ARTfarm Q&A Wednesday! 3-6pm

Today at ARTfarm down the south shore we’ll offer a fairly small selection of items: Pineapples, a few tomatoes, sweet salad mix, microgreens, basil, chives, and a few cucumbers.

The lignum vitae is an important food source for honey bees in drought times.

The lignum vitae is an important food source for honey bees in drought times.

Q: What do you farmers do when it is so dry? What can grow in this extreme drought condition?

A: Not too much! We do our best to conserve water when conditions are this severe.

One plant that remains green and healthy with no watering in this dry weather is the highly drought tolerant lignum vitae tree. Slow and steady is how lignum vitae grows, rain or no rain. This tree species will probably outlast all the other trees that we have planted over the years. Most of the 30+ lignum vitae trees established at ARTfarm came from Kai and Irene Lawaetz at Little Lagrange. Kai was always a champion of the lignum vitae for its beauty and ability to withstand drought times and there are many prime individuals of the species on the Lawaetz Museum grounds.

Even in drought times when most vegetation is brown, the lignum vitae tree's evergreen leaves remain deep green and provide dense shade.

Even in drought times when most vegetation is brown, the lignum vitae tree’s evergreen leaves remain deep green and provide dense shade.

While it does not produce any edible products, the lignum vitae is a beautiful dense shade and ornamental tree and a food source for honeybees, particularly when nothing else is flowering. The wood of lignum vitae trees is so dense that it has traditionally been used to make ship pulleys.

The light purplish blue blooms and showy red and orange fruit are unique mainly because of their color. There are not too many blue colored flowers in the tropics. The tree sheds very little leaf litter and its leathery paired leaves remain a beautiful deep green year round.

ARTfarm Monday Q&A: Never the Same Salad Twice

It’s dry out here! Today’s pungent harvest: Sweet salad mix, baby arugula, baby and regular spicy salad mixes, arugula, onions, scallions, cilantro, Italian basil, lots of tomatoes, slicers and heirlooms, cherry tomatoes, and the last of the figs for a while.

Q: Why aren’t your salad greens as sweet this week as they were last week? Why are the stems larger/smaller? Why isn’t  the spicy as spicy as it was last time? etc. etc….?

A: While one could chalk this up to simple nostalgia, it’s more likely that variations are due to two main reasons:

(1) Mother nature’s treatment of our crops is the primary source of this shift in taste from week to week. Even as our recipes remain unchanged, small changes in the weather can affect the taste of our salad mix.

When temperatures are hotter during a portion of the growth cycle of the lettuce heads in our fields, they respond as many living beings do under stress: they attempt to defend themselves from being eaten as they try to propagate. Lettuce will tend to take on a more bitter flavor in hot weather as it accelerates toward the bolting and seeding cycle of its life (as it would during hot late summer months in the cooler parts of the world). If we encounter cooler and rainier weather, the lettuce will be sweeter. Even a brief few days of intense heat can alter the taste of plants. And variations in weather now can affect the salad flavor two or three weeks from now, as the plants are in their growth cycle.

Spicy greens become more peppery when the weather is very hot and dry, and will taste milder when we’ve had a lot of wet weather. Our formulas for the types of greens and their quantities in the various mixes stays consistent from harvest to harvest, but the weather can change the flavors in the bag of salad you take home.

Occasionally we do have to change the formulation of a salad mix because seed is not available for some of the tasty baby greens that add so much flavor to our mixes. We find a substitution that is similar, but this can also change the taste of our salad mixes over the course of the season.

(2) The other factor that comes into play in the consistency of ARTfarm salad greens from bag to bag is what we like to call the Jackson Pollock effect.

When we make the salad mix we use a very large sanitized stainless surface and mix in many different baby mesclun greens with multiple large chopped lettuce varieties.

When creating his splatter paint pop art creations of the 1960s, Jackson Pollock employed a similar technique. He would toss different colors in random patterns throughout his large canvases.

What we do next at ARTfarm is essentially like taking that large amazing Jackson Pollock painting and cutting it up into many small pieces. Each portion of the canvas represents a bag of ARTfarm salad mix. Some bags will have more large pieces of stem from the base of the lettuce head; other bags will contain a little bit more of the baby mesclun greens; others will be a perfect blend of all the different ingredients that we put into the salad mix. Every bag is a little different because they’re all prepared by hand, and the weather, the secret intentions of mother nature, and the randomness of our process ensure that your experience will always be fresh!

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We know that our customers seek us out because they want real produce that tastes like the place it was grown. We know you can handle a little variety. But, if you ever purchase a bag of salad greens from ARTfarm that you find inedible, please bring it back to us. We’d always like to hear from our customers, good or bad, how you feel about our products, and if we’ve goofed and a product is not up to our normal level of quality, we would be happy to replace it with something you find tastier.

We grow this stuff for you, after all!

