Why Local Cut Flowers?

Black Knight Scabiosa

Buying local, ecologically-grown food is a no-brainer. There are so many benefits, both for families as well as for our local community, economy, and ecology. Voting with our dollars and choosing food grown by a farmer we know and whose values and practices we respect is one of the biggest social, ecological, and economic changes we can make to boost our (largely-rural) Atlantic provinces.

I know firsthand, I’m a first-generation farmer who could never have dreamed of settling and making my livelihood here in Atlantic Canada without the support of eaters. Eaters who choose to eat the fresh, local organic food that I imbue all my values into through the way I raise it. What are some of those values?

Bumblebee on Cosmos

My partner Bryan and I value providing wildlife corridors on our farm and enhancing soil health for the billions of creatures that inhabit it as well as for future human generations. We value protecting the water that courses on top of, underneath, and alongside our farm. We value the diverse insects including pollinators that serve an important purpose on our farm but are also important for their place in the web of life that is too complex for us to fully understand. We value biodiversity, of plants and animals.

Zinnias

And all these values are inherent in, not only the food that we and all the other local, ecologically-minded farmers produce, but in the local, ecologically-grown cut flowers that an increasing amount of farmers in Atlantic Canada (and around the world!) are growing for their communities.

Think of some of the reasons you may be wary of the industrial food system. And then apply them to the industrial cut flower industry. Most of the cut flowers you can easily buy for your wedding, for your hospitalized relative or to brighten your home, have been grown on large, monocultural, heavily-sprayed farms in tropical climates where farm-worker health, safety, and recompense are questionable.

Compare that to your friendly, neighbourhood farmer-florist who lovingly tends their diverse flower patch and wants the flowers they’re picking and arranging into beautiful, imaginative bouquets to be safe and healthy for them to handle as well as for you to take a big whiff of.

kraft paper sleeves

 

Flowers add so much biodiversity to our farm with the over 50 different kinds we grow. Very few of them are closely related to our vegetable crops so growing flowers helps us with our crop rotation (an important principle in managing soil health and reducing weed and insect pressure).

In addition, many of the “wild” elements on our farm, whether in the hedgerow or part of our cover crop rotation, as well as field weeds, are beautiful additions to a lush bouquet. This helps us to value and admire these “crops from nature” rather than hoping to control or eradicate them.

Adding diversity to our farm increases our resilience with weather instability and market unpredictability, just as it does with our communities overall. How many one-industry towns and villages have we seen boom and bust across our region? One-crop farms are equally as fragile.

Buckets of cut flowers

Perhaps the biggest reason an increasing amount of discerning customers are choosing locally-grown flowers is to celebrate the awe-inspiring beauty of where we live. I love knowing that a customer is sitting down to a meal to be nourished with the vegetables we grew while their soul is nourished by the seasonal floral abundance from our farm that week. Their connection to the farm is enhanced and we get to share more of the beauty and uniqueness of our small farm. Now if we only we could package up the bird song and wonderful feeling of a cool breeze on our sweat-covered brows….

Uproar Rose zinnia

And….for all you cut flower growers out there or for anyone interested in growing cut flowers as a business (either stand-alone business or as part of an existing farm), there’s a super exciting workshop coming up in September! It’s being organized by ACORN, hosted at our farm and led by Svenja Dee of Tulipwood (she was one of my original inspirations for growing cut flowers because her bouquets are INCREDIBLE!).

