Flying Tomato Farms News
A newsletter for members of Flying Tomato Farms C.S.A.
Vol. 4, Issue 11
Gadzukes! Cukes! While last week was close but no cigar, this week brings abundance on the cucumber front—and the second planting hasn’t even started bearing yet! I am picking 7 or 8 fruits every day now off the six slicing and burpless plants. I have had little to no success with cucumbers for the past couple of years thanks to the cucumber beetles, so this year feels like a make-up. This year, the cuke beetles seem to be favoring the summer squash instead.
More watering last week, but the storm on Sunday night was great! And thankfully, we got none of the advertised hail with it (knock on wood).
The eggplant have blossoms, tomatoes are starting to ripen, and I think I may be able to get a couple small tomatoes in next week’s bags. There are little cantaloupes forming in the melon patch, which is quickly spreading out to be about twice the size originally planned, thanks to all those nice, healthy, blossom-loaded vines going in all directions. Not so happy is the summer squash—I am planting a couple more every week so that at some point in the next month or two I’ll have a good amount to deliver. There’s always something….
This week saw the emergence of one of my favorite garden allies—the baby toads. There are literally hundreds hopping around all over the farm right now, eating bugs and burrowing down beneath the mulch to stay cool and moist. I have not yet seen any of our resident 5-lined skinks, but I’m guessing that now that the toads are out, they will be too. I just hope there are enough of them to cut down the burgeoning grasshopper population. Another not-so-welcome visitor has been a yearling fawn that keeps testing the electric fence. Harry has been busy fixing the downed wires and making modifications to our deer-protection system.
THIS WEEK’S DELIVERY:
Cucumbers, sweet peppers, a hot pepper, an onion, sugar snaps, and a couple sprigs of fresh basil.
The cucumbers are of two varieties—the shorter “slicers” (6-8 inches or so) are Mideast Prolific—an heirloom variety from Seeds of Change that I’ve grown for years. The longer, skinnier cukes are a burpless Asian variety called Summer Dance. This is my first year growing these, and I’m sure I’ll be growing them again—they are delicious and incredibly prolific. Seed was from Pinetree Garden Seeds out of Maine—I have not seen this variety elsewhere. On a side note, I can’t believe how expensive cucumbers have gotten in the grocery store—a dollar for a slicer and two dollars for a burpless variety. Yikes! Many local producers usually try to keep their market prices in line with grocery store prices, but I think we’re going to start seeing a big price difference between local and shipped-in produce.
You do not need to peel these cukes, but you should always peel a conventionally-grown supermarket cucumber because they are waxed with (usually) a petroleum-based product. They do this because while some crops can be picked green and will ripen slowly (or more quickly if ethylene gas is used) during processing and shipping, cucumbers must be picked when ripe, and will quickly lose their moisture if they are not preserved in some way. I pick cukes almost daily in season, dunk them in cool water to take out the field heat, and store them in the “CSA-only” crisper drawer of my refrigerator. Since I also sell cukes at the Farmers Market on Thursdays, the fruits you’re getting were picked no earlier than last Friday or Saturday.
I try to pick my cucumbers when they are good-sized but not huge—I do not like seedy, bitter fruits! While these cucumbers are nice and sweet, there is almost always a little bitterness concentrated in the blossom and stems ends. For perfect, bitter-free slices, take a small slice off each end and then rub those ends in a circular motion around the place you cut. You will see a little whitish fluid coming out of the skin—rinse that off and discard the ends. Alternately, use the sliced-off ends to give your face a cool rub-down! Cukes are not terribly high in most vitamins, being about 95% water, but they are a fairly good source of vitamin E. Leave the skins on to maximize nutrients.
There are lots of recipes for cucumber salads, and I imagine I’ll be eating a few of those and sharing recipes before the season ends. Right now, my favorite way to eat cucumbers is one of the simplest. I slice the cucumbers into a bowl, douse them liberally with rice vinegar, add a little cold water to cover and a few ice cubes. Then I leave the bowl on the table and eat them throughout the day.
The basil is for seasoning whatever you like! I can’t think of a thing fresh basil isn’t good with—including a cucumber salad! I should have fresh dill heads next week for the next round of cukes. The onion is for fresh use—it doesn’t need refrigeration unless you only use part of it—but you should use it up within a few days.
I know, I know—I said I was taking out these sugar snaps. But then I got busy watering and didn’t get them out as quickly as I’d thought I would. I couldn’t very well cut down the vines with all those nice peas still on them! So I picked them one last time and then took them down. I’ll plant beans in the empty spaces, and maybe transplant a few more volunteer tomato plants from elsewhere in the garden to the cattle panel trellises as well.
I also sell produce at the Vermillion Area Farmers Market every Thursday from 3-7pm on the Clay County Fairgrounds, corner of Cherry & High Streets. We’ve been getting lots of new, great vendors, so please stop by and check it out! Get there early for the best selection.
WASH YOUR VEGGIES!