This is from “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook”. They brown very well and look like french fries.
When Marc and I were apprentices, we always learned that you must mulch your garlic shortly after planting. We would mulch with about 3″ of straw after planting, then wait for the stems to shoot up and mulch some more. But this year, we listened to the advice of our friend and fellow farmer, Charlie, over at Can-Du Farm in Bethel. Charlie told us that he never mulches his garlic in the fall. So we thought, hey why not? Pretty much everything about farming is a risk. And our mulching didn’t really suppress the weeds anyway after being compacted by the winter rains. We didn’t want to mulch again in the spring.
So come time to plant garlic last fall, Marc used his very favorite tool: the flame weeder.
(These things are awesome. Excellent way to get rid of weeds on your patio without using chemicals!) We had tilled several days earlier but did not have time to plant before the rain, so we burned off the weeds that had sprouted.
Then, this spring, we mulched with some composting leaves to keep the weeds at bay. (Though you can see in my picture that thistles always manage to find a way through, bless their little hearts.) In one section of the garlic patch, we noticed this May that there was quite a bit of clover coming up underneath. We thought, why not see if the clover would be useful as a green mulch? We didn’t even plant it, lucky us, but it’s working very well to keep most other weeds out of the bed. We recommend undersowing (which means seeding underneath an already established crop) clover seeds in late February or early March – when the ground is cracked and started to dry – if you don’t have it growing naturally in your garlic patch.
The biggest challenge with growing garlic is to keep it weed free, hence the mulch. Garlic is traditionally planted in the fall (late September or October, or a month before the ground freezes) and harvested in July, so that’s a long time in the ground. You know it’s ready when 2/3 of the leaves have started to brown. You will want to dig (not pull!) a test head of garlic to make sure it is filled out completely before pulling up your entire patch.
But before your garlic is ready, it will send up these funny little curls called “scapes”. Garlic scapes are just the correct term for the flower that the garlic plant shoots up for reproduction. You’ll want to harvest them while the scape is still curly – we shoot to harvest when the scape has looped around once. If you let it go much longer, the scape will not be as tender anymore.
Should you remove the scapes? Absolutely. The theory is that allowing the plant to flower will keep it from growing a bigger head. The plant would be putting all it’s energy into reproduction instead of in creating a bigger crop for your use.
Before I became a farmer, I had no idea how much the weather would affect me on a daily basis. I mean, I knew the weather was a huge part of life as a farmer, but still could not have fathomed how much it matters in terms of success and failure. This spring has been one of the coldest on record, and subsequently, a huge challenge for us as gardeners. I enjoy spring as a human being – the blooms, green coming back into the world, all the baby animals. But as a farmer I hate it. It’s a very challenging time to grow crops – at least here in Cincinnati when weather is so unpredictable! We could experience an extremely hot spell which causes all our arugula and asian greens to bolt (send up a flower, which changes the flavor) before it’s even been harvested, or a flooding rain that drowns all of our potatoes. Both have happened this year. Just this week it was 85 and humid on Monday and Tuesday, and now it’s not even 60 with lows getting into the mid-40s for the next few days. I even listened to the advice of some other local farmers and started our cabbage and broccoli earlier this year thinking that we could get it in the garden early and harvest it in time to replant that space to winter squash. But we weren’t able to get it in early, and are suffering the consequences (but we do have space for our winter squash since the potatoes didn’t make it – the silver lining!). Anyway, all this to say – Marc and I are rethinking our gardening methods and hope to find a more permaculture-minded model for our farm.
We don’t mean to complain about how things are, but just hope to express to you that farming is HARD and often events happen that are out of our control. But when things are going well, which is a lot of the time, it can be so joyful and rewarding. We don’t give up just because we lose a crop, we just keep on trucking and try something new. Farming can be very frustrating and is certainly not for the feint of heart.
One vegetable we can always rely on are radishes. They are the easiest vegetable you can grow. Not only do they germinate very easily, but they are ready in about 30 days!
You can grow radishes outdoors in Cincinnati from March through October, but they prefer the cooler weather of spring and fall. Often in warmer temperatures they are prone to damage from flea beetles (you’ll see tiny holes in the leaves). When you plant them, put them 3/4-1″ apart, and about 1/2″ deep. The rows should be 10-12″ apart. Keep them free of weeds, and the radishes will be ready in 3-4 weeks. Some people even seed radishes on top of their carrots so they know where to looks for their carrot rows. Carrots take such a long time to germinate, but radishes are up with the snap of your finger.
