Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #9, 3/28/19

What’s been going on! 

Second morning in a row at 30 degrees.  Last week we had four mornings below freezing but the long term forecast has nothing below 32 degrees!  Now we never trust long term forecasts and we know that our last frost date is usually around April 20 and we will for sure have a close call or two but things are looking up!

In working the new plan for a shorter marketing season I had boldly scheduled the earliest tomatoes to go in the tunnels two weeks ago but as I have written earlier, they got a slow start and so did we on getting the tunnels moved.  Finally today is tomato planting day and on looking back over a number of years we have almost always planted them on this date or certainly this week so it must just be the proper time.

If you remember from the Big Reveal this will be the only planting of tomatoes we are doing this year and because we only have 400 feet of row in the little tunnels, the selection has been narrowed as well.  There will be all of the our (and your) favorites though with Cherokee Purple, Cherokee Green, Sungold, Big Beef, our new yellow tomato and some Italian Oxhearts; really what more does a person need?  Now we just have to wait two months.

Picture of the Week

P1050015 Frost on the Romaine Lettuce

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #20, 7/6/18

What’s been going on!

 It is all about tomatoes right now and we have them coming out of our ears!  With the holiday landing in the middle of the week it has curtailed our normal tomato sales both from the Wednesday market being a day earlier, and a bit slower, and all of our restaurants closed, some for the whole week!  Combine that with probably the peak of our harvest and we are swimming in amazingly beautiful fruit!  Don’t miss out.

This Saturday is usually the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s big Tomato Day but this year it has been pushed back until July 21st for a variety of reasons partly due to most of the  farmers crops being a bit later this year due to the cooler spring.  Not to worry, there will still be plenty of tomatoes at market.

We finally got some rain on Wednesday after nearly 3 weeks without a drop.  Didn’t exactly need 2 inches in a half an hour but we will take whatever we can get.  After the downpour I have been working on dragging all of the driveway gravel back up the hill to where it should be.  With nearly a half a mile of gravel drives around the farm this is a never ending job but some years are worse than others, just depends on how the rains come.

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When you enter the packing shed you see this

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Around the corner you find this

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #17, 6/13/18

What’s been going on!

Wonderfully cool day yesterday and we took the opportunity to finish seeding an acre of summer cover crops of pearl millet and cowpeas.  I spent Monday getting everything mowed and getting the soil ready in various fields, the rains that came with the cold front fortunately missed us which allowed the seeding to go forward.  With good moisture in the soil they should sprout quickly and give us a good smothering stand.

The first real tomato harvest on Monday and Jennie spent a good amount of time carefully showing Lacee and Jacob exactly how we pick and sort tomatoes.  How much color is enough, how to separate the full ripe, part ripe and seconds from each other.  What to do with damaged fruit.  Which boxes to use and how to pack them to protect the tender orbs.  It is a long two months, with thousands of pounds of fruit, so it is best to get everyone on the same page from the beginning.

The sweet red onion harvest is happening today and tomorrow.  A bit tedious pulling each one, sniping the roots off and the neck making sure to leave an inch or so to dry.  Put into ventilated crates and stacked in the shade covered greenhouse to cure but not in the direct sun so they don’t get sunburned.  Look for them at market in a few weeks.  Tomatoes, onions, cukes, basil and peppers, seems like summer is finally here.

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Tomatoes coming to a plate near you!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #22, 7/12/17

What’s been going on!

Tomato week #2, at least there is something refreshing as the true brunt of summer heat and humidity weigh down on us.  Tonight is our wine dinner with Glasshalfull in Carrboro.  A summer infused menu starting with tomatoes and ending with basil ice cream.  Come join us in the AC, tickets still available.

Starting Friday and going thru Monday is ACME’s 16th annual Tomato Festival where the entire menu is taken over by and bathed with tomatoes.  Kevin and company estimate they will go through 700 pounds of tomatoes.  While not all of them are from us, whew!, we did deliver the first 60 pounds yesterday and will probably take them another 100 pound plus this week.  The final event is their Tomato Festival Wine dinner on Monday night.

If you can’t make any of those our tomatoes are heavy on the menus at Pizzeria Mercato who just re-opened after their summer break, Elaine’s On Franklin and Pazzo in Southern Village.  Maybe a bit less prominent but in the mix at Oakleaf in Pittsboro, just back from their summer break too and the Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw.  Of course you can just come to market today or Saturday and take tomatoes home to hide out in your own AC and quietly enjoy them there.  Stay cool!

