Around the Farm 12/8/11 – Pruning Apple Trees

Hutchins Farm November Newsletter

We have finally crossed that invisible, magical line from the ‘season’ to the ‘off-season’.  Each year, we step over with a confusing combination of reluctance, regret, and relief.  Although we are blessed with productive land, reasonably moderate weather, an energetic and enthusiastic crew, and useful and appropriate equipment, the stress of keeping up season-long production of our extensive roster of crops begins to fray the nerves after awhile—particularly in a year like this, when certain difficulties occur, and promptly compound themselves.

All in all, a good season, a successful season.  Corn was early, plentiful, tasty, consistent, and largely worm-free until September.  Berries, which we seem never to be able to produce in quantities large enough to meet demand, were nonetheless abundant and delicious.  Tomatoes were full of flavor—they appeared early, lasted late, and gave generous yields in between.  Onion quality and yield surpassed anything we have seen for the last few years, and I can’t remember a year when we dug so many (and such beautiful) potatoes.  Peppers did their thing admirably; eggplant, shy during the heat of summer, became the life of the party as temperatures cooled down.  All in all, a good season—but what happened to the winter squash and pumpkins?  Why so little broccoli and Brussels sprouts in October, when they should be at their best?  What was with the sporadic lettuce shortage in September and October?  And a shortage of kale?  Preposterous!

Each season is superficially predictable—spring is cool and wet, summer hot and dry, frost comes in October—but a nearly infinite number of variables with an effect on our crops, many of them unguessed at by us, are busy unpredictably affecting our crops, often in ways that leave no evidence of the cause.   We’re always trying to make our production more consistent both in abundance and quality, but even when we do everything right (which actually doesn’t really happen), some unforeseen circumstance can bring everything to naught—conversely, many of our most stunning successes are, to some degree, luck.  It’s a humbling feeling (and one not confined to agriculture) to realize that so much of what we seek to manipulate is beyond our control, beyond our understanding even.  We are confounded by our successes and by our failures, though we far prefer the former and cling to the (mistaken?) belief that we really do understand enough to provide a positive outcome at least much of the time.  With enough successes, we can live with the mystery.

So next year we’ll use what we think we learned this year to avoid this year’s problems repeating themselves—and it might even work, but possibly for reasons unsuspected by us.  But we’ll have a lovely crop of red herrings to offer our faithful customers.

Currently, we’re offering a selection of produce on our porch, including the abovementioned potatoes, lettuce, collards, kale, leeks, beets and cabbage, among other things.  We’ll continue to harvest and set things out as long as the weather and supplies hold out—at least through the end of this weekend.  I would like to express my thanks to all our wonderful customers who continue to seek us out and are so generous in their appreciation of our efforts.  Here’s to a short winter, warm days in April, and the first strawberries of 2012.

Brian Cramer
Hutchins Farm

last day of the 2011 season!

and it snowed about 4 inches!

Carrot Ginger Soup

This recipe is a favorite of ours when the weather gets cold (or cold-ish as the case may be lately…) It’s super easy too!

Carrot Ginger Soup
by Myra Goodman in her cookbook Food to Live By

2 tbs canola oil (or olive oil)
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 piece (3 inches long) fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/4 pounds carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 4 cups)
5 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
pinch of ground nutmeg
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the carrots, stock, and orange juice.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let simmer until the carrots are very tender.  About 45 minutes

3. Using an immersion blender or food processor,  puree the soup

4. Add the nutmeg to the soup and season it with salt and pepper to taste

5. Serve the soup hot and garnish with sour cream.  Yum!

Photo by Andrea Bemis

Andrea’s Fusion Coleslaw

We’ve gotten a few requests to throw this recipe online- so here you go!