I am crazy excited and know it will be great! Space is super limited (I think it’s already half booked up) because of the hands-on nature and intimate setting so sign up asap if you’re interested. Here’s the sign-up link: http://acornorganic.org/events/calendar/cutflowerworkshop

Cut Flower field tour

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The Case of the Unapproved Biodegradable Plastic Mulch

I wrote this article for ACORN’s summer 2015 newsletter and am now republishing it here.

biodegradable mulch

At the end of March of this year (2015), we found a memo in our inbox from Ecocert (the organic certifying body that we are certified with). In this memo, we were told that we would no longer be able to use the biodegradable plastic mulch (made with non-GMO corn starch) that we had been using unless we removed it after use. We were surprised and concerned. It was definitely a little last-minute! We still had leftover rolls of it at the farm from last season and had made our order for this season back in December (when we do a lot of our inputs purchases). And the removal part….it’s pretty tough to completely remove something that biodegrades as it’s in use.

biofilm

Bryan and I have been using biodegradable plastic mulch (which I will refer to from now on as biofilm to reduce typing) since the first year we started Broadfork Farm. As small farm operators, we have appreciated the reduction in our time spent weeding in particular. But there are other benefits to using plastic mulch, like warming the soil and retention of moisture in the soil. With our deep feelings of stewardship for the soil, we have also liked how we have been able to keep more of the soil covered during the season (with the biodegradable mulch in the beds, our pathways have been maintained in living mulch that we mow). Soil left bare tends to create its own “cover” of a dry, dead, erodible soil layer.

clear plastic mulch

We knew that, as a manufactured product, biofilm wasn’t the perfect solution in our utopian organic vision. But it was a solution we preferred to regular plastic mulch (with the required pulling up at the end of the season and taking to the landfill) or frequent cultivation.  There are of course other mulches like straw or leaf mulch but they didn’t fit in as well with our whole system (but rather have fit in with some crops in certain instances when we could access sufficient quantities without prohibited substances).

We had often talked about the fact that we didn’t think we could have made 100% of our household income from our farm from our first year without the use of biofilm. We even listed it as one of our 5 favourite market gardening tools! Especially in our first year while we converted hay fields to vegetable fields…while growing vegetables. The sod clumps that we’d overturned were too lumpy to be able to use a wheel hoe (or any other kind of hoe for that matter) for weeding.

lettuce on plastic

So, after receiving the Ecocert memo, I contacted other people involved with the Organic Standards and asked, what’s up with this? It turned out, that our Canadian Organic Standards had never allowed the use of the biofilms (without removing from the field after use) that are currently available in the marketplace. But there was a lot of confusion around this, both by farmers and certifiers. I think the confusion stemmed from the language of the Standard (very Standard-y) and the uncertainty of exactly what substances each biofilm on the market contains.

This is what the Standards said:

Fully biodegradable films: permitted without removal if they do not contain substances prohibited by par. 1.4.1 of CAN/CGSB-32.310, Organic Production Systems — General Principles and Management Standards.

I think it was clear to everyone that the biofilms couldn’t contain GMOs or pesticides. And the ones organic farmers were using don’t contain these.

Many organic farmers had happily been using this input for years and so, when the memo came out right at the beginning of the growing season, it was a big shock. People involved with the Crops Permitted Substances List (PSL) working group of the Organic Standards Technical Committee, the Standards Interpretation Committee (SIC), and the Canada Organic Office (COO) at the CFIA all started trying to figure out an appropriate and fair solution.

So, why aren’t biofilms allowed? Well, all of the biofilms on the market currently contain a certain percentage of petroleum source materials (which are prohibited) that seem to be referred to as raw fossil-based ingredients (by manufacturers). The biofilm that we had been using, while having the lowest percentage of petroleum source materials of any other biofilm, is still around 20%. I didn’t like learning that. And I was disappointed it wasn’t clearly expressed by the companies that were manufacturing and selling these biofilms. I had thought the biofilm we were using was actually 100% non-gmo corn starch.

