Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not So Marigolds

(the following was a part of a 2008 newsletter and is reposted here for your enjoyment)

Our desire to grow our gardens without chemicals has become stronger over the years, but we held this conviction even with our first garden in Burke, Wisconsin.

Our landlords were kind and had a section of ground tilled up for our garden. We already knew that there were many rabbits in our area and we had nightmarish visions of our entire garden being mowed over by the 'evil' little critters. We didn't really have the money for fencing and we weren't anxious to spray a repellant or kill the bunnies. So, what to do?

Thus begins our first foray into companion planting. We had heard from somewhere (or someone) that marigolds were a good companion plant for vegetable crops. Why? We didn't know. But, when we also heard that rabbits did NOT like marigolds and would tend to avoid them, we formulated a plan.

It was a simple plan that would be the master stroke. It would solve all of our rodent problems! Let's go buy enough marigolds to circle our garden. Surely it would provide us with a natural fence that would keep the critters out, be a friend to our vegetables, AND look pretty as well!
In went the garden. Around it went the marigolds. Marigolds in flats are not all that big - now that you see them in the ground. They were only 2 inches tall - most with a single marigold flower. We spread them out evenly on the border and watered them in well. In one day, we had planted our first garden and we went inside, feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

Our first morning foray into the garden revealed our first gardening tragedy. The tiny peppers were fine. The little tomato plants were fine. The broccoli plants? Well, we lost a couple. The marigolds?

Every last marigold plant had been nipped just above ground level. And, the plants (with now wilted flowers) were neatly lying next to the stem. It was true. Rabbits do not like marigolds.

And they had just seen to their removal.

Truck Barn

One of the projects on the farm has been to convert the truck barn into a more useful space on the farm.  While I don't have a picture here of the building before the work (or while the door was down), I think you'll appreciate the effort and the progress.

The east side had two large 10x10 foot doors.  One was nailed shut prior to our taking possession of the farm.  In addition, much of the bottom plate of the east portion of the building was rotting away.  Yes, that is a *bad* thing.

Thanks to Steve J and Ryan D, the door came down.  Steve and I got the frame in on the East and Jim F has been plugging away on fixing the framing and putting on new siding, etc.   Denis D has gotten in on the painting as well.  Lots of good work on it!

 East Side - note the middle (just right of the new door) is not yet fixed in this picture.  You might also note the electrical box (new this year).  It might be nice to have a light in the building as the days are getting shorter.
 And, this was the progress on the building prior to yesterday and today.  We don't have a picture of it yet - but the area to the right is finished.  We just need to do trim and priming/painting.
 West side was a double sliding door with the south slider being nailed shut (again prior to our taking possession of the property).  Door is down, new frame and siding and a nice crank-out window.  Won't it be nice when we scrape and paint the rest?  I smell a Tom Sawyer Day.  Anyone?

The southeast corner was in desperate shape until this week.  There is now a window in the door's place.  It looks much better and is much more secure.
The view towards these buildings has changed alot this year.


Genuine Faux Farm Fall Festival and Fetid Fruit Fling

Sunday - October 2
1pm to 5pm

Come to the farm and enjoy flinging fetid fruit to the turkeys and chickens.  Play games and just enjoy being outside and the company of other friends of the farm.

Bring something to snack on and share with others.  Unlike other festivals, we are not planning a full-scale meal.  Instead, we want to take advantage of the warmest part of the day.  But - we know some good snackies go a long way towards a great gathering.

If it is not too windy, we'll start a bonfire for s'mores (we will provide the makings).  Anyone have other ideas for this fest?  Let us know.

Looking for Poultry Buyers this Fall

We have poultry available for reservation and purchase.

Ducks - we still have ducks available.  They are now frozen and can be delivered once we arrange a time with you.  Cost is $6.75/lb.  Size of birds is 4lb to 8.5lbs.  This cost is 25 cents/lb higher than prior years due to increased costs.  However, you will find that this price is competitive with other prices.  AND, these were day-ranged and fed organic feed and organic produce.  We'd really like to get these birds moved.

