Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Another Salmonella-Tomato Post

I am still getting a lot of hits on my last post on this subject, but I am concerned that there is some misunderstanding about the raw manure-salmonella connection. I have at least one commenter note that he feels “safe” because he didn’t use any manure in his garden.

I commented back that gardeners can and should use manure in their gardens–but they should only use composted manure on crops already in the field. If you want to use raw manure, it’s better to spread it in the fall or very early spring to give it time to mellow. Raw manure can burn plants with the excess nitrogen, and it can contaminate crops if there are pathogens in it.

But manure is one of nature’s very best fertilizers–it’s the cycle of life, folks, and broken-down plant and animal debris (including sh*t) is what makes this planet tick. All those little soil microbes and earthworms are here to help that breaking down process–making the nutrients in waste and decaying matter available to grow more life (and veggies!).

Think of using manure on your crops like using a distinfectant in your kitchen. Not exactly the same–but the idea is that you do not want it directly on your food, and you want to exercise care in the use of it. Just because eating or drinking bleach or other disinfectants can make you sick doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them–only that you should use them wisely.

But many of the salmonella, e. coli, and other food-borne illness outbreaks aren’t even caused by farmers directly applying raw manure to their fields. They’re caused by contaminated raw manure being tracked into fields by domesticated or wild animals or even on the boots of farmers or fieldworkers or by contaminated raw manure getting into the irrigation supply.

The theory about the 2006 outbreak in spinach was that the contaminated manure was tracked into the fields by wild pigs that broke into a feedlot. The pigs didn’t have the pathogen–the cows did. But the pigs got the contaminated cow poop on their hooves and tracked it into the spinach fields and/or irrigation supply.

One of the best things we can do to control contamination on produce is to practice better and safer ways of raising animals for food. If we’re going to eat meat, we need to give these animals more room, better care, and a more natural diet so that they’re not always getting sick and then making us sick when their brains or poop get mixed up with our food supply because we’re doing it on such a huge scale we can’t possibly check it all. I know it may be un-American to suggest we get smaller and less efficient, but sometimes smaller and less efficient is safer and healthier.

(I would also argue that small farms are more efficient–but the marketing end is what makes them seem less so–markets are generally owned and operated by those who buy big and sell big and don’t want to deal with the little guys.)

I spoke with a woman at a farmers market conference last spring who allowed her chickens to roam in her asparagus patch eating bugs and fertilizing the asparagus at the same time. She picked and washed and ate the asparagus and never became ill.

Though I would not recommend letting chickens or other livestock into the garden near or during harvest time, this woman probably never got sick because she took good care of her chickens, allowed them a good diet and plenty of exercise, and they didn’t have salmonella (this is why I’m skeptical of the chicken advertised as being fed a “vegetarian diet” like that’s somehow better and safer–chickens are not vegetarians!).

The reason for all the “cook thoroughly” warning labels on our food nowadays is that the USDA knows that the food supply is dirty, and they know there’s not much they can do about it except tell us to be really careful eating that dangerous stuff called “food.”

I do not believe that the government is going to be especially effective in cleaning up our food supply–the meat packing industry is getting to be so powerful and consolidated that most legislation would trickle off their backs like so much water off a duck’s–they can afford to just pay the fine or pay the inspector to look the other way.

Typically the legislation that uninformed folks think will make their food supply safer just ends up putting unnecessary burdens on the backs of the little guys who are already making a healthier, safer product, and often forces them out of the business.

So it’s really up to consumers to make smarter choices and ask informed questions of those who grow and sell food. It’s a lot easier to get straight answers in a timely fashion from those who are direct-marketing to you through a CSA or farmers market or roadside stand.

A lot of people will pay extra for the organic label on their food because they believe it’s a safer, healthier product. But “organic” has become industrial–it is done on the same large scale as conventional crops. So, the safer, healthier bet is more likely from your neighbor’s backyard or your local farmers market.

Peas Be with You

I will have sugar snap peas at the market today.  I also have a couple bunches of turnips, but mostly there’s peas.  I’m going to bag them up now.  There’s a lot.

Otherwise, it started thundering and raining while I was out harvesting this morning, and out of respect for Lightning Awareness Week (and my own little life), I quickly finished up the pole bean planting I was doing and made tracks for dry ground.  These are big flat green beans that have the real, nutty beany taste–variety “Northeaster.”  So they got in and watered, too.

Looks like I’ll be delivering broccoli next week, and boy is it tender and tasty.  Harry is a huge broccoli fan, so I may have to keep an eye on him so he doesn’t sneak down to the garden and graze on all those lovely green heads.  Just kidding.

