On The Farm

Last year we experimented with growing a few plants of lemongrass in the discovery garden. The aroma of the fresh lemongrass, like the warm scent of tropical flowers, won us over to this delightful herb immediately. The grass hung in my kitchen all winter for delicious herbal tea. This season we attempted to grow enough of the giant 5 foot tall masses to be able to include some in the share.

Lemongrass grows in individual stalks, in a giant clump much like ornamental grass. Layers of tough green leaves surround a tender central bulb, similar to the way spring scallions grow. Since it is a tropical plant we grew ours in bags of soil in our greenhouse, moving them outside once it was warm enough.

A popular ingredient in Thai cooking, lemongrass imparts a delicate floral lemon flavor due to its high content of citral oil. It can either be finely chopped and integrated into stir-fries, marinades, salads, spice rubs and curry paste, or chopped into sticks and bruised and used to flavor dishes like broths, soups, braising liquids and stews while they cook, then removed before serving. The longer it’s left in, the stronger the lemon flavor- for a light flavor add it in toward the end of the cooking time. Only the bottom six inches or so of the bulb and stalk are typically used in cooking, with the more tender center being used for dishes where the lemongrass will be left in. The less flavorful grassy leaves can be made into a wonderful tea — just cut with scissors into pieces, add hot water, steep for 5-15 min , strain and serve.

In eastern cultures, lemongrass has long been used to treat fever, flu, headaches and to aid digestion. There is some research that has even shown potential cancer fighting and preventative properties in lemongrass. Many patients take to drinking lemongrass tea during chemotherapy treatments. To store, the stalks can be refrigerated for a few weeks, or frozen for up to 6 months, and the grass can be hung to dry.

Also in the share this week, you’ll see what happens when Farmer Tom spends too much time indoors with the seed catalogs in the dead of winter. He was boondoggled by a photo of a Dutchman in a seed catalog holding an 8 pound kohlrabi. That’s right, an 8 pound kohlrabi. You can look forward to (or blame Tom for) those alien monsters this week. They are amazingly sweet and delicious- the size does not negatively impact the flavor at all- so enjoy!

We hope to see you at the Blooming Glen Farm Harvest Festival this Saturday October 12th from 2pm until dark. Join us from 2-5 pm for all sorts of wonderful crafts and activities, our fourth annual pie contest, wagon rides, relay races, a puppet show, live bluegrass music, earth loom weaving and more! Come for the potluck dinner at 5:15 pm- bring a dish to share, your own beverage and place settings. Celebrate the bounty of the season!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

Coming up soon: “Winter Wednesdays” at the farm! We will be opening up a market stand in the pick-up room at the farm on Wednesdays from 12-7 pm starting in December. We will have all our fall greens and roots for sale, and more! We hope you’ll consider continuing to “shop” from us through the winter months. CSA members who sign back up for the 2014 season will receive 15% off the farm stand prices throughout the winter. 

Blooming Glen will also be participating in the Easton indoor holiday market on Saturdays in December (10-2pm), the Headhouse Farmers Market in Philadelphia on Sundays until Dec. 15th (10-2pm), and the Wrightstown winter market on the 2nd and 4th Saturday’s from December through April (10-11am).

Looking toward the cold months ahead, the greenhouses are being prepped and planted with late fall and winter greens. The last of the heirloom tomato plants had to be removed to make way. Sigh. Any later and the greens won’t have enough time to get established before the short days of winter. We’ve transplanted spinach, kale, lettuce, arugula, and swiss chard.

Carrots will also be direct sown into the greenhouses for a late winter, early spring harvest. Outside the final field planting of direct sown carrots has been thinned, as well as the beets, winter radishes and turnips.

The last of the field plantings also went in- broccoli raab, fennel, beets and arugula. Clean up continues- fields of drip tape need to be removed- if the mulch is biodegradable it is disced under, if not, it’s wound up and removed. Then the cover crop seed is spinned out, with a final discing to bury it. A new purchase this fall, a drip and mulch winder, eliminates (mostly) the dreaded and dirty task of pulling up drip by hand.

