On The Farm

In the height of tomato season we wouldn’t dream of stealing a tomato’s destiny to become juicy ripe and red, but at some point in the fall the harvest of unripe fruit is inevitable, typically because we are facing frost. Our last planting of field tomatoes were all killed by late blight, but the dead plants are still loaded with the green fruit. Tomorrow’s recipe by Mikaela will feature these green tomatoes. I do look forward to the day Tom gives the go ahead for the green tomato harvest because it means it’s time for my mom and I to get together, make a big mess in the kitchen and a big pot of my grandmother’s green tomato relish. It’s a tradition that neither of us would miss, and a winter pantry staple for our family. You can find Nanny’s relish recipe on our website.

CSA share, week 18, 9/11/12

The share is reflecting the changing of the seasons- all the wonderful nourishing fall greens are here- cabbage, escarole, bok choy, kale. (**Feeling overwhelmed by the bounty? Come to nutrition counselor Patti Lombardi’s class on greens here at the farm September 26th.)

You’ll also notice the addition of celeriac, or celery root, in the share. Before I started farming I had no idea that this vegetable exisited. Now I can’t imagine fall or winter without it. Its bright celery flavor enlivens any soup, it is delectable roasted with other vegetables, or boiled and mashed with potatoes. You’ll find quite a few recipes on our website, as well as plentiful use and storage information in the cookbook “From Asparagus to Zucchini”, for sale at the farm.

It’s September and our crew is working together like an orchestra- everyone knows their roles, and the jobs to be done are familiar. With cooler nights and shorter days come a more relaxed pace, and in general a more pleasant climate to do outdoor work. The leeks have been weeded- they stand tall and stout, and they’ll begin to be harvested next week. We have begun to tackle the big task of digging the remainder of our potatoes (actually the tractor does the digging, and we do the gathering). Next task on the list: getting all our bundled and dried garlic trimmed and processed.

Tom checking the leeks; Natalia harvesting cabbage; next year's strawberries

This week the strawberry plugs, purchased from a farm in New Jersey, went into the ground. Next year’s strawberry crop begins its long nine month journey to harvest. We treat our strawberries as annuals, and plant them new every fall. This helps us to deal with the weed and disease management issues facing organic strawberry growers. Ultimately it is the weather during harvest of these spongy permeable fruits that determines their quality, but we baby the plugs now, carefully planting thousands by hand.

Looking ahead to the fall fest- we are seeking donations of yarn. Artist Katia McGuirk will be leading a community “yarn bomb”, an all-age art installation along the deer fence bordering the fall fest. Please bring your unwanted yarn to the farm to be turned into art. There will be a collection box in the distribution room. Thanks!

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Like clockwork Labor Day weekend rolls around and with it hurricane season and intermittent downpours. In anticipation of the heavy rains (and motivated by the memory of last fall when the rains came and never left), we scrambled to move through our “to do” list last week. Our crew put in some late days planting, cultivating and bulk harvesting, all while continuing the “weekly chores” of CSA and market harvests.

CSA share, week 17, 9/4/12

First on the priority list- butternut squash. Always a fun crop to harvest, the farm crew gets to hone its squash tossing skills, filling palette bin after palette bin with this wonderful fall vegetable- a favorite here at Blooming Glen Farm. Soup season, here we come!

The fall roots tucked under row covers continue to grow- red radishes will most likely be harvested next week. This is a wonderful time of year when the overlap of summer and fall crops occur. Yet as many of the summer crops come to an end, we are tilling in fields and getting them ready to be seeded with cover crops- legumes and grasses that will help prevent erosion over the winter and replenish nutrients in the soil.

Radishes under row cover; herbs in the discovery garden

The discovery garden is a wonderful place to spend a few peaceful moments when you come to the farm. You may hear the laughter of children following the hidden tunnels through the teepees and corn plants, catch sight of a hummingbird, or smell the aroma of fresh picked pineapple mint. There are many herbs to discover and choose from like mints, lemon verbena, thyme, sage, garlic and onion chives, marjoram, and edible flowers. Herbalist Susan Hess will be holding a class here at the farm on Wednesday evening at 6pm, Sept. 12th, called “Preserving the Herbal Harvest“. Topics will include: proper harvesting techniques, proper drying and storage methods and basics of making vinegars, syrups, pestos, and more. Click here for more information and to pre-pay and pre-register.