Broilers (chickens) - our fall flock will go to the "park" Oct 9 and we will pick them up Oct 10.  Cost is $3.25/lb.  We are pleased with how this batch looks and they remind us alot of how the Spring batch grew for us.  We are willing to deliver birds starting on the 10th (even before they are frozen).  This flock is about 200 birds and most are still available.

Turkeys - The turkeys go to the park on October 28 and are picked up on the same day.  We like to deliver as many as we can on that day (unfrozen) because we just don't have the space for all of them (and the locker space is limited due to deer season).  Cost is $4.00/lb.  Again, this is a slight increase to cover feed, chick and processing cost increases.  There are approximately 50 birds available.

Send us an email today at to reserve your birds.

Rob & Tammy

Summer Crops Winding Down

It's true - peppers, eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans...  They are with us for such a short period of time.  And, now we will do without them again for a while.

We do keep records of all of our crops.  But, we don't have time to keep running totals of all crops as the season progresses.  So, we are selective based on the usefulness of an up to date set of data.

For example, summer squash vines need to be picked regularly to keep them producing.  There is no such thing as pacing the picking schedule.  You just pick them when they are ready - and keep picking them.  There may be a bit of scheduling within a week so all of our CSA members get similar amounts.  But, that is about the extent of it.  So, as long as I am aware of the last couple of pick amounts, the condition of the plants and the upcoming demand - we are fine.

On the other hand, most pepper plants have some flexibility with respect to their picking schedule.  I can leave some peppers on plants longer to wait for color change.  Or, I can rotate row picking to try to optimize the size and taste without giving up another set of fruit.  But, working that out requires tracking as the season progresses.

Thus, I have numbers for things like peppers.

Our three year average for total sweet pepper production
This year so far

But, in some ways, I like this year's number better.

Now it is your turn - ask me "why?"  Please...  Ok, I'll tell you anyway.

In previous years we didn't govern our crop as well as this year - leaving us with very large numbers of peppers needing to be picked prior to frost.  And, thus, finding us with far more than the CSA would use in a given week and a bunch of fine peppers that we didn't have an immediate market for.  We have also learned better how to keep peppers in the field through a frost.  Thus reducing the necessity for a 'monster' pick in the days prior.  We did still pick certain things to get them out of the field - but it simply wasn't the same.

2009 - we picked over 1000 sweet peppers in the final week of September to preempt coming cold weather.  We picked nothing after that - the plants did not survive.  But - the point is - we should not have had that many marketable peppers still on the plants at that time.

By my calculations - if we remove the bump up in picking from the frost picks - our average would be closer to 3500.  The extra peppers were still good, but they often did not bring any income to the farm, nor did they go to the CSA.  Many did go to the food bank in a couple of instances.  So, of course, it was nice to have them.  But, we'd be just as happy donating as many peppers to the food bank over the course of several weeks.

So...average sweet pepper production with frost 'bump' removed:
This year so far with adjustment for slight frost 'bump':

Yep, that works.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are we a "REAL" farm now?

Now that we have a deck on the running gear - making a functional (if not perfect) hay rack.... are we real now?

The running gear was picked up at a late summer auction.  It has a few problems - one of which is the simple fact that the tongue/front wheels will NOT turn.  That's the next task.

But, the lumber came from the old building that came down several years ago.  The lumber has been salvaged and some of it put to use here.

While we realize it isn't a fine piece of furniture.  Painting this thing *should* make it last longer.  We really don't want to pull it apart and replace boards any time soon.

And it is always easier to paint lumber before it is assembled.

Ready to put the planking on the deck.

And...there it is. Okay - you might notice there are unpainted boards on the side.  That's the result of an error on two levels.  First, I selected a board for the deck that had a bit too much of a dogleg in it.  So, I have a painted plank with nowwhere to go.  Second, I can't count.  An odd number of boards - you start with the center of the first board in the center of the crosspieces....  Even number is different, you start with an edge at the center point of a cross piece. 

I know this.  Therefore, I must not be able to count.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lotsa Things!

We apologize for not getting much on the blog lately.  So - here's the first installment of trying to make up for it!


GF7 Festival: Scheduled for Sunday, October 2!  Mark the calendar.