New in the share this week: a rainbow of kabocha squash to choose from, crunchy juicy bok choy and the first of the winter radishes- the daikon. All are popular staples in asian cuisine. The name daikon is Japanese for large root. It’s wonderful in miso soups, slow cooked in any recipe you’d use turnips, in kimchi with carrots or as refrigerator pickles.

CSA share, week 19, 10/1/13.

Looking ahead, the last week of the CSA, week 24, is Tuesday November 5 and Thursday November 7. The delivery share ends next Friday, October 11th. We will be offering Thanksgiving boxes of fall produce for purchase again this season. Order requests will be sent out Nov. 18th and boxes can be picked up the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, November 26.  CSA reenrollment information will be sent out in the next month. We hope you’ll consider coming back for another season!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

A mysterious circle was found in our field of fall kale. There is a perfect circle of about 30 feet diameter where the small plants have died- the stems look black and burnt, the entire plant “cooked”, dry and brittle. After examining the evidence, and doing a bit of internet research, we concluded it came from a lightning strike from last Thursday’s thunderstorm. A loud crash around 7 pm startled us in the house- that must have been it. Crop damage from lightning is definitely a first here at Blooming Glen!

What I learned online was that the most severe damage to plants by lightning may be caused by the extreme heat and shock waves generated by the electrical current, although other damaging effects probably occur. The current produces temperatures greater than 50,000 degrees Farenheit in millionths of a second. The heat turns plant fluids into steam and burns plant cells and tissues, leading to a wilting symptom and blackened, scorched tissues, including roots, stems, branches, and fruits. Yikes! More reason than ever to keep out of the fields when storms are approaching!

CSA share, week 17, 9/17/13

The first winter squash was in the share this week- a choice between sweet dumplings and spaghetti squash.  Both are a new addition to the farm this season. We’ve been getting lots of positive feedback about another new crop, the dandelion greens. If you’re still not sure what to do with them, check out Mikaela’s latest blog post, 10 Uses for Dandelion Greens.

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Share photo by Meghan Clymer.

Don’t say the “F” word. The one that starts with “fr” and rhymes with lost. Yes, that one! Don’t say it! It was cold this morning but not that cold! Despite the summer squash, eggplant and cucumbers coming to an end, we still have a field of tomatoes just starting to ripen, so a little more heat would be great! Keep your fingers crossed!

CSA share, week 15, 9/3/13

The falling leaves, cooler nights and back to school energy did however have us thinking of fall, so we switched it up a bit in the CSA share and brought out the sweet potatoes. Like we said, all the rain had them ready earlier them usual, so after a few weeks curing in the greenhouse they are ready to be turned into a tasty fall dish. It also won’t be long before you see the first of the winter squash. Six pallet bins later, our annual game of toss-the-butternut is complete!

And the delicata squash is piling up.

Kids back in school? Have a few free hours on your hand? Volunteers wanted next Wednesday, September 11 from 9am-11pm and 11am-1pm. Pick a shift, or both, and join us for a few hours of sit down work trimming garlic off their stems. Bring clippers if you have them, if not, we do. Please RSVP to the farm via email, and include the time you are coming.

There’s lots of fun in store for the Blooming Glen Farm Harvest Festival, Saturday October 12th! We have two amazing community art projects in store for the afternoon. Help puppetiers from the Spiral Q puppet theater in Philadelphia make a giant paper mache tomato! Or lend a hand in creating a weaving out of natural materials using an Earth Loom! Local bluegrass band Goose Creek Pioneers will be performing again this year. Sign-up sheets for the Pie Bake-off are at the farm in the distribution room, or send us an email!  

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

The cooler nights might be slowing down the ripening of the heat loving tomatoes and signaling the last of a long run of summer squash, but it does mean gorgeous end-of-the-summer greens. Leafy greens love the nights in the low 50s (and upper 40s!). This week in the CSA share we have beautiful arugula with a spicy kick, sweet potato greens, and batavian crisp lettuce. Next week, the kale is finally back!

CSA share, week 14, 8/27/13

The farm is focusing on getting ready to dig lots and lots and lots of potatoes, to carry us through the rest of the CSA and our winter farmers markets. The burlap sacks are ready, and the yields are looking epic. We’re not quite sure yet where we’ll store them all- a root cellar is one thing our farm is sorely lacking- but we are wanting to get them out of the ground before any major rainfalls, or other crazy acts of nature (who knows what can happen!).