Then there is the issue of biodegradability. Most farmers who have used these biofilms know that the biodegradability varies (so the ‘fully biodegradable’ part of the above Standard was a tricky one). It varies from farm to farm, field to field, season to season. In particular, it varies based on the life in the soil, the soil temperatures, and the soil moisture. There has been a bit of research done on this but not enough. The primary ingredient in the biofilm we’ve used, the corn-starch material Mater-Bi, is shown to be compostable in ideal composting situations but that’s not the same as using it on top of the soil in highly variable field conditions.

kohlrabi on black plastic

As I was trying to learn as much as possible about this input, I realized that there are currently too many unanswered questions. Like what happens to all the bits (even the bits we can’t see with the naked eye) that don’t fully biodegrade? Are they contributing to those floating garbage islands in the ocean? Are they being taken up into the web of life through food chains (insects, birds, mammals) and their materials concentrated? And to what effect? Are the microorganisms in the soil changing…adjusting to a new food source….and if so, is this harmless or harmful on the balance of life in the soil? Are there residue buildup issues we should be concerned with (the labelling always says “No toxic residues’ but what is this claim based on? Over how many years and with how much biofilm use? Is this claim unlimited?)?

With both the sustainability of farm businesses and care of the soil in mind, the Organic Technical Committee brought forward a revision to the 2015 Canadian Organic Standards. This is that these biofilms with the prohibited substance of petroleum products (all that are currently on the market, remember) will no longer be allowed unless removed from the field….but that, in order for farmers to figure out new systems without the use of these products…or, fingers-crossed, time for the manufacturers to figure out a way to change their products to be compliant….organic farmers will still be allowed to use the biofilms as they have been (i.e. tilling back into the soil) until 2017. And, for this 2015 season, since the newly-revised 2015 Organic Standards won’t come out until the fall, the Canadian General Standards Board has sent out a bulletin saying that this new Standard will be in effect for this season  as well (you can read that bulletin here).

As organic farmers, we are committed to being stewards of the soil. While we need all the help we can get with improved products and efficient techniques in order to provide ourselves a livelihood, as small-scale organic farmers, we realize that we are only the caretakers of this land for the tiny time period of our lifetime. This land needs us to consider our impact on the generations that follow ours. So, we are always researching, learning, and questioning what we thought we knew.

Bryan and I have decided that, beyond using up our leftover biofilm from last year (we cancelled the order we had made back in December after the memo came out), we wouldn’t use any more biofilm (unless the manufacturers make some serious improvements in the future). But how will we replace it’s benefits in our operation?

At this point, we’re thinking about increasing our annual use of landscape fabric (which can be rolled up at the end of each season and re-used for many years). This reduces our opportunities for living mulch in our pathways which we’ve really liked having…though there are always plenty of beds that don’t get any mulch at all (like beds of salad mix, carrots, salad turnips, radishes) that will still have the living mulch pathways.

Landscape fabric

We’ve also been experimenting with rolling/crimping rye and flail mowing rye and then planting fall brassicas (like cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi) into it.

flail mowed rye

Since biofilms haven’t been allowed on U.S. organic farms (but many farmers there have wanted to), there has been some thought and a little research coming from there on this topic.  Here are a few resources you may find interesting for further reading:

 

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Visits to far-off farms

We spent 2 days in a row away from the farm early this week, to learn through on-farm workshops that were each being held about 3 hours from our farm but in opposite directions. On Sunday, we went out to a field day at Strawberry Hill Farm in Pembroke, NB and then, on Monday, to Abundant Acres in Centre Burlington, NS for a workshop called Grow Better, Not Bigger with Jean-Martin Fortier, farmer and author of The Market Gardener.

field day

The field day at Strawberry Hill Farm was organized by ACORN and the NB Department of Agriculture. Tim and Kirsten Livingstone, are really inspirational farmers. They received the Gerrit Loo award 2 years ago to recognize their contribution to the organic farming community in Atlantic Canada. A few years ago, Tim was our mentor through ACORN’s Grow a Farmer program and we were super excited to get out and see the farm at this time of year. It was only my (Shannon) 2nd time visiting their farm and Bryan’s 1st time.

vegetable farm

Tim and Kirsten grow lots of different vegetables, strawberries (with the name Strawberry Hill Farm, the neighbours expected strawberries at the farm stand though they named the farm after their road), raise pigs, layers, broilers, and cows, and produce some vegetable seed for Hope Seeds. Everything they produce is certified organic and they sell through their CSA, their farm stand, and to wholesale accounts.