Ducks: They have been processed and are available for purchase.  We do realize that some have been ordered.  They are currently stored in the Fredericka Locker.  We need to sell more of them to make the trip possible so we can remove all of them rather than just a few at one time.  It makes tracking much easier.

Organic Inspection:  Went very well (Sep 7) and we just need to pay the inspection bill and we are certified organic for yet another year.

Last Week of CSA will be week of October 18,19,20: Barring, of course, major surprises.

Chickens: Fall chickens go to "the park" on October 10.  Get those reservations/orders in now!

Turkeys: Go to "the park" on October 28.  Ready to take orders on these as well.

Fall Extended Season: It's on the list of things for us to do.  We expect to begin signing up for this 1st week of October.

Next Year's CSA: We will begin taking $25 deposits for next year starting the 1st week of October as well.

Receipts: We printed out professional looking invoice/receipt books (thanks to the Printery in Waverly).  Please humor us as we make receipts and give you a copy when you pay a deposit or pay for the fall CSA.  Why?  We want to make our record keeping more reliable and simple than it has been.  This has helped us with our direct sales so far - it should help with the CSA tracking as well.

Hayrack: The deck is on the hayrack.  Unfortunately, the steering is still frozen.  Ah - more work.

Truck Barn: Mostly framed in and mostly sided - even mostly primed and first coat of paint.

Tomatoes: Shivering and struggling.  We will do what we can to fill the orders placed.

Tractor: Durnik the tractor is not happy right now.  Looks like the "mechanic hat" needs to be put on.

Office: See the pile on the desk?  That's what I have to do.  Looks like there's another hat I need to wear!  Funny think about working outside so much... you don't see the paperwork - until you go into the office on a cold, windy, rainy day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shiver Me Timbers

Arrrrrrr!  Or maybe just... Brrrrrrrr?

The farm was hit with the first heavy frost of the season last night (Sep 14/15) - which qualifies as a very early frost for our area.  Usually earlier frosts are much lighter than this one.  Some people who were in low lying areas reported temps well below freezing.

So, as a result, our plans for crops, the CSA, etc have been shaken up a little bit.  We'll work around it, of course.

Things that already show they are really and truly done:  green beans, cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini.  I have not looked, but I expect the basil to be largely done - though some might survive if they were tucked under a taller plant.  Other things that will slow or have been impacted include peppers, hot peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.  Time will tell how much.

The good news - we had several days warning this was coming.  While it doesn't help our moods any to have a frost/freeze looming (especially an early one), it does help us to plan out our efforts.  So, if we seemed a little short with anyone during the last week, you have our apologies - and an explanation.   It can be rough watching the projected low go from 39 deg F to 37, to 35 to 33 to 32 and finally 31 the day before.  The funny thing is - both Tammy and I saw the 39 and the surrounding forecast and said, "uh oh!"  We knew as soon as that number hit the extended forecast that there would be frost and that forecast low would continue to dip.  Intuition maybe?

How does farm work change with an impending frost?  Well, we do a lot more picking 'ahead' of schedule.  Thursday's CSA was picked on Wednesday.  Much of Tuesday's shares were picked on Monday.  The last picking of green beans was done by pulling plants (easier on the workers).  All of the trays with seedling starts had to go into buildings.  All potted plants (that were outdoors) went into buildings.  The high tunnel was wrapped up tight, as were the coldframes.  We put remay covers on as much crop as we had remay covers for.  In some cases, we pick more of a crop than we intended because we are not sure the plants (and remaining fruit) will survive. 

For those who have sensitive plants - watch tonight's weather as well.  It could frost a second time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Experiments Galore!

We've had a few experiments running this year and we thought we share preliminary results!

Transplants vs Direct Seeding
Many crops provide you with an option.  You can either put the seed directly in the ground and allow them to germinate there or you can germinate the seed in trays or soil blocks and then transplant them into the ground when they are ready.  (I suppose you can also transplant into pots, then the ground - like we do with tomatoes.)

We did a trial on winter squash that was positive.  As a result, we'll be doing MANY trays of melon, watermelon and winter squash.  We may or may not do cucumber, summer squash and zucchini.  For these last, it is more likely for the earlier succession.