Washing Purple Sun potatoes in the root washer.

The crew spent the afternoon practicing some old fashioned pest control: plucking harlequin bugs off of the brussel sprouts and into cups of soapy water. The brussel sprouts, along with crops like leeks and cauliflower, are a late fall harvest. We are hoping the brussels are ready before the CSA ends, but for now the goal is to keep the bugs from devouring them.

A jungle of leeks.

The fall radishes (watermelon, black, green meat and daikon) are growing wonderfully but present another big task on our horizon. Like fall beets and carrots, these radishes need to be thinned, so each individual seedling has plenty of elbow room. These fall radishes grow to be more like the size of a turnip, very different then your bunched spring radishes.

Newly emerged radish seedlings; radishes under row cover awaiting thinning.

Looking ahead, we will be sending out an SOS for CSA volunteers to help us trim down our garlic and onions. They have been drying on racks (the onions), or in bundles hanging in the barn (the garlic), and are ready to be pruned to a presentable shape. We will email more details of this volunteer opportunity soon.

Sign-up sheets for our harvest festival on October 12th will be in the distribution room next week. We hope you’ll sign-up to bake a pie for our pie bake-off contest, or at least join us to taste and vote! This year we won’t just be giving out the trophy for the popular vote, but we’ll also have a panel of judges casting their vote for the Best Pie. We are also collecting children’s size clothing for scarecrow making. As you clean out your youngsters closets for back to school, keep us in mind. (Long sleeves and long pants preferred, the better to keep the straw in). Thanks!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

There are a lot of great things about being a farmer, not the least of which is learning something new every single season. There is just no room for boredom if you are actively engaged with the earth. We ask our first year apprentices to keep a monthly list of skills learned. My list continues to grow, even after 14 seasons of farming under my belt.

New farm skills learned, 2013:
– Confidently drive The Big Tractors (including mowing with the bush-hog).
– Change tractor implements with the Jiffy-Hitch system.
– Back up the 14 foot box truck with precision.
– Maneuver and manage a weed-wacker for multiple hours (Not sure that’s a skill I want to own up to very often).
– Trellis field tomatoes on the weave (And I’m not quite sure how I avoided that one all these years!).

A few new managerial and organizational skills learned:
– Two harvest teams with team leaders are the way to go. Goofy team names can’t hurt either.
– Don’t do the next morning’s pick sheets in bed, but do them before dinner, even if that means dinner is at 8:30 pm.
– No matter how much needs to get done, set aside one day a week in summer to have an adventure with my daughter, like take the train to the art museum, sketch books in hand.

Other lessons:
– The value of the work I do is not just in growing food that nourishes bodies, but growing flowers that nourish souls.
– Some of the most fulfilling work for me is not harvesting carefully tended crops (though it is), but providing meaningful work to motivated hard-working high school kids- seeing them grow with us over the years, become part of our farm family, and head off into the world, our lives and theirs richer for the experience.

For the next 14 years there are still skills I strive to achieve:
– Learn to fix the antique Farmall CUB tractors myself.
– Rise early enough to meditate, and not judge when I don’t.
– Find more ways to farm alongside my husband, like we did for the first half of this adventure.
– Remember to say good morning to each person who works here, every single day, and not just say it, but look the person in the eye, and really see them.

But one skill that I find especially exciting is discovering a new crop to harvest from an old favorite. So that brings me to this week’s CSA share, and a new addition- sweet potato greens.

Like the garlic scape that comes from the top of the garlic bulb, by harvesting sweet potato greens we use almost the entire plant- how cool is that? The roots are familiar to all of us, and if you’ve ever seen them growing you know that each plant creates a massive carpet of vining greens on the surface. Tender, bright green, and tasty, the vines are typically turned back into the soil, feeding the earth, not us. Yet, we had heard rumor of other farms harvesting the greens for their CSA members, so we thought we’d give it a try.

