Monday, August 31, 2009


The Shishito is another heated, small frying pepper. It has thin walled flesh, is sweet and hot and is popular in Japan. Also popular now with chefs nationwide in the U.S., this small fryer is found on many restaurant menus and enjoyed at home as they become available.

Uses: Quite popular now in our modern culinary culture, Shishito peppers may be fried and blistered, grilled, prepared as a tempura, etc... These peppers have the perfect medium heat where the Spanish Padron frying pepper may be too spicy at times for some (myself included).

Heat: Individual peppers may vary from mild to hot.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dry Bean Harvest 2009 Begins

Fresh shell beans have been harvesting the last couple of weeks and now it is already time to harvest some of the first dry shell beans this season, starting with the Montezuma Red, or Mexican Red bean. On the right are pile of red beans, harvested with shell, plant and all. It is easy to know when it is time because the entire plant dries back. Now that they have been removed from their place in the field, they are awaiting their turn through the thrasher where the beans will be separated from all the brown plant material as efficiently as possible.

This close up gives more of an idea of what we are working with here....the beans grow just like a bush green bean, but are allowed to mature fully and the harvest selected the mature hard seed bean inside the pod. It is surprising to me how many people don't really understand the stages of bean growth and harvest from fresh green beans that we are used to in the summer time, to the in between stage of fresh shelling bean, to the dry sell bean. These differences are mostly a matter of maturity and which use each bean is preferred or selected for is common use. You could save and use the seeds of your green beans for winter soups or next year's seeds if you wanted.

The Montezuma Red bean is just the first of many dry shell beans to come. All of these bean varieties make a diverse and colorful addition to the winter selection around Tierra Vegetables.

A great red bean, this is our field manager, Pablo's, favorite. Give it a try if you haven't already. We still have a few of these from the 2008 harvest that likely occurred this time last year. Just look inside the bean pots when you enter the farm stand to the right.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yellow Cylindrical Beet

According to the sign it was just a mere three months ago that Wayne and I were out seeding this uncommon root vegetable. Ah how the time flies...the more I do this growing thing the time from seeding to harvest seems to fly by, kinda like human years going by faster each year. While no one, but myself, is harvesting this novelty vegetable quite yet, I think it is time. Keep your eye out for it soon, I put in a vote to bring some out of the fields.

Not only is this beet yellow, or golden, whatever color suits your perspective, but it is also long and large and cylindrical in shape. How does it differ from "regular" beets? Well, I did rip one out of the ground as soon as I saw it and took it right home and threw it in a pot to boil to edible texture. It tastes very much the same, sweet and flavorful, it boils down to a very light yellow, or off-white color, side-stepping the beet color mess. Of course I suggest you beet lovers give it a try once available in your purchasing location.

What are we waiting for? This is a root that can get huge and Lee wants it to have the time to fully mature. Giant roots and other vegetables at Tierra Vegetables are always quite impressive. Hopefully soon you will find some giant yellow beet roots and find time to mix them into your meals amongst all the grand array of summer veggies that are harvesting right now.

I did not hunt around for the largest of the bunch when I selected my trial specimen, but this one did require a good sized pot to cook. Please continue to appreciate the creativity and diversity that reigns in the background of your local farm, giving the yellow cylindrical beet (en espanol Betabel Amarillo) a try when it is available is a good way to do this.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Inferno Hungarian Hot Wax Chile

Inferno/Hot Spot

The Inferno is a type of Hungarian Hot Wax (wax means yellow color) chile and starts off yellow to lime green and once picked turns orange and finally a rich red. Deceptively hot, this 7 inch long chili has a distinct, fruity sweet pepper taste with an after burn.

A main ingredient for our chipotle products, excess inferno chiles are grown, harvested, chopped, smoked and dried throughout the harvest season to create flavorful chipotles, chipotle powder and our popular Panonia chile jam that is made up entirely of Hungarian chiles.

Uses: It is unique and wonderful according to an addicted farm stand customer who uses it to flavor and spice up her bean dishes throughout the season and using those she has stored for the winter in her freezer.

Heat: Very Hot! Castrate (remove seeds and membrane) to make heat level more palatable.

Growing Peanuts

One must trudge all the way to the back of the field, 17 acres long, where it seems like there is nothing more to see before you have you will find a small stand of peanuts growing.

