Saturday, February 16, 2013

Choosing Seeds For Success

The seed catalog describes it this way "... extremely hard shell and excellent storage ability. High quality flesh is the color of a sweet potato and has similar flavor." It's Anna Swartz Hubbard from Seed Savers Exchange. The other squash in the pan is Red Kuri, also known as a Baby Red Hubbard. The catalog from High Mowing Seeds says "the most reliable yield even in cool, short seasons."
These squashes were harvested last fall and have been successfully stored in our little greenhouse space which is part of our workshop. Other varieties include Uncle David's Dakota Dessert (below) described by Seeds Of Change as "richly sweet and robust," and old-fashioned butternut squash.
I decided to cook up all the leftover winter squash today and put it into the freezer for I think we're coming to the end of the storage season.
Cooking and preserving duties provide me a little break from the seed ordering process which has consumed my time in the past week.
We've been pouring over the seed catalogs and reading about the seed business online and from other sources as we place our orders this year. One of my old favorite companies (Seeds Of Change) which sells 100% certified organic seed, is now owned by the Mars Corporation.We have discovered that many of the seed companies sell seeds with ties to Monsanto. We're trying to avoid those companies this year, instead choosing to buy our seeds from organizations that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge. We choose our seeds carefully - drawing on our own experiences and the experiences of other gardeners and growers. But we have also found some wonderful new varieties by reading the seed catalogs and the wish list grows longer and longer and then needs to be cut to manageable levels.
I think we're coming down the home stretch in the planning process and the first of the boxes stamped with seed company labels brought the UPS guy to our door yesterday. Down in the greenhouse, the first little sprouts of that leafy head lettuce that our farmers' market customers enjoyed last summer are poking their way up through the seed starting mixture. Can spring be far behind?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Turn Your Face To The Sky

Arthur and I drove down to State College on Saturday morning for the PASA (Pennsylvania Association For Sustainable Agriculture) Conference. We arrived in time to take a quick walk through the exhibits on our way to hear the keynote address.
The young man who took to the stage was unknown to us but we knew from past experience with speakers at this conference that his words would offer us new and interesting perspectives. We weren't disappointed. Ben Hewitt used his annual experience haying with a seasoned farmer (a story in itself) to bring into focus the great joy we farmers share and the challenges we face as our environment becomes increasingly commoditized and systems evolve to continue to support and shore up the status quo.
He concluded his talk with a long list of "Rules For The New Game" for he believes that nothing will change until everything changes. "Turn your face to the sky," he said and on Sunday morning, I stepped outside in the crisp cold air to do just that.
Ben Hewitt is a farmer and writer who lives in northern Vermont. I am anxious to read his 2010 book "The Town that Food Saved", which chronicles the story of Hardwick, VT, and the efforts to blueprint and implement a localized food system.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Onion's Sweeter Sister

I recently read that shallots are the onion's sweeter sister. While often considered smaller, milder onions, shallots are their own species within the allium family (onions, leeks, garlic). With the flavor of a mild onion with a hint of garlic, shallots have long been mainstays in French and Asian cooking. In my experience, shallots seem to become a part of the overall flavor of a recipe without the overpowering more subtle flavors.I've been growing shallots in the garden for several years and offered them for sale at the Farmers' Market last summer. Today I ordered seeds for my 2013 crop. Shall I grow some for you?