In the top picture on the left, you can see a bed of ground cherries. They put bread trays out underneath the plants covered with row cover. When the ground cherries drop, they harvest them out of the bread trays. The picture below that shows their sweet potatoes on clear plastic. They’ve tried sweet potatoes on different colours of plastic mulch but have found the highest yields from using the clear plastic.

Tons of farmers and farm apprentices came out to the field day and the potluck was amazing (farmer potlucks are always the best!).

On Monday, Perennia and ACORN’s Grow a Farmer program organized the first of 2 workshops called Grow Better, Not Bigger with farmer and author Jean-Martin Fortier. The one on Monday was held at Abundant Acres where farmers Jen and David Greenberg have been experimenting with the techniques Jean-Martin writes about in his book The Market Gardener on a section of their farm. The workshop sold out quickly with a limit of 50 participants and it was great to catch up with farmers we hadn’t seen in a while. We’d never been to Abundant Acres before and were super stoked to see their farm.

farm workshop

The day started out with some overall growing philosophies from Jean-Martin (JM). People had lots of questions and asked them throughout the day. We moved on to a demo of how JM creates his raised beds. He used the berta plow attachment on the BCS walk-behind (or 2-wheel) tractor to make the raise bed from an area that was in sod and had just been flail mowed. He explained that with the residues in the bed he would then cover it with silage tarp for a few weeks. Then he’d broadfork the bed, add compost, and go over the top with a power harrow to make a nice firm, smooth seed bed.

The Market Gardener

Many of the participants have been using the techniques Jean-Martin talks about in his book The Market Gardener and had questions based on the successes and challenges they’ve had. There were questions around crop spacing, fertility, disease management, weeding, and more.

ginger growing

I was excited to check out Jen and David’s ginger crop. This year, they were growing most of it in these corrugated plastic bins and were adding compost and peat throughout the season. Jen said she thinks it’s really important not to let the ginger tops and roots get too big before transplanting to their final space, something that I think was the main issue with our ginger crop failure last season (the ginger never really recovered after being transplanted). Their ginger looked great! Their customers will be some very lucky people when the ginger is ready for harvest!

And here we’ve got a length-wise hug with Av Singh from Perennia, Bryan, Jean-Martin from Les Jardins de la Grelinette, Jamie from Off Beet Farm, me (Shannon), and Lucia from ACORN.

Av Singh

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Lovin’ this Lettuce!

lettuce

I know I sound like a geek….but it thrills me that our current salad mix contains a lettuce whose seed we saved on our farm. It’s one of 6 varieties of lettuce in the mix at the moment (we change up the lettuce varieties pretty often during the season). It’s called Italian Red Parella and it’s super cute and beautiful. It’s a sun-kissed, freckly beauty with a nice round shape.

We grew it for Annapolis Seeds 2 years ago and kept quite a bit of seed for ourselves so we could see how it fits in best with our crop plan and what qualities we want to select for in the future. We liked it as a full-head but, right now, I’m really loving it in our salad mix.

It’s really fun to fine-tune our salad mix each winter through the selections we make from various seed companies. But, it’s a whole other level for just one component of our salad mix to have been in the works for much longer. It’s definitely not our flashiest lettuce. I’m not sure if anyone eating the mix would point it out and say “how special is this one?” so I just wanted to mention it. It’s special.

Lettuce Mix

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Veggie Field Day in Southeastern New Brunswick

ACORN farm tour

On Sunday, Bryan and I headed out a few hours northwest of our farm to go visit a few other farms in southeastern New Brunswick. A few organizations (ACORN, NB Department of Agriculture, and La Recolte de Chez Nous/Really Local Harvest Co-op) had organized a Veggie Field Day at a farm called Green Thumb Farm (or Ferme Pouce Vert). The field day had an impressive turn-out with over 40 farmer participants (which of course yielded an incredible potluck lunch including a meat BBQ generously donated by the Really Local Harvest Co-op).

Since we’re rarely out in that part of the region at this time of year, after the tour at Green Thumb Farm, we were happy to also get to visit 2 other farms we’d been hoping to see for a while now: La Ferme Terre Partagee and Ferme Alva.

