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Food Laboratory Victories

Our food laboratory — the farm — persuades us to try new things every year. It is a laboratory, after all.

Figuring out how to coax artichoke plants to produce globes took about five years (the photo above is an artichoke flower. It looks like it belongs in a coral reef, and bees LOVE them). Every season, we learn more about how to grow grains — and how to mill them. We tried peanuts awhile back, and they didn’t work.

But this year, it’s different. Not only does the peanut crop look promising, but we also triumphed with our Belgian endive crop and are planting more for next year. And now we are harvesting sweet potatoes — a first. We anticipated being able to harvest only fingerling sweet potatoes (which sound delicious), which would be ready by the end of the season, but the ones we are digging out of the soil now are already fingerling-sized. We may finish the season with full-size sweet potatoes.

Eric with the first sweet potato harvest. We are eager to begin working with them in the kitchens.
Eric with the first sweet potato harvest. We are eager to begin working with them in the kitchens.

Both sweet potatoes and peanuts require two things that challenge Front Range farming. Both cannot be planted until the soil approaches 70 degrees, which means June. But they also have long growing seasons and are sensitive to frost. On Black Cat Farm, the first frost typically strikes somewhere in early October. The combination of late planting and long growing season in Boulder’s tempestuous climate is not a match that elicits broad smiles among farmers.

See the white shoot near Eric's finger? That is the "peg," which eventually produces peanuts underground.
See the white shoot near Eric’s finger? That is the “peg,” which eventually produces peanuts underground.

The peanuts now are flowering, and sending shoots, called pegs, into the ground that eventually produce peanuts. We will be checking the plants’ progress through the summer, and hope we end up with a crop big enough for both the Famers’ Market and the restaurants.

This week’s Market list is a big one. Enjoy your time in the kitchen this weekend, or in the restaurants!

  • Head lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Tat soi
  • Purple tat soi
  • Mizuna
  • Ruby Streak mizuna
  • Kale
  • Sen Posai Asian collards
  • Purslane
  • Genovese basil
  • Hakurei turnips
  • Magenta turnips
  • Hinona Kabu turnips
  • Daikon radishes
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Summer squash
  • Artichokes
  • Shishito peppers
  • Anaheim peppers
  • Banana peppers
  • Purple and Yellow beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatillos
  • Squash blossoms
  • Polenta flour
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Farro
  • Pork cuts