Week 11 – Pekarek’s Produce CSA 2016

 

Hello Folks!

This week we have been having some “fun” with machines.  We have two four wheelers on the farm that are essential to all of our humdrum daily operations like picking squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and almost anything with a small crew.  We also use them for pulling trailers, using small equipment and general gophering – which doesn’t sound very exciting, but is very important to keep things moving smoothly.

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The four wheeler’s are essential to this farm!

Well last week we had one four wheeler that we had to take to Beatrice to get a starter fixed and last night we spent much of the evening trying to figure out what to do with the other four wheeler that suddenly won’t start – we still have no answer.

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In addition to that we are trying to get a new potato digger running.  It’s a giant piece of machinery that is probably 15 feet tall, 20+ feet long, and 10 feet wide.  Currently we use a horse drawn potato digger that we modified to use with a tractor.  It digs the potatoes, dumps them on the ground, and then we walk, or crawl, behind to pick them up.  The new digger, in theory, digs the potatoes, shakes of some of the vines and dirt and then puts them into a bin so that we don’t have to crawl behind the machine on our hands and knees.  Well, we got it running this week, but this machine from the 70s needs a bit of work – hammers, chains, straps, and blow torches…. Looks like it should work, but apparently we are going to need a new belt too.  Needless to say, we’ve felt more like mechanics than farmers lately. Ryan says “I feel like a lousy mechanic.”

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Most of our crew starts school tomorrow, so they have been getting ready for school this week and we already miss them.  On a plus note, we are starting to pick vegetables for the elementary, middle, and high schools with college not far behind.  There’s something rewarding about seeing a bunch of kiddos who like veggies.

Much of this week includes all the things that go with farming, but not the actual farming itself.  So in farming news… we’ve no-till seeded some zucchini and cucumbers for the fall, we had a great watermelon and cantaloupe harvest this week, tomatoes are producing like we hope for this time of year, and we’ve had some great sweet corn growth and are really liking this variety.  The greenhouse fan motor that died in the storms last week got fixed yesterday.

Your Farmers,

Ryan, Katie, and Crew


What’s in this Week’s CSA Box?

  • Sweet Corn
  • Watermelon
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Yellow Onion
  • Jalapenos

4-Ingredient Guacamole with Tomato

Alice over at cookitquick.org shared another recipe using those tasty Pekarek’s Produce tomatoes.  Check out the 4-ingredient guacamole recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered cumin
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced
  • Salt (if desired)

Directions

  1. Mash avocado with potato masher, pastry blender or fork. I like to keep the mashed avocado somewhat chunky.
  2. Mix in cumin and cayenne pepper.
  3. Stir in tomatoes.
  4. Taste; add more cumin and cayenne pepper as needed. Add salt to taste, if desired.
  5. Enjoy. Tastes great served with corn chips. This recipes maintains the best color and flavor if eaten soon after preparation.

Week 10 – Pekarek’s Produce CSA

Hello Folks!

I made it back safely from Arkansas and Ryan survived a full week on his own.  I’m not totally certain that, given his 6 am to 10 pm work schedule, he would have noticed we were gone if it weren’t for the CSA J  I’ve had several reports that everything ran smoothly with the CSA while I was gone, so I’m thinking maybe I should leave more often.  If you are asking why I left in the middle of summer, I also work for UNL Extension in the School of Natural Resources and I went to Arkansas to participate in a National Ag Extension conference where received an Achievement Award and gave a presentation.

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So now, back to what’s been happening on the farm.  The big news is that in the last week we’ve received almost 2.5 inches of rain.  This is wonderful, as it gives us a little breathing room and we can hold off on irrigating for a little while!  It was a nice rain, no hail, but unfortunately, the fan motor on the greenhouse burned up in the storm as a result of lightening, so we are working on getting that fixed.  The nice rains also mean that it is time to cultivate… rain means everything grows, including weeds!

