An Unseasonable Heat Hits The Farm
Fall crops would typically be in full swing on Southern California farms like Sunrise Organic Farms, but we’ve experienced unseasonable heat. “Normally, end of October is when we fall out of the summer stuff, but it was 90 up here over the weekend,” Sunrise’s Andrew Gibson says. “Combined with cold nights, the plants don’t quite know what season it is.” As a result, they can still harvest crops like tomatoes and peppers, which will fade and as Sunrise moves toward heartier, colder weather vegetables like beets, arugula, and radishes that are “nutrient dense” thanks to organic farming practices.
Tomatoes are synonymous with summer. Japan’s Tokita Seed Company bred sungolds to have brilliant color and sweet acidity. These tomatoes are sweeter in summer, but still pop. As Gibson says, “Tomatoes and peppers, to get their sweetness, they need heat.”
Salanova® is a beautiful butter lettuce that comes in different red and green varieties. Butterhead Green is soft and a dream for salads. Gibson also uses “delicate and sweet” salanova on sandwiches, flatbreads, or in a “spring mix.”
Lacinato kale is a far heartier green. Thomas Jefferson wrote about planting cavolo nero (as he knew it) at Monticello in the beginning of the American Revolution. Monticello still sells lacinato kale seeds. Gibson recommends lacinato kale for stir-fries, wraps, and kraut “because they have enough structural integrity to ferment without getting soggy.”
Jalapeños are “still hot” for the next three weeks. Gibson also champions their rainbow carrots. “It’s the sweetest carrot that anybody will ever have,” he says. “Our particular variety has higher sugar content and smaller core than any other variety in the world.”
“Keeper crops,” vegetables like onions and hard squash that keep well for longer periods in the pantry, are in this week’s Farmfluence box. Gibson describes shallots as “a cross between garlic and onion, so a sharper flavor than a traditional onion.” Yellow onions are “a good mix of spicy and sweet this time of year.” Butternut squash is “the sweetest of all the winter squashes that we currently have available,” great for casseroles, stir-fries, and Farmfluence chef Andy Zambrano’s risotto.
This early in the season, spinach remains “nice and buttery.” Gibson says, “While it’s still warm out, bugs love to eat spinach. That’s why each leaf has a few holes.”
“People think it should be cosmetically perfect. It’s actually the opposite,” Gibson says. “You should want to eat the things the bugs are eating. Holes are nature’s indicator of what you should be eating… Bugs can do the research for us.”