Notes from Tom
Off-Line Sales List
Variety Highlights - Peppers, Tomatoes & Eggplants
Getting Started - Peppers, Tomatoes & Eggplants
Hardening Off - Getting Ready for the Real World
News and Events
Localvore Recipes - Friday Lunches
Notes From Tom
Hello everyone, and welcome to our March edition of The Seed Bin!
Spring is probably arriving or well on its way in your area, even though it is not even thinking of it up here in Northern Vermont yet. We just got another foot of snow and last night it was -8°F. The light is returning and those with over-wintered crops in greenhouses are no doubt seeing the growth rates pick up in the spinach, claytonia and their other hardy green crops. Every day we are hearing from all of you about the arrival of spring across the country so while it may make us a bit exhausted to still be in the midst of winter, we love receiving your reports of plowing fields, firing up greenhouses and robins singing. It gives us a promise of warm weather on the way.
For those of you who have been keeping up with the news from our town and surrounding area, the excitement is continuing to build momentum. There have been numerous requests for myself and others involved in the Center for an Agricultural Economy to speak all over the country about our rural revolution on the state of food and our economy in agricultural communities. Our food system that we have in Vermont is also getting national attention and many are coming to visit to see what it is about. You can always check out the In the News page on the High Mowing website, but here are some links to a few articles from the last few months that I think are especially interesting.
Thanks again for all of your enthusiastic support - this year is turning out to be one for the record books.
Sincerely, Tom Stearns
NY Times Oct. 2008
Gourmet Magazine Oct. 2008
Vermont Life - spring 2009
Vermont Business People Feb. 2009
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Off-Line Sales List
Announcing our new Off-line Sale List! At High Mowing we use a set of in-house germination standards that is in most cases far above the federal rule. Our in-house lab allows us to test seed on a continual basis in order to send our customers seed that meets our standards. In some cases, certain lots may fall below our standards and are no longer available for sale through our catalog. Over time we have accumulated a good amount of seed that has fallen below our standards, but still has value as seed nonetheless. With this in mind, we have created the “Off-line Sale” list, offering seed with a lower germination rate which can usually be compensated for by overseeding, therefore making the seed deserving of a better life than the dumpster or as art projects for kids. We are offering this seed at significant discounts, sometimes up to 80% off. This can be a great way to get seed at a low price for the right project!
Our Off-line Sale List is updated and sent out monthly by email. The most recent germination test results, quantity and specific instructions about ordering are included in this monthly listing. Click here to subscribe to the Off-line Sale List. (offlinesales "at" highmowingseeds.com) Note: Off-line Sales are handled separately from catalog orders. Please refer to the link below for orders or inquiries.
You can e-mail our Off-line Sale representative if you have any questions.
Variety Highlights - Peppers, Tomatoes & Eggplants
The Solanaceous crops are some of the biggest highlights of the garden and bread-winners at the market. From heirloom favorites to cranking hybrids these guys have been a part of our culinary delights for some time and are some of the first vegetables people learn to grow on their own. Most beginners buy plants at garden centers and have limited access to the wide selection of variety available. Below we have created a short list of varieties we love here at High Mowing. Paul has also put together some useful tips for starting seeds that may be helpful at any level of experience.
Black Hungarian pepper: A favorite in our 2007 trials for its beautiful peppers as well as ornamental plants. One of the first out of 60 ethnic pepper varieties to set and ripen in our 90 day season. Above average yield and quality. Absolutely stunning. Tall plants are sturdy and can support floating row cover if needed late in season, a real plus for us. We grew this variety for seed in 2008 and were happily surprised to see a few other seed producers thought it was a knock out too.
Atris F1 pepper: Another standout in our trials since 1996 and always the first sweet pepper to ripen. Also the most popular variety picked by our staff and neighbors for dinner. Sweet bright red, candy flavored peppers have a conical shape. Atris was originally bred for greenhouse production and will set well under temperature extremes when other standard field hybrids do not making it suitable for field production as well. Plants can be pruned and trellised if grown indoors but will hold to a compact size outdoors too.
Black Beauty eggplant: A top notch OP Italian variety with a unique pleat that is subtle but distinct to this variety. Black Beauty has always performed well in our trials, pumping out high yields of moderate-large sized eggplants with no spines. Plants produce perfect fruits that ripen early. Plants tend to be tall and benefit from staking, but we just plant close together and they are fine. Introduced in 1910 by Burpee Seeds, Black Beauty is closing in on 100 years and going.