Save the date! Blooming Glen Farm Fall Fest is coming up- Saturday, October 13th, 2pm until dark. The annual pie bake-off, live music and children’s crafts, a drum circle, and potluck dinner at 5pm. Be sure to join us to celebrate the season! Sign up sheets to enter the pie contest as well as to volunteer will be in the distribution room. The talent of our farm community is always welcome- contact us if you have an idea, musical talent, or anything else you’d like to contibute!!

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

The dreaded late blight has made it’s way to Blooming Glen Farm, and rather rapidly moved like wildfire through the beautiful cherry tomatoes and field tomatoes. All told we were lucky this season. Some of you may remember the first year late blight caused a real problem in this area of the country- it is a funguslike pathogen that also targets potatoes (it was responsible for the infamous Irish potato famines in the mid 1800’s), and is exacerbated by wet conditions. It is a real issue for organic farmers who don’t have the arsenal of preventative chemicals and fungicides that conventional growers use. In 2009, we didn’t have a single harvestable field tomato, and we watched in agony as the plants turned black and the fruit rotted on the vine in a matter of days. This season’s dry weather kept the late blight at bay, and I think overall we have had many weeks of bountiful tomatoes. We do have a later planting in a field about a mile from here. We are hoping they will be red and ready to harvest soon, before they too succombe to the disease.

CSA share, 8/28/12, week 16

Meanwhile, the farm crew is busy getting the last late season plantings into the fields- arugula, kohlrabi, bok choy, more rotations of broccoli, fennel and head lettuce. Plantings of purple-top turnips, watermelon radishes and daikon radishes have all been thinned. We are very excited to be growing brussel sprouts this season, for the first time ever. The plants look amazing, so we are hopeful all will go well with them. Our first planting of broccoli already has ping-pong ball sized heads- a few more weeks to go until they hit your dinner plates!

Field of brussel sprouts and cabbage; Baby broccoli

You may have noticed that the fall greens are starting to make their way back into the share and into the markets. We are excited to be growing collard greens again after taking a few years off. We hope you’ll enjoy them, as well as the kale and swiss chard. To help you prepare for the return of greens, we will be hosting a class at the farm focused specifically on greens. On Wednesday, September 26th, from 7-8:30 pm, Patti Lombardi, nutrition coach, will give a hands-on demonstration on a variety of ways to add greens to your diet. You will get to taste and enjoy a number of dishes featuring seasonal greens, and leave with helpful handouts and recipes. The cost of this class is $20. Email Patti to pre-register!

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

This time of year is bittersweet here at the farm. The weather is cooler, the pace is back to reasonable, but with school just around the corner, there is some transition that happens on our farm crew. Our part time summer help typically ends this week and next, heading off in various directions, be it high school, college, or in one case, fourth grade (teaching, that is).

Jared Grace is a fourth grade teacher at Gayman Elementary, where he will use lessons learned at the farm in real-life math examples: “You have 20 bins of tomatoes, all weighing 25 pounds, and 150 CSA members- how many pounds of tomatoes go in the share this week?”….But in all seriousness, thanks to Jared’s passion for sustainability his school is composting on a small scale within the classrooms, and he hopes to get the cafeteria composting this year. His classroom students learn about local food production and CSA’s and his long term vision is to inspire the students through the creation of a school garden.

Jared, Mordan and the farm crew

Mordan Pappas heads to Oregon for a year to study holistic health at Ananda College. Inspired by her season at the farm, Mordan then plans to study sustainability in natural building and design. Aaron Gunderson who is entering 12th grade at Pennridge High School and beginning his college visits, after two seasons at Blooming Glen Farm, has also decided to look into a Sustainability major. High School senior Kevin McDonald, despite morning and evening polo practice and weight lifting, still manages to come to the farm in between, lift heavy bins of produce, all with a smile on his face.

They all bring a wonderful inquisitive energy to the farm, and their hard work and smiling faces will be missed! We fired up the farm’s earthen oven for a farewell thank-you pizza party. We also welcomed some new fall help to the farm. Thanks Jack, Mordan, Jared, Aaron, Paul and Kevin and welcome to Lexi, Natalia and Tim!

CSA share, week 15, 8/21/12

This week an avalanche of sweet peppers descended on the farm. We love when crops do well enough that we are able to offer them in bulk for the preservers in the crowd. Many of you took advantage of the discounted 10 pound bags of assorted sweet peppers…and if you didn’t, we’ll have them again this coming week. Just send us an email and we’ll have them ready for you at your CSA pick-up.

