October 11, 2011

Whats in season?

What's In Season -Eating the Right Way

Although we’re in the thick of it as far as timing and weather and urgency to get things out, our spring schedule is slower than it could be, and the time spent in the  field days are so far fairly laid back. Slowing things down is the start-up stuff: a ton of tillage to do (working in the grassy remnants of last year’s fields), water for irrigation to put in place, seedling starting,seedling house, plastic mulch to run, chicken house to build, new pump shed to build and a long list of other basic things that we have to put in place along with starting the season’s crops. Getting it all rolling together at Kirup Valley Farms land, now that’s fairly intense!

Last year I noticed that on several occasions I put on rain pants before it began to rain and then proceeded to work comfortably in whatever the inclement conditions. This was a notable improvement of my previous tendency to wait until I was in the middle of a rainstorm to acknowledge the weather and  wear my protective clothing, and I decided my new-found attention to preventative measures was a sign of mental maturity.(think old man and aching bones) And I was “proud” to count this rudimentary example of common sense among my attributes until earlier this season, when I realized during one of the heavy rainfalls of July    ( our Winter ) that without my noticing my fuzzy coat and rain pants had grown so old and permeable that they were best considered a wind breaker rather than functional. Intending to trick myself into acquiring a new rain outfit that would actually repel rain, I threw out the old set and then promptly undermined my claims of common sense and self-reliance by failing to replace it before our South-west region was inundated by  more rains. I bought a pair of good quality ones that cost over a hundred dollars only to find out they did not fit me.  So I bought two more cheapo versions and  at least they fit me. I think I should have them for the next few rainy seasons for sure.

 After months of starting seeds and transplanting seedlings the season has turned to Spring time and Summer is not far away.  At times of great activity on the farm, when there is no planting bed that doesn't require attention and to weed or harvest or trellis one crop is to do so at the temporary expense of another crop of equal need, I am reminded that all such work is precipitated by the relatively calm act of planting a seed. Transplants take precedence over seeds. But to plant a seed is to commit to the lifespan of the plant it produces, and by the way that work starts more work; work we now find this  "Boss over Nothing" caring for a crowd unruly compared to the kernels we introduced to the soil during the first days of Spring. Each seed contains not only the potential of a plant and its vegetable crop, but the chart of  all our work that will follow it’s sowing. The hustle, care and attention that structures our days in this part of the season was present in each seed we sowed during a quieter time, and if we are surprised to find that they have grown to fill the ground around us it is because we remember that time, and it was not long ago. It feels like only hours ago that the planting was done and now soon the harvest will be on top of us. Not much blogging gets done for sure as every moment is being spent on the field. Days flow into nights and picking packing washing and driving all fold into one big calendar of events.

Why eat seasonally?
People have asked this Farmer John  “why should we eat seasonally?”

It's the easiest way to eat healthfully, support local farmers, help the environment, and save money! Seasonal food usually comes from local farms, so produce is picked at its peak of ripeness and most nutrients. Less fossil fuels are required for shipping, and food passes through  allot fewer hands, returning more profits to the actual growers. And, best of all, buying what's locally abundant is less expensive for you as well! We believe in this at Kirup Valley Farms and are spending more time building up the house veggie patch and garden area. Yes even this farmer has to share space with his children’s and farm bosses’s  garden beds with a bed of his own to trial and test  varieties of seed along with Horseradish and other veggies that he cannot plant or is not allowed to plant in the fields.  This farmer has been investing in this by giving a helping hand in making a few beds and bringing compost to them. Just the other day I went and picked veggies in my daughters garden beds. Hmmm! is that called theft by work of others?

Why organic means diversity...

Unlike most conventional farms that plant the same  mono culture crops year after year, most organic farmers plant diverse crops to build natural soil fertility. Many people are so conditioned to the simple, conventional crops that saturate our supermarkets (think iceberg lettuce, broccoli, potatoes, packaged carrots), that they have no idea what these new, organic grown  produce items are, let alone what to do with them. Many people come up to us especially at farmers markets and ask  "What is that?" Pointing to an eggplant or beetroot. For example we took bunches of Chioggia Baby Beetroot and sold only one bunch.  We brought them back home rather than to give them away.  We always try to grow what others think as “unique”  rather for us  are  considered as “normal”.

