Mid-Summer 2021 Veggie Update

With the warm weather crops well on their way, we have a sense of how the season is shaping up. With more than 25 years of growing vegetables and 21 years of organic certification under our belt, the list of crops we focus on has matured, taking the longer view of what is good for you and the farm, both. 

Eating fresh salads and leafy greens is good for your microbiome, and for you, by extension, so we learned how to provide them close to 52 weeks per year. 

Alternatively, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and green and yellow squashes, are seasonal, with a little bit of wiggle room on the margins, and not financially feasible to produce all year long. Raspberries are finicky in our climate with the erratic weather conditions that we associate with climate change. Organic sweet corn is a risky crop, but we give it an honest try every year. 

Tomatoes are the royal court of the produce world, and they command a lot of attention. We do our best to get early tomato transplants into a high tunnel in April, well before last frost. This year you may remember—we certainly do—April and May were overall cooler than normal. Since tomatoes love hot weather, they did get a head start in the high tunnel, albeit less than in some years. We are starting to see some fruits coloring up. The first planting of field tomatoes is showing a nice fruit set, happy to have warm nights for a change. The second setting has been trellised (staked and strung, as we call it), and the third group was recently transplanted, in time for them to produce in September into October, until the first frost. For reference, the local tomatoes you may be seeing at farmers markets in May and early June were most likely started in greenhouses and/or high tunnels with supplemental heat with the intent of having the very first tomatoes at market. 

Summer squashes are in their prime. Our farm chef was excited to see her first zucchini a few weeks back, and I was, too. Root crops, like radishes, hakurei turnips, carrots, beets and purple-top turnips are coming along nicely. 

Fresh herbs of oregano, sage, cilantro, parsley and thyme are adding great flavor to our summer dishes, while edible flowers and squash blossoms are nice optional treats for our CSA Farm Share members. These blooms may make an appearance at farmers markets a little later in the summer.

The potatoes—in a rainbow of colors—have vigorous vines. They bloomed a few weeks back, so we are tempted to go after some, but we would rather have more yield by giving them more time to size up. Peppers and eggplants look better than last year’s crops, as the crop rotation moved them to a field with different soil conditions. Onions, being the staple they are, is a crop where we are continually upping our game, trying various strategies to provide all we can for as long as we can. Sweet potatoes are up and running. Celery and Brussels sprouts have been transplanted, and believe it or not, it is time to plant fall squash. 

Ginger and turmeric are sprouted and planted and enjoying the frequent watering and weeding. With the cold spring, they were later to take hold than some years, but we still expect to see some harvested from September until Thanksgiving. Be ready to grab some fresh baby ginger and put it in the freezer for year-round use.

One item that always causes chatter at the farmers market is bramble berries—raspberries and blackberries. These are expensive crops to establish, most varieties require trellising, and they all require lots of consistent waterings over a long period, which is why you don’t see many at markets. (Also, our loyal CSA Farm Share customers get first pick.) We really like berries, so a few years back we invested in an acre or so of vines, experimenting with a dozen or so types of raspberries to see which ones perform well. Some are black, some are red, others have a purply look with whitish margins; some are bigger than others. No matter what they look like, they are extremely delicate, which translates to perishable. We try to pick at the peak of ripeness (they cling to the vine until ripe), directly into the containers to minimize handling. We take them straight to the walk-in cooler for next-day delivery. A paper bag may protect them in transport but should be opened upon arrival, kept in the fridge, and consumed by the next day, if not immediately. That’s just the way fresh berries are.

Another great addition to the farmers market table has been fresh flowers. We are excited to have an Elmwood Stock Farm team member with lots of flower experience helping out this year. She has beautiful bouquets of summer annuals available for CSA Farm Share member pre-orders, for on-farm pickup, and at the Lexington Farmers Market each Saturday.

This season’s rains have been frequent enough to help the farm overall and nothing like the crop-drowning monsoons of a few years ago. It was a cool start, as I said, and other than the really hot, humid weather in late June, it’s still overall cooler than most summers. When all is said and done for 2021, our intent is to provide wholesome, organic veggies for your well-being, with some treats like berries and sweet corn when it comes together. —Mac Stone

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