Andrea’s Fusion Coleslaw
(adapted from Food to Live By by Myra Goodman)

2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded green cabbage
2 large carrots coarsely grated
1/3 cup thin strips of scallion greens
1 jalapeno pepper, cut into slivers
3 tbs unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons  sesame oil
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp Asian Chile garlic sauce
1 tbs finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup honey-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup raisins
2 tbs sesame seeds, toasted

1. Place the red cabbage, green cabbage, carrots, scallion greens, and jalapeno in a large bowl.  Stir to combine

2. Place the sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, chile sauce, and ginger in a glass jar and seal the lid tightly.  Shake the jar vigorously to combine.

3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine.  Add the peanuts and raisins and toss again.  Refrigerate the coleslaw, covered, to allow the flavors to develop, 2-4 hours. Serve chilled, garnished with sesame seeds

Oh the potatoes!

This year’s crop is most excellent! We have a large number of varieties to choose from, and a few more coming in. Here is your cheat sheet for varieties available right now:

Peter Wilcox: Purple skin/yellow flesh. Yep, that’s really its name. Who can resist a potato with both a first and last name? Moist and firm, bred to have a higher vitamin C content. A potato so awesome it even made the New York Times!

Carola: Yellow skin/yellow flesh. Moist yellow flesh with a creamy texture and fabulous flavor. Getting more recognition as food writers sing its praises! Not to be outdone, it got some love in NY Magazine in 2009.

Dark Red Norland: Red skin/white flesh. Moist and firm. Excellent for boiling. Its parentage stems from the Norland potato developed in North Dakota in the 1950’s.

Keuka Gold: Yellow skin/light yellow flesh. New release from Cornell, similar eating quality to Yukon Gold. Tasty! Great baking potato. The New York Times has a recipe for them too!

Chieftain: Red skin/white flesh. A bit drier than the other red varieties, this one is excellent for roasting and french fries! Developed in Iowa in the 1960’s this is one tasty spud!

Adirondack Blue: Purple skin/purple flesh. Moist and firm. Stores quite well. Perfect for purple mashed potatoes or roasting! Also developed at Cornell, it’s a colorful addition to any meal.

Adirondack Red: Red skin/pink flesh. Moist and firm. Good for storage. Delightful for boiling and mashing.

Kennebec: White-yellow skin/ white flesh. THE Maine Potato! Fine, all purpose spud. Excellent storage. They even got a shout out in Bon Appetit Magazine in 2008 for their killer frying skills.

Sangre: Red skin/white flesh. Good for boiling and mashing. Excellent for storage.

LaRatte Fingerling: Yellow skin/yellow flesh. A European fingerling, great flavor and texture- reminiscent of chestnuts. LaRattes got some love from Chef Robuchon in the Washington Post in 2009.

French Fingerling: Dark red skin/yellow flesh. Moist, excels in salads, roasted or boiled in soup.

Prepping for winter, and next year!

Cover crops are important- we need them to maintain our soil’s nutrients over the winter, protect our soil from erosion, and to build nutrients and organic matter for next year!

Planting cover crops- a winter rye and hairy vetch mix

winter rye and hairy vetch planted a few weeks ago

a clover and winter rye mix


Around the farm 10/8/11


Apple varieties currently in the farmstand

We have the following apple varieties in good supply as of 10/8/11 available at the farm stand. Here are some descriptions to help you choose!

Gala: small to medium. Extremely crisp/crunchy sweet and flavorful. Great eating. Excellent storage for 3 months with refrigeration.

Macoun: A crisper, crunchier, more aromatic, less tart McIntosh type. Great eating.

Liberty: Crisp and juicy. A bit tart – similar to Macoun. Very good eating.  Good baking and sauce.

Empire: Firmer, slighty sweeter McIntosh type.  Great eating. Very good baking and sauce. Stores very well for 3-4 months in fridge.

Spencer: A McIntosh and Golden Delicious cross. Crisp and juicy. Medium to large sized. Nicely sweet-tart. Excellent eating, very good baking and sauce. Stores 3-4 months. (Gordie’s favorite)

Jonagold: A Golden Delicious and Jonathan cross, but better than either.  Crisp, juicy, sweet-tart, loaded with flavor. Large sized.  Stores 3-4 months. Great eating and cooking.

