Provider Farm

From our fields, for your family


August 21, 2015

This Week's Share

Tomatoes continue to go strong this week. Now is the time to start thinking about putting some up for the winter. There are all sorts of methods to put away tomatoes. You can can them and freeze them whole, as sauce, or salsa. The easiest way when you are short on time, or have tomatoes going by, is to chop them up and throw them in a bag, squeeze out all the,air, seal, and into the freezer they go. Even easier is to throw them into a bag whole, but its harder to pack them into the freezer that way if you are short on space. Frozen tomatoes are great in the winter for soups and turning into sauce for a reminder of summer.

We're just starting to see color in the peppers. We have red and yellow bells and red Italias, long red Italian peppers. They are sweet and delicious. Peppers are another crop I like to put up for the winter. Just chop them up and put them in a bag. There great in stir fries, soups, on pizza, in eggs or just for snacking on --pepper popsicles!

The garlic will debut in the share this week. The crop looks great this year.  It is cured so it will store quite well on your counter or in a cupboard if you don't use it up right away. We'll start with our "Chesnick Red". It's spicy and perfect for making tomato sauce.

Recipe of the Week: 

Fresh Tomato Sauce

  • A couple lbs. tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, more if you are a big garlic fan
  • An onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh slivered basil
  • A glug or two of olive oil

The first part of this recipe is simplified if you have a food mill. If you have a mill, just put your tomatoes in a pot over medium heat and cook until softened (be careful not to burn them though). Then run through the mill to remove seeds and skins.
If you don't have a mill, then you'll have to remove the skins and seeds manually. First, put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Score x's into each tomato and drop into the pot of water for 10 seconds or so. Then remove and place in ice water. The skins should slip off easily. If you are using paste tomatoes, the seeds are small enough you usually don't need to remove them. Slicing tomatoes tend to have larger seeds and you may choose to squeeze them out and discard them before making your sauce (they're totally edible though and you can put them into your sauce if you don't mind them).
Put your milled puree or seeded, skinned tomatoes aside.
Place an empty sauce pot on low heat and put some olive oil in. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened. Then add your tomatoes and cook until desired thickness is achieved. Mash tomatoes with a potato masher if they were not milled. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with fresh basil.


Working smarter

Now thats a lot of onions!
Now thats a lot of onions!

Dear Friends,

I guess someone decided to crank the heat and squeeze every little bit of summer out of this month that they could. I for one, love the heat and I can even tolerate the humidity. I may not be crazy about the dehydration or blurred vision but in general I don’t mind when the seasons behave they way I expect them too. Snow in January, fine by me. Snow in April? Not so great. So all in all, a little late August heat wave isn’t usually going to be enough to harsh my mellow too much. The heat has really kicked our last cucumbers into high gear. We ended up harvesting over 1,000 pounds this week, although I am sad to say I think that may have been their last great effort. We are entering into the last days for cukes, squash and zukes, so get them while you can.

The sweet sweetness that is the melon harvest is also drawing to a close for 2015. Always a favorite time of year for us, the window for good melons is fairly short here in New England. We should still have watermelon for at least one more week but it looks like we’ve picked our last cantaloupe for the year. These were some of the best cantaloupe I think we’ve ever grown and while I can’t help but feel a little sad, maybe it’s better that they’re only here for a short time. This way we don’t get sick of each other. Next year when the end of July rolls around and we start to see the first melons ripening up on the vine it is pure magic all over again.

Bright sunny, hot days are absolutely perfect conditions for a storage onion harvest. Lucky for us that is exactly what we had to do this week. I was happy as happy can be when I saw the weather report: Monday through Wednesday hot and sunny, with no rain. We had harvested about 40% of the our onion crop last week, this left us with between 6,000-7,000 pounds still out in the field. I am not sure if you’ve ever seen 6,000 pounds of onions before but let me tell you it’s a lot of onions.

Monday we were tied up picking tomatoes and melons so we couldn’t get into the onion harvest until Tuesday morning. After a quick greens and lettuce harvest, we rolled up our sleeves and started picking onions with a fury. Things started off smooth as we filled up the harvest totes in no time flat. Typically when we harvest onions, we fill our red harvest totes as full as we can. Once they are all full, we load them onto a trailer and drive them up to the greenhouse. We unload the totes, drag them inside than dump them on tables to dry. A harvest tote full of onions probably weighs around 100 pounds give or take. It was during this loading process that we started to run into some problems.

I am not sure if I mentioned this, but it was hot. Really hot. And while I do my best to stay chipper, even the sunniest disposition can’t keep a crew full of workers hydrated and safe loading and unloading thousands of pounds of onions by hand. It is also worth mentioning that when it’s 90 degrees outside it’s well over 100 inside the greenhouse.  We got the first load in right before lunch and it was evident we had a problem. We had finished 2 beds before lunch with 8 to get done between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday. Now I know what your thinking.

“8 beds over two days? Thats just 4 beds a day. No problem. Any farmer worth their salt can do that.”

Normally I would tend to agree with you. The problem however, is everyone, including your humble narrator looked dead. We are absolutely blessed to have an amazing farm crew. These are some of the toughest, hardest working people I have ever had the privilege of working with, here or anywhere I have worked. I don’t believe they would have said anything and would have done their best to keep going. However, from a management perspective, realistically it wasn’t going to happen. We probably could have done at the most one more load of 2 beds before things go totally out of hand.

As we laid on our kitchen floor drinking as much water as humanly possible a notion of genius struck. “Picking the onions out of the ground is pretty easy, it’s not till we have to load them that it’s hard. So why not let the tractor do the lifting?” Rather than pick into small red harvest totes and load by hand we could harvest the onions like we do melons and winter squash. Fill bulk bins on the back of the tractor and than load the trailer with our tractor loader when we’re done. A little unsure of how it was all going to work out, we decided to give it a shot.

We filled the first bin, quick and easy, no problem. Than another and another and another. By the time 5 o’clock rolled around we had picked over 6 beds of onions with only 2 more remaining to pick Wednesday. I had a perfectly pleasant evening listening to the Red Sox win while I shuffled bins back to the farm and by 2 pm on Wednesday the onion harvest was complete. 12,000 pounds of some of the nicest onions we’ve ever grown safe and sound, drying in the greenhouse.

I am very happy to have this harvest done, and I think it is safe to say we found a new way to harvest onions at Provider Farm. It is important for us always to remember we’re better off trying to work smarter than we are trying to work harder.

Hannah, Mary, Marycia, Michelle, Erica and Larry

Your Farmers

Max and Kerry

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