This week we cleaned out the greenhouse.  Those cucumber plants that have been growing on a trellis in the greenhouse are done producing fruits, but we picked an amazing 3,051 cucumbers off of just 60 plants in there, so we are extremely pleased!

We also transplanted all of the broccoli and cauliflower from the greenhouse.  That is the last batch of broccoli and cauliflower that will go into the field this year.  It’s a bit of a sign that fall is coming.  The other sign fall is coming is that we are losing all of our high school help next week.  We’ve been very fortunate to get a great crop of high school help this year and will be sad to see them go, but look forward to the returning and new fall help.

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Getting the CSA boxes packed and ready to go!

 

Tomatoes have gone into full swing of production over the last couple of weeks.  They were a very slow start for us this year, but we tend to think of ourselves as if we are in a marathon, not a sprint.  Our veggies may not be the first, but they will have a long season.

We have started picking on the watermelons in the last couple of weeks and will still be planting several crops in the coming months.  Just this week we seeded beets, carrots, green beans, and cabbage.

Be sure to take a cantaloupe this week!

Your Farmers,

Ryan, Katie, and Crew


What’s in this week’s bag?

  • Sweet Corn
  • Cantaloupe
  • Green Beans
  • Cucumber(s)
  • Bell Pepper(s)
  • Tomatoes

Storing Your Tomatoes

How do you store your tomatoes?

The Florida Tomato Commission recommends storing tomatoes with their stem end up as this is the softest part of the tomato.

Store tomatoes out of direct sunlight at room temperature for the best flavor and so they ripen evenly. Once tomatoes have ripened, prolong their freshness by storing them in the refrigerator.

Thanks for the tips cookitquick.org!

Sautéed Eggplant

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Eggplant is one of those foods that makes some people a little nervous.  But don’t sweat it – eggplant is easy to work with!  Many people love to bread it and fry it or turn it into eggplant parmesan.  But I’m a simple girl and I just love it sautéed!  My kids eat it this way too, so that’s always a bonus 🙂

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Ingredients

  • Eggplant
  • Olive Oil
  • Seasoning Salt

Directions

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1. Sweat the eggplant. “Sweating” an eggplant means to get out any bitterness that may have developed by making it sweat. Begin by peeling and slicing the eggplants into 1/4 inch thick slices.   Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of salt over all of the slices of eggplant – be sure to salt both sides. Set the salted, sliced eggplant into a colander and let it rest for about 30 minutes.After 30 minutes, the eggplant should begin to sweat (droplets of moisture being extracted by salt).  Rinse the eggplant, remove from the colander and place the slices on a paper towel.  Place a second paper towel on top to reomove all the excess moisture that has formed.

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2. Put 2 tbs of olive oil in a pan and warm.  Place the eggplant slices in the pan and cook about 5 minutes on one side.  Flip and cook the other side for another 5-7 minutes.  The eggplant should be fork tender when done cooking.

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3. Serve and enjoy!  We ate ours plain last night, but you could find any number of things to top the eggplant with like spaghetti sauce and mozzarella or a greek yogurt dressing.

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Week 8 – Pekarek’s Produce CSA

Hello Folks!

The hot summer sun has been brutal on our tender vegetables – and our people too. We’ve had as much sun and blistering heat this year as any year since we’ve began growing vegetables.  We’ve gone to an earlier start in the mornings to try to avoid some of the heat for the people.  But, in this constant sun, plants and vegetables can literally become sunburned and dryout, especially in a greenhouse or high tunnel, where all of the moisture is coming from drip irrigation near the root system.

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New shade cloth on the high tunnels

So, almost a month ago I told you that we put shade cloth on the greenhouse.  It’s been great to have that reprieve from the sun in the greenhouse. Shade cloth is a simple knit or woven fabric designed to reduce the amount of sun that reaches the vegetable bed. Although shade cloths come in many colors, materials, and thicknesses, our shade cloth is a nice black woven mesh.  And as of this week, we have put shade cloth on the remaining 5 high tunnels.  It’s the first time these tunnels have had shade cloth and we were amazed at how quickly it went on.