Seasonal Corn most
Bi-color (white and yellow kernels), aka two colored corn, is about to be planted right now. The  Golden (yellow kernels) are going to be grown this season. We are also growing two other varieties of corn. One variety is from certified organic seed and the other is a Polenta Corn or a roasting corn.  The certified organic seed is going to be used to grow more corn  in the future for our chicken friends as feed.  The Polenta corn is going to be grown this year as seed for next year when we can use some for grinding into polenta.

When buying sweet corn look for: Corn in the husk. Plump, evenly spaced, shaped and colored rows. Husk should be bright green and 'snug'. Avoid pre-husked corn, or corn with flattened, tightly packed kernels.  Don't worry about a corn worm at the top. They're common in sweet organic corn near the end of the season. Just cut off the tip after purchase.  We are growing non-GMO   sweet corn and plain corn.
Storage: Refrigerate in a plastic bag. Remove husks right before cooking.
Cooking is the easiest way to cook sweet corn: Boil a pot of salted water. Turn off heat, immediately put corn in, and cover. Wait 5 or 10 minutes and enjoy. We average around 7 minutes from field to pot. That must be a worlds  record for a commercial type of crop to food source.

Early Garlic picked  CRUNCHY!
One garlic bulb consists of numerous cloves. The cloves and the entire bulb are encased in a paper-like sheathe that can be white, off-white or purplish. Purple-skinned Mexican or Italian Red varieties and the large Elephant garlic variety are less pungent. Fresh garlic is available in small quantities this season starting in January, but cured (dried) garlic is sold year-round. We have planted several rows of 3000 cloves in each row.  Most of our garlic crop this year is going back to seed production. We have  saved a giant white garlic variety for seed as well. This way we have two colors available to sell at.www.kvfarms.com.au

Separate from skins and slice, chop, or crush. Use to flavor soups, sauces, marinades or dressings. Roast the entire bulb in its skin until soft to spread on bread. Look for: Plump, firm garlic with unbroken skins. Avoid garlic that is soft, moldy or has begun to sprout. Size is not an indication of quality.We usually sell the smaller ones and keep larger cloves for seed. Storage: Store in a cool, dark place away from heat and sunlight to prevent sprouting. Once the head has been broken, garlic stays fresh for only a few days.

Green Garlic
Green garlic is garlic that's pulled from the ground before a bulb forms, when it looks more like a fat spring onion or skinny leek. It's very aromatic and has a mild, fresh, sharp, herb-like flavor.
Use it in the place of garlic, green onions or scallions. Most people cook with the white and pale green parts, but you can use the tougher green tops in broths. Look for: Dry, slightly firm, shiny green garlic. Avoid those with brown areas or slimy stalks. Storage: Refrigerate in a plastic bag, or stand upright in water with a plastic bag around it. This is available only by special request from Kirup Valley Farms.


Leeks have a complex yet mild flavor, and are very versatile. You can dice them, or cut them into rings or matchsticks. They're often used in soups, as a side dish, deep-fried or sauteed in the place of onions.
Look for: Firm, smooth, unblemished leeks with brightly colored leaves. Avoid those with withered, yellowed or slimy leaves, or any that are overgrown. (They develop a woody core that's unusable.) We try to harvest our Leeks as a medium size which translates into a more tender leek than those GIANT sized ones big enough to fill 4 pots.  The ones you see on special at your local supermarket.  Storage: Cut off some of the green tops and refrigerate in a plastic bag. Wash thoroughly before using.We usually slice a single line than separate the skins to get a good blast of water in them.  Advice wash well as in Western Australia the soils are a bit sandy and that does not translate into good flavor.

Onion, Basic Round
aka storage onions.
There are three basic types: yellow ("generic" onion), white (cleaner, tangy flavor), and red (sweet enough to eat raw). We do not spray our onions with any chemical sprays or chemical based insecticides.  Customers have told us that that our onions do not taste “chemically” in flavor. One customer has reactions to eating store bought onions and not with ours.She told me this after buying all the onions in the local farmers market. Made me wish I grew more.To minimize crying, chill the onion before chopping. To mellow the flavor when serving raw, soak onions in ice water for 30 minutes beforehand. Onions' pungent flavor sweetens after cooking.
Look for: Dry, firm, shiny onions with thin, papery skin and a tightly-closed neck. Avoid ones that are sprouting, or have dark, soft or moldy spots.
Storage: Store in a loose, non-plastic bag in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place. For longer term storage, wrap in aluminum foil and refrigerate.Use within 24 hours otherwise discard as onions can absorb smells in the refrigerator.

