Blue Moon Acres’ mission is to grow produce that nourishes both body and earth.

3 Ways to Make Use of an Abundance of Tomatoes

Hello, tomato.

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So wonderful to see you again.

Such taste, such loveliness, such flavor… tis’ the season of Jersey-grown tomatoes.

As a tomato lover, I sometimes find myself thinking with my eyes, and come home with more tomatoes than I can possibly consume. What’s a girl to do?

3 Ways to Make Use of an Abundance of Tomatoes

1. Give them away.

I know it may be difficult to give away such perfections of nature, but share the tomato love and give some away. Do you have friends who say they don’t like tomatoes (gasp!)? Gift them with a local tomato in season, at its peak ripeness, and watch them change their tune.

2. Roast them.

If you have less-than-pristine tomatoes, try roasting them in the oven to coax out their flavor. Eat them after roasting, or freeze them to enjoy year-round- roasting concentrates the flavor, so they’ll taste great. David Lebovitz has an excellent recipe here.

3. Can them.

Canning tomatoes sounds intimidating. I am new to canning myself- this summer will be the first time I’m putting up foods for the fall. Canning tomatoes is a big messy endeavor, so make sure you have the help and space you need before you dive in. It’s important to note as well that improperly canned tomatoes can cause botulism, a deadly poisoning. Follow the current USDA guidelines to keep you and your family safe. Mother Earth News has a helpful article on how to can tomatoes at home safely here.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy an abundant tomato harvest?

Winter on the Farm

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If you’re like me, you’ve always wondered what goes on at a farm in the winter. You too have imagined farmers burrowing into the barren soil and remaining there, in a state of hibernation, until the warm weather returns. (Or at least sitting around watching Little House on the Prairie reruns.) For most farms, however, wintertime can be surprisingly productive.

At our Pennington, NJ location especially, the colder weather gives us an opportunity to play catch-up on repairs and maintenance. The high tunnels are stripped of their plastic sheathing and their framing realigned, and the tractors and harvesters are overhauled. At Buckingham, where micro-greens are grown year-round in heated greenhouses, hoses, compost, and peat moss must be brought indoors to safeguard against freezing.

Winter is also a time to prepare for the coming growing season. The performance of last year’s harvest is reviewed, with new crops proposed or abandoned based on performance, profitability, and most importantly, customer input. Crop rotation plans are drawn up to ensure soil vitality. Cover crops planted in the autumn also contribute to soil health by capturing and cycling much-needed nutrients, as well as preventing against erosion.

Another wintertime focus is the creation of compost. In late autumn, anywhere from 1000 to 2000 cubic yards of leaf waste are trucked in from neighboring lawns to be composted. This compost is then used as a soil amendment, or sometimes even mixed with the soil itself. A well-balanced compost can help reduce disease, retain water, and discourage the growth of weeds.

Here in the office, the off-season means forging new connections with restaurants, caterers, and retailers. It also means finding novel ways to broaden our relationship with existing supporters. Above all, it is a time to review the previous year’s successes and shortcomings, to fine-tune our processes, to strive to be the very best Blue Moon we can be!

snow march 2013So while wintertime might see certain bears and hedgehogs retreating underground, it finds us farmers bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, our sleeves rolled up and our thinking caps on, dutifully preparing for the triumphant return of the sun.

 

Geothermal Energy Comes to Pennington!

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If you’ve been to our Pennington market, you’ve already experienced it—and probably didn’t even know it.

What am I talking about, you ask?

Geothermal energy.

Our market, harvest room, and upstairs living quarters are regulated using a horizontal geothermal heating/cooling system.

Geothermal energy, in its most basic form, is energy that is generated and stored within the Earth. To harness this energy, there are two basic methods. The first uses underground heat to generate electricity. The second, which we use at Blue Moon Acres, utilizes the Earth’s constant underground temperature to provide heating and cooling.

Here’s how it works:

Within the walls runs a circuit of pipes which are filled with an alcohol/water solution. After cycling through the market and harvest area, this circuit travels seven feet below ground, then several thousand feet across the farm, and then back again.