Row Spacing SARE Grant
We are convinced that companion planting is good.  We are convinced that we need to use some bigger equipment to stay up with things.  We've been working on spacing plans to see if we can do both.  The success on this for the first year is in figuring out what we NEED to have tool-wise.  We have also figured out some basic spacing ideas and have identified a number of things that need to be modified to make it work.  So - if success is learning better how to do it - we were successful.

Tomato Trellising
We love our tomato cages.  Or at least we did.  But, those woven wire cages don't Winter well and we don't have the ability to store them inside out of the snow.  The amount of time spent trying to bend cages back into shape - or replacing those that broke out was not acceptable.  As a result, we have purchased a couple of alternatives from Nolt's and are encouraged.  In both cases, set up and tear down will be faster.  Also - storage will be easier.  Yields don't appear to be markedly different.  We'll see.

Farm Visit Work Days
After realizing how isolated we can feel from others who have similar sized farms and/or do similar work, we agreed with three other farms to do a monthly work visit day.  A different farm each month.  Thus far, we have visited Scattergood and Grinnell Heritage.  Blue Gate is coming up!  While it may be difficult to take a day off, it has been worth it.  It might actually be hardest to host.  I don't think any of us has completed succeeded in not falling into the trap of wanting everything to look perfect before our friends arrive!  Hint to anyone wanting to do this.... it ain't gonna happen (perfection).

Onion Varieties
Sierra Blanca - out.  White Wing - in.  Good deal - it's cheaper to buy seed than plants anyway!

High Tunnel Varieties
Rather than limit our choices, we've tried multiple varieties in the high tunnel in an effort to learn what will work best for us.  The jury is still out on some.  But, Jaune Flamme looks fantastic.  Wapsipinicon Peach looks like another winner.  And some of those hot!  Beaver Dam may find a spot next year, as might the papricka peppers.  We're pleasantly surprised by how the late summer squash and zucchini trial look.  And, we knew late green beans were a winner from last year.  We're doing that again and the plants look great.

Some not so good things?  Kale through the summer - seems like a big magnet for the cabbage worms to us.  Potatoes?  We'll use it to plant a hill on Good Friday, but that will be it. 

Summer Lettuce
We worked on cutting lettuce heads a bit smaller to catch them prior to bolt.  While they are not as impressive as our Spring or Fall lettuces, they are still quite good.  Biggest key was keeping the plants weeded when temps are high.  A little water can do wonders if you time it right too.  The other key component?  Ducks.  They love to eat the lettuce that bolts.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Crop Report

It's been a while since we've done an honest to goodness crop report...

Frost Watch
Rob has had September 14 down since April as the first possible frost date for the year.  He hopes he is wrong.  But, watch temps as we head toward mid-week!

On everyone's mind, including our own, is the slow tomato crop this season.  Part of the issue is the early and prolonged warmer weather this summer.  It prevented fruit set on many plants, which is why we have so many green tomatoes that need another couple of weeks to ripen.  Here's hoping!

Green Beans
They've been very tasty this season - for which we are most grateful.  We feel like this has been an average year for this crop on the farm.  We are pleased with the addition of Black Valentine to Provider and Jade this year.  The reality is - green beans are a time intensive crop during harvest - there isn't much likelihood we can find a way to do more than this.  Unless we can get a picker that will *work* for green beans.  We don't expect much more out of the green beans in the field - but we'll see what we can get out of them before Wednesday.

The next batch is starting to put on the finishing growth.  We can't be sure that they'll make it for this coming week of the CSA.  It would be nice if they did - but...  More is going in the ground soon (tomorrow).

It's been a reasonably good pepper year.  It could have been better if the entire plot behaved consistently.  But, this year, the North end has been unhappy and the South end has been happy.  So - Wisconsin Lakes (red bell), Quadrato asti Giallo (yellow bell) and Tolli Sweet (red sweet pepper) have been very happy on the South end.  Jupiter (green bell), Purple Beauty (purple bell) and Golden Treasure (yellow sweet) have not been pleased with the North end.  As a result, we'll have an average to slightly below average pepper season.