Radishes are high in Vitamin C. They are also a natural diuretic, which can help to purify your urinary system. If you’re looking for a way to detox, add radishes into your rotation.*
I am always at a loss as to how to eat radishes – they’re pretty much a salad topper. I’ve added them to egg salad and to cole slaw before, but I really like the recipe below:
One easy way we use radishes for cooking is to make this easy dip. We eat it with NutThins or another cracker, but it would be equally delicious as a vegetable dip.
Spring greens are in full swing here in Ohio. It can sometimes be a little overwhelming – how can you possibly eat that many greens?
Luckily there is a huge variety to choose from right now at the farm – we have crisp lettuce, peppery arugula, addictive asian greens, mild spinach. Then there’s the swiss chard and the baby kale.
When in doubt as to how you can spice up your salad, just add some extra vegetables, fruit, and some crunchy nuts or seeds. And don’t forget about a fabulous dressing.
Salad dressings are so easy to make and take little time. You have much more control over what you’re eating. Have you ever looked at the label on store-bought salad dressing?
The first ingredient on the list in vinaigrettes is usually canola oil, which is genetically modified if the dressing does not have an organic label on it. Not only is there a problem with the seed itself, but during the pressing of canola oil “the omega 3 fatty acids are transformed into trans fatty acids, similar to those in margarine.*” The second ingredient is sugar (or high fructose corn syrup), which is most likely also genetically modified as most non-organic sugar is a combination of cane sugar and sugar from GM sugar beets. Next on the list is vinegar, and if it doesn’t specify what kind of vinegar, it is probably referring to white vinegar. Guess what? Also genetically modified, because it is made from fermented GM corn. Then there are usually a variety of spices listed, and lastly there are a bunch of preservatives. Not exactly what you might think of as healthy.
Michael Ruhlman, one of my favorite chef-authors, offers an easy way for us to think about cooking – through ratios. In his fantastic book Ratio, the ratio for vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. That’s the basic recipe and then you can add your own spices and flavors to create your own dressing.
So, here’s my go-to salad dressing. I like to pair it with roasted beets, orange slices, and goat cheese, but it’s really delicious on anything!
*from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon p. 19. Earlier in the book, Fallon cites a study that links margarine to chronic high levels of cholesterol, heart disease and cancer.
It’s late October. We harvest in anticipation of the first hard freeze of the season, seemingly early if the past few years are any indication. Cabbage, kale, spinach, lettuce, beets…and then just a few steps to the left, a sweet aroma tempts us closer. What could possibly smell so sweet in the garden? It’s the fall carrots (daucus carota): their ambrosial scent makes our mouths water and their hypnotizing fragrance lures us to their loamy home. The one vegetable we really don’t mind harvesting this time of year, these carrots not only entice our senses, the process of digging them warms us up.
We here at Finn Meadows suffered a huge carrot loss back in July, but you know what? The carrot gods have redeemed themselves this fall. (For tips on growing carrots, scroll down.)
A few facts for you…
1) Carrots taste best in spring and fall. Why? Because, according to Mad Food Science: “Carrots stockpile sugar in the taproot because it acts as a tasty antifreeze. With all those glucose molecules mixed in with the water molecules in the carrot cells, the water can’t freeze. The colder it gets, the more sugar the carrot stockpiles, and the sweeter and more delicious it becomes.” The best tasting carrots are fresh, local, and picked after frost. Their sweetness even holds up in soups.
2) If you can’t find fresh carrots at the market, buy them organic at the store. In the Environmental Working Group’s analysis of vegetables with the highest pesticide residue, carrots rank 23 out of 51. I have heard that in testing glyphosate (aka Roundup) on crops, carrots are often used. If carrots survive, then so will whatever else they are testing. (I have only heard this, and have yet to find a source…working on it) Also, in 2013, the EPA raised the level of glyphosate allowed in carrots and sweet potatoes.
3) When grown in clay soil, carrots grow all funky – they might grow two fingers that wrap around each other (we call this carrot love), or they might grow five fingers and look like a hand. Carrots will grow straight down in loose soil – but here in the Midwest the soil is full of clay. If the carrot hits a compacted section or a rock, it has to adjust it’s growth.
4) It’s best to store carrots by cutting the tops off. The greens actually pull moisture from the root of the vegetable. They look beautiful when sold with their tops on, but when you take them home, cut off the tops for a crisp carrot that lasts longer in your refrigerator.