La Ferme Pouce Vert

Green Thumb Farm is run by Roger Richard, his wife Carmelle, and his brother Jean-Louis. Like many farms in that area, it used to be a Brussels sprouts farm and that’s where the name came from: while topping 60 acres of Brussels sprouts, the farmers would end up with green thumbs. The farm now grows about 14 acres of vegetables and strawberries and sell through their CSA, local produce stands, and to the Farm to School initiative.

Rogersville, NB

La Ferme Terre Partagee is run by 2 young farmers, Kevin and Rebeka on part of Rebeka’s family land. They produce vegetables and lots of strawberries! They’re very involved with the NFU-NB and Kevin attended the NFU Youth Retreat I wrote about back in March. Their greenhouse summer squash were already producing zucchini on huge, beautiful plants!

Alva Farm

Ferme Alva (Alva Farm) is owned and operated by Eva and Alain (along with their 3 young kids). We see Eva and Alain fairly regularly at the Dieppe Market but had never seen their farm before. They’re farming on a small-scale, inspired by bio- intensive market gardener Jean-Martin Fortier. Eva and Alain are also very involved with the NFU (National Farmers Union) and Eva has been a strong advocate for access to childcare support for farmers in NB.

For Bryan and I, farm tours like these are important as sources of information, inspiration, and community-building. We’re so grateful to all of these farmers for opening up their farm to us and letting us learn from them. Having successful local family farms is a key requirement for the future of ecological land stewardship and food sovereignty.

If you’re interested in attending future farm tours, keep your eyes on the ACORN website which lists upcoming agriculture-related events, both ACORN-organized and otherwise.

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Seasonal Snapshot: June 2015

Six row seeder

Right now, we’re planting (both direct-seeding like in the picture above and transplanting seedlings we’ve started in the greenhouse), weeding, mowing, preparing beds, covering crops with row cover, starting more seeds in the greenhouse for future plantings, harvesting and more. We’re basically trying to catch up to where we’d like to be at this time of year. The weather hasn’t made it easier. Our last frost was 2 weeks ago but last week it went down to 2 degrees Celsius and fields had frost just a 15 minute drive from us.

Roller Crimper

We’ve got a beautiful cover crop of rye. It’s just starting to shed its pollen so we’ll soon be either mowing it or attempting to “roll” it with our rototiller (note: the rototiller isn’t being run by the PTO on the tractor, it just turns as it rolls along the ground…this rolls the stem over and “crimps” the stem which kills the rye and leaves the stalks on the ground as a mulch). This will be our 2nd time trying this…the first attempt was ok, we had to roll over it twice.

Farmers' Market

The Dieppe Market has been going well. We’ve been inside the market so far this spring but will be moving to our regular spot outside next week (not this coming Saturday…the next one, the 27th).

And, finally, just in case you’ve been itching to hear either Shannon or Bryan’s voice, we’ve both recently been interviewed in audio format. Click on the photos below to hear:

a) Shannon talking with Chris Blanchard on the Farmer to Farmer podcast about Valuing Yourself to Mitigate Risk,

or b) Bryan on the CBC Shift NB Homegrown show talking about the farm-made infrastructure he’s created including our germination chamber (which we also wrote a blog post about).

Purple Pitchfork Bryan on Shift

 

 

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Seasonal Snapshot: May 2015

beet greens, crosnes, daffodil

A lot has happened since my last Seasonal Snapshot post in April. But the spring still came late. I (Shannon) was in Ottawa for a few days last week attending the final 3-day meeting of the Organic Standards Technical Committee before the newly revised Standards come out. Oh man, was it HOT in Ottawa! And the trees were all in bloom….it was gorgeous! Here at the farm….our trees are just starting to bud out. Despite the back log of planting we need to do, we’re enjoying the weather and the lack of bug nets (the black flies have just started…though we have yet to don a bug net). Our daffodils have also just started blooming. For any of you interested in phenology, that gives you a good idea of where our season is at.

