This week at the farm was about getting into the flow of things. We are picking and cutting lots and lots of salad greens including arugula, mizzuna, baby kale, baby lettuce, and tatsoi. We are also harvesting about 1000 heads of lettuce per week as well as kale, rainbow swiss chard, bok choi, and kohlrabi. Looking ahead to next week we will be getting into napa cabbage which looks wonderful. Broccoli is crowning nicely and not at all far off. Squash is coming on strong and probably less than a week away. We’ve had several requests from area restaurants for squash blossoms which we are filling along with salad greens. In fact while I am writing this update our crew is picking orders for The Grilled Oyster (Potomac and DC), Suma (Bethesda), and the Daily Dish (Chevy Chase), which I will personally deliver as soon as it is picked. These restaurants are great at being flexible and utilizing what’s in season so if you don’t feel like cooking give them a try.
The task that resonated the most with me this week was pruning the tomatoes. Now in the circle of farm life I must confess I am not the most knowledgeable or efficient member of the field crew. In fact this week I have earned the nickname One Row Charlie. This is because out of the 30 or so rows of tomatoes which needed pruning I would do about one a day while my comrades handled the lion’s share. In my defense it takes me about twice as long as everybody else so it’s as if I am doing two rows as long as nobody is counting..
As Godofredo met me in the field he explained that every plant is different. You need to look at it and let it tell you how it wants to grow. Some branches are male and some are female. The females will produce the fruit. Each plant should have two or three main stems, the others have to go. This approach resonates with me. The objective to pruning the tomatoes is to increase airflow and minimize risk of disease. Also by selecting the branches which get to stay it determines where the plant will focus its energy. Too many branches? Then the plant’s resources are spread too thin. Too many leaves block the airflow and when it rains the leaves won’t dry which encourages molds, mildews, and disease. I’m ready to get going.
Almost immediately in the quiet of the tomato patch on a misty morning listening to the birds while I pinch, and bend up then down, careful not to tear the flesh of the stem, I am intoxicated by the powerful aroma of the plants. There is a green residue that cakes my fingers and carries the smell and I find myself thinking of a scene from the Godfather where Marlon Brando is pruning his tomatoes, lost in his thoughts in the sanctuary of his garden. I always liked that scene. Now I find myself getting lost in my thoughts with the hopes that as I simplify the plants I am also ridding myself of clutter and extraneous branches. Jeff announces how good the tomato plants are looking and I notice my trail of pruned suckers behind me and endless plants ready for pruning. It is a meditative state and very therapeutic. Even if only for one row.