From the Farmer

Week 5 – 6/10/2013

In the Box

This week you’ll see a few new items: Gallena, a Portuguese cabbage which is traditionally used in Portuguese kale soup.  It looks and tastes like collards – the leaf is really nice to eat as you would collards or kale, and the thick midribs and stems can be peeled and eaten like celery or included in soup.  Also new: sweet salad turnips.  These are mild and tasty – no radish bite and a fine texture.  This is the turnip that hooked me on turnips, great raw in a salad.  They can be cooked, too, I like them baked with other roots.

You’ll also see cilantro and mint – these go with Bonnie’s recipe.  Make sure you check out the recipe and grab some yogurt while you’re at the farm stand.  

Finally, a pot of cilantro for growing on a sunny window sill.  Cilantro likes moist soil, not wet; only water as the soil in the pot begins to dry out.  You may get 2-3 cuttings before it goes to flower.  The flower and seeds are also edible; the seeds are called coriander.  If the plant begins to yellow you might add a small amount of fish or other natural fertilizer.

In the Field

A few of you have asked recently what is “in the ground,” veggies that we’re not yet harvesting.  I’m always a little hesitant to say “these vegetables are coming soon,” you never know what happens, but we have a lot of crops planted and will have more as soon as things dry out.

With an eye on the weather report we made a push last week to get our third crop of tomatoes planted.  I like to plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil and summer flowers together, and the rest will follow as soon as we can walk in the fields again.  This round of tomatoes joins our tunnel tomatoes (green fruit!) and our first field tomatoes.  We’ve also planted two rounds of squash, cucumbers, melons (cantaloupe and watermelon) and beans, with a third on the way.  If you come up to the farm you’ll see large white sheets of fabric protecting these crops from insects.

We like planting crops in succession because it ensures a more consistent harvest.  It’s not an exact science but one that works out fairly well – tomatoes once a month, cucumbers, squash and beans every 2-3 weeks, lettuce every two weeks… if you walk the fields you will see a variety of sizes, architectures and levels of maturity.  I guess you see that in the office, too.

There are also potatoes of various kinds.  Sweet potato slips come from Southern Maryland and their late spring has pushed our usual planting date back a week or two.  Not a big deal in the scheme of things – we have a couple thousand plants in the ground and they’ll be ready in the fall.  Their leaves make great eating, too (I use them in curry dishes) and these you may see this summer.

As for the Irish potatoes – less sweet more starch – we planted these in early April in both after turning under a fine stand of crimson clover and radish.  As we get bigger, mulching with straw like we do in the garden is becoming a less viable option; we are trialing two new approaches to growing these this year and both methods seem to have their advantages.  They look pretty good so far, much better than last year at this point, in fact.  I robbed a few potatoes for dinner the other night and they have excellent texture, and we may start harvesting ‘taters in a few weeks.

Taking a walk about the farm, you’ll also see onions – white, yellow, red, cipollini, and torpedo – leeks, garlic, hot peppers and Cape gooseberries (also known as ground cherries), greens of various sorts, kohlrabi and bok choi, cabbage and broccoli, and a few crops we’re trialing this year: ginger, artichoke, cardoon, and lemongrass.  You may see these last at the farm stand if all goes well.  And there is more on the way!  Okra, special summer greens, and winter squash are waiting in their pots for transplanting.

Guest Vendor: Whoopie Pie YAY! this Saturday, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

“Why should cupcakes have all the fun?” is the motto of the gourmet Whoopie Pie bakery based in Middleburg. With ties to the Northeast, including sister-shop in New England: Whoopsies!, Berkeley Gunnel is introducing the rest of the country to the delicious desserts. From 10:00am-2:00pm, Berkeley will be offering samples of her latest Whoopie Pie flavor combinations as well as the classics at our Farm Stand.

Meet Your Farmer: Jennifer Beidel

It’s been rewarding this year to have several members of last year’s team return.  You met Deb in last week’s newsletter and this week I’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Beidel.  Jen is the Assistant Manager here and came on full-time just after graduating from George Mason in May.  It is great to have her back – not only for the day-to-day in the field fieldwork, but because she cares about this farm and what we’re trying to accomplish.  Our farm is in a state of co-creation, it is growing and evolving, and Jen has a great vision for the opportunity we have here.  She brings the capacity and appetite to take on projects and dive into them.  

Originally from Silex, Missouri, Jen started farming at the tender age of three. She helped her family raise dairy goats, horses, geese, and chickens and once she was old enough, joined 4-H and raised her own rabbits and pigs.

After four years in the Navy, Jen found herself in Norfolk, Virginia, where she obtained her Associated Degree in Science. She soon transferred to George Mason University and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Integrative Studies with a concentration in Conservation Studies. During her time at George Mason, Jen diversified her farming background and gained experience in beekeeping and vermicomposting on campus, and fruit and vegetable production as a crew member here at Willowsford Farm.

In her new role as our Assistant Farm Manger, Jen looks forward to helping Willowsford Farm start its own worm composting system, to continue to grow great food for the local community, and to inspire people to spend more time experimenting in the kitchen.

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Willowsford Conservancy

41025 Willowsford Lane, Aldie, VA 20105

Phone: 571-440-2400

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23595 Founders Drive, Ashburn, VA 20148

Phone: 571-297-6900

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