I love to freeze sweet peppers for the winter- they are so easy to do, and the flavor (and price) can’t beat those shipped in sweet peppers you’ll see in the stores in the colder months. Just cut them into strips and flash freeze them on a cookie tray, popping them into freezer bags when finished. Then just grab a handful frozen, dice up and add to any saute.

Another option is to roast, pickle and can a batch (or make into fridge pickles)- you’ll be ready for your own antipasto platter. Click here for a recipe. A couple notes: I find it easier to cut the peppers in half and remove the stem and seeds before roasting (skin side up). When the skin is blackened, then it’s easy to just scrape off the charred skin with a knife and slice the peppers up. I like using this charring method even when I’m not going to can them, especially when making homemade pizza. I have been enjoying the sweet peppers grilled lately- the sweet smoky flavor has become a favorite in our house, and makes a wonderful sandwhich with other grilled veggies like summer squash and eggplant.

For even more sweet pepper ideas, keep an eye out for next week’s recipe from Mikaela which will utilize some of the fresh lemongrass from the Discovery Garden.

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Thunderstorms have made harvesting tricky business of late. CSA share members start picking up their produce at 1pm, and we start harvesting all that produce at 7am the same day. We will harvest in all kinds of weather- rain, wind, mud, frost, even snow, but not a thunderstorm. We don’t mess around when it comes to thunder and lightning, so we watch the radar and call our crew inside when necessary. This week and the end of last week was the first that storms coincided with our harvest mornings, making the pace a bit more frantic than usual when we could finally get back outside. Luckily the storms blew in and out within an hour, bringing downpours, then cooling temperatures.

CSA share, week 14, 8/14/12

When we weren’t harvesting for the shares or markets, we were harvesting our field of delicata winter squash, getting the ripened fruits out before mud and bugs threatened the crop, and into our warm greenhouse to cure. The butternuts will be the next out of the field- they still need a bit more time, but not much.

Farmer Tom’s direct seeding of fall carrots, winter radishes, and turnips all germinated after the rain, leaving little green strips against the deep red soil. In the pick-your-own flower field, look for the lisianthus. They are in full bloom, and are a real treat- with their delicate petals in various shades of white, purple and pink, they look almost like roses. Lisi’s have a wonderfully long vase life- so pick a bouquet and enjoy!

Delicata winter squash and Lisianthus flower

In other good news, just today we discovered that our delicious bicolor sweet corn crop is ready for picking- hooray!- so most likely the Thursday pick-up group this week, and Tuesday next week will enjoy this bounty, if not longer.

On another note, as part of our mission at Blooming Glen Farm, we feel it is important to spread the word about other farmers practicing sustainable agriculture. For those of you who do choose to eat meat protein, it is important to us that you are able to purchase these products from reputable, local farmers who share our values, and we know that many of you value the opportunity to buy pastured poultry from Ledamete Grass Farm, and sustainably harvest seafood from Otolith. If you are looking for a great local source of grass fed beef, look no further.

Tussock Sedge Farm, our neighbors and landlords, located at 1239 Route 113, across the street from Moyer Road, would like to invite you to stop in at their farm and purchase their direct marketed, totally grass fed beef on the CSA pickup days of Thursday, August 23, 1-5 pm and Tuesday August 28, 1-5 pm.   You have probably noticed their herds of red angus cattle grazing the fields surrounding the CSA when you come to pick up your vegetables.  Owners and operators Henry and Charlotte Rosenberger raise their cows from calves. Their calves are born on their farm (about 100 each year) and over the next 2 years graze their pastures.  They do not feed their cattle hormones or use preventative antibiotics, only grass, organic minerals and salt. 

Tussock Sedge Farm's Red Angus Cattle

Tussock Sedge Farm accepts cash or check and you do not need to pre-order on August 23 and 28.  They will offer you the following to purchase:

  • 12 lb. Sampler Pack for $95. Contents:  5 lbs. of ground beef, 1 lb. of cube beef, 1 pack of chipped steak, 1 roast and at least 3 steaks.  The roasts and steaks vary and they will let you choose between the packs they have available.
  • 1 lb. packs of ground @ $5.00 per lb.
  • 1 pkg. of 6 oz. patties, 4 in a pack, for $7.50.
  • 1 pkg. of 8 oz. patties, 4 in a pack, for $10
  • Liver ($4.), marrow bones, oxtail, heart ($5.)

