This week’s share: Lemon basil, Beets, Bok choi, Cucumber, Eggplant, Leeks, Lettuce, Sun Jewel melon, Walla Walla and red onions, Pepper, Newmex and Cherry hot peppers, Squash, Tomatoes
My family went to the beach and I feel a little sorry for myself that I don’t get a summer vacation. Especially this week. Who would not rather be floating in the ocean in this weather?
Though I suppose if, as I hear some people do, you have an air conditioned office you probably don’t mind the heat quite so much. Actually, we have a really well chilled part of our work place, but there aren’t enough things to do in the cooler to justify spending the whole day in there. We have to come out occasionally to pick and wash things. And, at the moment, to plant a lot of crops.
This might seem like an odd moment to plant things (and not just because it is too hot to be outside), but we need to put in all sorts fall crops now to have them ready later in the season. We actually have far more seedlings in the greenhouse right now–broccoli, cabbage, all sorts of Asian greens, lettuce, endives, beets, scallions–than we did a month ago. Everything, especially crab grass, seems to be growing at top speed right now. But in a few weeks we will have cold nights again and they, in conjunction with the decreasing day length, will slow down plant growth significantly Crops that would mature in four or five weeks in the middle of summer will take eight weeks in the fall. Which the crabgrass understands full well. Hence its current efforts to make the most of the heat and sunshine. And our efforts to get in a lot of fall crops so they can get a good start now.
It does not leave much time for beach vacations, though. Not that farming ever really leaves much time for beach vacations. Well, that’s not entirely true. It just depends how you feel about going to the beach in late November. As it happens, I rather like the beach then. Perhaps even more than I like it now. For a start, there are fewer people. A lot fewer people.
When I was young we went to the beach in Brooklyn. My grandparents lived two blocks away. On a summer day a constant stream of people flowed from the D train past their house to the ocean. By noon the beach was full, a hundred thousand city dwellers packed in on the sand getting away from it all. It was interesting, but I was grateful when my father had finally heated up in the sun enough to take his swim and we could walk back to my grandparent’s house. We would go back to the beach in the early evening, before dinner, and it would be empty except for the gulls picking at the picnic remains and the guys with metal detectors hoping to find I am not quite sure what. I liked that version a lot more.
What I like even more are spots that were not crowded in the first place, such as my fields. If a hundred thousand people came and sat in my fields for the day and then departed before sunset, I would be glad they were gone. But the relief I would feel upon their departure, though great, would be temporary at best and in the long run come nowhere near the pleasure I take in having uncrowded fields.
I don’t mean to suggest I am a hermit, or even long to be one. I happily had a crew of 10 gleaners in the fields this morning collecting produce for Comfort Food, and I like having members come and see the farm. Plus of course I have workers, and a family. But I may have hermitish tendencies.
I don’t doubt that is one of the things that led me to farming. I think it may work that way for other farmers too. Not that most farmers around here needed any leading. They were born into it. Still, they too seem to prefer to stay away from crowds. And farming not only just let you spend most of your life in unpopulated fields; it also provides a pretty solid excuse for missing those crowded summer beach holidays.
I recognize that to non-farmers that may sound like a pretty tenuous reason to farm, and right this moment, knowing I could be with my family floating in the ocean, I am tempted to agree. But then I look out over the fields–and just about all I can see are fields–and feel a little better. Plus looking at my fields reminds me of all the tasks I have to get done now. I don’t have time for a vacation.
Vegetable notes: The sweet pepper is some color other than green (could be red, orange, yellow or purple). The Newmex, which is not much hotter than the sweet pepper, is green. The cherry pepper (which could be somewhere between as hot as a Jalapeño and not hot at all) is, appropriately, the small, round, red one.
What should you do with a large Walla Walla onions? Well, it has decorative qualities. Or you could have a lot of onion sandwiches. You could slice it, brush it with oil, grill it and make a salad with chunks of grilled squash and eggplant, maybe some grilled leeks too, some roasted Newmex, a little lemon basil, olive oil and lemon juice. You could cut it into very thin slices and cook it down with a little oil or butter and liquid (water, white wine, sherry) in a covered pot until it has melted into onion mush, which you could serve on toast with grated parmesan or use in a tart with grilled squash, grilled tomatoes and a little grated Gruyere. You could have a bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion sandwich (an improvement on the BLT, which is pretty good to begin with). In fact, there are so many things to do with your onion, one hardly seems like enough. Good news: you will be getting more large onions in the coming weeks.