Winter Squash
They're out there.  The acorn squash varieties are likely ready and we just have to wade in and pull them out.  It won't be a bumper crop.  But, we'll have some.  The early season issues with cucumber beetles caused havoc with the seedlings.  The net result is we're going ahead with plans to start all winter squash, melons and water melons as seedlings in trays in 2012.  This does cost more in supplies, electricity, etc.  But, if the cuke beetle trend isn't just an aberration, we need to respond in this fashion for a more reliable crop.  The one thing that worries us about this (just one?).  Ok, one of the things that worries us about this - the time/timing required to transplant all of these.  If we miss the timing, we have to toss seedlings and start again.  Guess we'll have to make it work.

Most rows of onions did not go anywhere this year.  The CSA has seen some white onions of modest size.  We have already noted that Sierra Blanca will not return for next season.  On the other hand, White Wing and Red Wing are ready to come in.  They were put in late (in response to issues with other onion crops).  So - we'll have another batch of onions for everyone.  It's not a bumper crop.  It's not even an average crop.  But, it's a reasonable amount for our CSA members.  We'll be adding the use of paper mulch in our onion rows for 2012.  We just can't compete with the expanded weed germination periods we're beginning to see.  That, along with some drip irrigation and maybe raised beds.... hm.  Sounds like wholesale changes there.

The stars of 2011!  Ok ok... we know many of you are getting tired of eggplant.  But, let us remind you that a year is 52 weeks long.  You get fresh eggplant for maybe 6-8 of those weeks.  Yes, we know they are consecutive...but, that's the way of seasonal eating.  And, need we say "2010" to remind you that we can have weather that shuts us out on the eggplant?  We have another post coming with something we did to process extra eggplant and it is yummy!  For those who care - we are 47 eggplant away from breaking the harvest record in 2009!

Speaking of feast to famine.  We had SOME cucumbers this year.  But, when you lose over half of your seedlings to cucumber beetles and then several plants to disease the beetles carry....  It's the way of things.  We'll be doing some experimenting with transplants in 2012 and changing their companion planting in an effort to make it easier to work with them.

Spinach and other Fall greens
We've been putting them in the ground.  The spinach is balky and we'll have to reseed.  The arugula looks great.  Mustard goes in this week.  Pok choi plants need transplanting as do Fall kale.  The Fall collards and cabbage took a hit with the cabbage worms, but we think getting them in the ground may result in something positive.

The process of digging has begun.  We don't know what to expect this year.  Some of the plants looked great, some did not.  Part of it is the field they were in.  We need to implement raised beds for this crop to get past the variability of drainage in some of our fields.

It's been a good basil year.  Good growing degree days = good basil.  Once we get a frost, they are done.

Yes, we have other crops -but that's all I felt like writing up!  As far as the season goes, it has been a reasonably good season.  We feel good about what we've been able to provide our CSA members.  On the other hand, we haven't had the surplus we need to make it a truly profitable year.  You may have noticed our absence from the Waverly Farmers' Market on Saturdays so far.  We're waiting on that tomato surplus to carry us a while and it has not.  On the other hand, we aren't reporting complete crop failures like we did in 2008 and 2010.  That means a lot.  But, our expectations for ourselves and our farm are high - we wanted so much more!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Farm Crawl

A "Farm Crawl" has been held for the past couple of years south of Des Moines, featuring farms such as our friends at Blue Gate Farm.  For the first time, there will be a Farm Crawl sponsored by NIFFP (Northern Iowa Food & Farm Partnership) and the Genuine Faux Farm is a part of this event.

What is a Farm Crawl?
A farm crawl is simply a series of open houses put on by local farms.  You may visit as many or as few of the farms on the farm crawl list as you desire in any order you wish.  Each farm host will be ready to answer questions and show interested persons around the farm.  Farms range in size from very small to somewhat larger.  Each host farm may have some special feature at their farm and many may have products available for purchase or samples for tasting.

The NIFFP informational page can be found at this link.

When is the Farm Crawl?
The Farm Crawl is September 11 (Sunday) and will run from 1pm to 5pm.

