So because we can’t grow vegetables in the winter, we have turned our energies to such things as meat curing, sausage making, skiing, having babies and mitigating flooding. Hope you are all enjoying winter.
Fall has arrived at the farm! The changing of the seasons has many different impacts on the farm and on us, the farmers.
Last week, we had our first surface frost. The frost had a noticeable impact on many leafy plants. The bean and zucchini plants now look rather dead, with blackened and rotting leaves. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the plants are completely finished – we still harvested a good amount of zucchini and beans this week – but they are on their last legs, and any fruit that was exposed during the frost was damaged. The basil in the greenhouse also suffered, with any leaves that were touching the sides or poking outside freezing and blackening. With the salad greens, the frost did not kill them, but we had to be careful to wait until the leaves thawed before harvesting, to allow them to recover.
Frost can also have a beneficial impact on some crops. Carrots and parsnips, for example, get sweeter after a frost. And the frost that kills back some of the greenery on the winter squash plants allows us o harvest much more easily.
Other Seasonal Changes
As the weather turns, we now start our days a bit later in the morning, keeping up with the later sunrise and colder mornings. We have started covering some of our fragile crops, like salad greens, with floating row cover to insulate them somewhat from the cold and potential frost. We close the greenhouses (usually kept open for air flow during the day) as soon as the sun moves behind the mountain, to trap the heat. Harvesting has shifted from the summer vegetables, and into the fall crops like squash.
As we prepare the farm for winter, one important thing to do is to cover the soil in the beds that are finished for the season. This is important for several reasons: to hold the soil in place and discourage runoff from rains and snow melt; to outcompete the spring weeds by already having growing plants; and to have a good crop of greenery to plow into the soil in the spring, adding organic matter. All of these are important for long-term soil health, as well as short term benefits for annual crops. Here at Rootdown, we are covering our fields in fall rye, a quick growing grass that can cover the soil and prevent weeds from establishing. As we finish different beds in the field, the rye is being planted, with the idea that the grass will start to grow and get established before the winter freeze.
This week’s CSA box had a bag of Tongue of Fire shelling beans, a newly ready crop here on the farm. Perhaps unfamiliar to some, the pink and white beans can be shelled and cooked in a variety of tasty ways.
To prepare the beans, pop them out of the shell and boil for 20-30 minutes. The beans can then be put into soups, stir fries and salads.
Shelling beans can be frozen once they have been cooked. The beans can also be dried by spreading out the beans, still in the shells, in a warm, dry place, until the shells dry and become brittle, which may take about a week. Beans can then be kept in an airtight container for several months if properly dried.
What to make?
This week at the farm, we had the below recipe with shelling beans with our Wednesday volunteers:
Black Kale and Shelling Bean Salad
- 2 bunches black (Lacinato) kale, chopped
- 1 cup shelled beans, cooked for 20-30 min until tender
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 TB Apple cider vinegar
- 1 TB Olive oil
- 1 TB Honey or maple syrup
Massage the kale in the lemon juice and vinegar, and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Add the beans. Then, mix the sweetener in with the olive oil, and drizzle over the kale and beans.
This week at Rootdown, we say goodbye to Hannah, who has been here for the summer working on the farm. If you’ve visited us regularly at the Whistler Farmers Market, you’ve most likely met Hannah, with her big smile and endless energy!
Hannah joined us at the beginning of July from Ontario, and has spent her summer holiday weeding, harvesting and processing all of Rootdown’s bounty. Her strength has been highly valued by us all (heavy tote to lift? Call Hannah!), her tireless positive attitude keeps the rest of us smiling, and she has a knack for loving certain tasks that some of us prefer to avoid (squash blossom harvest anyone?).
- Favourite farm task: clamming salad (putting salad in plastic clams sold at grocery store)
- Crops she will be happy to leave behind: beans and zucchini
- Stories she’ll take home to tell: opening the bee hives, seeing the bee colony, honey, and queen
- Off-farm adventures: encounters with bears on her morning bike ride; local hikes to Joffrey Lakes and the Chief; camping and canoeing; exploring Whistler
- Best part of the day: gelato time when work is done
- Critters best avoided: mice
- Favourite place on the farm: hanging out in the greenhouse
From all of us at Rootdown, thanks for your help this summer, Hannah! We’ll miss your smiling face, and we hope we’ll see you again next summer!
Cabbage! CSA members are finding a green cabbage in their harvest boxes this week, and market goers will also see cabbages on our tables most weeks. At Rootdown, we grow four different kinds of cabbage. Green and red cabbages, which people are most familiar with, as well as Savoy (a darker green, more crinkly variety) and Napa (more Chinese-cabbage style).
Such a large vegetable, and sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with it. Here are a few suggestions.
Green, Red and/or Savoy Cabbage
The first, and probably most obvious choice, is coleslaw, and is a great use of cabbage. For best results, slice the cabbage very thinly (try a mandolin slicer), and add other veggies like carrots or hakurei turnips (Rootdown favourites!), or even shredded beets. Dressings can be creamy or vinegary, whatever your preference.
Although I haven’t personally tried to make it, I have immensely enjoyed eating the Japanese Okonomiyaki that our friends at Jeggs make (find them at the Whistler Farmers Market). They use our cabbage to make these, which are like Japanese omelets or pancakes – reminds me of my years in Japan! I have found an Okonomiyaki recipe that would be worth trying.