In the summer, hot air is whisked away from the house where it is dispersed through the much cooler underground layer. In the winter, the circuit draws warmth from that same underground layer, which remains at a constant 55 degrees. A series of fans then blows across the cooled/warmed pipes to distribute the temperature evenly.

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Some more fun facts:

  • If the mercury dips below zero for any length of time, an electric back-up kicks on, keeping the building nice and toasty.
  • The temperature is controlled using an ordinary thermostat—same as with a traditional system!
  • Excess heat created in the summer is used to satisfy over 90% of the farm’s hot water needs!

All told, the system provides heating/cooling for approximately 5,000 square feet. After the initial start-up investment, the system is inexpensive and reliable. Heating the same size space with electric would cost around $9,000 a year; doing it with oil would cost just under $13,000—and that’s with modern, efficient systems.  And let’s not forget the gobs of emissions that are kept out of the atmosphere!

Geothermal may not be the solution to all the world’s problems, but it’s a start. If you’re building a new home or business, or are in the market for a new heating/cooling system, you should give it some thought.

 

How ‘Bout Them Apples!

Amy showing off a Mutsu apple

Amy showing off a Mutsu apple

An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, the old saying goes.

But what if that apple is local, recently-picked, and grown with love? Could it do more than just keep the doctor away? Could it spark a revolution?

Amy Manoff of Manoff Market Gardens thinks so.

“A well-grown apple is the most basic thing,” she says. “It doesn’t need to be cooked, sauced—it doesn’t need to be anything. It’s easy nutrition. All you have to do is eat it. And if it’s been grown right, it’ll surprise you.”

Nestled amid the rolling farmland of Bucks County’s Solebury Township, Manoff Market Gardens is one of those sleepy rustic stores that call to mind a simpler era, an era before supermarkets, blinking coupon dispensers, and automated checkouts. Fruit stacked in wooden crates, mason jars on modest shelving, hand-written signs, and a yellow lab dozing by the register. The customers all know Amy, and know each other too. It’s the kind of market that makes you want to open your own.

“I have amazing customers who drive all the way out here,” Amy reflects. “I’m not on some major road, so people have to put me on their list; they have to make a point of coming here. It’s pretty special.”

Though MMG is known for their mouthwatering strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, and over 2 dozen varieties of peaches and nectarines, what really struck me—lover of all things autumnal that I am—was their apples.

As of this writing, they have 11 unique varieties for sale: Northern Spy, Jonathan, Staymen, Cortland, Macoun, SunCrisp, Jonagold, Mutsu, Cameo, Manoff Golden, Fuji, and Gala.

And there are five more soon to come online: Keepsake, Braeburn, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, and Gold Rush.

“And with the Fuji,” Amy says, “we actually have two kinds—early and late, and the late Fuji is a super sweet, very crunchy apple that’ll last all winter. I’ve had late Fujis the following March that were still crunchy and delicious.”

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Having gotten by on supermarket-bought apples for most of my life, I was amazed how tasty Manoff’s were. There were all these subtle flavors, all these nuanced notes I’ve never experienced before. The apples were crisp, firm, and intoxicatingly aromatic. It was like biting into a fresh fig for the first time: you never want to go back.

“I would never eat a Granny Smith from a supermarket,” Amy says. “They’re picked before they’re ready, so they end up kind of flat. Ours have an amazing flavor, nice and tart, a go-to apple for chefs. We can let them hang to the right moment and then just bring them into the store.”

Quality isn’t the only reason Amy eschews the supermarket scene; supporting the local economy holds equal sway.

“People understand that when they buy locally, they support the farmer. But the other side of it is that the money’s staying here: the farmer shops locally, hires local people, and so on.”

In the end, though, it all comes back to the apple.

“My favorite eating apple,” Amy reveals, “is the SunCrisp. It looks like a sunset, tastes like a pear; it’s crispy and juicy. For baking, my favorite is the Jonagold. It makes a great pie, it’s neither too sweet nor too tart, it doesn’t disintegrate, and it’s really easy to work with.”

The apple revolution may not be televised, but you can experience it firsthand at Manoff Market Gardens. Join the uprising against bland, generic apples and help keep markets like Amy’s fortified for generations to come.

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