Celebration of Seasons
THE BIRDS ARE LINING UP for tomato season, which is oh so near. While mowing around the CSA production fields I gathered a hat-full of the first ripe tomatoes. They are not yet ready in amount for the CSA, but the pearly-eyed thrashers (trushees) are all over it. We are about to erect taller trellis superstructure to offer more protection and more room for the plants, who have vegetating very nicely.
The smell in the rows is intoxicating, and this time of year always reminds me of the first garden I ever remembered as a child, in our neighbor's backyard. We could use some help this weekend maintaining them if you want to offer some volunteer time on the farm to help us start filling these bags in the coming weeks with a lot more of the red color spectrum! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you can come this week, from 8:30am-12 Monday Tuesday or Wednesday.
CSA = People x Gastronomy x Visiting the Farm
Each week you have been introduced to an R2R farmer here, yet there are others as well who are an integral part of this CSA. This past week we were honored to have come stay at our farm the lovely Sandra and Israel Gonzalez, of Sandra's Farm in mountainous Adjuntas, Puerto Rico.
Those of you who are in our coffee share have been getting the closest organically grown and mindfully processed beans around. They took a farmstay vacation here in the Hawk's Nest, and brought with them 20lbs of beans picked and roasted only days ago! We suggest taking a tour of their farm and impressive roasting process if you are ever in their area (soon offering farm stays). You can even help them pick beans on their farm, as we did for our Honeymoon (although we ate most of what we picked!).
We are working on perfecting our coffee packaging and delivery, and thanks to the farmers and your suggestions we are excited about this fresh new batch for the CSA! One tip Sandra and Irsael offered for our members is to use glass jars with rubber seals to ensure maximum freshness, and store in a dark cool place. The also suggested to use a french press and to always warm milk before adding, so it blends well with the brew.
Once roasted in Aduntas, Sandra and Israel immediately vacuum seal their coffee in large bags with a specialized air vent you see on other coffee roasting bags. The vent keeps out oxygen but lets out gasses that slowly exude from freshly roasted beans (the amazing smell released when squeezed). We keep the beans vacuum sealed or in a glass jar until delivery, to uphold the integrity of our local coffee. They are only one island over, working for the VI CSA and their employees every week. As Israel observed, "[Coffee] Farmers learn quickly that their bean pickers don't work for them. It's the farmers who work for the pickers!"
~Nate Olive, Farm Director
April 21 - Virgin Gourmet Premier Release Party & concert. The television series presents its first syndicated show that will air on TEMPO, featuring the star Chef Theo Gumbs and R2R Farm.
April 28 - Pig Roast and acoustic music with Big Guns Rock at R2R Farm. Local food and music combine again for a seasonal outdoor feast, with local food sourced from the farm and other producers from St. Croix.
May 25-38 - Organic Yoga Retreat - Yoga and Slow Food combined. CSA members including Yogi Marshan Sam and community organizer Sarah Haynes bring you our first ever Yoga retreat on the peaceful farm.
And don't forget, there is a standing invitation for you to take a farm stay and/or volunteer with us. Come out and visit YOUR farm.
Chayote, a hardy perennial vine "squash", a native crop of Mexico and Meso America
WTF (What's That Food)?
NOT this week's strange food item, but worth talking about for other weeks since this week is so "normal": Chayote
Few fruits get stranger looks from than Sechium edule. "Is that a deformed mango?" "A small papaya?" or.... "OH my God! You have chayote!" Those who know it, often love it, so please allow us to introduce you.
Also known locally as christophene, chayote does not need to be replanted each year, as it is a perennial vine in the cucurbitaceae family, along with squash. In fact, chayote can be cooked in most situations as you would cook a squash. However, squash needs an annual replanting, which requires labor and soil disruption. Chayote, for this reason, is an especially sustainable plant for the tropics. Also, because it seems invincible to bugs and diseases here, requires no special effort or pesticides. Yes, even organic farms sometimes use "organic" pesticides, like neem oil, which actually can kill many beneficial insects, so we like anything e don't have to spray.
Because the plants are not fully adapted to domestication, their seeds can sprout while the fruit is on the vine. It has both male and female reproductive organs, but it needs the help of a wild bee or wasp usually to make the necessary connections. They can be planted by burying the entire fruit!
How to use it:
First of all, PLEASE USE GLOVES when handling peeled skin, as a sap can be slippery and then create an elmer's glue -type sticky substance on your hands that can last for some hours. Some do not even peel the skin it at all, but we do.
