University of Minnesota Agriculture student Ruth Burke is spending this summer interning at a CSA farm called Cramer Organics of Delano, MN. Throughout the growing season, she’ll share weekly updates about the experience with readers of the Heavy Table.
Farm Journal 14: Confessions and Revelations
I had a rather delightful conversation with one of our CSA members’ daughters earlier this week. I was packing tomatoes into boxes when she came in with her mother to pick up their share. She walked over to me and declared, without preamble, that while tomatoes were very pretty, she couldn’t stand to eat them. I immediately laughed and told her I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one!
This prompted a string of questions about why I didn’t like them, what vegetables I did like, which were fun to harvest, etc. Given that I’ve fielded similar questions from other friends and family, I thought I would give a run down of some of the vegetable confessions and revelations I’ve had throughout the summer.
We’ll get the confession out of the way first. I admit to never having liked tomatoes, especially when they are raw. Now, after having spent the last month harvesting and learning to sort them, I confess that I hate tomatoes with a passion! First, your hands turn a nasty yellow green from the sticky coating on the plants as you harvest the fruit. Second, they smell absolutely awful when they begin to rot. And don’t get me started on what they look and feel like when they go bad. There is nothing more gag inducing than grabbing a healthy-looking tomato and having it explode in your hand, leaving hundreds of ants or little worms crawling up your arm in the leftover stinky muck. Blech! However, I’ve had to make a grudging truce with tomatoes, seeing as how they are one of the most popular summertime crops purchased at farmers markets and vegetable stands. If I intend to have a future CSA, I’ll be growing these fellows or I won’t have any members.
What do I like to harvest? Well, that’s much easier to answer! By far, my two favorite vegetables to harvest are kale and potatoes. It helps, of course, that I especially like to eat them. However, there is something fundamentally pleasing about harvesting both of them that really just makes me glow. Let’s see if I can explain. Kale is incredibly easy to harvest; you just snap the leaves off the main stalk. Early in the morning, there is usually quite a bit of dew clinging to the leaves, so they look just stunning with the early morning light twinkling over the droplets. And I get such visual and tactile pleasure out of creating a bunch of kale. I simply love looking at them, and the leaves have a sort of leathery feel that makes them fun to wash because water just beads up and rolls right off them. Plus, making bunches goes very quickly, so you feel like you’ve been very productive.
Potatoes are even better (and much, much more fun) to harvest. First, someone goes through with a pitchfork and digs up the plants. Another worker then follows, plucking the potato tubers off the plants and dropping them in the bucket. Another worker (usually me, because this is my favorite part) then digs through the soil with their hands, trying to find any lost tubers that may have come off the plant (which happens often). What can I say? I get to channel my inner 5-year-old here! I’m elbow deep in dirt, trying to find lost treasure! It also happens to be a great upper body workout. I never would have guessed I’d enjoy harvesting potatoes so much, but by the time we’re done, I usually have a goofy grin on my face. Go figure.
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Does the CSA pick tomatoes when they are still green? How can that be good????
No, those are actually an heirloom tomato called Aunt Rubie’s German Green, and they are actually quite ripe in that photo. They are a much sweeter variety than normal red tomatoes. Though I still can’t stand them!
You stories are nice to read. Hope that you have a great rest of the year.
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