Falcon F1 eggplant: Our first hybrid eggplant with organic certification. Falcon produces medium-sized smooth fruits with a small calyx. The fruit does have spines. The most notable features of Falcon are its yield potential and its ability to keep setting fruit when other varieties have slowed down. Falcon was bred as a greenhouse variety and is tolerant to temperature extremes making it suitable for field production as well. Plants can be pruned and trellised if grown indoors but will hold to a compact size outdoors too.
Cherokee Purple tomato – This is a long-time favorite, but only recently has it become a widely known specialty heirloom in the marketplace. Black tomatoes in general are exceptionally rich in flavor (often described as earthy) and are native to the Ukraine. Check out this Wikipedia article for a great history of Cherokee Purple.
Greenhouse tomatoes – Suzanne F1, Lola F1, Arbason F1, - Whoo hoo a greenhouse tomato with exceptional flavor you will remember. Lola was an immediate standout for flavor in our 2007 and 2008 trials. Fruits sweeten up early. Tomatoes should be picked early for market in order to avoid cracking if left to ripen on the vine. Lola is best grafted to increase vigor. Arabason on the other hand is a standout for vigor and fruit quality, but must be kept on the vine to ripen in order for its sugars to develop, but when ripe is also top notch in the flavor factory. Arbason is loaded with disease resistance and will hold on vine without compromising quality. So hands off till fruit is ready and you will be more than pleased. Suzanne is an amazing Saladette size cherry with early ripening indoors or outside. Plants set fruit at temperature extremes and seem almost Parthenocarpic. A real winner every year, I can not keep the crew out of them.
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Getting Started - Pepper, Tomatoes and Eggplants - Paul Betz
At High Ledge Farm we grow a lot of peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants for plant sales and production at our farm. While they are all nightshades, they all need a little different handling in the greenhouse and field.
Peppers and eggplants are slow growing, and need extra time to get to a transplantable size. We start our peppers and eggplants in late march, for sale or transplant around the last week of May, in about 10-11 weeks. This includes at least a week in the cold frame where we harden them off.
A lot of the concerns about peppers especially is the length of time it takes for them to germinate. Peppers will not do well if the soil is cold, and the likelihood that the seed will rot will increase the longer the seeds sit in cold soil. The ideal temperature for germination is around 85° F, much warmer than the average windowsill. I use a 1020 flat/tray full of soil with a bottom heat mat to keep my soil at an ideal temperature, and most of my seeds are up in 5 to 6 days. Before I used the mat, I used the oven in the kitchen. We have a gas oven, and if I put a wooden spoon in the door to keep it open a little, the pilot will keep the temp at 80° F. Just remember to let everyone in the house who likes to bake know they are in there. The bottom line is that they have to be warm.
After the plants are up and have their first true leaves, we pot them up into either a six pack for retail sale or a 36 cell tray for farm use. The bigger cells I use for the farm give me a little more flexibility in when they need to be planted out in the garden. After this they should be in the cold frame for about 1 week. My nighttime temperature in the greenhouse is around 60°F. That keeps them from growing too quickly and getting leggy. A short, stocky plant will always do better than a tall, leggy one, and experience less transplant shock.
Once the seedlings are in the field, warm nights will go a long way to a more successful harvest. Consider covering them with a row cover overnight, especially in the spring when it can still be cool. On the other hand it is important that the plants do not get too hot. Pepper flowers will drop if the temperature gets higher than 85°F, so it’s important to get the row covers off before the sun heats them up too much.
Where we are, Tarnished Plant Bug is a major pest of peppers and eggplants. It sucks sap from plants, and leaves a dead zone around the site of attack. They love to suck at the base of the flowers, which causes the flowers to drop. We use a very light row cover (AG-06), which keeps them out while not building up as much heat as thicker row covers.
Tomatoes will germinate at a lower temperature than the peppers and eggplants, but I use the same setting on my heat mat to get them up as quick as I can. In my experience, they need much less time in the greenhouse, and I plan on having a plant that is 4-5 weeks old being ready to go in the field. I move them into a four pack for sale and a 3 ½" pot for the farm.
Once out in the field, we use lots of mulch to keep the plants off the ground. We do not trellis, and keeping soil off the plants gives us cleaner fruit and a lower incidence of Early Blight and Septoria Blight, the major disease of tomatoes in our area. They are both soil borne fungi, and get started when the soil splashes up on the leaves of the plants. I use Serenade and a copper spray in rotation when I first see the disease.
Do you have any tips about growing
Peppers, Tomatoes and Eggplants?
We love to hear from our customers! Email us your tips and we will incorporate you comments into our Grower Tips on our website.
