That’s Why We Don’t Grow the Bhut Jolokia!

August 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Wild Carrot blog has gone in to hibernation.  Rushton Farm news is now being shared via The Wild Carrot email newsletter.  It’s mostly designed for our Rushton Farm CSA members, but if you’d like to join that mailing list please click here.

 

The other night as I was choking on a bhut jolokia pepper, also known as the “ghost pepper”, I was reminded of a lesson learned in the early days of Rushton Farm; keep the really hot peppers at home!

The Bhut Jolokia in it's native habitat

The Bhut Jolokia in it’s native habitat

 

The first year of Rushton Farm was an idyllic time with three farmers planting hundreds of different varieties of fruits and vegetables.  There were so many varieties that some of them found their way into the education and herb garden in front of the Farmshed.  A couple of these were Farmer Fred’s and Farmer Aaron’s assorted hot peppers gathered from the the far expanses of the world and prized for their heat and fiery burn.

One day a wonderful group of youngsters decided to visit the farm and enjoy the bounty of the Farmshed Garden.  Upon collecting various herbs, cherry tomatoes and flowers a kindly student asked if they could take a hot pepper or two.  Farmer Fred saw no harm in that and said “sure” as a teacher or two gave him curious glances.  Soon all the students wanted a hot pepper to take home and Farmer Fred obliged.  Now you would think that someone might have questioned the judgement of Farmer Fred (whose parents encouraged him to “taste all the pleasures of the garden” and we grew some serious hot peppers) but they did not and when the hot pepper “tasting” began on the bus ride home there were many lessons learned about decisions on the foods we put in our mouths.  A teachable moment for sure.

Fortunately the hot pepper in this students left hand is a mild jalapeno.  Others were not so lucky

Fortunately the hot pepper in this students left hand is a mild jalapeno. Others were not so lucky

The good news is everyone was fine and Farmer Fred learned an important lesson about getting waivers signed.  He also learned that the hot peppers are better left to the other side of the farm and the really hot peppers should be kept in the safety of the home garden.

At Rushton we have over a half dozen hot pepper varieties that are mild and perfect for cooking with.  The classic jalapeno, cherry peppers and Serrano’s are perfect for dicing for salsa while the poblano, Hungarian hot wax and Fresno are good for roasting or stuffing.  The cayenne is good for drying for winter spice. The habaneros  will make their appearance towards the end of August and these are the only really “hot” peppers we grow at the farm.

The really, really hot peppers are tucked away in clay pots surrounding Farmer Fred’s garden at home.  They feature some very high levels of capsaicin (the chemical that gives peppers heat) and are very tasty once you get past the heat.  Many are being saved for the legendary hot pepper pierogies made by the Kiziuk/Pastuszek clan but there will be some extra.  Farmer Fred is willing to share his harvest with CSA members who are hot pepper aficionados (there are limited quantities but you only need limited amounts).  Email me at cfd@wctrust.org or catch me on pick up day.

A little heat in the kitchen

A little heat in the kitchen

On another note this Thursday families are welcome to come to Rushton Farm to create and share wonderful poetry about birds and the natural beauty of Rushton under the guidance of Cathy Staples, an award-winning poet and Villanova professor.  We will also be exercising our creativity by making art with colored pencils and watercolor. We will gather inspiration for our art and poetry from careful observation of the surrounding wildlife and landscape.  For more information or to sign up please contact Blake Goll at bhg@wctrust.org .

 

Burn Baby Burn!

July 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tractor sitting out the heat wave

Rushton tractor sitting out the heat wave

It was a week ago that I was staring out of the Farmshed at a deluge of rain wondering if this would be the rain that finishes off the crops.  Weeks of wet muddy conditions had started to have their effect on the produce and the first signs of disease were beginning to show.  The tomatoes were not producing fruit like they should and the onions were starting to split due to moisture.

