Friday, September 18, 2009

Topics on Corn

I can only assume this is the Nothstein Dent corn, grown for flour/corn meal processing. It seems a reasonable assumption since it is yellow, dried up, and full of characteristic "dent" kernels. So it seems your yellow corn flour for 2009-2010 is about ready for harvest.

Here is the Oaxacan Green corn, also grown for flour. This one is new this season. Those of you who followed the corn meal last season may recall the yellow (pictured above), a blue called Hopi Blue and a red one called Bloody Butcher. Now we have green to add to the list of color, flavor, and diversity. It ought to be fun to compare results as usual.

I think this is a Peruvian (?) black corn? Grown for corn meal/flour. I'm working off info I gathered during spring seeding with Lee, but have since only wandered the fields w/o the farmer to be certain of what is what. With so many kinds of corn out there it is hard to keep it all straight. Anyhow, here is another diverse color, a deep, dark black kernel. I wonder how it will turn out after running through the mill.

And now I transition away from the topic of corn flour and onto the topic of corn pests. This is fresh corn we see now.....sweet, fresh corn. Unfortunately, everyone likes a good sweet veggie like this, including the Corn Worm. If you can look past the worm and it's damage, you are rewarded with an incredible seasonal treat, grown without the influence of chemicals or pesticides to rid the crop of this kind of thing. I tend to remind people that this pest evidence is their organic certification in living flesh....try to look at it optimistically this way. One way to avoid the corn worm is to plant an early crop of corn. This way, you may be able to harvest the crop prior to the development of the pest. Like the growth cycle of plants, pests require certain environmental conditions for their complete development.

Ever seen this? I hadn't until a farmer pointed it out to me a couple of years back. Corn smut is a fungal growth. Sometimes it is even a mushrooms? Whether good or bad in one's perspective as a foodie delicacy or a growers fungal disease, I think it is all interesting.

Enjoy your corn, fresh now and dried for later. Hope you gained some insight into the broader picture of what and how it is done at Tierra.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chicken Tractor Construction Project

Here is a look at Wayne's current on-going construction project. He is building a size-able, mobile dwelling for chicken's on the farm. I have watched it coming together piece by piece for the last few months now.

If it is not one innovation it is another. Projects that increase capabilities and efficiencies to bring more sustainability to the operation are always welcome. This is just one of many....I'll try to continue to highlight some others as time goes on.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Poha/Cape Gooseberry

Many people seem tuned into ground cherries or husk berries, gooseberries, or the poha. Whatever variety you may have tried or be referring to, at Tierra the Poha, or Cape Gooseberry is grown each season.

These little garden berries are a wonderful treat mixed within a field of vegetables. Easy pickings during a time of heavy harvest, the berries which are protected and contained within a husk that looks something like a Chinese lantern, will fall straight to the ground when ripe and ready to consume.
To the right here is a look at the plant growing-if you go seeking it in the fields it is immediately south of the chiles, towards Airport Boulevard. It is very tall and shrub to tree-like, therefore proving it is in fact not a "ground cherry." This plant grows tall and wide and sprawls, undoubtedly needing more space than most home gardeners might plan. Related to tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers in the nightshade plant family; the plants are most closely related to tomatillos and resemble them quite a bit, husk and all. The taste? It is fruity, unique, one must try to even begin to understand. So try one this season.
Here is what you are looking for and, of course, the crew at Tierra will only bring the ripe and ready berries to market for you. The little berry is golden in color once you probe inside it's brown husk. It contains little seeds like a cherry tomato and if you really have some time and skill on your hands you could save these seeds for future crops of your own. The possible culinary uses range from a great alternative to high calorie snacks before dinner, a great base ingredient for a unique jam or chutney for holidays gifts, a fruity alternative to cherry tomatoes in your salad, and more....

Here is your source for a more detailed summary of additional aspects of this plants and fruit including history, origin and growth specifics. There is lots to learn about our food, as usual, and thankfully, lots of new foods to learn about. I run into so many great vegetables all year long in my farm foodie world, it is a great benefit and so much fun to pass along to others. The flip side of this is the disappoinment it brings when I am forced into a grocery store these days and discover the limited selection and quality, or the marketing ploy knock-offs of some of the unique specialty items I have encountered in the small farm world. It is trivial to decide what to buy, what to eat, what is true, and I'm pretty well educated on the topic. What about all those other folks? I'm skeptical. Grow your own, let Tierra grow for you, enjoy real food while it is in season. You are going to find superior flavors and something that is always in abundance, even if it is dried beans in the middle of winter. Thank goodness there is a time to enjoy beans when there aren't so many other fresh vegetables demanding to be used up! Now I got lost off on an Eat Local tangent on this post, but it is always worth while to make mention of this way of life.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Field Tour Thursday September 10, 2009

We have now reached the time of year when, as Wayne puts it, there are 10 million things to do at once. Why can't the harvest season that occurs in Sept-Oct spread itself more thinly over the rest of the year? There is certainly never any spare time to do fun things aside from farming when it all snowballs like it does right now.

Below is a general field tour overview of some of those millions of things, but I could hardly begin to grasp it all with a single afternoon walk and a few select photos to share.

First off, here is this week's CSA share, packed up and ready to deliver to Santa Rosa recipients. The selection is always colorful this time of year. This week was napa cabbage (buried beneath), a melon, tomatoes, summer squash, cauliflower, broccoli, gypsy sweet peppers, green beans....just a bit of everything.

I later went out after packing the CSA and found the napa cabbages in the field. Upright like a romaine lettuce, this pagoda named and shaped chinese-style cabbage is a real looker right now. I'm inspired and have since planted some in my own garden at home.

Here is the obligatory chile overview. Hard to chose where to capture an image, but the hungarian wax region have some nice color variety to share. Yellow to orange to red, these are hot ones!

Nearby are the cactus fruit-I forget if they have another name than this, I'm sure they do. These are so flavorful, so unique and will be ripe before long with all else. Processing is not easy, but I was fortunate enough to get to try some last season that Lee peeled and de-spiked. These are highly sought for their nutritional and anti-oxidant value by many.

I love okra flowers. That is what this is. My mother made a good point the other day that they somewhat resemble the beautiful cut flower lisianthus. When browsing through okra plants, I usually seek out the flora rather than the fruit for my own aesthetic satisfaction.

People come back from walking the fields wondering over these super tall stalks. Topped with their little yellow sunflowers right now, the sunchokes/jerusalem artichokes are putting on a grand show.

The tomato patch is plentiful and organized this season! You are able to view the various varieties out there well since Lee ensured the signs were placed at each variety. Harder to get these names from the field to the farm stand, the tomatoes often sell unnamed, but still represent a great diversity of flavors and colors.

This is Lee's millet and it is beautiful. I'm not sure if it is intended for grain or bird food, but either way it simply makes a striking addition to the field. Go find it and see what this traditional grain looks like.

This little purple brassica plants are what will hopefully be bearing your purple brussels sprouts this fall and winter. The variety is called Rubine and the plants are looking good so far. There will be green brussels too for those who need more traditional colored veggies on their plates.

And finally, keeping an eye on the broader view of fieldwork out there, the crew works hard in the afternoon to control weeds in some of the younger crops. In the foreground here I stand within the watermelon patch where a few weeds have escaped the fate of the blade of a hoe...

Take your own field tour. Plenty to see.