Kitchen Garden

Pick a Peck of Peppers

Hot Peppers
Hot Peppers

RURAL CEDAR TOWNSHIP— Part of Thursday’s work was to harvest the hot pepper row at the CSA. We have Anaheim, which is not really hot, Hungarian wax peppers, jalapeno and Serrano. The peppers looked very nice, and the work prepared me to discuss them with customers at the drop site later that afternoon. I am ahead of myself.

The day started by picking kale, as it does on delivery days after the plants mature. The customers like kale, especially young children who anticipate it will be turned into baked kale chips for snack. For every leaf put in the cooler, two are discarded in the field, so there is a lot of marginal quality kale that returns to compost.

On a vegetable farm, there is a lot of marginal food generally: not quite good enough for customers, yet still a fresh and delicious food ingredient. Some is offered as seconds to customers, the farm workers take some home, and some returns to compost. This year I am experimenting with a bartering business of processing labor traded for a share of marginal food. A crate of peppers with bad spots becomes cut pieces in bags to be frozen. This operation included broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers and eggplant, resulting in a more than adequate household supply for the coming winter.

I harvested eggplant after the kale and before the hot peppers. There is a lot in the field. Eggplant is a global favorite vegetable, but in Iowa a person can only eat so much of it. We offer half a dozen varieties of eggplant, and customers take it with their share. The eggplant from my weekly share was aging, so upon returning home, I baked off half of it and removed the flesh to make babaganoush, some for now, and some to freeze for later.

While I was working, others were bagging potatoes, picking lettuce in the high tunnel, harvesting tomatoes, collecting herbs, counting onions, preparing garlic and doing all that is required to get the Thursday deliveries out to customers. It’s a day in the life of a community supported agriculture project.