The dog days of summer have arrived early

The dog days of summer have arrived early

What a difference a week makes!  As the dog days of summer draw close we have been smacked with one of the most brutal heat waves in recent memory.  Typically heat waves are greeted with moans and groans by the Rushton Farm Staff but this one was welcomed by all (well at least Noah, Joanna and myself- I think the interns would have preferred cooler climes).  The wet fields have been baked dry by the sun and the plants are stretching and putting on fruit thanks to the wet soil and hot weather.

Hot week on the farm

Hot week on the farm

I will admit that this morning was brutal.  It was agreed very early that the staff had off the rest of the day as soon as harvest was over.  The best way to finish off a heat wave is to avoid the heat all together.  This weekend the heat will relent and we can spend a couple of days recuperating.   As we head into the latter part of the summer we know the worst of the heat is probably behind us and we can hope for dry warm weather to carry us through the summer.  Or at least until next week.

Even with the heat we had a great harvest!  Remember, if receiving this by email click on the title “Burn Baby Burn!” to go to the web site and see the harvest list and recipes provided by field manager Joanna Whitnah in the column “This Weeks Harvest- In the Bag”

Harvest Heroics!

July 12, 2013 § 1 Comment

This has been one of the busiest weeks at Rushton Farm with mid-summer fieldwork coinciding with the largest harvest ever in terms of weight, quantity and diversity.  The quality is also tremendous.  The Rushton Farm Staff has been working very hard to keep up with the workload and they are doing a great job in both extreme heat and soaking rain.

A Record Harvest! Photo Courtesy Kristen Henwood

A Record Harvest!
Photo Courtesy Kristen Henwood

With our harvest list changing daily (like the weather)getting The Wild Carrot out proved to be difficult.  Still, the wait is worth it as we feature our early season tomatoes alongside the first onions of the season.  The green beans are plentiful as are the cukes and zukes still coming in strong.  Our “unique” crops of kohlrabi and radicchio look great and even the broccoli is still holding on.  The root vegetables of beets and carrots are gaining in size as we cut the last of the lettuce (for a short while).  This is the longest I have seen where the spring crops are crossing over with the summer harvest so enjoy!

Remember if receiving this through email click on the title “Harvest Heroics” for the full harvest list, cooking suggestions and a great “The Dirt” written by intern Tim Elliott.

 

Fireworks in the Field

July 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

First tomato harvested at Rushton Farm in 2008

First tomato harvested at Rushton Farm in 2008

At Rushton Farm there is always great anticipation for the first tomato of the season.  When that beautiful green orb flames to a brilliant red you know summer has officially arrived.   Three weeks ago we saw the first blush that seemed to indicate summer was upon us.  Those tomatoes that were showing the slightest blush a few weeks ago will be harvested this week and the rest of the tomatoes are quickly turning.  As is the case with many of our crops we will have limited amounts to start but quantities will steadily increase as the season progresses.  By the middle of July the heirloom varieties will be ripening with yellows, purples, oranges, pinks, and reds splashing the fields with vibrant color.

A farm market tomato is very different than your run of the mill supermarket tomato.  Commercial tomato varieties have been bred to pack easily, hold up for long transport and last for a week or more.  They have been picked green or pink before their flavor has had a chance to develop.  Their taste reflects this.  Farm market tomatoes are often “heirloom” varieties that have long been cultivated for their flavor and texture.  They are allowed to ripen on the vine before they are picked and are often sold to the consumer within days, if not hours, of harvest.  Because of the time and care needed to grow these exceptional varieties they are typically only grown by small farms.

At Rushton Farm we will have a wide variety of tomatoes to select from throughout the season.  Our first tomatoes are Early Girl, Eva Purple Ball and the Celebrity varieties.  Later in the summer we will feature many more varieties including Blue Beech, San Marzano, Rutgers, the ever colorful Striped German and the granddaddy of them all Brandywine.  Each variety is unique in both taste and appearance and we urge you to try them all and let us know your favorites.