5) Queen Anne’s Lace is actually a wild carrot. Unfortunately, by the time it flowers and is easily identified (carrots are biennial – meaning they flower in year 2), it’s root has become tough, woody, and not very edible. In the first year of Queen Anne’s Lace life, when it is most edible, it can often be confused with wild hemlock which is poisonous to humans – so be careful!
6) A bit of fun history – Did you know all carrots used to be purple or yellow? The earliest trace of carrots were found in Iran and Afghanistan, and later cultivated in Holland to become the orange carrots we know and love today. (Check out this awesome activity on Exploratorium – all about vegetables’ history. Yes, I am a nerd.)
Cumin Roasted Carrots (from Epicurious)
1/2 stick butter, cut into small cubes
12 medium to large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (try 1 tsp if you only have cumin powder)
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Carrots are a hot commodity at any farmers market. People go crazy over them – and that’s because they taste so good when they are fresh. Judging by the quantity available in the grocery, it seems like carrots must be the easiest thing in the world to grow. But is that actually true?
A bit about growing carrots…
Carrots are actually pretty difficult to grow, at least on a large scale. Carrot seeds are tiny. When you plant them, you should put the seeds in freshly fine-tilled soil. They will take up to 14 days to germinate, and often this means that weed seeds sprout first and quickly overtake the little carrots. It’s even difficult to identify the seedlings once they have sprouted – they look like baby grass. Because of these two facts – weeds growing quickly, and carrots seedlings look like grass – they are probably one of the most difficult things to grow, at least on a farm. (In your backyard, it’s much easier – try it!) Imagine hand-weeding 4 rows in a 200 foot bed of carrots. That’s a whole lot of time. But once you have weeded the seedlings and given them some light, it should be easy from there on out (just a weekly hoeing for those growing on a larger scale). Carrots do need to be thinned to one plant every inch, so that they are not competing for light and growing around one another. Don’t feel bad pulling those seedlings out of the ground – you’ll have many more large, beautiful carrots.
Planting Tips for Cincinnati, OH
You can plant carrots after the last frost in the spring. Direct seed them into your garden. Their ideal germination temperature is about 75. If it’s not that warm, cover your carrots with row cover or plastic to get them to germinate. Keep the soil moist (but not sopping wet) until the carrots are up. Keep weeded. Once the carrots have developed their true leaves and are a few inches tall, thin them to 1 carrot per inch. For fall carrots, plant in early August. For winter carrots, plant in mid-August. If you plant them after mid-August, they probably will not mature until spring, but they will over-winter. Carrots take 60-70 days to mature, but that is after they are germinated and in ideal growing conditions – longer day lengths, perfect temperatures, enough space. You’ll know when they are ready because the tops of the orange carrots will pop up through the soil, or you can stick your finger down the carrot’s side to see how long it is. To harvest, we use a digging fork which helps prevent the very tip of the carrots from snapping off. Dig about 4 inches from the plant.
A lot of people have been asking about the weird looking, purple alien vegetable we’ve been selling.
Kohlrabi! I do think it looks like an alien. They also come in light green. Kohlrabi is a cole crop (aka brassica) which makes it related to broccoli and cabbage. Marc thinks it tastes like a broccoli stem. I love it crispness, and once heard it described as tasting like a mix between a cucumber and a cabbage. Apparently it is of German origin – a “cabbage turnip”. In Germany it is cooked and served in a cream based sauce, but I personally like it raw.
I have been pretty obsessed with making a kohlrabi and radish slaw this week:
Kohlrabi and Radish Slaw
2 kohlrabi, leaves removed and purple skin peeled, then chopped
8 radishes, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider or red wine vinegar
splash of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
spoonful of honey or other sweetener to balance the acid in your dressing
chopped dill and chives*
You can separately mix your vinaigrette, but I just dumped it all in a bowl and stirred it well. Enjoy Kohlrabi while you can, it is only in season for another week or so until fall!
For more info and recipes, check out the NY Times Well Blog. You can also follow us on Pinterest. We’ll be updating the blog with recipes when we have the time, so if you have any you’d like to see, just send me an email.
*Did you know about our herb garden? It is on the south side of the barn near the parking area. CSA members are welcome to pick herbs FOR FREE. Herbs are ~$20/lb in the grocery store…so please help yourself!
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