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

We’ve rounded the bend and crossed the line of the middle of the season, at least when you talk about the distribution of CSA shares. As for farm work, our core group has been at it since late January, but our seasonal crew is in that tough month of August, what we call the middle of the lake- the jobs just aren’t as fresh and exciting as when they started in April. Things have gotten repetitive- the harvest schedule doesn’t rest, the days are still long and sweaty, tractors breakdown, an intern quits. The fall crops, prone to both heat and bug damage, need to be babied as seedlings, which requires wrestling with unwieldy row covers, a job no one really enjoys.

Row covers; Keeping up crew morale; watermelon bounty

The quicker fall roots like radishes are being seeded, as well as crops like tatsoi, kohlrabi and spinach. Yet the farm is still bursting at the seams with tomatoes and peppers and eggplant, the gigantic watermelons require lots of heavy lifting for tired bodies, and the weeds that we’ve missed are chest high, taunting us with their unchecked vigor. 

Winter Squash plants and leeks

With the steady drone of the late summer cicadas and crickets in the background, we remind our crew that cooler weather and shorter days are just around the corner. We remind them of all the happy CSA members and appreciative market customers, and read them the positive feedback emails we get! And we tell them that the satisfaction of completing a full season on a farm is just an arm’s length away. Soon we will harvest winter squash and fall roots and the summer crops will be a distant memory. Our hands will grow numb with frosty morning harvests, and we’ll miss the joy of watermelon juice dribbling down our chins on a hot sweaty day in August.

CSA share, week 13, 8/7/12

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

The field tomatoes have popped, the heirlooms are rolling in, second and third plantings of cucumbers and squash are happening, as well as the first cantaloupes, and soon, watermelon! Summer crops are here in full force! I love to go overboard eating tomatoes now, so when it’s wintertime, I won’t be tempted to eat those bland, shipped in fruits masquerading as tomatoes. This week’s share contains edamame beans (on the stalk- just pull the pods off). As many of you may know, a wonderful simple way to eat edamame is to boil or steam the whole pods until they are tender and bright green, then plunge in cold water, salt the pods, sit down with a bowl-full and use your teeth to remove the beans. Quite an addictive snack, and great with a cold beverage!

CSA share, week 11, 7/24/12

This season, Farmer Tom grew field tomato varieties based on flavor, not necessarily yield. Happily, we have both. Soon we will be able to offer plum tomatoes for canning by the 1/2 bushel (that’s 25 pounds!), but for now we have some tasty meaty beefsteaks in the share, and available for purchase for those interested in canning, freezing or bulk salsa making! Send us an email if you are interested in reserving a box. The cherry tomatoes are also on the menu this week- the ever popular sungolds, as well as reds, and soon the rainbow mixes- a variety of colors and flavors.

For those new to canning, the lovely Marisa McClellan, of the popular local Food in Jars blog, and cookbook author, is hosting a food canning workshop at the farm Saturday August 18th, from 10-2pm. Details and registration information are on our website. Each participant will take home 2-3 quarts of whole peeled tomatoes, along with all the knowledge you need to replicate the same feat in your own kitchen. This will be a fun day- don’t miss it!

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

The last few days on the farm have been a challenge. With the temperature soaring, the crew is feeling the heat, but the crops still need to be picked. Just as the garlic harvest is complete, the storage onion harvest begins. The second planting of cucumbers is just about ready for harvest, and we are well into an every other day picking schedule of the summer squash. The field tomatoes are trickling in, and CSA members and market shoppers are enjoying the bounty of the heirloom tomato harvest.

CSA share, week 10, 7/17/12

We grow a handful of different heirloom tomato varieties, all with nuances in flavor and appearance. Though we don’t grow tomatoes for their stories, my favorite just happens to have a great one. The Russian heirloom variety Paul Robeson may not be the most productive tomato of all, but its rich chocolate brown color mirrors its deep earthy flavor.  I like to talk it up at the farmers market as the “BLT tomato”- but thanks to its smoky undertones you can skip the bacon if you so desire.

And if the color and taste weren’t enough to make this luscious tomato a favorite, it is named for a local hero. Paul Robeson (born in Princeton, 1898 and died in Philadelphia, 1976) was an accomplished athlete at Rutgers University, famous actor (played Othello in the longest-running Shakespearean production in Broadway history), singer (world famous for his vibrant baritone renditions of Negro spirituals), orator, cultural scholar and linguist (fluent in at least 15 languages). If that’s not enough, Robeson was an outspoken crusader for racial equality and social justice, all the while battling overt racism against himself throughout his life and various endevours. 