We certainly weren’t the first to think of it. The young leaves and vine tips of sweet potatoes are widely consumed as a vegetable in both Africa and Asia. Nutritious with a lovely sweet flavor, they work well cooked quickly, like other tender greens. A simple traditional Filipino sweet potato leaves (or kamote) recipe calls for a 30 second blanch in boiling water. Pour a mixture of lemon juice, ginger, olive oil and soy sauce on the cooked greens and top with diced tomatoes and onions. Serve with white rice.

Let us know what you think, and share your recipes on facebook as you explore this new crop with us!

Post by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Photos by Megan Clymer.

Despite the cold nights the sun is shining at the farm, “Purple Sun” that is- a striking deep purple skinned potato with a gold flesh. Purple potatoes can be traced back thousands of years to their native Peru, where these violet colored gems were reserved for the Incan kings. They must have been on to something, because we now know these potatoes have exceptional health benefits, and they are even being cross bred to amplify their nutritional value. The purple spud’s pigment is courtesy of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is responsible for the purple and blue color of fruits and veggies and for immune boosting, memory loss protection, anti-cancer and heart protection benefits. The Purple Sun potato has high levels of vitamin C- 40% of RDA per serving. And it’s super tasty- excellent for roasting and baking! I knew we ate like kings and queens – this just confirms it!

CSA share week 12, 8/13/13

The sweet peppers are finally starting to roll in- the orange and yellow sweet italian frying peppers we grow came from a breeding program in Holland specifically for organic agriculture. After years of frustration with bell peppers, we chanced upon these two varieties and have been hugely impressed with their flavor, yields and disease resistance. We liken the orange pepper to the sungold of sweet peppers- its just that sweet!

The rain has been wreaking a bit of havoc on our field tomatoes- the shoulders are cracking from the excessive moisture. Fruit set in temperatues over a hundred degrees can also result in mealy texture which you may be seeing in some of the tomatoes. And thanks to the cold nights (the low at the farm this week was 49 degrees!), all the heat loving crops like cherry tomatoes and summer squash have slowed to a screeching hault when it comes to ripening time. We will be able to offer our plum tomatoes again this season in bulk quantities for preserving- we grow them specifically for that reason. Keep an eye out for an email with more details.

The past few days we’ve been working to harvest the sweet potatoes before they suck up any more rain and become bigger than footballs. We are anticipating a harvest of over 8,000 pounds- or 4 tons! I can already taste those autumn soups.

Text and Photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Additional photos by Tom Murtha and Sam Malriat.

The cooler nights are a welcome reprieve from the heat of July. One fall crop that has loved the buckets of rain this season are the sweet potatoes. A little digging around revealed that they are getting HUGE, and it will soon be time to dig and cure these golden footballs.

The rain off and on continues to plague us- we are keeping an eye on our winter squash crop, as the luster of powdery mildew spreads on its vines. We just need the vines to stay alive and healthy enough until the fruit ripens completely.

All of our field onions and shallots are safely out of the ground and drying on racks in the greenhouses.

Our crew slowly starts to shrink this time of year as folks return to college and high school (or teaching elementary school). It’s a big crowd- an assortment of full and part timers whose collective energies make it all happen here at BGF! (Not pictured: Lexi, Robin, Missy, Jack, Dale and Carole, our assorted farmers market helpers, plus all our work trade volunteers~…)

This week we planted more fall broccoli and cauliflower and direct seeded into the field fall radishes: watermelon radishes, daikon, green meat and black radishes. Also planted were an assortment of fall greens: arugula, kale, dandelion, escarole and radicchio.

New in the share this week: edamame beans. To enjoy these tasty soybeans (or butterbeans as they are also called), take the pods off the plant and steam them until they turn a bright green, then plunge them in cold water. Toss in a bowl with sea salt, and enjoy by sliding the beans out of the pod with your teeth. A delicious nutritious snack!

Our cantaloupes have been on the softer side this season thanks to all the rain, and the fact that we grow a variety of cantaloupe that has great flavor but not such a hard exterior. Next year we will trial some new varieties. The watermelons also haven’t done so well with the moisture. Mikaela’s recipe this week features watermelon, but can easily be substituted with cantaloupe.

