Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vegetables Can Win

We’re taking a break from farm renovation stories – don’t worry there are still plenty of those to come – to tell you about the main theme that’s cropped up this week: Vegetables! They have completely won us over – in the garden, in the kitchen and even on the baseball field.
August corn field. Don't worry, no baseball here.

Harvesting all the beets and carrots freed up a few plots in the test garden. So, we decided to plant a for a fall harvest. Two garden harvests in one year? It’s a winning streak! 

We tried to plant some traditional fall vegetables because they’ll actually taste sweeter after the first frost (around October 15th here in Zone 6a). It is a scaled down version of the spring planting – mainly because the beans, tomatoes, melons, cabbage, kale and onions are still going strong.  

Before planting, we prepared the beds. We loosely followed these straight-forward instructions and re-tilled and added some compost mixture to re-invigorate the soil. Then, we hoed the rows and dropped the little seeds in. This is what we planted for fall:

  • Beets – golden and red
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Machě, or Lamb’s Lettuce
  • Chives  

We also tried our hand at inter-cropping, where you plant two types of vegetables that are compatible in one bed. It works particularly well when one type is fast-growing and can be harvested before the other crop needs room to get big. We interspersed fast-growing Bibb lettuce in the rows of beets. The lettuce grows above ground, while the beets grow below the surface. I admit, with the first sprouts just popping up, I’m already thinking about building cold frames to grow through the winter months. (And the crowd goes wild!)

Vegetables CAN win
We might be planning for frost, but it is still 85 degrees and the summer’s tomatoes are  producing like gang-busters. It is true what they say that all the tomatoes ripen at once. We get 6-15 ripe fruits off of nine plants every day. We’ve given away a lot to friends, family and neighbors. But, we’re still left with a bunch. 

1-1.5 lbs of fruit -> 1 pint
One long afternoon, I canned 12 pints of crushed tomatoes and had enough left over to freeze 3 pints. (Note to self: canning is more fun as a team sport.) I used this recipe because it is very detailed and got rave reviews. Crushed tomatoes can be used as the base for all sorts of stews, soups and sauces in the coming season. I also learned that you can freeze whole tomatoes! After finding Rich’s great-grandmother’s old jars and paraffin seals in the barn, I’m very thankful for the invention of the freezer. If you’re short on time or don’t want to spend the hours canning, just core the tomatoes, seal them in a freezer bag and throw them in the freezer until you have time to do something with them. Ours is now party central for gallon-sized bags of tomatoes, green beans, carrots and cayenne and banana peppers. 

Vegetables can WIN
Buffalo's True Mascots: Chicken Wing, Celery and Blue Cheese
Last weekend, we went to our first local baseball game - the Buffalo Bisons won in a nail-biting match up against the Toledo Mud Hens. The Bisons, like any self-respecting team, has a regular mascot – not surprisingly – a bison. But, they're three other mascots that are the true local heroes: a chicken wing, a celery stalk and a tub of blue cheese dressing. (Yes, really.) At one point during the game, the three food mascots ran a race from first base to home plate. According our friend who is a Buffalo native, the celery never wins. Is this a metaphor of the ongoing battle of fresh veggies against processed food in America? Regardless, we cheered our hearts out for that gangly green underdog. With us, the vegetables always win.

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