For other cabbage recipes, check out these 23 Easy Cabbage Recipes.
This version of cabbage may or may not be familiar to you. It is a longer, milder cabbage, and is great in stir fries or sliced thinly into salads and wraps of all kinds.
If ever you find yourself at our market stall or picking up your CSA box, and there’s a vegetable that you’re not familiar with, not sure what to do with, or want to know the tastiest way to prepare it, please ask! We can also give you great information on how to make your vegetables last even longer.
As any vegetable gardener or farmer knows, at this time of year, it can seem as if the zucchinis are never ending! With all of the sunshine, they often grow so fast that they need to be harvested every 2-3 days, and even so, each harvest yields a few giants.
If you visit our market stall, you’ll find lots of zucchini of all sizes there, and to help you with the dilemma of what to do with them, here are some of our favourite zucchini uses.
One of the easiest ways to use large zucchinis is to grill them. Here is a Rootdown farm favourite:
- Start with thick slices of zucchini – for a firmer zucchini, try the Romanesco variety, which stays firm when cooked
- In a bowl, mix olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper into a paste
- Brush onto both sides of each slice of zucchini
- Grill on bbq or in the oven
A popular use of giant zucchinis because the zucchini can be grated and frozen into zucchini bread portions to be used throughout the winter. This recipe is from the cookbook How It All Vegan! by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer, and is a popular morning snack at Rootdown.
Preheat oven to 350ᵒ.
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 egg or egg replacer equivalent
- ½ cup sweetener
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups zucchini, grated
- ½ cup chocolate chips or raisins
- ½ cup nuts, chopped (optional)
- ¼ cup water (if needed)
Sift together dry ingredients. Add egg, sweetener, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and mix. Stir in zucchini and other ingredients until “just mixed.” Add a little water if dough seems too dry. Spoon into lightly oiled loaf pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
This vegan version has added tasty protein.
- Grate zucchini and place in colander. Add salt and leave for at least 30 min to allow water to drain out.
- Boil yellow or orange lentils until ready to eat.
- Mix together zucchini, lentils,1/2 cup flour, and spices (suggested: salt, pepper, thyme, sage; alternatively, try indian spices)
- Heat oil, and drop in balls of the batter. Flatten and fry to the desired consistency.
Summer Stir Fry
A simple but tasty dish. Slice zucchini thickly and add near the end to avoid mushiness.
- chop a variety of in-season veggies, such as carrots, spring onions, garlic (or scapes), zucchini/summer squash, beans, peas, broccoli, kale.
- Stir fry in a small amount of oil, or water, starting with the firmer veggies such as carrots, and adding the softer ones closer to the end.
- Flavour with a simple sauce of soy sauce, mirin or sweet vinegar, sesame oil and chilis, or any other favourite sauce.
- Serve with rice or noodes.
Raw Vegan Spaghetti
For a gluten-free, raw, vegan version of pasta, try zucchini noodles, a great way to use large zucchinis. See this Steamy Kitchen recipe.
For other recipes and suggestions for using summer squash and zucchini, see this page from Bon Appetit.
Do you ever wonder what your Rootdown farmers do every day? Well, you probably have some idea, in the sense that we grow vegetables and bring them to you either at market, in the CSA, at local stores and restaurants, but what exactly occupies us for hours every day?
Well, for certain, it changes with the seasons. But at this time of year – mid-July, full high season – our days have established themselves in a solid rhythm of harvesting, processing, packing, and, when we have time left over, weeding.
Heat Sensitive Crops
Some of our crops are very heat sensitive, and need to be harvested early in the morning, preferably before the sun dries the dew, so those are always our priorities. These same crops also don’t store as well in the cooler, so they must be done as close to the time of delivery as possible.
These sensitive crops are the leafy greens, including our salad greens, kale, collards, lettuce heads, and chard. We harvest these from the field first thing in the morning, get them into the shade of our processing area, cool them down with water, and store them in the cooler as quickly as possible.
Some of these crops, such as lettuce heads, and others like radishes and spinach, do less well in the heat, and radishes and spinach are finished for the season, and lettuce will be struggling in the heat!
There are a few crops that grow very quickly in this weather, and need to be harvested every couple of days. With crops like zucchini and cucumbers, especially field cucumbers (a.k.a. pickling or snacking cukes), if we aren’t on top of collecting them, they can easily get oversized. And even with our frequent harvesting, a few will inevitably get overlooked in the jungle of the large, leafy plants, and we come across some giants with regularity.
Weeding in our Free Time
While the hot weather and sunshine is great for most of our crops, it is also good for the weeds, and if we don’t keep on top of them, weeds can easily overwhelm our pathways and rows. Weeds also take nutrients and water away from our crops, and so we try to keep on top of removing them, especially from slower growing crops like beets and carrots.
Beating the Heat
With the extreme heat of mid-July (37-39 degrees Celsius this week!), we the farmers, like the lettuce and spinach, can also struggle with the heat. We combat it by starting earlier, keeping coolers of cold water with us in the fields, and occasionally ending the days with a bit of ice cream.