Where is the Farm Crawl?  Or - who is participating?
NIFFP informational page provides bios for all participating farms and includes links to different map routes.  In addition to our farm, you may take an opportunity to visit the Hawkeye Buffalo Ranch (located north of us) or the Englebrecht Family Winery (also to our north).  Or, perhaps you can visit Rainbow Ridge Farm (sweet potatoes, potatoes) and also take a taste of Angry Cedar's handcrafted brews.  If you wish to take another route, you can visit Hansen's Dairy or one of several orchards!  Go to the CEEE site and take links for the various routes.

How do I get there?
GFF is part of the "long Northern Route".  You may see a map route at this link.  Rainbow Ridge is omitted, for some reason from this route, but would not be difficult to add or substitute.  They are on the 'short Northern Route" and a map is located here.

What is GFF planning on doing for the Farm Crawl?
We are skipping farmers' market on Saturday to prepare for this event.  It is our intent to have heirloom tomatoes available for tasting.  We will have heirloom tomatoes available for purchase depending on what the plants give us to pick.  We will gladly give everyone the "nickel tour" and answer questions about how we grow our produce and raise our poultry.  At present, we have turkeys, ducks, chickens and one friendly farm manager cat.

We hope to see you there.

Rob & Tammy

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Week 14 of the CSA

It's September and the CSA begins to shift to Fall mode!

As the amount of daylight goes down and the number of people working on the farm decreases, we must ask you to be patient with us as we set up for the CSA each day.  We will do our best to be on time.  But, as long as the summer crops call out to be picked, Rob will find himself running short on time.  Things that we may ask you to indulge us on include:

- counting out separate stems of greens (such as chard) if we don't have time to bundle them.  Often we may try to bundle a few at the beginning and try to stay ahead throughout the distribution
- staying out of the way when the whirlwind attempts to set up the distribution area as quickly as humanly possible.  I don't want to step on you or your children in the process.  Offers to help are appreciated, but I must decline.  If we haven't worked together on it already, it is likely I will run over you - and that would make me feel bad.
- there may come a time when you will be asked to weigh a product out, if you need help reading the scale, please ask.

Produce this week: tomatoes, beans (Tues - MAYBE Thus), peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, summer squash, swiss chard, onion, garlic (Thus, MAYBE Tues) and whatever else we have time to pick that is available.

LETTUCE:   This week will be a week off from lettuce.  If you have lettuce left from last week it should still be good (with maybe some bad leaves).  Store your lettuce in a plastic bag with a paper towel around it.  Put it in the crisper.  We have had lettuce last for up to 3 weeks in this fashion.

Eggplant: We have an educational post on eggplant on our blog at this time:
  You will find links to our website and its recipes and a link to another site with good information on eggplant.

Summer Fest: We had a number of people attend our Summer Festival and a good time was had by all - and lots of good food.  The kids found that there was lots of grass (recently mowed) to pile up and jump into.  Apologies to parents who found children with grass clippings attached upon arriving home.

DUCKS Available: The ducks go to the park on September 11.  We are ready to begin taking reservations for these ducks.  Interested?  Send us a note.  We are gathering information on processing cost so we can give you a per pound cost.  Last year it was $6.50/lb.  We expect it to be somewhere in the $6.50 to $7.00 range this season.  Feed prices have gone up 25% this year.  We have approx 28 birds available.  Last year weights ranged from 3.5lb to 8lb

Recipes and Things Overheard at Distribution:  Another recent blog post has a little bit for everyone - including recipes:

Crop Reports:  For those who like to see some of the crop data we collect, there are two posts that focus on eggplant and peppers for the season.  While these posts may have more information than some of you want - they do give you insight as to how we try to do things on your behalf.
and part II:

GFF in the News: Our CSA members are GREAT!  We were unaware that we were featured in two recent articles, but our members were quick to point it out to us.  An upcoming late Fall project is to get all of these goodies together and linked or scanned to the web site.

Tom Sawyer Day Anyone?  We are looking at this coming weekend - Sept 10 in the afternoon.  We have a number of DIFFERENT things to do that include painting, gathering metal to take to a metal fund drive and other such things.  If you are interested, let us know.  Please do not surprise us with an appearance.  We want to know you are coming so we can make this a good experience for everyone (including us!).