But we did have a stir fry last night of cubed ham plus broccoli florets and stems, baby beets and greens, carrots, snap peas, and a summer onion.  I just had the rest cold with a little soy sauce and sesame oil, and  I love how the beets stain everything a bright pink color.

Now the sun’s out, and I could do some more harvesting in the muddy garden, but there are about twenty students waiting patiently for their composition paper grades, so I’d best get on that.

River Nights

My posting has dropped off a bit in the past week or so.  There’s a reason for this: we’ve been spending some of our nights camping on the river.  It’s a nice break from the heat and noise of town, and the sun wakes us early enough to paddle back and get some early watering, weeding, and other work done before it heats up too much.  Oh, and my dog Vega, who has a bad hip, gets some good, low-impact exercise from the swimming.

I’m loving my bright pink Ocean Kayak, and though I’ve tried out Harry’s bigger kayak and a few of the boats in Terry’s fleet, I’m still just as smitten with my zippy little craft.

Venus 11

I should probably get some images of it on the river, but I don’t want to expose my camera to all that sand.  A couple of nice points about it–slightly less than 40lb. weight makes it easy for me to load, and the under-twelve-foot length means I don’t have to register it in South Dakota.  I do still want to get the hatch kit for the front of the boat so I have more semi-dry carrying capacity.

My thumbs are in the very tender (blistered, that is) stage of developing paddling callouses, so I’ve had to keep them bandaged during the day to protect them from inadvertent and painful knocks.  Well, off to figure out what supplies we’ll need for tonight’s river adventure!

CSA Newsletter: Volume 4, Issue 7

Flying Tomato Farms News

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

Vol. 4, Issue 7


The reusable bags are here—aren’t they fun! I will be picking up this bag next week when I drop off that delivery in a second bag. I’ll wash them as needed as they come back to me—no need for you to do this. If you ask me to deliver to a secondary address (if you’re out of town), I’ll go back to using a plastic grocery bag for that week. If you’re not home during delivery time on a Tuesday, you can leave your bag hanging from your doorknob (or in the place I usually leave your produce).

Broccoli will be coming next week, but it looks like I’m going to have to split deliveries because the maturity rates are very staggered. What this means is that some of you will be getting broccoli next week, while others will get it the week after. I’m hoping I can get broccoli to each of you at least twice, and maybe more, depending on the plants’ side-shoot production.

Otherwise, I’ve just been watering, fertilizing with fish/seaweed emulsions, and weeding. The eggplant were looking a little ravaged by the emergence of the flea beetles, so I concentrated my effort on weeding them out well, dusting them with organic pesticide, and giving them all a healthy shot of fish emulsion to help them “grow past” the damage. Potato beetle larva are also out—I’ve been squishing most by hand except in concentrated clusters of them, where I dust. There’s only so much hands-on bug squishing I can stomach! But, they are not too bad this year, despite the three long rows of potatoes I’ve planted.

Mulberry season is upon us! I had hoped to deliver some little packages of them this week, but despite all my tree-shaking, I only ended up with about enough to do a small crisp for myself (oh, drat!) plus purple stains all over my hands and arms. Serious mulberry harvesting, to my mind, requires a couple people to hold a sheet, plus a designated “tree shaker.” It was just me this morning, so many of the mulberries missed my big bucket and rained on my head instead! Mulberries grow just about everywhere around here, but they are not particularly flavorful. Collecting them is more about fun than food, and they are nice and juicy this year from all that rain. They do make a nice purple dye, as you’ll notice from your hands after eating them.


Beet greens with the baby roots attached, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and summer onions.

These beets can be considered two separate vegetables, and I’ll give you a recipe for each. Beet greens are incredibly nutritious (they are technically the same vegetable as chard) and good as a cooking green, so here is a recipe for a simple ham and greens dinner. Heat some oil in a large skillet, and add two ham steaks (I buy a Cedar Hollow ham from Jones’ and cut ¼” steaks off it—it lasts us quite a few meals). Grind black pepper all over the “upside” while they are browning, then flip and grind more pepper over the browned side. While the ham is browning, wash beet greens (with stems) in a couple rinses of cold water, then chop the stems and leaves into separate piles. You might like a little minced onion or clove of garlic as well, to go in with the stems. When the ham is done browning, remove to plates and add beet stems and garlic or onion, if desired. Sautee for a minute or so, then start adding handsful of beet greens, stirring until wilted. When all the greens have been added and wilted down, serve them alongside the ham with a good brown mustard and bread to soak up the drippings. This recipe is “farmer-tested”—I am just finishing the leftovers from last night’s trial recipe run as I type this newsletter.