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Limelight Hydrangeas reaching for the sky

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #21, 7/6/17

What’s been going on!

The peak of tomato season and Tomato Day at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market is Saturday!  Lots of tomatoes to sample, a raffle, music and more.  Don’t miss it!  In honor of the week I bring you an updated version of a tomato related newsletter from a decade ago.

This is the great reward after months of careful tending.  It is always fun to introduce the new staff to the different varieties and their nuances of flavor and ripening habits.  Every Monday and Thursday we spend the mornings picking the 2000 feet of row.  Everyone becomes a specialist in certain varieties.

Kyle is in charge of reds, learning to not pick them too green as they take forever to get fully ripe and can hang on the plants longer than all the others.  Only unblemished Italian sauce tomatoes are put in the box, no “freaks” with them.  The German Johnsons are much more tender so he has to change gears when he gets to them.

Laura is the Heirloom queen this season with hundreds of feet of row to pick and sort, some of them have the most difficult stems to remove without damaging the fruit and sometimes one must resort to using needle nosed pliers to pull them off.  Starting with the monster Striped Germans, so large that it takes two hands to pick them, carefully extracting them from between the vines and the trellis wires trying to not scar them.  The tender skinned yellow Azoychkas and next the Kellogg’s Breakfast.  Moving to the green-when-ripes, interpreting if it still green or if it has just enough golden cast to it to be picked.  Jennie usually takes on the tiny Sungold cherries. Blush, Black Cherries and more while making sure the picking and sorting is going well.

Bucket after bucket is brought to the back of the truck where each fruit is inspected and wiped with a cloth, sorted into three boxes by color and quality or set aside in the “have to eat today pile”.  The knife comes out as we get the first of the new varieties and slices are sampled between cleaning tomatoes.  Surprise at a high acid yellow tomato, amazement at the beauty of the interior of the bi-colored ones with red swirls through the fruity flavored yellow flesh, the reassuring solid full flavor of a Cherokee Purple, popping Sun Golds as one walks by the row that has them.

Finally finished we slowly drive the load down to the packing shed and the air conditioning to keep them from ripening too fast.  Stacks of boxes by variety and ripeness are built, long rows that run around the room.  Finally bags are filled with the “have to eat today” fruit and the staff heads home, stained a sticky green from rubbing up against the tomato foliage, talking about tomato sandwiches, salsa and gazpacho for lunch and dinner.  Life is good.

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A packing shed bursting with tomatoes

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #17, 6/9/17

What’s been going on!

The June that never came or where is summer?  The short answer is that it comes back tomorrow but with a low of 53 degrees this morning it is hard to imagine.  What a glorious few days especially yesterday, we will be dreaming of such a day in a few months.

Despite the unusual weather the change of seasons is upon us, the crops always know.  The coolness of the last few weeks has allowed the greens to last longer in peak condition than normal but even they are running out of gas, so this week is probably the last of a number of things like beets and fennel.  Soon the mower will take it all out and the summer cover crops will be seeded.

Flowers too, finished are the campanula, snapdragons and poppies but here come the sunflowers, zinnias and gloriosa daisies.  And there are tomatoes!  Those of you who got to market very early last Saturday and this past Wednesday were fortunate enough to get some of the very first tomatoes of the season.  We didn’t have it in the newsletter as the ripening has been slower with the cool weather and we couldn’t gage how many we would have.  We now have enough to actually make it public.  Rest assured we have been quality testing for more than a week, nearly daily tomato sandwiches and last night the first tomato and basil risotto for the season!

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Zinnias reach for the blue sky on an amazingly beautiful June day

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #10, 4/19/17

What’s been going on!

Thanks to all of you who sent kind words about last week’s newsletter. The pundits are giving HB662 a 50% chance of getting through the Legislature.

Jennie and company have been hard at work this week getting ready for and planting the Big Top tomatoes.  They pushed hard to get the landscape fabric down and half the trellis up by last Friday so the NC State folks could come out and plant their research plots.  For the second year, so they have good replication, all of the Cherokee Purple have been grafted to root stocks that have root systems that take up more water than normal.  Last year’s trials produced some interesting results so it will be good to see if they produce similarly again.

