Archive for August, 2012

August 20, 2012

A farmer’s perspective 8/20/2012

Dahinda, IL: The rain that we had last week helped to loosen the soil a but but it is still very dry. We would need a few days of rainfall like what we got last week to replenish the soil moisture up to what it needs to be and even then the deeper subsoil would ne be moist enough. I am going to try to plant some fall crops this week including zucchini, lettuce and spinich (in the hoophouse), and the broccoli and cauliflower that I started in flats a few weeks back.

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August 10, 2012

Tomatoes: 10 facts for for a familiar fruit

From Canton Daily Ledger
Canton, IL –
Tomatoes are one of the most popular and versatile fruits of the summer season. Here are some facts and tips related to tomatoes — from preparation to presentation.

1. If your tomato sauce is too acidic, add some grated carrot. It disintegrates in the sauce and adds sweetness but no hint of carrot flavor.

2. Fragrance is a better indicator of a good tomato than color. Smell the stem end; it should have the garden aroma of the plant itself. If it doesn’t, your tomato will lack flavor.

3. Select tomatoes that are firm, glossy, smooth, plump, heavy for their size and free of bruises. Avoid tomatoes that are overly ripe and soft.

4. The easiest way to crush tomatoes? Use your hands. Your kids will love pitching in.

5 The high acid content of tomatoes will slow the cooking process of some other food. Beans cooked with tomatoes, for example, may take up to 20 percent longer to cook.

6. A good serrated knife is far superior to a flat-edged knife for slicing tomatoes. If you use a flat-edged knife, be sure it is very sharp or you will bruise the tomato flesh.

7. Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes. Cold temperatures can make the flesh of a tomato pulpy and destroy the flavor. Always store tomatoes at room temperature, stem-end down.

8. Canned tomatoes have higher concentrations of lycopene than fresh tomatoes. And orange tomatoes have a type of lycopene that is absorbed better than the kind in red tomatoes—2 1/2 times better.

9. One large (6 1/2-ounce) tomato contains 33 calories, zero grams fat, 2 grams protein, 2 grams fiber and one-third of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

10. Tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable, and they were once thought to be poisonous. When Spanish explorer Cortez brought seeds back to Europe in 1519, tomatoes were grown as ornamentals, but not eaten.

August 8, 2012

First try for Louisiana Green Eggplant

In the Chicago area, from which I hail, eggplants grew well in the deep black topsoil of the area. Back then I only grew the black beauty types and never really did any experimenting and was satisfied with what I got. Since moving out to Western Illinois, I tried to grow eggplant for several years and have had no luck. Flea beetles and other pests, as well as soil that wasn’t accommodating to eggplant production, took a toll on my eggplants.

In the past couple of years though, I have added a hoophouse to our farm, as well as manure and other amendments to the soil. After these adjustments the eggplants are growing great! The hoophouse seems to keep most pests away and the eggplant production skyrocketed. I had a bumper crop last year. I took advantage of this change and started to grow many heirloom varietes.  Among the heirloom eggplants I am growing is the Louisiana Green.

I have never tried this variety before and according to High Mowing Seeds, the Louisiana Green has similar flesh and skin as Oriental types but meatier with a full flavor. Slow cooking or braising will bring out the flavor.Tall, vigorous plants produce slender 8-9” long fruits that are glossy and lime green. Plants benefit from support producing elongated and straight fruits. Even though the appearance of the Louisana green might make you think that it is an oriental type, it was actually bred in the US. I am now starting to get some small fruits on the plants and I will let you know the results after I harvest some.

Photo: http://www.highmowingseeds.com

Louisiana Green Eggplant

August 7, 2012

A farmer’s perspective 8/7/2012:

Dahinda, IL: According to the National Weather Service, drought conditions will continue for at least the next 10 days. It would be nice to get at least a little rain to soften the ground for fall plantings. I have some broccoli and cauliflower started that should be ready in September. This all depends on what the weather is going to do. I am not sure how well they will grow if the 100+ days return. I also have garlic for next year that will have to be planted this fall. This will need rain as well to grow and so it will come up in the spring.
Another problem with this drought is that the pastures stop growing. There is less and less for our animals to eat. I will have to lay in a supply of hay but since this needs water to grow, it may be expensive.

August 3, 2012

Agricultural Products Building at the Knox County Fair 2012

Knoxville, IL: I have been busy this week with my duties as one of the superintendents of the Produce Building at the 2012 Knox County Fair. This year’s fair saw many more produce entries than in the previous two, surprising since we have been in the middle of the worst drought in nearly 60 years! On top of the numbers of entries, there is also an abundance of varieties. Heirloom tomatoes, peppers, squash and varieties of other vegetables that are displayed by the entrants, along with comments by the entrants and fair visitors, show that there is an increasing interest expanding the varieties grown in American gardens.

The number of entrants exhibiting at the fair has increased and I feel that it shows that people are starting to get back to growing more of their own food, even if it is at a small scale. This goes along with the increasing interest in food in general. If you think about all of the possible things that have gotten better in the United States over the past 40 or so years, you may not come up with many items but food is one thing that really stands out as having gotten better. Hopefully the interest in gardening and food will continue to grow and maybe we will see many more years of great produce on display at the fair!