to keep up with all bounty.

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Sweetie a cherry tomato variety

At Quarter Acre we grow 10 different varieties of beautifully delicious tomatoes.  Right now we are harvesting: gold nugget, sweetie, glacier, cosmonant, green zebra, and black japanese trifele.  The other four varieties are late season large heirlooms and should start to ripen in the next few weeks.

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The commingling of tomatoes at market

At home I have been including tomatoes in every meal.  I’m still waiting for the harvest to kick into high gear to be able to make sauce and preserve some summer flavor for the winter.

 

Eat Your Greens

It’s the time for greens again.  Beautiful healthy kale, collards, swiss chard, purslane, and more.  Greens grow well in the summer but they thrive in the fall.  Greens love the cool temperatures, their flavor even gets sweeter with a frost.  Leafy greens are full of nutrition and should be part of your regular diet.

Two varieties of kale

Two varieties of kale

I enjoy them for breakfast with my home fries or in a smoothie.  They make a great addition to a lunchtime soup.  I’m obsessed with kale chips, they are my go to snack.  For dinner the possibilities are endless, one of my favorites, is to finely chop up the greens and throw them on top of  a pizza as soon as it comes out of the oven. The heat from the pizza wilts the greens and its delicious.

One of our wonderful CSA members, has started a beautiful food blog, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper.  The first entry features our purslane, a green that is a nutritional power house, check it out!