The beginning of this week the rest of the trellis has been erected and the other 12 rows and nearly 800 plants have gone in the ground.  Perfect weather to transplant the last two days with overcast and a bit cooler to better let them get past the shock.  A couple of new varieties this year including one that we brought back from Sicily last fall.  The early tomatoes in the little tunnels are flying along with lots of blooms and growth.  Tomato sandwiches soon!

We are not on the Piedmont Farm Tour again this year but Jennie is suggesting that we do it next year.  It is a great fundraiser for Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc. and a good way for people to see the farms that they know from farmers markets.

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Some of the research tomatoes with special irrigation set up and soil moisture sensors

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #8, 4/6/16

What’s been going on!

Trying to get the newsletter back on its regular Wednesday schedule and why not do it just in time for the first Wednesday afternoon Farmers’ Market.  Yes today from 3:00 to 6:00, it all starts again.  We will be there with the first lettuces of the season and Betsy’s beautiful flowers.

Cold this morning, 26 degrees, but all the tender crops are tucked under their protective blankets and look fine.  We are definitely getting our March winds and temperature swings only a bit late.  Looks like another serious shot on Saturday night too.

We are steadily working towards the main tomato planting under the Big Tops in two weeks.  The cover crop has been turned under and a layer of compost has been spread on each bed.  Next week we need to pull the plastic over the bows and get the final bed preparations done.  The plants look good in the greenhouse but as usual there is experimentation in the air.

We are once again working with a graduate student from NC State on a grafted tomato trial.  A decade ago, over several seasons, we grew some of the first grafted tomatoes in the US as NC State was beginning to work on the technique.  Just like it sounds and just like more commonly grafted fruit trees, the desirable variety is grafted to the top of a rootstock with the required trait, usually disease resistance but in this year’s trial, drought resistance.

The rootstocks we are looking at this year are capable of taking up more water than other tomatoes, could be important in either very dry areas or as climate change throws more droughts our way too.  All of the Cherokee Purples in the main planting will be in the experiment this year and you all will get to see and eat the results.

Pictures of the Week

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Frost on the lettuce

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Early tomatoes warm under their blankets

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #6, 3/25/16

What’s been going on!

Another beautiful and productive week.  Started last Saturday, while Jennie and Betsy were at market I was on the tractor getting the last of the minerals spread on two fields and then disking them in before the rain, got done just as it started to come down.

Monday I had my Advanced Organic Crop Production class out to help move the last two sliding tunnels over the tomato beds and move the last Big Top hoops from one field to the field the main planting of tomatoes will be in this year, it was a tomato planting preparation kind of day.

Midweek saw a lot more cultivation, planting and irrigation set up and watering, just hot and windy enough to both kill weeds and to need to keep crops moving with water.  Yesterday we spent nearly the entire day working on more deer fence, we are now just 300 feet from finishing up what we wanted to get protected for this season.  There is at least another 1000 feet we would like to build but that will have to wait until next winter.

Most exciting is that today we planted the early tomatoes in the sliding tunnels, only two months until we can eat a real tomato!  With the cucumbers already planted and looking good and zinnias going in next week it is hard to believe we are working on warm season crops already.

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The long view from the very top of the farm, green green

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #19, 7/16/15

What’s been going on!

So while our tomato crop is slowly decreasing towards the eventual last pick and our summer break in early August, our weeks and markets still revolve around what tomatoes do we have, do we have enough for the various outlets and who is going to get what.  Sure there are other things going on like trellising peppers, and the first plantings of crops for fall harvest and mowing and mowing and mowing.

For 20 years tomatoes have been one of our obsessions when we discovered that there was a world of possibilities past just a red tomato.  Nothing against a good red tomato but the range of colors, flavors, textures and sizes available has lead us down a trail that at first was overwhelming and now that we have winnowed out many varieties leaves us with trying to describe the ones we grow to all of you who want to pair them with different foods and dishes.  What is best with mozzarella or for sandwiches or in a salsa?  Gives us plenty more to think about for years to come.

To that end, that last tomato event of the summer, for us, is our Southern Season cooking class with our friend and heirloom tomato expert and preserver Craig LeHoullier who has a great new book out Epic Tomatoes.  We have done this class many times in the past where Craig expounds on heirloom tomatoes, their history and stories and I talk about how we grow them and which ones we have found that work best for us.  Always great food prepared by Caitlin Burke from our fruit.  Next Thursday the 23rd, seats still available.

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Tomatoes are not the only red thing we grow, amazing crested celosia

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