Monday, September 22, 2014

CSA News, Week 19

Are you Signed Up for the FALL SEASON? Go online or call us at the farm to organize your Fall shares today.

Little Livestock

We have made reference over the years about how we depend on certain insects to combat the other insects that prey on our plants. Let’s take a closer look at some of the insectivores we raise at Elmwood Stock Farm, along with the herbivores, omnivores, fruits, and veggies. We grow flowering plants in strips amongst the vegetables, and elsewhere around the farm, to provide food and housing for these guys to encourage them to proliferate and rear their young. We also purchase some of these from Entomology Solutions in Louisville. (You may want to consider seeding your own yard).

Everybody’s favorite, and most well-known, is the Convergent Lady Beetle, aka Ladybug. Adults may consume as many as 5000 aphids in a one year lifespan, the females laying 1500 eggs as well. Ladybugs are unique in that the adult and the larvae are predacious, meaning they chew up and eat the entire aphid. The larvae look like little alligators and have a voracious appetite as they are growing so fast. They do tend to fly away as soon as all the aphids are gone, so periodic restocking may be necessary, but hey, they are working a wider area reducing aphids everywhere.

Aphidoletes aphidimyza sounds like it is an aphid rather than an insect that preys on aphids. The adults look like a mosquito and they are very good at locating aphid populations (that gets into the fascinating realm of pheromones). The legless larvae can eat 50 aphids per day. Actually they bite the aphid, inject a toxin, and then suck all the fluid out. The life cycle is about 2-3 weeks, depending on temperature and other climatic factors, and we may see 3-6 generations per year. 

Lacewings are dainty little-winged insects that as adults lay awesome eggs. Each tiny egg is perched atop a hair-like structure about half an inch tall. They are scattered around the plant leaf or even sometimes on fruit (we see them most on peppers and tomatoes). The larvae that hatch walk down the hair and begin eating any soft-bodied insect they encounter. For this reason, the eggs hatch at differing rates to prevent cannibalism. The adults require pollen and nectar from flowering plants, which is why we plant some nearby to provide a desired habitat for these beneficials. Buckwheat flowers over a long period of time, and that sappy stuff on sunflower stems is actually great nectar.

Trichogramma wasps are so small, they lay their eggs in the eggs of other insects without harming them. However, when the larvae hatch inside the host egg, they eat the contents before emerging and flying away. It selects caterpillar type species as these have a long egg cycle, and if the caterpillars hatch, they can devastate a crop. These wasps are tricky to manage as they need the host eggs to be present, but if there are too many host eggs, these little wasps cannot parasitize all the eggs in a timely manner. We monitor this threshold and release them at the most opportune time. Scouting the fields, looking at the populations of the good and bad bugs and deciding where that threshold is, is part of what makes farming such a cool profession.

Many of the pest insects have one stage of their life below ground and we have some help down there as well. Beneficial nematodes are teeny tiny worms that eat some 250 species of insect eggs, larvae, pupae, or adults. They are very effective against grubs that later will become Japanese Beetles. They can survive long periods with no host at all, and reproduce quickly when another food source becomes available. We have inoculated the fields with these over the years with great success. 

Non-organic farmers are trained to use some toxic chemical if the pest threshold is exceeded, eliminating all of the insects in the field, bad and good alike. Certified organic farmers have a few botanical compounds that can be used on the herbivorous insects that have no effect on the insectivores. We are only allowed to use these sprays when all other means have failed and we document such use in our records for our annual organic certification inspection.

There are lots of other beneficial insects out there and we try very hard to harbor them and give them safe haven. By releasing fresh generations, we are augmenting our host population and establishing a new equilibrium with the pest population with a much lower threshold of pest pressure. Frankly, we do not have outbreaks with some pests these days that were devastating a few short years ago. So you may consider adding flowering and nectar generating plants in your landscape, and who knows, maybe one of our Convergent Ladybugs may take up residence in your yard.

In Your Share

Sweet Corn 
Kale Greens
Sweet Pepper
Yellow Squash
Baby Leeks 


Kale and Potato Curry

3 T grapeseed or vegetable oil

2 medium yellow onions, diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled & minced

1 jalapeño chile, thinly sliced (with seeds)

3 T sweet curry powder

1 tsp tumeric

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 large bunch kale, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

1 C water

1 ½ lb (about 4 medium) potatoes

1 can coconut milk

1 T salt or to taste

2 tsp dried basil or 2 T fresh slivered basil

¼ C fresh oregano leaves

Rice or other grain for serving

In a medium Dutch oven or stockpot, heat oil over medium flame until shimmering. Add onions, reduce heat to medium-low, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and jalapeño; sauté until fragrant, about 1 – 2 minutes. Add curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne pepper: stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute. Add kale in two batches, stirring and sautéing until kale is wilted. Add tomato and water, stir and reduce heat to low while you prepare the potatoes. Peel and dice potatoes. Add potatoes, coconut milk, salt, and dried basil (if using fresh basil, add at the end with the oregano) to the pot. Stir well and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20-30 minutes3. Uncover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 10 – 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in oregano and serve hot over rice.

Tex-Mex Summer Squash Casserole

2 ¼ summer squash, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (about 10 C)

2/3 C finely chopped yellow onion

1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles

1 4 ½ -ounce can chopped jalapeños, about ½ C, drained

½ tsp salt, or to taste

2 ¼ C grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, (about 7 ounces), divided

¼ C all-purpose flour

¾ C mild salsa

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Sauté onion in a small amount of olive oil until translucent. Combine squash, onion, chiles, jalapeños, salt and ¾ C cheese in a large bowl. Sprinkle with flour; toss to coat. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake the casserole until it is bubbling and the squash is tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Spoon salsa over the casserole and sprinkle with the remaining 1 ½ C cheese. Bake, uncovered, until golden and heated through, 20 to 30 minutes. Options:  (1) Add a can of black beans for a vegetarian main dish; add sausage or chicken for a non-vegetarian main.  (2) Omit jalapeños and increase green chiles to two cans to reduce heat level.

Kale, Apple and Pancetta Salad

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil

4 oz sliced pancetta, diced

¼ C Champagne vinegar

¼ C pure maple syrup

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch kale, stems discarded, leaves shredded

2 tart yet sweet apples, sliced into thick matchsticks

¾ C pecans, toasted if desired

Combine the olive oil and pancetta in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until pancetta is golden and crispy. Strain the pan drippings into a small bowl and leave the crispy pancetta off to the side to cool. Add the Champagne vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper and whisk well. Combine the kale, apples and pecans in a large bowl. Toss while adding the dressing, little by little, until salad is well dressed. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with crispy pancetta.