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Shady Buildings under Shade Cloth

This week we’ve also been working hard to get more plants in the field.  We planted nearly 12,500 plants in a single day. Whew! We were thankful to get some good planting conditions with just a little moisture in the ground from the last 0.30 in of rain.

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Abby watering transplants

We’ve also spent a large amount of time harvesting this week. The zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumbers need to be harvested nearly every day.  It looks like the tomato production may start to pick up soon, but they’ve been pretty slow for so far.

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Tomatoes under the shade of shade cloth in the high tunnel

We’ve got a few crops this week that haven’t been in the CSA yet this year.  Although most of you have probably seen these vegetables before, this may be the first time many of you are cooking eggplants. Here’s a big tip: Before cooking the eggplant, be sure to “sweat” the eggplant. “Sweating” an eggplant means to get out any bitterness that may have developed by making it sweat. Begin by slicing the eggplants into 1/4 inch thick slices and liberally sprinkle salt on both sides. Set the salted, sliced eggplant into a colander and let it rest for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the eggplant should begin to sweat (droplets of moisture being extracted by salt).  Rinse the eggplant. Then remove the excess moisture before cooking.  There are many of recipes out there, so pick one to enjoy or check out what I made for supper last night on pekareksproduce.wordpress.com.

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Sautéed Eggplant

Your Farmers,

Ryan, Katie, and Crew


What’s in this week’s CSA?

  • Sweet Corn
  • Muskmelon*
  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Bell Pepper(s)
  • Cucumber(s)
  • Zucchini
  • *Full share only

Yellow Squash revisited…

It seems that in Nebraska we are all very familiar with our friend the zucchini – although we may not always spell it correctly.  However, one of its relatives – the yellow squash – is grossly under used.

Summer squash is a term for squash that is harvested at a tender, immature stage.  It has tender skin and does not require peeling like a winter squash.  Most of the nutrients are just under the skin, so try to cook with the skin on.  Summer squash comes in many shapes , colors and sizes.  Zucchini  and yellow squash are just a couple types of summer squash.  Try cooking your yellow squash just like you would a zucchini.

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We love simple sautéed yellow squash.  Just a little olive oil with salt and pepper.

 

Did you know….

Zucchini seeds, as we know them today, were primarily developed in Italy even though summer squash can trace its ancestry to the Americas.

How to Choose: The stem end of a squash will tell you how fresh it is. Ideally, there should be a little juice coming out of the stem, indicating that it was recently harvested. Steer away from limp or very scratched squashes. The skins should be tight, shiny, and brightly colored and will scratch easily with a fingernail if fresh—handle them gently.

How to Keep: Keep squashes in a plastic bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator.

Week 7 – Pekarek’s Produce CSA

Hello folks!

Every once in a while something happens on the farm, that it makes everything else pale in comparison.  This week just such a thing happened.  We spend much of our time picking and harvesting produce.  Usually this means that we harvest things like zucchini and squash by picking them and then putting them into a bucket before bringing them back to the packing shed to be cleaned up and packed.

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This year we purchased a conveyor to cut out a couple steps. We attached the conveyor to the tractor and now instead of picking one bucket at a time, we are able to place the squash and zucchini on the conveyor which takes it from where we are picking up to a person on the hayrack behind the tractor. The person on the tractor cleans them and packs them right away.

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This week was the first time we have used the conveyor.  It was wonderful!  We can pick multiple rows at a time and don’t have to haul heavy buckets of produce all over the world.

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Vegetable production is looking pretty good around here this week.  We are getting a nice harvest of pickling cucumbers, so if you are interested in getting a half bushel or more of pickling cucumbers, give us a call.  Sweet corn is coming along nicely. We plant several times throughout the year, so we expect to have a supply that continues for quite some time.  Kohlrabi are doing great and we just picked the first couple of cantaloupe for the season this week.  There weren’t very many out there yet, but the ones that are were delicious.

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What’s in this Week’s CSA?

  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Yellow Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Kohlrabi
  • Cauliflower*