Suggested Tips to include in your email:
- Farm Name, City and State
- Favorite varieties
- Seed starting and planting tips
- Pest and disease tips
- Retail marketing tips
- Cooking or serving tips or favorite recipes
- Storage tips
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Hardening Off - Getting Ready For the Real World - Paul Betz
An important step in producing transplants is the “hardening off” process. Taking plants from the greenhouse to the garden is too much stress for most plants, and they are likely to die or be damaged from the shock. The greenhouse is a pretty easy place to live; no real wind, even temperatures, and someone to water you when you get thirsty. Think of the garden as the real world. The plants have never been on their own before.
The process of hardening off can be as simple as putting the plants outside in a protected spot during the day and then bringing them back in at night. Try to keep them out of any strong winds, long periods of intense sunlight, and watch their water. Too much will keep them from having the practice of being dry every now and then, but they will be loosing more water to transpiration now that they are outside.
We used to have a set of bows that came off the side of our greenhouse that we used as a cold frame. It had its own plastic that we could roll down at night. It was a great system; when it was cold; we could roll up the wall of the greenhouse and get some heat in to protect the plants. We did outgrow that system though, so now we have a separate greenhouse that is unheated that we use instead. We roll the sides up really high, and only cover the plants at night or during a really hard rain. If the temperatures are going to be below 35°F, I use a heater to keep out the chill.
Expect the plants to look a little wilted for the first day or two during the “hardening off” process. They should come back after a few days. It is ok to talk to them and tell them what is going on. They will appreciate the kind words, and will come to understand that you have their best interest in mind.
Take Good Care, Paul
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News and Events - Gwenael Engleskirchen
Stay tuned to High Mowing’s News and Events page on our website where you can find special High Mowing details as well as links to conference, trade show and workshop information that High Mowing will be part of.
Events coming up in the next few months include…
Georgia Organics’ 12th Annual Conference - Pollinating the Good Food Movement - Tom Stearns will be leading 3 workshops (March 20th-21st)
Seed Ordering and Garden Planning Workshop - Hosted by High Mowing Organic Seeds and Salvation Farms (March 24th)
- Seed Starting Workshop – Hosted by High Mowing Organic Seeds and Salvation Farms (March 28th)
- Brooklyn Food Conference (May 2nd)
Also, High Mowing Organic Seeds is now on Facebook! Come visit our page and say hello! You can find us by typing in "High Mowing Organic Seeds" in the search box.
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Localvore Recipes - Friday Lunches - Kaite Lavin
For almost a year now, High Mowing has had a tradition of Friday Lunch, when the entire staff gets together for a meal, cooked by two or three employees. As you can imagine, a seed company staffed by farmers and gardeners is made up of people who really like to eat! Having rotating chefs gives everyone the chance to showcase their culinary talents. We’ve enjoyed homemade egg rolls, pizza, Indian food, sushi, enchiladas, and amazing stews, frittatas, salads, and soups. Last spring we received a CSA share from Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, VT, mostly made up of root vegetables and sprouts, and then supplemented by locally milled flour, cheeses, bread, oil, and honey. Over the summer, we discontinued our share as our trial gardens at the High Mowing Farm produced an abundance of vegetables and herbs. In January we hit a lull, as our staff increased and the availability of fresh ingredients became scarcer. We modified Friday Lunch to be a three-way potluck, with three folks signing up to bring in parts of the meal. Just in time, our spring share started again last month. Now, we all look forward to the bag of treats on Thursday and what they will be transformed into for Friday Lunch.
Here are some of our new favorite recipes from Friday Lunch
5 cups sliced green cabbage
1 small onion, chopped
½ lb of firm tofu, cubed, if desired
1 tbs butter or oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp garam masala
1 tbs fresh grated ginger
Cayenne or other hot pepper, to taste
Salt or tamari to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
Heat oil on medium-low in large pan or skillet. Add mustard seeds and cook until they pop. Add cubed tofu if using and sauté until golden. Remove from pan. Add a little more oil and sauté onions until soft. Add all the spices and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add cabbage and stir. You can add ¼ or so of water to steam the cabbage a little. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or so, more or less, stirring every five minutes. Add tofu back in, stir, and serve with yogurt and cilantro. Yum!
Citrus Salad Dressing
Well, oranges and lemons are not local in Vermont, but a bright spot during our long winters. This dressing is good tossed with shredded carrots and beets, sprouts, and any type of green.
1 cup orange juice
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp salt or tamari
1-2 cloves minced garlic
A chili pepper, to taste (optional)
Cilantro or parsley, chopped, (optional)
Mix together and shake. Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.