If you are interested in the growing aspects of plants and food production, this is a worthwhile trek to see a less commonly selected garden vegetable/nut/snack? As Wayne explained it upon my return from the back of the field yesterday and as my Google research confirms, the growing habit of this plant is quite unique and at an interesting time right now within that process.

The peanut plant is now flowering above ground. Very vibrant little yellow pea/legume flowers are decorating the above ground foliage....soon these flowers will disappear though. Below ground is where the fruit/nut develops. Soon these flowers will disappear beneath the soil surface to complete their next phase of reproduction. Eventually, after their long and hot season is completed, edible nuts will be pulled up from underground.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seasonal Produce: STRAWBERRIES and Striped Romas

A perfect strawberry. There are many of these right now. I highly recommend them. I know most of you already know how good these berries are, but as someone who has access to various sources of berries in my little internal farming world, I can assure you, these strawberries are the best! And right now there are lots. If you want to preserve, the time is now. Let Evie make you a deal. In my opinion, it is best to get much more than a basket. This is easily rationalized. If you have children, the basket will not make it out of the parking lot. Two baskets might make it home. If you get a small box, there could be some for now and a few for later. Just realize....the more you go away with the more each member of the family has a chance to be a strawberry glutton for the seasonal moments that this activity is available.

Now this strawberry does not look has visible evidence of over-ripeness. This is a far superior strawberry to me. I would take it first if selecting for myself. It is the sweetest of the bunch by far and it calls to be eaten first by it's limited shelf life. I'd much rather be dealing with these considerations than a white, shippable, tasteless grocery store variety of questionable sourcing. Please enjoy this time of strawberry paradise at Tierra Vegetables. Make special trips to the farmstand for berries, Evie and I are hoping you will come and enjoy these treats along with us.

One last highlighted product. The Striped/Speckled Roma/n tomato. It goes by various names, I think our seeds were Striped Roman. Anyhow, the important thing is the look and flavor of this grand tomato. Please try at least one if you have not already. I discovered them about three years ago and was delighted by the deep red color that you find inside most every time. They are interesting to look at too so if you are entertaining-even just your family-it is something to talk about. As a grower, these tomatoes have presented blossom end rot challenges many times for me. To see such a great stand of them coming out of the Tierra fields is satisfying and something to enjoy. Maybe it is one of many signs of fertility and good practices on that farm.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Castor Bean

What is the weird, outstanding plant you find randomly placed within the basil and chiles in the Tierra Vegetable farm field?

This is a Castor Bean plant, the basis of castor oil products. It is also very interesting to look at. The first time I wandered around the Tierra fields to take a tour of my vegetables I saw an entire crop of these monstrously large plants that look something like cotton or okra to a food grower like myself. I was warned that they were poisonous and hence kept my distance. Their intended purpose was to combat gophers and other ground dwelling mammals from eating such valuable roots and tubers like carrots, potatoes, etc...

Follow this link to read in detail about history, uses and growing information of the castor bean plant if you feel like learning more.

While once grown intentionally to use as a potential pest deterrant, the plant has since been proven useless when Tierra attempted to grow sweet potatoes one season, castor beans inter-mixed with the tuber-setting vines. The crop was demolished, despite the integrated pest management effot.

These days, the castor bean has reached weed status on the farm, or a volunteer plant in a more optimistic perspective. Apparently they re-seed themselves quite readily. You may observe one in the Ancho/Poblano region of the chiles and right out front in the basil. I'm responsible for the one in the basil to some extent. When out weeding these beds earlier in the summer, I weeded one away (the definition of weed equals only plants that are out of place, undesireable in a particular location no matter what they may be) at Wayne's request, but then a few minutes later Lee came along and asked me to leave one. I listened to them both, followed instructions and here is the result. It is true they do crowd out and dominate other surrounding plants, but they are also quite striking and unique to look at. I hope that answers questions for a few of you. Look, but don't touch or taste. The plants are quite toxic occording to all literature I'm able to pull up.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Gypsy Sweet Pepper

Be Warned! Excessive consumption of gypsy peppers in the presence of friends, family, music or fun may cause singing and wandering…

Uses: A wonderful all-purpose sweet pepper. Prized for it’s early yellow/green pepper flavor, the deep pinks and oranges of a fully ripened sweet Gypsy pepper, and is great for stuffing, grilling, and anything else imaginable. Consider storing some of these gems for the winter while you have the chance too, they freeze just fine. Best enjoyed in the company of loved ones, as described above.

Heat: Sweet.