Imagine a squash, but reduce cooking times drastically as chayote cooks quickly and one of he nicest things about it is the crispy texture is retains when cooked. It has incredible flavor-soaking properties, so be imaginative with your seasoning as otherwise it is bland. You can also make shavings of the raw fruit like a papaya salad. Let us know what you come up with.
Jessica on the community center porch today during harvest at Ridge to Reef Farm
Meet the Farmer...
Jessica Irwin, farm apprentice
Smell fresh-baked banana bread on your trip to the farm? There's a 90% chance that it's the handiwork of the apprentice extraordinaire, Jess!
Jessica "Jess" Irwin is from Missouri who worked as a landscaper for Columbia's Parks and Recreation Department. She now has relocated to St. Croix to gain organic farming experience. She chose Ridge to Reef Farm as her place to trade her work for education on growing organic food crops from a list of places around North America.
What Jessica likes most is learning about tropical plants and seeing all the unfamiliar fruits and plants found in the region. Every day she is learning new things and applying them with her strong contributions to the Virgin Islands CSA!
Another favorite thing is to harvest your basil. "Yes, definitely, it smells fresh and wonderful", she says. In fact, Jess had been behind all the basil harvest this season.
In addition to harvest, she takes care of seedlings, watering and harvesting and weeding when needed. She is an incredibly fast and thorough weeder, actually one of the best this farm has ever seen.
One of her other best talents is culinary. She is a leader in the kitchen, fusing foods into creative baked goods and has a gift for making sure our local produce and meats are not wasted. Much of the "B" grade produce gets used as she helps keep the staff fueled with her creative and sensitive cooking style that we ALL appreciate! imagine, for a moment, her crispy thin basil-infused pizza crust with roasted malabar nut basil pesto, sprinkled with mozzarella and topped with the first tomatoes of the season!
Looking to the future, Jess says she hope the CSA can expand in membership in the near future. She may get her wish. Season II starts May 30th and there will be 15 additional spaces available in addition to the current level.
Jess is committed to finishing this season through autumn and hopefully longer. Thank you Jessica for your kind, consistent, and delicious work!
From the Fields
Irrigation has arrived!
We have been on standby to plant additionally in the swales for some time now. While awaiting a massive shipment of drip line and fittings from California we have focused much of our time and energy in our Gaia garden. However, finally the shipment has arrived and this past week has had a major focus on opening up large beds in the swales past our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
Also, in a reaction to last week’s heavy rainfall much effort has gone to beating back the bush with weed whacking and mowing. This has worked out perfectly in supplying us with the mulch we needed for the new beds. It seems daily that more and more food is going into the ground and after yesterday’s pollarding of the fruit tree lines and banana grove the farm is looking great. There is certainly plenty of excited energy here with our vision of production appearing closer each day.
-Matt Johnson, Staff
PO Box 2903 - Frederiksted USVI 00841 - www.visfi.org - email@example.com - 340 220 0466
Ridge to Reef Farm @ the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute
FARMERS WORKING TOGETHER FOR CSA Patrick, Sandra, Israel, Shelli, & Nate, L-R
The Week's Harvest
Curried Coconut Papaya Chayote
~ Shelli, Inspired by Angletta Pascal
1 1/2 cups fresh coconut milk
2 cups diced green papaya
1 cups diced chayote (WEAR GLOVES WHEN HANDLING TO PREVENT SLIGHT CAUSTIC AFFECT)
2 tablespoons curry power
1 teaspoon minced tumeric
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Saute onions & green papaya until papaya gets soft. The add chayote & other seasons, mix to cover chunks with seasoning. Both chayote and papaya really soak up the seasoning!
Once soft, add coconut milk and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add some whole hot peppers before this step for optional extra seasoning. Do not overcook, or chunks can lose firmness.
Serve hot, but let cool slightly first, as papaya and chayote can really retain temperature heat even when the rest of dish is only warm.
Preparation time: 25 min.
THANK YOU HOSTS!
Polly's at the Pier Frederiksted, St. Croix
Barefoot Buddha Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Thurs 11:30am-1:30 pm
Miriam's Restaurant Christiansted, St. Croix
Sun 4 -5:30pm
M2M (member to member)
We invite you to take part in the creation of our weekly newsletters.
Share your recipes and pictures, your experiences with the R2R Farm or your thoughts on sustainable farming matters.
We then will do our best to fit it in and share it in one of our upcoming newsletters.
We look forward to your responses!
Got some things laying around we can re-use in the CSA
Ridge to Reef Farm serves the US Virgin Islands with certified organic produce grown with sustainable permaculture practices (and a lot of love).