This week’s Whole Farm basket includes three fancy yellow squash, a tatuma squash (great for stuffing), two cucumbers, a tomato sampler (including sun gold, cherry, grape-Roma hybrid, and an heirloom German queen – really, a tomato smorgasbord, weighing in at over 1.5 pounds of tomatoes), and an herb sampler (including a couple of sprigs each of mint, oregano, parsley, lemon balm, chives, and garlic chives). Pair the mint and lemon balm to make a lovely, fresh herbal tea. Both types of chives can be used in any dish you’d typically put onion or garlic powder in. And parsley and oregano are great on pizzas and in pasta sauces.
The (official!) arrival of summer tomorrow has gotten me thinking about farming seasons. We cleaned up what remained of the spring garden this weekend – fitting that the last of it is to be harvested as summer arrives. The spring garden was docile and tame, willing to wait to be harvested until it was convenient for our schedules. The summer garden is as relentless as the summer sun, demanding attention constantly, growing wild, and despite all that (or, more likely due precisely to those traits), productive beyond measure. The cucumbers, squash, and zucchini have to be harvested twice a day to keep them small, tender and less seedy. Miss just one morning harvest and they blow up to crazy sizes! And yet, those morning harvests have come to be something I look forward to each day, as they have me working the field alongside my bees, and other non-honeybee pollinators. There’s such a buzz of activity in and out each flower at sunrise that it sounds like I’ve gone into the honeybee hive on inspection day. The okra too, requires daily harvests to ensure the pods get harvested young. Tomatoes left on the vine too long risk splitting, rotting, or getting eating by bugs, and so they, too, get daily attention. So much work, so much reward from a summer garden. The fall garden should bring a respite from such daily chores. And winter, who knows. Some years we can keep greens going through March, other years we’ve lost them in November. We have some additional tricks up our sleeves this year (mostly, the floating row covers) that should provide some protection against winter’s coldest mornings.
We continue to plan and plant for the late summer and fall garden. Fall will largely be a repeat of what we had in the spring, with a few notable exceptions. Watermelon radishes, which can only be planted as days are getting shorter, will make a return. Snow peas, however, will have to wait for spring. We’ve tried in years past to grow them in fall, but can’t get them in early enough (they don’t like heat) to have them bear pods before frost. If there’s anything you want to make sure we have plenty of in fall, be sure to let us know. After all, this little farming adventure wouldn’t be possible without all of you!
Some things that did get planted this weekend for late summer/fall include green beans, pumpkins, acorn and buttercup squash, and peanuts. I have my heart set on being able to make my own peanut butter, and so I selected Spanish peanuts to grow. They have a higher fat content than the runner peanuts typically grown around here, and therefore are the most suitable peanut for making peanut butter. We’ll also be planting a variety of peanut called Schronce’s Deep Black, which has black skins, just to try something new and different. As it turns out, peanut seeds that are typically planted in this area are coated with loads of insecticides and fungicides. The packaging even includes a dire warning about how toxic one of the insecticides, thiamethoxam, is to bees. That insecticide is a neonicotinoid, and has been banned in other countries due to its possible contributions to mass honeybee die-offs in recent years. Our bees are too important to risk losing just so we can make some peanut butter, and so we had to search out sources of seed that were untreated. So, we’ll take our chances and see if this untreated seed can hold its own against soil fungi and nematodes without the chemical protection that peanuts typically have.