CSA Newsletter: Volume 4, Issue 3

Flying Tomato Farms News

A newsletter for members of Flying Tomato Farms C.S.A.

Vol. 4, Issue 3


Mowing and hoeing and weeding and watering to get ready for tomorrow night’s garden tour. We’re meeting at 6:30pm at the Vermillion Community Gardens, located behind the Washington Street Arts Center at 202 Washington Street, and we’ll carpool out. It’s a relatively short jaunt (we’re only about 3 miles north of town), so it won’t take all night.

I finally passed the 100-tomato mark, and decided that 102 tomato plants is probably enough for this year. So many fantastic varieties! I can’t wait to try all the new ones. When the various varieties start to bear, I’ll provide a detailed list of their colors and sizes for easy identification.

Also seeded summer squash (4 varieties) and Minnesota Midget melons now that it’s really warm out. The midget melon is a small cantaloupe that is just right for one or two people, and it bears well and dependably in this climate. Chances are I won’t be growing any other melon varieties this year because of space limitations, though I did seed some big watermelons on an island in the Missouri River. You never know….

All that plastic! I re-use plastic grocery bags for your deliveries, but I have to use new not-previously-used bags for the greens, etc. in order to be safe. I would like to switch to using cloth bags, but that would require members to remember to leave out their previous week’s bag every Tuesday so that I could pick it up when I deliver. Let me know what you think. In the past, I’ve tried biodegradable cellulose bags for greens and herbs, but their cost continues to be prohibitive. I’ll keep checking around for a better price.


Radishes! Plus spinach, salad mix, and asparagus.

The radishes are a blend called Easter Egg, and I seeded them in late March. Can’t believe they took so long to mature, but here they are. These are fairly mild as radishes go—regular watering helps keep them from being blistering. Radish greens are edible too—some people make soup or stir fry with them.

The spinach is a blend of both Space and Bloomsdale Long Standing. I seeded it in early March as well, and then over-seeded when it was slow to germinate. No worries about eating this spinach raw, but you can certainly cook it if that’s your pleasure.

In case you’re wondering about all the E.Coli and Salmonella scares with raw greens (spinach especially)—most of those greens were contaminated through the irrigation source. Many of the large commercial farms use open ponds for their irrigation water, and that water is easily contaminated because it’s used by wildlife (they need to drink, too), and the water doesn’t generally flow or aerate. That environment can be a good breeding ground for bacteria, and bruised or damaged leaves can take the bacteria up into the plant during harvest (which is why washing tainted greens doesn’t really help). Greens can also be contaminated in the process of handling. Interestingly enough, watering produce with tainted water does not usually cause a problem—it’s when the produce is harvested with the tainted water on it that the leaves take up the bacteria.

I learned all this fascinating and disturbing information at a farmers market conference—apparently government scientists have been trying to force cantaloupes to drink bacteria-tainted water and become infected, but so far, according to the extension food safety specialist, they’ve been unsuccessful. I’m thinking that’s good, though I’m disturbed by the implications of their trying to infect produce with potentially deadly bacteria.

I irrigate my greens using our well, which taps into the Vermillion River aquifer (not the river itself, but its underground source). I periodically sterilize my harvest tubs as well, and the manure I use for greens is well-composted and applied before planting. But even though my greens are unlikely to be contaminated with anything but a little garden soil, I remind you to wash them in every newsletter to clean out any remaining dirt and critters, and to freshen them up for your table.

Well—enough of that! Now for the rest of the delivery:

The salad mix is a blend of lettuces—Black Seeded Simpson (lime green), Lolla Rossa (red), and Buttercrunch (bright green), plus some baby arugula and rapini leaves, and a little dill and cilantro and purple chive blossoms—pretty, edible, and quite sharply oniony! This is a flavorful mix—a little spicy but not too hot, and it can stand up to a creamy dressing. I like bleu cheese or, I’ll confess—a good buttermilk ranch. I guess it’s my concession to moving to the Midwest.

This may be the last week for asparagus—I’ll try to get some in next week’s deliveries, but the warm weather last weekend started toughening up some of the spears.

You can also visit me and all the other growers and producers at the Vermillion Area Farmers Market. We set up on Thursday evenings from 3-7pm at the Clay County Fairgrounds, corner of Cherry and High Streets.

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