Rushton Staff at the 2012 Tomato Tasting

Rushton Staff at the 2012 Tomato Tasting

To celebrate our harvest Rushton Farm will be having a Summer Celebration featuring a tomato tasting on July 27th  from 5 to 7 where many of the varieties grown on the farm will be sampled along with local cheeses, beer and wine.  Tickets are $25 for CSA members and $35 for non members and can be purchased at http://www.wctrust.org.

*a note on tomato storage

Tomatoes should never be refrigerated.  At 55 F a chemical reaction occurs in the tomato causing the flavor to dissipate.  Store tomatoes at room temperature and wrap or discard unused portions.

Sharing the Bounty

June 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

This week the Rushton Farm Staff officially become “rock star” farmers as we take the Share the Bounty donation program on the road.  We have been invited to partner with The Dave Matthews Band and Reverb as part of their “BamaGreen” project at their concerts in Camden this weekend.  At each show, BamaGreen Project volunteers will be collecting $5 donations which will go to supply local food banks with fresh produce from a local farm.  Rushton Farm was selected to be the local farm representative so come on out and see us on Friday and Saturday inside the Susquehanna Bank Center where we will have a display set up to talk about the Share the Bounty Program.  

Dave Matthews Bama Green

The  Willistown Conservation Trust Share the Bounty Program was established to demonstrate how small farms can make a significant difference by donating a portion of their harvest to local food shelters.  From the first growing season in 2008 it was decided that Rushton Farm would donate at least 10% of all food harvested to those in need.  The farm does this in three different ways; donating extra produce, growing specifically for donation and gleaning.

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been harvested.  Through the course of a season the produce left in the field can be aGleaning generous amount.  Several times a year Rushton Farm invites volunteers to come to the farm and help gather leftover crops.  On these harvest days volunteers gather, ready to pull from the vines and from the soil nutritious food that would otherwise be left to compost.  The work only lasts a couple of hours but the reward is great.  There is nothing quite as gratifying as picking nutritious food alongside friends and family knowing that it will go to those who truly need it.

The success of the Share the Bounty Program has lead to the creation of a garden solely dedicated to providing food for the Chester County Food Bank.  In 2012 Henry’s Garden was established in memory of Henry Jordan whose commitment to addressing issues of poverty and access to nutritious food brought him to the Advisory Board of the Chester County Food Bank.

Henry’s Garden is designed to be a smaller version of Rushton Farm where community members, school groups and volunteers can come out and learn how even a backyard garden can supply hundreds of pounds of fresh, chemical-free, local produce- yielding both nutritional and educational benefits to the community.  All food is grown and harvested by volunteers.

In addition to the gleaning and Henry’s Garden over 1,000 lbs of food is donated each year from shares that are not picked up during the week, so remember if you cannot get your weekly share the food goes to a worthy cause.

In the five years since Rushton Farm was established over 10,000 lbs of food has been donated to area food shelters through the Share the Bounty Program.  Hundreds of volunteers have helped to make this possible and each year more volunteers become involved.  It is a great way to learn about land protection, sustainable agriculture and the value of food donation.

Gleaning Potatoes

Gleaning Potatoes

This week we have expanded our In the Bag section to include more information and recipes for some of the items in the share.   If receiving The Wild Carrot through email remember to click on the title (Sharing the Bounty) to go to the full website.

The Bees Needs

June 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

The friendly bees of Rushton Farm are busy making honey for July harvest and this week Rushton Farm Manager and beekeeper extraordinaire Noah Gress is giving his wisdom on the best way to make sure we have a great honey crop for 2013!

Rushton Swarm

Rushton Swarm

The days keep getting longer and summer solstice is near which means Rushton Honey is coming soon!  These long days signify the end of the spring nectar flow. This is the time when our honeybees can produce our 2013 honey crop. The nectar flow begins in April when the bees gather the nectar from flowering trees. After the black locust and tulip poplar bloom, the bees and beekeepers become increasingly dependant on the Dutch white clover. The white clover that grows in most mowed fields and lawns, although not as majestic as the locust bloom, provides an abundant nectar source to round out the honey crop. There could be hundreds or even thousands of these small flowers on an acre of lawn or managed pastureland. Since it takes a million visits to flowers to produce one tablespoon of honey, bees need large concentrations of blooms to forage effectively.

