Week 39, 2020｜Kristin Kimball ｜September 25, 2020
What a snappy end to the growing season, just as summer turned to fall. We had a first light frost two weeks ago, but most plants survived. Then, this past week we saw real frost four nights in a row, each one of them heavy enough to kill all the tender plants. It was early for us, based on the pattern of the last fifteen years, but not outside the norm for our area. We said a sad goodbye to the tomatoes, with perhaps half the fruit still green on the vines, and to the sweet corn, the basil, beans and zinnias. Winter squash can withstand one frost and still store well, but not two. So the day before the stretch of cold arrived the whole team rallied to clip all the squashes from the vines, collect them in windrows, and then heave them (gently!) into the giant apple bins, where they are stored now for curing. They really need to hit 80 degrees for two weeks in order to develop the best flavor and storability. Usually, we do that in one of the greenhouses, but this year, all the greenhouses are happily planted to late fall greens and fresh herbs. So, Mark bought yet another tractor trailer box, which will have heat and ventilation to bring the squash up to warmer temperatures and, once cured, keep them at their preferred storage temperature of around 50 degrees for the winter. The drought meant lower quantities of squash, but a much higher quality. The delicata are gorgeous, and so are the kabocha, the acorn, the butternut and the pumpkins. Even the touchy hubbards — those dramatic grey-blue things, size of a fat toddler — produced beyond our wishes.
I have been reading The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket, by Benjamin Lorr, which is out in hardcover this month. He’s a terrific writer and a good reporter, and the light he shines on the inner workings of our ruthlessly efficient food distribution system fills me with equal parts awe and loathing. If you’d like to understand how a new product ends up on the supermarket shelf, or why the fruits and vegetables you buy there taste so different from the ones we grow here, read this book.
As you know we always tell you when we go outside the organic standard, and I have a few notes on the special items in the share last week and this week. We are really happy to provide tortilla chips made from our very own corn, by our friends at Nixtamal in Brooklyn. It’s great to have a bona fide snack food for stress eating while watching the news. Note that while the corn in the chips is organic, the corn oil they were cooked in was not. And huge thanks to Sarah and Jay at Boquet Valley Vineyard for the gorgeous table grapes in the share today. They aren’t organic (but they are so delicious). Also, we are giving some of the new piglets antibiotics this week, for a potentially fatal and memorably named condition called Greasy Pig Disease. With the help of our vet and hard work from animal team to get them all treated, they stand a good chance of pulling through and doing well. And we will review our pig protocols to try to prevent needing treatment for this in the future. Finally, the terrific stew chickens in the share this week come from Essex Farm alum Sam Ehrenfeld at Schoolhouse Farm, and they are certified organic. If you have any questions, we’re always happy to talk it over.
And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this frosted 39th week of 2020. Find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram at essexfarmcsa, kristinxkimball, farmerkimball, or on the farm from a distance, any day but Sunday.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball