Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #12, 6/8/11

What’s been going on?

For farmers the search for new and better crops is a constant thing, or should be. Sure there are varieties that are tried and true and we wouldn’t dream of not growing, like Cherokee Purple tomato, but it is necessary to continue to try new things. Variety trials are a way of life. There are many reasons to try new things like better flavor, a different color, more disease resistance, more production, better plant structure, replacing a variety no longer available and more. Each year we have dozens of new varieties we test, many that you many never see. This year alone there are 20 new vegetable varieties that we discovered in catalogs, travels or talking with other growers.

It is in the flower fields that we have done the most research for new crops and in the most structured way. Betsy was one of the first members of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, founded back in the late 80’s. Since that time we have attended most of their national conferences and Betsy has served as regional director, treasurer, conference chair and founder of the Research Foundation. Early on they instituted a variety trials program where the seed companies would provide seed for their newest cultivars and a select group of farmers and universities from around the country would plant them out and report back on how they did. Number of stems, stem length, disease problems, vase life, etc.

Some years these new varieties are just ho-hum or total failures in our climate but the data is useful anyway. Betsy is really enthusiastic about the some of the new sunflowers starting to bloom this week and after probably a thousand varieties over the years, I can tell you when she wakes me up in the morning talking about how incredible some of the new dark sunflowers are it gets my attention. So after three decades you would think that we have seen and tried them all but we know that is not true and while it is rarely as exciting as a whole new kind of crop, like the first year we had turkeys, there are still some gems to be discovered and we continue to explore!

Picture of the Week

Staring at the sun

What’s going to be at the market?

Obviously, lots of really nice Sunflowers. New this week the brilliant summer Dianthus in dark reds and purples. Zinnias are here for the summer along with the Gloriosa Daisies (Black Eyed Susans). It is the peak of Annabelle Hydrangea season with lots of snow white heads. More beautiful Snap Dragons. The elegant bell shaped Campanula (Canterbury Bells) in pinks and blues. Exotic Safflower (Carthamus) is back but only for a week or so, tall, branched dark green stems with orange tufts. Asiatic Lilies. Betsy will have mixed Bouquets as well.

Tomatoes are here! But only a limited supply this week. Cherokee Purples, our early red Ultra Sweet, a few yellow Orange Blossoms and a few pints of Sungolds. Blueberries roll on but they are slowing down some, we made it to 9:00 last Saturday before we ran out, so best reserve to make sure. More of the warm season lettuces, Summer Crisp in both green with red tints and a very dark red. The replacement for Broccoli Raab is the Lacinato Kale (Toscano Kale, Black Kale, Dinosaur Kale, Cavalo Nero) more flavorful than the regular kales, we have used it in risotto and sautéed with pasta. Beautiful Escarole (probably the last week) and Radicchio both the round red and the tall, green Sugarloaf, great for grilling. More Cucumbers. More Beets in all three colors, Red, Golden and the Chioggia with it’s red and white striped interior. Carrots for the next couple of weeks. Leeks are back for the next month and they are some of the prettiest we have had in years. The first Basil too.

As a reminder if there is anything that you would like for us to hold for you at market just let us know by e-mail, by the evening before, and we will be glad to put it aside for you.

Hope to see you all at the market!

Alex and Betsy


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