Redwood Empire Farm dry farms some of the tastiest tomatoes around.   Can’t dry farm without at least 20″ of rain.    While the rain is annoying, at least 20″ is the key to some great tomato flavor.

A few years ago  the U.C. Santa Cruz Agroecology Program compared the flavor of dry-farmed and drip-irrigated tomatoes; the dry farmed ones won hands down.

In an article in Field Notes, The Agroecology Program newsletter explained how Early Girls are dry-farmed on an on-campus demonstration farm. “Dry farmed means the plants that produced your tomatoes have not been watered since May 2, when they were transplanted into the field. Their roots grew deeper to follow the moisture as the soil dried down. The idea behind dry farming is to produce a tomato with more concentrated flavor, and save water to boot.”

The article continued: “From a purist’s standpoint, dry farming means growing crops without any irrigation to supplement rainfall. But you can adapt the idea to any degree you want. For tomatoes, dry farming works best with clay or clay-loam soil in areas that get at least 20 inches of rainfall. If your soil is sandy or rainfall is below 20 inches, you’ll need to apply some water.

“Dry farming’s obvious advantage is water savings. But equally important is flavor–and this method will reward you with the best tomatoes you’ve ever tasted.”

Albert explains the basics of dry farming: the soil has to be worked to keep the water from evaporating. Cultivate your garden to capture rainwater. Surface cultivation will break up soil crusting and allow water to seep into the soil.

Albert said ideally the “soil preparation begins in the fall to maximize water savings but March is not too late.” The basic dry farming method is dust mulching: Dust or dirt mulching disrupts the soil drying process essentially separating the upper layer of a garden’s soil from the lower layers.

“Just 2 or 3 inches deep will help capture up to 70 percent of rain fall. Be sure to work the soil “after every rainfall to break crusting caused by the rain.”

Just because The Patch , Redwood Empire Farm and other seasonal vendors aren’t at the market, doesn’t mean they are home with their feet up!   They are getting ready for next year.

In the meantime year round vendor, Bernier Farms has sun dried tomatoes.

 

Read More...

Jul

19

2012

Cucumber or melon? It tastes good!

The Armenian cucumber has become the snack of choice for many of our vendors.  Ask for a taste and you will be going home with at least one of the weird looking fruit that acts like a vegetable.  Easy to use — no peeling or seeding required — great taste, crisp and juicy.

The Armenian cucumber, Cucumis melo var. flexuosus, is a type of long, slender fruit which tastes like a cucumber and looks somewhat like a cucumber inside. It is actually a variety of muskmelon (C. melo), a species closely related to the cucumber (C. sativus). It is also known as the yard-long cucumber, snake cucumber, snake melon, kakri in India, Atta in Egypt, feggous or fakkous in Morocco, acur in Turkey, φακούσι (fakoosi) in Cyprus and uri in Japan. It should not be confused with the snake gourds (Trichosanthes spp.). The skin is very thin, light green, and bumpless. It has no bitterness and the fruit is almost always used without peeling.

The Armenian cucumber, AKA Yard-long melon and Snake melon, is defined within culinary terms by its appearance, however, it is botanically classified as a melon. Its scientific name is Cucumis melo var. flex­u­o­sus and it is a member of C. Pepo family along with muskmelons and honeydew melons. The Armenian cucumber is actually the fruit of a flowering and tendril-bearing vine. The fruit, by definition, is the part of the plant that bears its seeds.

 

Description/Taste

The Armenian cucumber is thin, elongated, curved and often irregularly curled with a creamy pistachio green colored skin that is textured with smooth longitudinal furrows. Its flesh is crisp, succulent and mildly flavored, similar to a common cucumber. Ideal sized Armenian cucumbers will range in length from 10-15 inches. Longer cucumbers will tend to be not just over-sized, but also overly mature with less moisture content. The Armenian cucumber is entire edible.

 

Applications

There is no need to peel the Armenian cucumber. Its thin skin makes it an ideal fresh slicing cucumber. Armenian cucumbers favor being served raw in green leaf, chopped salads and pasta salads. Their delicate flavor allows them to become a perfect textural component in sandwiches and sushi. They can be sliced lengthwise, widthwise, diced and julienned. The Armenian cucumber can be grilled, puréed or pickled. Complimentary ingredients include red and white fish, shellfish, chiles, tomatoes, mint, oregano, yogurt, garlic, cumin, chicken, pork and fresh cheeses such as feta and chevre. Armenian cucumbers should be refrigerated until ready to use. Once cut wrap in plastic to extend its shelf life.

 

Geography/History

As its name suggests, the Armenian Cucumber is native to Armenia. Its initial cultivation is dated back to the 15th Century, which puts it into the category of ancestral varieties. This takes greater historical precedent over heirloom. Ancestral varieties were introduced into the human diet when the only foods eaten were whole, unprocessed, easier to digest and metabolize, generally predating the 19th century. Today, ironically, or perhaps because of migration and the natural distribution of food that follows, the Armenian cucumber can be found growing more in California than in Armenia.

Read More...