Sheep & Cowpeas at ARTfarm

Over the sleepy summer and fall break, we grew some cover crops in the gardens at ARTfarm to help improve the soil for next year’s crops. Climbing up the golden dried stalks of harvested sweet corn were some large and very happy cowpea vines (Vigna unguiculata) replete with big green bean pods.

There is almost nothing in this world that our sheep enjoy more than fresh cowpea vines and beans. Friday afternoon we removed the upper part of the cowpea plants and offered them to all three groups of ovines. OMM NOM NOM NOM!

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Cowpeas are a forage that is high in protein, helping the sheep to grow and put on weight. The roots of the cowpea plants fix nitrogen into the soil.

Your ARTfarmers are busy planning next year’s season and preparing garden areas to receive young seedlings. We have been blessed with some beautiful rainfall in September. We look forward to seeing all of you in just a few more weeks when the farmstand reopens. Watch this space!

Sweet Corn, Sweet Greens at ARTfarm 10am – 12noon!

Good Saturday Morning! Heirloom sweet corn, loads of cucumbers, mini bell peppers, microgreens, teen sweet (baby lettuce mixed with baby greens), teen spicy (baby lettuce mixed with baby spicy greens), four types of basil, recao, garlic chives, sage, lemongrass, and lots of fresh juicy Mediterranean figs. Papayas from Solitude Farm, soursop from Shirley, three types of mangoes from Tropical Exotics, 4 flavors of vegan ice cream from I-Sha, bread and bagels from Tess and Wanda’s honey!

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ARTfarm Wednesday, 3-6pm: Let’s talk Eggfruit

Thanks a bunch to our lovely volunteer Katie this morning, visiting St. Croix from Toronto.

Wednesday afternoon at ARTfarm: a bit of rain! Lots of teen sweet mix (lettuce salad mix mixed with micro), microgreens, teen spicy mix, baby arugula, lots of cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, papaya from Reuben at Solitude Farm, mangoes and eggfruit from Alex at Tropical Exotics, recao, garlic chives, Holy basil, Thai basil, Italian basil, lemongrass, figs, fresh baked hearty breads from Tess, local raw honey from Wanda at the Wright Apiary.

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Let’s talk about eggfruit for just a moment. It is full of niacin, vitamin A and C. So if you are suffering from one of these little summer colds that is going around, try adding a little eggfruit to a pie, dessert recipe, custard, or even your salad for a rich vitamin boost! While it can be enjoyed savory, diced and tossed with salt and lime juice or vinegar, one of the nicest ways to enjoy this slightly sticky-but-dry, bright orange fruit is in a creamy, ice cold milkshake.

Take about half of a large eggfruit and remove the large, glossy seeds. Scoop the flesh into your blender and discard the skin. Add a generous dollop of either molasses, local raw honey, maple syrup or your favorite sweetener. Add about twice as much ice as you just added eggfruit in volume. Add a cup or so of milk. Fresh creamy whole milk is really good in this. Next, I like to add about a teaspoon full of pumpkin pie spice blend, nutmeg, or cinnamon. Blend until smooth, and enjoy icy cold. Worthy experiments might be to substitute yogurt or creamy iced coffee for the milk. Yummmmmmmmm!

Throw any left over pulp in the freezer for next time! Or try this other recipe we posted a while ago for eggfruit pie!

Summer Fruitfest at ARTfarm, 10 AM to 12 noon!

We are sleepy at ARTfarm this morning. We had to get up at 11 o’clock last night and go out and pollinate the dragonfruit. And one of our neighbor’s cows got out early early early this morning, and more are trying, so take it easy and enjoy the 35mph speed limit on South Shore Rd. please!

Saturday morning at ARTfarm: Lots of lettuce salad mix mixed with micro, lots of cucumbers, lots of papaya from Solitude Farm, microgreens, baby arugula, mangoes from Alex, three luscious dragonfruit from ARTfarm harvested this morning, recao, garlic chives, figs, breads and fresh baked bagels from Tess (they make incredible French toast, thanks for asking), local raw honey from Wanda at the Wright Apiary.

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Taste of Grass… ARTfarm Saturday 10am-12noon

Saturday morning Artfarmstand! 10am-12pm today: Sweet mix, baby arugula, microgreens, sweet mix mixed with microgreens, Italian basil, Thai basil, holy (Tulsi) basil, recao, lemongrass, cucumbers, Bodhi long purple beans, sweet bell peppers, garlic chives, dandelion greens, papaya by Reuben, mangoes and eggfruit by Alex, ice cream by I-Sha, honey by Wanda, bread by Tess!

You can also “taste the grass” of the South Shore with some fresh pasture-raised lamb – humanely raised, free range, no grain, USDA inspected… we have fresh leg of lamb, chops, mini T-bone steaks, cut for stew, and more. Solar energy can convert to protein, and it is tender, sweet & delicious.

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