Senshu: Sweet, crisp and flavorful.  Same parentage as Fujii but an earlier apple.  Excellent eating.  Stores for 3-4 months. Don’t be put off by its appearance.

Sister of Fortune: (aka NY428) Cross of Empire and Spy.  Firm with McIntosh flavor.  Excellent eating.  Super flavorful cooking.  (Andrea’s favorite)

We have more varieties available, but not a constant supply so they are not  listed here.  Come visit us!

Hutchins Farm October Newsletter

Another summer passes, another October arrives—‘harvest’ season it’s called, but of course we have been harvesting steadily since May.  The continuing warm weather has helped keep our summer crops producing—tomatoes are still available, as are, more sporadically, eggplant, peppers, squash and corn—but the shorter days have slowed everything down, and continual wet weather makes for ideal conditions for molds, rots and mildews.  Nonetheless, most crops look good and we should have an abundance of produce as we approach the end of our season.

Regular shoppers may have noticed that our lettuce supply has dwindled somewhat from the glory days of June and July.  This usually happens to some degree, but we had an unfortunate failure in lettuce germination (we try to seed and plant about 2000 lettuce plants every week) during an exceptionally hot period in late July, and have been trying to play catch up ever since.  We do cut lettuce every day, but have only been cutting about a half or a third of our usual volume, so we usually sell out in the early afternoon.  There is plenty of not-quite-ready lettuce in the field, however, so we should be able to resume full production soon and will continue cutting lettuce at least through the end of the month.

Another unfortunate situation is the near total failure of most of our winter squash and pumpkin crops.  We only plant squash (and other cucurbits) in the same soil after two years of different crops, but this short rotation is only somewhat effective in suppressing the more mobile insects and diseases.  So after five years of slowly increasing pest pressure and declining yields, this year the squash was pretty much a bust, except the disease and pest tolerant butternut varieties.  Because winter squash and pumpkins are so emblematic of the fall farm season in New England, we made the decision to locate and buy in local, certified organic squash to supplement our meager offerings.  More recently, we also bought in local non-organic pumpkins to liven up our (and maybe your) autumn display.  In coming years, we plan to continue to experiment with techniques and varieties so that we can reliably produce our own, certified organic squash and pumpkins.

In contrast to the winter squash, the potatoes have fared quite well this season.  We have lots of varieties—old favorites and a couple new trials—but we lack a few of our usual varieties that were unavailable this season.  Unlike last year, when we sold out about a week before our closing date, we should have ample potatoes, and most likely enough to fill orders for fifty pound bags during the latter part of October.

Apples made a good crop for a second year in a row, though the crop isn’t as large as last year’s.  Quality is very good and supplies are strong for lots of fresh eating and baking well into the fall.  Look for pies made with our apples by Pam Palumbo Templeton, available at the farm stand Saturdays during the month of October.

Carrots are abundant, but perhaps not sufficiently so to allow us to take orders for 25 lb bags as we customarily do—we’ll keep you posted.  Our onion crop was good this season and we still have a good supply of cooking onions, bottle onions and shallots.

Other crops you can expect to see over the next month include:  the usual chard, kale, collards, arugula, parsley, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, mustard greens, cilantro, dill, radishes, beets, turnips, leeks and scallions.  Bok Choy, Chinese Cabbage, celery, kohlrabi, radicchio, tomatoes, corn, peppers, hot peppers, eggplant and summer squash will be around a little longer, in dwindling quantities.  Spinach should make an appearance soon, along with rutabagas, celeriac, parsnips, sweet potatoes, parsley root and Brussels sprouts.

To end on a somber note, our last planting of broccoli and kale was mostly drowned by heavy hurricane rains, so broccoli will soon come to a premature end and kale may become increasingly scarce as the month goes by.  We hope all of you have the opportunity to come out to the farm stand over the next few weeks to see us before we close at the end of the month.

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager
Hutchins Farm