“Do you know how to tell if a bean is fresh?”, Godofredo asks me as we kneel in narrow pathways snapping them off the plants and filling up orange 3 gallon buckets on a hot summer afternoon. He stood up and placed it over his chest and said, “it has to cling to your shirt.” There is a velvety fuzz on a fresh picked bean that gives it a certain clinginess like a fine velcro which it loses once stored. Apparently our farm neighbor, Chuck Sharp had stopped by the previous evening and shared this tip while out walking the rows.
Harvesting beans by hand is a test of focus, patience and perseverance. It is a bit tedious and takes me about an hour to pick a bushel. My body acclimates to the steamy wall of heat once I get a good sweat going and catch a refreshing breeze. As you move down the row you are making constant decisions on whether or not a bean is too big or too small, too old or too young, or within the acceptable range. I find myself questioning my decisions and trying to develop an efficiency in picking, pinching the stems while pulling straight down with my hand grabbing the beans with my last three fingers seems to do the trick. Go for the clusters where you can find them. I try and leave a bit of stem on every bean knowing this will help to keep them fresh.
We contemplate bean picking machines, and talk about our kids. We ponder other crops we could grow and what we still have to plant over the next few weeks. We brainstorm on rounding up folks to help us pick. But mostly we work in silence and tune into the buzzing of insects and melodic rhythms of birdsong and the summer breeze crescendos through the fields of corn. All the while the buckets fill slowly like hour glasses in reverse and bushel boxes stack up in the shade of an old pickup truck beside a cooler filled with ice, water and gatorade. We notch another day on the farm.
Earlier this week I had to fill in as a driver and head to Leola, PA, amish country, for the fabulous high tunnel tomatoes we currently offer in our CSA and at the stands. As I barreled down the highway in our colorful Norman’s 16’ reefer (refrigerated) box truck to the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street rolling past corn fields beneath blue skies witnessed by cows I felt both rejuvenated and transported back to the early days of our business. Seeking out and rounding up the treasures and gems from our area’s best farms. Feeling like Marco Polo in a t-shirt and jeans off on another adventure. The horses and buggies and kids on bikes lend themselves to my “good old days” vibe, but the black hatted farmers eye me curiously with my electric pallet jack cruising down the platform. I feel the burning looks of contempt from some other buyers outbid by my brother Jeff as I load skyscrapers of tomatoes into my truck.
This coming week we will be harvesting loads of beans, cucumbers, and squash so load up at the CSA and at the stands knowing they are superfresh. Eggplant and cherry tomatoes are kicking off this week as well. Our beefsteak and heirloom tomatoes maybe about ten days away but looking great. Hard to imagine we are already prepping our beds and about ready to plant our fall cool crops such as cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. Thanks for reading our newsletter and have a great week.