Revered by the left, reviled by the right, Robeson was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era and beyond, harassed by the FBI, his passport revoked for eight years, his career stifled. How a tomato developed in the Soviet Union came to be named after him is uncertain, except that perhaps his connection with Communism made it a safe bet for Russian scientists looking for a politically correct name choice. I don’t recall ever having learned about this great man in school, so I have farming, and the story of this delicious tomato, to thank for a new knowledge of Paul Robeson, a man who’s achievements were unparalleled and were all the more incredible given the barriers of racism that he had to surmount.

So that’s your history lesson of the day! Of course, all the heirloom tomatoes we grow have amazing flavor and stories (The Cherokee Purple and Green tomatoes are said to trace back to seeds given to someone in Tenessee by Cherokee Indians in the late 1800’s), and everyone here at the farm has a different favorite- Farmer Tom even prefers the red field tomatoes that you’re about to see in the share. Hopefully you can try a few different tomato varieties and find your own favorite!

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Not much has changed on the farm since last week- still hot, still dry, and still irrigating.  This week’s share sees the first eggplant of the season, as well as the first heirloom tomatoes. Our heirloom tomatoes are grown in unheated greenhouses where they can flourish under controlled irrigation. They are grafted, pruned and trellised and generally spoiled, and in return they ripen a bit earlier then our field tomatoes. The red field tomatoes are still a week or two away, but we are seeing the first ripening cherry tomatoes, so it won’t be long before they are on the pick-your-own list.  

CSA share, week 9, 7/10/12

The farm crew, and some wonderful volunteers, began the garlic harvest today, 9 months to the day after it was planted in the ground, on October 11th to be exact. I must confess, garlic is my favorite crop to grow on the farm- it is a very hands off crop- plant it, mulch it with straw, let it go all winter, then give it a little fertility and attention in the spring, and voila, come July, gorgeous fragrant bulbs of garlic. Maybe it’s the mom in me, but there is just something magical about a 9 month overwintered crop, grown from a tiny clove that sits drawing energy from the earth through the cold winter months then emerges green and vibrant in the warm spring. And I do really love the community effort that goes into the harvest. All the garlic is pulled by hand (after being loosened by a tractor drawn implement), then bundled and hung in the barn to dry and cure. The curing process will dry the skins and enable it to be used well into the winter months- returning to us all that wonderful healthy healing properties of the earth that it absorbed all winter. Join us this Saturday if you’d like to be a part of this fun farm experience!

CSA member volunteers help with garlic harvest.

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

It’s heating up at the farm, and we are working around the clock to keep the farm irrigated. Anyone with a garden, or a lawn, can see that we are in need of some nice steady rainfall. As we irrigate, mostly through drip tape, you can almost watch the plants instantly respond and spring up a few inches. Our intern and irrigation manager, Mike, can be seen buzzing around the farm in the little orange Kubota car (nicknamed “The Shark”), turning water on and off, and fertigating through the drip tape with sea minerals, sea weed and fish emulsion. He and Tom develop a complex set of weekly and daily “directives”, with the field map color coded and highlighted. To keep everything watered, and to take advantage of the cool nights, fields turned on at sunset need to be switched over around 3am, then the next set of fields turned over in the morning, and so on throughout the day. Managing the watering needs of 30+ acres in a dry spell is no small task but Mike, and Tom, are doing an amazing job! Let’s hope for some rain (no thunderstorms please!), to give them a reprieve.

Baby cantaloupes, and irrigation manager/intern Mike Lasecki.

Our crew spent yesterday planting fall brassicas: brussel sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli. Next week, cauliflower. As we are on the cusp of harvesting our summer crops (tomatoes!!), we are also looking ahead 8 weeks to the fall crops. These fall crops are planted on white plastic mulch to help them deal with the strong summer heat, so they will flourish when they hit the cooler fall months.

Weeding basil and planting fall cabbage.

Have a wonderful fourth of July, and enjoy this week’s share. I made a garlicky pesto over the weekend and tossed it with lightly cooked yellow beans- delicious, and perfect for a barbecue!

CSA share, week 8, 7/3/12

Photos and text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.