UNI Sponsored Farm Crawl:  We are a part of the UNI Farm Crawl being sponsored for September 11 (Sunday).  More details coming.  But, if you wish to learn more - go to the CEEE website and read what is there for the beginning information.

See you at distribution!

Rob & Tammy

Friday, September 2, 2011


We've had a very good eggplant year thus far.  And, if things continue with any parallel to prior years, we should end up with a record crop (for us).  But, we won't count our eggplant before they...uh...

There have been discussions at CSA distributions with several people regarding eggplant preparation.  So, we thought we'd put some things out for your consideration.

Online resources:
  1. Our website has some good eggplant recipes here.
  2. A very good web page giving lots of information about eggplant is here.

Some eggplant myths:
  1. eggplant ripeness myth - push in with your thumb - if it bounces back it is ripe, if indentation remains, it is not.  First, if the indentation remains, it is more likely that the fruit is old - or dehydrated in its travels from the farm to its retail outlet.  Second, with some varieties, you'll have to push really hard!  Many cultures prepare eggplant when they are very small (maybe 2-3 inches long) and some prize very large eggplant.  For eggplant, it is less a matter of being ripe enough (old enough) and more a matter of it being too old!
  2. preparation myth - you must peel and 'sweat' eggplant.  Many people still hold to the fact that eggplant are bitter unless you peel the skin off and rub the fruit with salt to sweat out the bitterness (many recommend that you thoroughly rinse off the salt after).  It is true that eggplant can be bitter - especially when they are picked older *or* bigger.  And, also true if you tend to purchase certain types of eggplant (usually the dark purple eggplant most commonly seen in the US).  Other ways to reduce bitterness if that taste bothers you - twice cook the eggplant *or* select eggplant varieties that are known to be less bitter *or* select younger/smaller eggplant fruits *and* select fruits that feel heavier/denser as they have a higher water content.

Eggplant Varieties We Grow:

With the demise of Dusky, we realized it was time to give the open pollinated varieties a full shot at replacing the reliable F1 Hybrid.  Casper, Pintung Long and Diamond were all given an increased role on the farm.  We weren't just taking a guess as we've grown each of these in smaller amounts the last few years.  Even so, the task was going to be difficult - with Dusky often producing 10-12 eggplant per plant in a season.  And, a few trial plants can give you an idea as to what they can do - but it's not the same as growing thirty to forty of one each.  We've just finished August and Casper is at 9.9/plant, Pintung is at 9.0 and Diamond at 8.4.  Sold!

Pintung Long  A long, thin, lavender eggplant that is one of several types of 'Asian' eggplant.  The skin is  more tender than most other eggplant and the fruit will bruise more easily.  The flesh quickly takes on any marinade and tends to be softer.  'Sweating' the fruit of a Pintung Long is a waste of time, as is peeling.  You don't need to do it.  If one of these is bitter, it was bad fruit.  The leaves of the plant are pretty, with some purplish veining.  They are a bit more contained than many eggplant varieties, though they can still get to about 30" in hight.  In our experience, Pintung Long plants like warmer weather and we notice the average quality of the fruit (especially length) goes down as the season goes on.   Seven to nine weeks of production are not out of the question, with a peak of about four weeks.  We easily get an average of 9-10 top quality eggplant per plant as long as there is enough growing degree days over the summer.  A cool wet year like 2008...never mind.