It’s amazing to me how many people are interested in honeybees. It’s not unusual for me to receive phone calls from people sharing stories about how raw honey has improved their health. Many people have asked me how they can help. “What should I plant in my perennial beds to help the honeybees?” It is a difficult question to answer considering the volume of blooms needed to sustain a single colony of 60,000 honeybees. The white clover, however, presents itself in enough quantity almost everywhere in our food shed to be of great value to our industrious friends. So an opportunity presents itself this time of year to be of service to the honey and native bee population. “What can we do for the bees?” Let the clover bloom.
Consider mowing less during the clover bloom. Maintaining a consistent crop of clover in the lawn and fields during the late spring is probably the most valuable and easiest way to encourage a healthy bee population. In addition to an excellent forage crop, the Dutch white clover is leguminous, so it sequesters nitrogen from the air, thus helping to reduce green house gasses. Additionally, this nitrogen availability keeps the grass looking greener. And don’t worry, the clover bloom is usually over before it’s time to mow for the 4th of July picnic!
Noah

Weathering the Weather

June 11, 2013 § 1 Comment

The first two weeks have provided two of our wettest harvests on record with Friday being 24 hours of straight rain and last night resembling a monsoon.  While much of our harvest is done the morning of pick up many times we cut the greens the evening before.  Last night the harvest was done under a deluge that threatened to wipe out some of our younger crops.  Noah and Joanna worked through much of the downpour while Fred was curiously absent (I swear that appointment had been scheduled for weeks).

Rushton Sumflower

The weather is the one part of farming that you have very little control over yet it is the prime determinant of the success of a season.  The cool wet weather of this spring has given us some of the best broccoli we have ever seen, an enormous amount of greens and what looks like a stellar pea crop (coming soon!).  When we plan our production for a season we try to take into account a 20% loss factor for poor weather conditions.  When we get good conditions we get bumper crops like we have had so far this spring.

Rushton Rain Delay

Rushton Rain Delay

Of course when we get poor weather conditions the crops suffer.  While the heat can be controlled through irrigation and the frost can be prevented through protective covering it is the rain and wind that end up being the most damaging.  We have had some scares at Rushton over the years with high wind shears and hail (2010) and hurricanes (last years Sandy) but thanks to the hedgerows that surround the farm we have come through relatively unscathed.  Even the recent downpours have caused minor damage but nothing significant except for some wet farm staff.

All this bodes well for a season that this week is expanding from primarily greens into the root vegetables with beets, turnips and radishes complementing the broccoli, fennel and scallions.

Get the whole harvest list (if viewing this through email) and read The Wild Carrot in its entirety by clicking on the title “Weathering the Weather”

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  • Upcoming Events

    Children of all ages AND adults are welcome to attend this week's Family Art and Poetry Workshop: August 8, at Rushton Farm, 6:00pm-8:00pm.

    Adults and kids will create and share wonderful poetry about birds and the natural beauty of Rushton under the guidance of Cathy Staples, an award-winning poet and Villanova professor (check our her website), with assistance from her lovely daughter Natalie, an English and Literature student at Kenyon college. We will also be exercising our creativity by making art with colored pencils and watercolor. We will gather inspiration for our art and poetry from careful observation of the surrounding wildlife and landscape.

    Bring your observation skills and creative juices to capture the wonder of nature on paper! The farm is at its peak of beauty right now with flowers, butterflies and birds abounding.

    Always wear close- toed shoes at the farm, and please bring bug spray if you tend to attract the pesky biting insects. Binoculars are always welcome.

    Please register with me by tomorrow, the them 7th.

    Blake Goll-
    bhg@wctrust.org
    610-353-2562 Ext. 20

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