For the little beets and carrots, try balsamic-roasted root veggies: Cut them (if needed) into bite-size pieces (no need to peel either one, and you can leave a nubbin of the stems attached too) and spread them in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a grind or two of black pepper, then roast at 325 degrees, stirring to baste occasionally, until they are tender (pierce easily with the tip of a sharp knife). You can add any leftover turnips you might have to this dish as well. If your balsamic vinegar is on the tangy side (instead of very sweet), you can add just a little brown sugar as well. This recipe has “cured” many a beet-hater (and yes, I consider hatred of beets a condition that should be cured)!

These carrots are true babies—that is, they are a variety bred to be harvested at small tender size (rather than the so-called baby carrots in supermarkets, which are big carrots turned on a sort of lathe). The variety is called Kinko, and they are very sweet and nice for snacking. You do not need to peel these—I would urge you not to. Just give them a good scrub with a veggie brush and save the skin, where many of the nutrients reside. Carrot greens are edible, and sometimes used as a parsley substitute, as they are from the same family. I usually don’t use a lot of them though, as their flavor is a bit stronger and greener than parsley.

The sugar snap peas are really coming on now—some of the vines have reached seven feet in height. I had pulled out some pint-sized bags to deliver them in, and realized quickly that quart bags were needed. Once again, no need to shell—just pop off the “cap” and pop in your mouth (wash first, please). You could also try adding them to some version of the ham and greens dinner above—after adding the stems and garlic but before adding the greens. Heck, you could even make a beet stem, summer onion, and sugar snap stir fry and save the beet leaves for yet another dish (and the stems would stain the onions such a pretty pink color)!

The summer onions are simply thinnings from the onion patch—to give some of the other bulbs room to expand. At this size, you can chop and use the whole thing—bulb and leaves.

Remember to


Happy Solstice!

The longest day of the year–midsummer, or Midsommar to our local Scandinavian populace.

High Lines/Myron\'s Grove

My annual summer solstice ritual inevitably involves taking a dip in some wild water.  Some years that’s meant Lake Superior, some have been in the incredibly clear and frigid waters of the Middlebury River.  One year, while working on a farm outside Madison, my fellow farmhands introduced me to Mazonomie Beach on the Wisconsin River.

But for the last few years, my solstice dip has been in one of the last remaining stretches of the wild Missouri River.  That’s where we’ll be tonight–enjoying the lengthy sunlit hours of this transition from spring into summer.

Do you have any summer solstice rituals?  I’d love to hear about them.


Today’s post will be short !

We got rained out at the end of the market yesterday.  Well, “rained in” is more like it–we had to wait under the pop-ups until the downpour let up enough that we could break them down, pack our trucks, and grab the signs.

A fun day nonetheless, and three new vendors!  I ended up bringing home most of the 20 bunches of dill I’d brought to sell–so I whirred up a pint, plus a couple smaller containers, of dill puree with olive oil for my freezer.

The leftover turnips and beets I roasted with the last (moan of desperation) of this amazing balsamic vinegar I got from my friend Matt in Seattle a couple Christmases ago, plus a little oil, salt, and pepper.  OMGosh were they sweet and good.

Today it was hot, and I spent the afternoon out in it filling the gaps in the summer squash, cuke, and melon rows.  Weeded out the hot peppers and tomatillos and okra.  Transplanted (almost) all the rest of the basil. Sometimes it just feels good to work in the heat and work out the toxins.

Now, speaking of toxins, I’m going to get ready to drink beer.

And eat yummy Mexican food.

Good night.

Farmers Market Today!

I don’t have a lot of stuff, but what I have is good and fresh–harvested this morning.


I’ll have a few heads of speckled and red romaine lettuce, a ton of bunches of dillweed, some carrots, baby beets with greens, sugar snap peas, and white turnips.

Carrots & Turnips & Peas, Oh My.

If you are wondering why I didn’t mention the asparagus that appears in the first image, it’s because I am about to can three quarts of dilly asparagus spears (a girl’s got to have something to garnish her Bloody Mary with!). If there’s any left, I’ll bunch it up and bring it, but I don’t want to advertise something I’m not sure I’ll have there.

By the way–if you are in the Vermillion area and have extra produce–(anything! everything! people have been asking for rhubarb a lot lately), or if you make crafts or baked goods or anything else homemade, homegrown, or garden-related, please do come down and set up a table.

We really need more vendors! It’s only $5/week (or $75 for the season), and the rules and regs form is very simple. We have a great location that gets a lot of visibility. Even if you just brought a few items (perennials you divided? herbs that need trimming back?), you’d have a hard time not recouping your expense.

Vendors 65 and over sell for free! And you can sell out of your truck bed if you need to–you can just drive right into a space and get comfortable.

Did I mention we’re really nice?

Vermillion Area Farmers Market

Thursdays, 3-7pm, Clay County Fairgrounds, Corner of Cherry and High Streets.

Vermillion, South Dakota, U.S.A.