Monday, August 19, 2013

Week 8: Don't You have Hoop Houses?

Yes, we do have hoop houses. Two in fact.

And, as Seda likes to say - they're jungles inside.
Last year, when it was unusually hot, they were churning out jalapenos by the first week of July.

This year, when it is unusually cold, they provided us with just enough tomatoes, eggplants, and tomatilloes to split up among 75 shares last week and give each member a small taste of summer.

This kind of year is the reason we have hoop houses. We plant all the warm weather stuff in the field too, but even the shortest season varieties won't yield if the weather doesn't cooperate. When a tomato seed packet says 65 days, that means 65 *degree days* after transplanting. It doesn't include the time the seedlings were growing in the greenhouse, and it doesn't include days when the high temperature refuses to creep past 55 degrees.

Thankfully, we have had a stretch of proper degree days lately. The heat will not only speed up ripening in the hoop houses, it means we'll probably get a nice harvest out of the field before the first frost as well.

Until then, the shares will continue with just a taste of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, or ground cherries. This week the tastes will be accompanied by: Cucumbers, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Lettuce, Basil, freshly dug Potatoes, Onion, Kohlrabi or Mini-Cabbage, and a choice of Herbs or Edible Flowers.

So, what can you do with just a taste of tomatoes (etc.)?

Well, this week makes me think of ratatouille, that classic combination of zucchini, tomato, eggplant, and basil. I realize that the ratios are a bit off and there are only a few eggplant to go around. But a zucchini, tomato, and basil tart would certainly keep to the spirit of the idea. Start with this recipe and tweak as needed.

If you come home from pick-up with tomatillos, you will need to go in a different direction. My usual recommendation is to use them in guacamole. I stand by that. It's good. Try this recipe if you want to.

The lovely and delicious tomatillo.
But tomatillos have a really complex flavor and they are surprisingly versatile. This week I decided to play around with them, and came up with this salad/quick pickle recipe, which is even easier to make than guacamole.

Cucumber and Tomatillo Salad

You could also make this with tomatoes, but then you will have to come up with a different name.
  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly and rings separated
  • 2 medium cucumbers, sliced thinly
  • 6 - 8 small tomatillos (about 6 ounces), husked and diced small
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
Toss together all of the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least a half an hour. The cucumbers will release a lot of liquid while they rest. Toss again before serving.

The balsamic really brings out the fruity, tart flavors of the tomatillo. Yum.

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