We found our first little snake, well actually our huntress cat Yuki found it. Luckily, she didn’t seem to think it would make a good meal and so the snake slithered away to meet another day.

We’re still working on preparing fields for planting. And our bodies are feeling the early season transplanting. The first Saturday in May, we started back at the Dieppe Market, mostly with greens from out tunnel but also with 3 varieties of spring-dug Jerusalem Artichokes and storage crops. Last week, we started harvesting beet greens. They have the added bonus of gorgeous mini beets attached.

In the picture above, the strange looking white thing (it’s a vegetable!) is Crosnes (also called Chinese Artichoke). Last year, we purchased 8 of these little tubers from Mapple Farm (after a request from a chef). They spent a full season in the ground and when we dug them up this week, there were about 100x what we’d planted. They are very small so in order to have enough to sell to chefs and at the market, we’re going to replant them all and wait another season before selling them. Lucky for these little Crosnes (pronounced Crones), we’ve got patience!

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How Amazing is Basil?!

basil

We love basil! We love growing it and we LOVE eating it.

This year, we decided to expand our basil repertoire. Because basil is one wild and crazy plant with so many different flavours and shapes and sizes.

We’re also selling basil seedlings for all the gardeners out there. Tomorrow, at the Dieppe Market, we’re bringing the basil varieties written out on the tags in the picture below. The basil collage in the picture above shows each of these varieties in the same order.

Genovese Basil, Lime Basil, Cinnamon Basil

I’m so excited to pair the different basils with different types of vegetables (and fruit) and various dishes.

Cinnamon basil to on a Thai curry?

Fino Verde basil with a watermelon and tomato salad?

Lime basil with steamed fish?

What pairings do you suggest?

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Growing our Communities and Supporting Agriculture

scallions

Every province and region in Canada is unique. I’ve been so lucky to develop friendships with fellow farmers from across the country. And there are some pretty cool things happening everywhere! But one province that has always stuck out for me in terms of agriculture, specifically organic agriculture, has been Quebec. Quebec enjoys beautiful farmland, inspiring farmers, some interesting governmental support programs for farmers, and Equiterre.

Equiterre is an environmental organization and one of the things they want to see is more local, organic food. In particular, community members to have a personal connection to the farm and farmers who feed them. And one of the ways they work towards this goal is through their CSA Network, or Paniers Bio.

Because of Equiterre’s work, Quebec has more land used for small-scale organic farms. More people get to eat wholesome, fresh, and delicious organic food. More young people (and older people) are getting a chance to make it as farmers. Equiterre’s CSA Network has made a big impact.

So, how amazing would it be for every region or province to have a similar network, promoting Community Supported Agriculture or, as it’s also referred to, Community Shared Agriculture?

Hint: It would be very amazing!

Salanova

Well, our region, the Atlantic Canadian region, is in the early stages of developing such a network. It’s called the CSA Network and its being developed by ACORN (or the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network).

In December, ACORN arranged presentations with two people from Equiterre (a staff member and a CSA farmer) for farmers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and a meeting was later held on PEI. Questions were answered and people got excited. ACORN asked a group of experienced CSA farmers to become the CSA Network Advisory Committee (we’re not on the Advisory Committee but we’re excited about it because the farmers who are, are amazing!). And ACORN created a web resource  in order to help community members who want to support local, organic agriculture, find the right farm for them.

Amethyst Basil

CSA programs have been growing in popularity in Atlantic Canada over the years and groups like ACORN and Ecology Action Centre have worked to maintain lists of available CSAs and they’ve done a good job of it. But a list requires customers to click on and read through each farm’s website to see if that farm a) has a drop-off location that they can get to, b) farms according to the values they want to support and, c) grows the kinds of foods they want to eat (more basic or unique crops) in the quantities they need (enough for 1 person or 6?).

The CSA Network website makes it easier for customers to find the right CSA choice for them. But the goals for the CSA Network are also to help the farmers. Sure, help them advertise, but also help them connect to other CSA farmers, find resources and connections where they can continue their education, and become better farmers overall.