Onion, Cipollini

An Italian version of the pearl onion, with a rich and sweet flavor. We are growing limited amounts of this onion this year due to having to buy the seeds in small numbers.  Germination was erratic at best on them and for that reason only a few red and brown varieties are being grown for the restaurant trade in Perth.  We will try to grow some golden versions and pack them in punnets for restaurant trade as well this Summer.

Onion, Green/Scallion

aka spring onion...

Scallions are onions that are pulled before a large bulb has formed. Here at KV  Farms we are growing three varieties this Winter and Spring . One variety went to seed early on called Red Beard and we are not happy with the performance of that. The other variety is similar and we are not harvesting much of that one either.Finely chop to use raw in salads or as a garnish, or cook them briefly in soups, sauces, stir-frys.

Just planted 30,000  Torpedo Onion Seedlings
A mild flavored , football shaped onion that can grow long and elongated in size depending on the season grown.  We have realized that growing it during the Winter months is not a good idea.  They are very popular and we cannot keep up with the amount grown and even demand.  We started out with an original trial of 50 seedlings  and now they have grown to over  30,000 seedlings transplanted each season.  They are a wonderful onion but  require plenty of attention and care. Local pub  Kirup Tavern home of Kirup Syrup uses them in their menu. They are popular item  in the Farmers Markets as they sell out first and popular due to their colour.


We are trialling several thousand shallot seedlings this summer and they are in the ground as we write this . We too are curious on how they will grow as we have never grown them before. Always worth a trial. Follow this blog and we will keep you posted on the progress.

Chioggia Beetroot 

Beets       Common beets are all red. There are also golden beets, white beets, and chioggia beets (white and red stripes inside, aka candy cane). Our first crop failed this winter due to many factors and we ordered 5000 seedlings to be grown out of the Chioggia Beet root. They are the sweetest and next are the Golden Beets. 5000 seedlings should be here any day for planting. Red are common and we have not planted them.

Best roasted, boiled or steamed. (Add a little lemon juice to help beets retain their color.) Beet green tops can be cooked separately for other dishes. Raw beets are also good for juicing.
Look for: Smooth, unblemished, hard, round beets, 3" diameter or smaller. Check that the tops are still attached (so the color doesn't bleed) as well as the taproot on the bottom.
Avoid beets with soft, moist spots or flabby skin, and those that are too large (take forever to cook and can have a woody core).We have been successful in cooking them but like the medium sized ones the best.
Storage: Cut off greens before storing. Refrigerate greens in a plastic bag. Refrigerate beets unwashed and un-skinned. Cut right before use; skins slip off after cooking. We use our own Farmer Johns  Extra Virgin Olive Oil to marinade them with lemon juice and fresh garlic for a wonder cold salad on a hot day.

Sweet memories of some serious watermelons.Wear that back brace as a OHS  warning sticker is  needed.

This year the crop of seedless watermelons is doing well. Interesting that the seedlings planted two weeks later are doing much better than the first lot we planted  as they were hit by cold nights . Apparently they do not like the cold.  We planted several thousand of the seeded variety  to pollinate the seedless one.  We are growing two types of seedless  watermelons.    The seedlings can be hard to  grow and really finicky.  We have had to add liquid calcium to counteract the low calcium levels in our soil this year.  Reminder note to self to spread  lime this Winter.  Well this farmer must close for the night as there is farm work to be done in the morning so until next time.Happy Reading. 


Eggplant  that looks nice with other veggies
Over 5000 versions of a purple striped Eggplant have been planted and are about ready to harvest for the markets.  Elvis the wholesalers top Salesman is waiting for these.  The picture you see was taken last Summer  when Farmer John Trialled 500 plants and was very sorry he did. Now that 500 has multiplied to over 5000  plants. We cannot help ourselves and really like the color. We even have a Japanese  Variety that is so delicious  it can be eaten raw or in Tempura dishes.  Storage: Use as soon as possible as Eggplants do not keep long. Look for firm and clear skinned versions when buying.

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