Two words: wet, hot.
Although most people don’t think about local food in early January (in single-digit temperatures), we have begun seeding for the 2018 season, and it is the perfect time to sign-up for your 2018 CSA share. We are welcoming 10 new CSA shares this season. Applications are available here on the website (see CSA Program), and deliveries will begin mid-April. New in 2018: Amarant red cabbage, Steadfast spinach, Brune Percherone lettuce, Lila Sari tomato, Slogun lettuce, TN White Crowder peas (our seed), Tsakoniki eggplant (our seed), San Jose x Waltham Butternut F2 winter squash (our seed), Joy’s Midnight Chard, and Western Front kale (among others). Also, Nancy lettuce, Rosa Bianca eggplant, and Sand Hill sorghum are back this season! We also hope to expand our winter share offerings.
June and July are busy seed saving months: we harvest and clean biennial seeds (plants that flower and go to seed in the spring of their second season), hand-pollinate cucurbit crops (squash, cucumbers, muskmelons/cantaloupes, and watermelons), trellis bean and tomato crops, and begin scouting and hand-pollinating corn crops.
This season, we only had one spring biennial crop : Variegated Collard Greens. We planted them last fall in our new hoop house, where they have been growing ever since. They began flowering in February, and we harvested the seed the first week of June. I’m very glad we had them in the hoop house, as it kept them dry despite all the rain we have had. They produced a really beautiful crop (about 6 pounds of seed off of 105 selected plants). The seeds are below.
We are growing a really special corn this season: Chapalote corn. It is thought to be the oldest corn still in cultivation. It is from northern Mexico and is used for pinole (a spice mix), atole, and popcorn. It produces small ears of various shades of brown, late in the season. We are just beginning to bag male tassel flowers and scout ears, where the female flowers or silks will emerge. Below is a picture of a stalk of Chapalote corn where the ear is just beginning to emerge from the stalk.
We are hand-pollinating several varieties of winter squash this season for pure seed: Veracruz Pipian, San Jose Club squash, Upper Ground Sweet Potato squash, and two breeding projects, San JosexWaltham Butternut squash (F2) and CarrizoxWaltham Butternut squash (F1). We are still waiting on the Veracruz Pipian squash to produce female flowers, but we have successfully pollinated all of the other squash. Below are two San JosexWaltham squash, that appear to be of the phenotype we are looking for, and a CarrizoxWaltham Butternut squash, which we will use for grow-out next season.
The “Tsakones” are an ancient people, now Greek, whose language and culture are endangered, see http://www.troumpasfamily.gr/en/location/laografia/. The “Tsakoniki”eggplant is attributed to them. Although not available commercially, its popularity is growing among independent seed companies and seed growers. We are growing it for seed for the first time this season. Its shape is like a mix of Asian and Italian eggplants, and it has a wonderful flavor. We have had some rotting issues this season due to all the rain, but we have had that problem with all of our eggplant varieties. We are just waiting for the seeds to mature, and then we will begin seed harvest.
We are growing several beans for seed this season: Cades Cove Bean (Anderson strain), TN White Crowder Pea (as far as we know we are the only source of this bean, although we shared it with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange last season), Blue Moro beans, Brown Bunch beans, Grandma Nellie’s Yellow Mushroom bean, and Tankuro soybeans, which are typically used dried for kuromame instead of green for edamame. Below are pictured Cades Cove Bean, TN White Crowder Pea, and Blue Moro beans, which we have begun to harvest.
We have a few other seed crops growing as well. The Roseland cucumber seed is also almost ready for harvest. The Mexican huauzontle (a nutritious green similar to Lamb’s Quarters) is starting to produce seed heads. The Elephant’s Ear (or Slonovo uvo) peppers are loaded with peppers but haven’t started ripening yet, and our Gito’s chiltepin peppers (which produce very late) have yet to begin flowering.