Rosa Bianca is our gateway eggplant.  Neither of us were terribly interested in adding eggplant to our diet until.... we tried Rosa Bianca.  Fruit are rounded and are lavender and white in color.  We strongly believe that these taste alot like portabella mushrooms - especially when sliced into rounds and cooked on the grill.  We tend not to sweat Rosa Bianca and usually do not peel them, though you may if you want since the skin is a bit tougher than Pintung Long.  In fact, later in the season, you may benefit from peeling as the cooler weather and shorter days slows the speed with which fruit develop.  The result is often a tougher hide!  The flesh is more solid than Pintung Long, so it maintains its consistency unless you overcook it (or want to cook it down - it does well if that is your goal).  Rosa's tend to produce later in the season with first fruits usually 7 to 10 days after Pintung.  But, they also handle a frost and late season weather better than many.  We have picked decent eggplant from these as late as October (in Iowa).  Plants can be on the average to larger side with only a little 'sprawl' tendency.  You can expect 5-8 eggplants per plant of very good quality.  As the plant ages, it may produce eggplant that split open and 'heal' over.  If the fruit feels light (dehydrated) pick it off and toss it - let it work on other fruit.  If you are a fan of very small eggplant for certain dishes, Rosa Bianca can be enticed to produce more fruit if you keep them picked when they reach 3-4" in diameter.

Casper -  fruits have a skin that is slightly thicker than some, but not so thick that you can't cook it with the skin on.  We do not sweat Casper, but we understand why a person might take the skin off.  We like grilling the fruit by cutting them into long wedges.  The skin helps to hold the vegetable together for serving.  Usually, we're so hungry by the time food is ready we just eat the whole thing, but we've seen some just leave the skin behind.  Casper has a consistency that makes it a decent mushroom substitute in pasta sauces.  Plants are average size and are well-behaved.  Some eggplant tend to sprawl as they grow.  We have noticed that fruit tend to be smaller in dry weather.  We like them best when they are about 8" long.

A note about WIND and eggplant:  we tend to get alot of wind early in the year and much less during late July through August (when eggplant are at their peak).  However, there are often some windy days in September.  Wind will beat eggplant fruit against the plant, which results in brown, discolored bruises.  The eggplant are fine to eat, but they store for a shorter period of time and they will be best if they are picked soon after the wind damage.  This is where a handsome fruit like Casper can look positively AWFUL.  If you get alot of wind during prime production season, you'll get alot of brown, bruised eggplant with some white on them.  Not a good idea if you are selling at market.  We suggest growing a companion that helps shield the eggplant from some of the wind if you can.

Florida Highbush -  is an open-pollinated standard purple eggplant with the shape so many midwesterners know.  These can get very large and are very heavy.  Excellent for baba ghannuj.  Thicker skins may need peeling for other recipes or uses.  Some people who are more sensitive to eggplant 'bitterness' may sweat these.  Plants are variable in size and production.  In other words, they exhibit some of the reasons F1 hybrids have been created.  Commercial producers want consistent size and production.  Florida Highbush gives us neither, ranging from 3 to 8 fruit per plant.  Plants can get a little 'sprawly.'  On the other hand, it seems like the F1 hybrids get bitter and this eggplant has a better taste - so we grow it.  And, we rarely see an 'off-fruit' (splits, odd ball shape, etc) on these plants.  These are much better in hot years - but what did you expect from an heirloom with 'Florida' in the name?

Listada de Gandia - has to be one of the prettiest fruits on any plant we grow.  These are real show stoppers at the market.  Taste is similar to Florida Highbush.  Some have told us they can taste a difference between Listada and other standard eggplant, but we cannot.  Fruit tend to be dense and heavy.  Think of them as a pretty jacket for an eggplant.  Can be harvested at many sizes, but best not to let them get too big.  Dry weather results in some off fruit (dry fruit, splits, stunted fruit) that are better discarded in most cases.  Plants can get pretty big and sprawl.  Listada produces for a very long time and has actually bested Dusky for per plant production in a difficult weather year.  Production levels often have two or three 'peak periods' rather than one.  So, you ride a bit of a roller coaster with this plant.
Diamond - is a dark purple eggplant that is much smaller than Florida Highbush.  It's purpose is to produce many more, smaller, fruit that are cylindrical in shape.  This makes them a good choice for grilling and other recipes.  Plants tend to be smaller and it can be easier to find fruit most of the time since the leaves are also smaller.  One plant can have four to eight fruit developing at the same time easily.  If you have limited space in a garden and want a dark purple eggplant and you want a good supply for eggplant parmesan, here is a good choice.  Diamond will start producing a week to ten days earlier than bigger eggplant such as Florida Highbush, Listada de Gandia and Rosa Bianca.