The goal of the CSA Network is that CSAs in Atlantic Canada will collectively improve, from both the perspective of the customers and the farmers, and that the CSA movement will grow. That Atlantic Canadian CSA farms will benefit our region socially, economically, and environmentally.

It’s a big, beautiful, and important goal and we have some smart, motivated people making it happen.

Similar to Equiterre, the Network will be membership-based and rely on farmer and shareholder fees to achieve its work. In this initial phase, ACORN has launched an open investment Start-Up Campaign, seeking support from farmers and farm fans to achieve an ambitious first-year promotional plan.

Here at Broadfork Farm, our “CSA” or Market Food Club as we call it is definitely different than most CSA programs around but we still felt like becoming a member of the CSA Network was a good move for us.

If this all sounds like the kind of thing you want to see in your world, visit acornorganic.org/csa/membership.

Wild Caraway Restaurant

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What spring greens are we harvesting now?

Everyone’s been waiting for them: the spring greens! And every year, we refine our collection of them (we’re like vegetable curators), growing the ones we think are the coolest around!

Here’s the roundup of spring greens we’re harvesting right now:

Senposai

Look at that leaf size! And they get even larger. This is a really cool green called Senposai. It’s a cross between cabbage and a tender Japanese green called Komatsuna. It looks like a collard green but without any of the toughness. Senposai has a soft, pliable leaf with enough strength to contain your favourite wrap ingredients. It is perfect for wraps because you don’t need to cook it to make it easy to chew. It is also a delicious addition to any soup or stir-fry, just add it at the end because it doesn’t take long to cook. We are thrilled to be growing this one, last season was the first we were able to get our hands on the seeds!

Bekana mustard green

This one is Tokyo Bekana. She is mild-mannered, sweet, and very bright. Just look at her lime green colouring! Tokyo Bekana offers the health benefits of the Brassica family with the look, mild flavour, and tenderness of a leaf lettuce. One of our favourites!

Bok Choy Yokatta-na green Choi Sum

Here we’ve got Bok Choi, Yokatta-na (which is similar to Tatsoi but with more upright leaves), and Moulin Rouge Choi Sum with the fun purple stems. So great for spring salads…all their stems are crisp and crunchy and sweet. Kind of 2 vegetables in one with the tender leaves and crisp stems. Great for stir fries and make a killer spring kimchi! These can all be used as a substitute for spinach.

Red Mustard

Spring is a good time to add some bite to your meals and this beautiful red mustard called Garnet Giant is perfect for that. When eaten raw, the flavour will wake up your taste buds after the long winter. When braised, the spiciness transforms to sweetness. There is no “green” more stunning than this garnet-coloured mustard!

Kale Kale Kale

Three varieties of kale! These are not the kales we grow during the main part of the season. These are ones we specifically love for spring harvest. Red Russian, White Russian, and Siberian.

Red Russian: This is an heirloom variety of kale that has lasted over time because the flavour and tenderness is exceptional. If your grandparents were kale-lovers, this just might have been the kale they loved so dearly.

White Russian: a winner of taste tests, sweet, and bred by organic farm breeding hero Frank Morton. This variety was released through the Open Source Seed Initiative which is working against the ownership and patenting of seeds.

Siberian: This one probably has the softest of leaves so may be the best for light raw salads or sandwiches (though all kales are great “massaged” with dressing to make one fabulous and flavourful salad).

Here is the Massaged Kale Salad recipe I contributed to our local River Hebert Co-Op Cookbook:

Kale Salad

And the wild childs (well, properly, children…)! These 2 can’t contain themselves and their wild-looking leaves are a testament to this. Frizzy Lizzy and Mizuna have serrated leaves, adding a nice texture to any salad. Frizzy Lizzy is a beautiful purple, spicy girl, the spiciest spring greens we’ve got. And Mizuna is one of our mildest. They make a great pair!

Frizzy Lizzy mustard greenmizuna

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