This summer was fantastic. Every tomato we pulled off the vine, cracked and blemished to beautiful perfection, ended up on someone’s plate or got jarred up for future use. Agricola canned 4,000# of tomatoes this season which really made all the effort into growing these love apples more then worth it. Over 800# of hot peppers have been smoked and fermented to turn into hot sauce or pickled and preserved. Jalapeño pickles anyone? Napa cabbage was made into kimchi and the overabundance of zucchini and cucumbers were made into fermented pickles. Espelette peppers have been dried and are ready to be ground into chili flakes. Having an outlet for our produce and adding value has really helped our bottom line and gets my wheels turning on what we can grow for next year that can be turned into a delicious preserve. We also grow storage crops to extend our season. Black Spanish radishes are spicy and delicious during the winter when you need an extra kick to your meal. Watermelon radishes are beautiful sliced thinly in a salad. Purple Top turnips keep very well in our cooler and can be roasted, whipped, or pureed. Carrots, cabbages, daikon radishes, and winter squash will keep our season going through the winter.
This year we decided to raise some lambs on pasture to feature as a special at Agricola. We fenced in four acres of pasture with electric line on the perimeter and ran splitter fences to divide the pasture into equal thirds. This way we could easily create smaller paddocks and create a nice rotational grazing plan. In the Spring time when we got the lambs we were a bit concerned about coyotes. Rather then get a dog or a lama we decided that we would get two steers. The steers were one year old when we got them from a local farmer friend. They were only raised on hay and grass. Once they arrived the instantly bonded with the lambs. They were the protection we were looking for and added a security need for the lambs. We rotated them around the pasture throughout the year, always providing shade and fresh water. When it came down to sending them off to slaughter it was peaceful. Since they were trained to the electric fence and used to human contact they practically walked right onto the trailer. I had to do a little coaxing by holding up the electric rope we used throughout the season and walk towards them. Do not worry, the electric rope was not electrified at that time, however they respond to it the same. When the meat came back from the slaughter house it looked wonderful. The lamb was tender and had great flavor. Our butcher, Dan, put a different cut each night of the week on the menu at Agricola. Once it sold out then that was all. It was an amazing experience to see this happen from field to fork. I experience it with vegetables, but usually the protein steals the show. Next month we will be featuring our pasture raised hogs. It was been a great first time experience raising livestock and I hope to incrementally build up our livestock program each season.
I love trying new varieties of vegetables. When I got some seed from a farmer friend for the Espelette pepper I immediately put it into our crop plan to make sure it got seeded in the greenhouse and had a designated spot out in our field. When you grow over 200 varieties of vegetables it can be easy to look over one or two if it is not put into a plan and written down on paper. It has only taken me a couple years to figure that out. We planted the Espelette pepper out into the field and it has produced well. After doing some research on the pepper I found a strong cultural connection attached. Espelette, France is a town that claims this pepper for their own. They dry the pepper and make hot pepper flakes. People across the whole town hang strands of peppers on the sides of their house to dry them. They have a harvest festival and the whole town relies on this pepper. I find this fascinating and would like to discover more cultural traditions attached to raising food. Here at our farm we are drying the pepper as well. I am excited to see if I can save the seed year after year and bring the cultural tradition from France to New Jersey.