Looking ahead to fall, mark your calendars and save the date: Blooming Glen Farm’s annual harvest festival is always the second Saturday in October (late afternoon into evening): OCTOBER 12th!

We’ve got lots of fun in store for you- including an original puppet show by the farm crew revolving around the story of Paul Robeson, the inspirational man whom a delicious tomato is named after. Start planning your pie entry now- you could take home the trophy in our 4th annual popular pie bake-off contest! Live music, kids crafts, wagon rides, a potluck dinner and more at Blooming Glen Farm’s Harvest Festival. We hope you’ll join us on October 12th!

Text and Photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Additional photos by Rebecca Metcalf, Tom Murtha and Jenny Fujita.

It seems like the theme of the farm these days is water. The past few weeks it was How much is falling on the crops and How much can our fields hold, and this week it is How much are we losing from our bodies as we work (1.5 litres an hour was heard on the news) and, How do we make sure we stay hydrated.

It was so hot at the farm Sam’s car window exploded. That was around 3 pm as we’d just come in from picking summer squash. We were happy none of us exploded.

The field tomatoes are loaded with beautiful green, slightly blushed with orange, fruit. They are behind a bit from last year due to all those rainy cloudy days. Does anyone remember that?! But we are expecting them to ripen into a sea of red any day now. Even our greenhouse tomatoes are ripening very very slowly this season.

On the horizon for next week: tomatillos, asian eggplant, cantaloupes and cherry tomatoes! We began to harvest our field of garlic- always an exciting time after nine months of growth. It is pulled, bundled and strung up in the barn to dry and cure over the next 5-6 weeks. 

This week’s share included the first of the sweet corn. We grow the corn organically like all our crops, so yes, you’ll see some bugs and worms. We are experimenting with releasing beneficial insects (parasitic wasps) to combat the european corn borers and the dreaded tip worm. This week alone we released 500,000. They came as eggs on perforated felt paper, to be hung in the corn field.

Here at Blooming Glen, it’s also a never ending quest to keep the blackbirds out of our sweet corn- the birds are responsible for shredding back the tips of the husks to get at the super sweet kernels. You may remember the year of the giant green bird net, or the year of the blow-up scare-eye ballons and tall rattling aluminum can sculptures. This year we’ve rigged up a cordless radio, rumored to keep the birds away. Preliminary results of this experiment show our birds like NPR, but not country music.  We’re not sure yet if it’s enough of a dislike to keep them out of the corn patch, however. We’ll keep you posted. Stay cool- and drink lots of water- we are!

Text and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner

We are still feeling the effects of the ongoing late spring and early summer rainstorms on many of our crops. Rotting greens and roots, and weeds that keep growing are just a few of the unwelcome results.  Missed plantings, however, are the biggest downside of wet soil. When we are unable to get into the fields to till and plant, there are gaps in the harvest down the road, many of which we are seeing now, and will continue to see.

Dandelion greens, a new crop at Blooming Glen Farm this season, made an appearance at the markets and in the CSA share. This nutritious bitter green can be delicious, but is unfamiliar to many- it will be featured here next week in Mikaela’s recipe post.
On the farm a steady effort of hand weeding continues, as well as tomato trellising and tractor cultivation. We put straw down in the aisles of the pick-your-own flowers. This will help keep down the weeds, and the mud. Here’s a few of our crew enjoying a lunchtime break and a cool breeze.

Remember that photo a few weeks ago of the winter squash? Here’s a shot of the sweet striped oblong variety, delicata. It has grown by leaps and bounds in the heat.

We were excited this week to host Harvest Restaurant Partners Group for a farm tour. Harvest Restaurants has grown from a single restaurant in 1996 to nine highly-regarded restaurants today in northern New Jersey, including Huntley Taverne and Trap Rock Restaurant and Brewery. Through a mutual relationship with local wholesale buyer Zone 7, the chefs from these 9 restaurants have the opportunity to buy from local farmers like ourselves. Their trip to the farm was a chance to see the source of the vegetables featured in some of their menus, as well as to be inspired by the smell and flavors of those fresh picked veggies.

Text by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Top two photos by Rebecca Metcalf, third by Tom Murtha, photos of chef tour courtesy of Zone 7.