2014 Pick-Your-Own

Note: PYO is only available to Red Fire Farm CSA and Farmstand members.

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Now open for 2014!

As part of your Vegetable CSA membership, you have access to our Pick Your Own patches. The farm is family-friendly, so bring your little ones and check out our land. PYO includes herbs, flowers, berries, peas, tomatoes, tomatillos, hot peppers, and more (changes with the season).

Late July, August and September are great months to come for pick your own, as by then we’re brimming with crops like cherry tomatoes, basil, tomatillos, hot peppers, green beans, herbs, flowers, and ground cherries.

Pick Your Own is a perk for members that can make it out – we still aim to give all members the value of their share in harvested and delivered vegetables :). But of course we want you to come out to visit.

Check back here for weekly updates on what’s available!

If you are traveling to the farm for over 1 hour to do the picking (Boston area and Worcester members), then you probably will come for picking only once during the early summer. This means that when you are here you can pick a lot at once, once the limits have gone up.
If you are a member from Franklin, Hampshire or Hampden County and you can easily make it to the farm each week, then we ask that you pick weekly but not as much each time. This is why there are different limits posted for each crop depending on where you are coming from.
Farmstand & Market Members ($300 level) can pick a lot at once if desired, but you must pay as you go (by using credit from your card). Prices are posted for each PYO crop on the board. There are sometimes limits on crops for Farmstand Members also.

What to Bring
Come ready for outdoor weather. Also please bring containers to take your pickings home in, and leave the quart and pint containers for reuse if possible.

Getting to the Farm
If you have a car, share a ride! Meet some other local food loving people. You can post on our facebook seeking rides.

Which Farm to Pick At
Read below under Granby or Montague to see where you should pick based on your CSA pickup location.

Farm PYO Board Info Trumps the Info on the Blog
The boards at the barns are the most updated PYO limits and info, so please follow those if they differ from what is written here.

Open to CSA and Farmstand & Market Members from Granby, Springfield, Worcester and the Boston area.

Pick Your Own details are inside the farmstand in the center of the barn at 7 Carver St., including a map of field areas and a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting. You can come to pick any day, hours are 9am – 8pm.
From Tuesday through Sunday, we usually have someone working the farmstand from 9-8pm who can answer questions. The PYO is all self-serve. There’s extra parking in the Brown-Ellison Park next door if needed.

CSA Members: Up to one pint per week
Farmstand & Market Members: $2 per pint

Flowers: Your flowers will thank you if you bring a container of water along!
All Members: 20 stems per week per member. Limit 5 Sunflowers

They’re back!
CSA Members: 1/2 pint per week or 4 half pints for one-time pickers
Farmstand & Market Members: $3.50 per half pint.

Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Lemon Balm, Chives, Basil, Parsley and more can be picked as much as needed.
CSA Members: Pick as needed.
Farmstand & Market Members: Pick as needed.

Green and Yellow Beans and Shell Beans
CSA Members: Pick up to 2 Quarts per week or 6 Quarts for the season.
Farmstand & Market Members: $3 per Quart

Hot Peppers
CSA Members: Pick up to 1 pint
Farmstand & Market Members: $3 per per pint

Basil: Still some to pick. Pick as needed at no charge.

Cherry Tomatoes
CSA Members: Weekly picking limit: 1/2 Pint
One time limit: 3 Pints
Farmstand & Market Members: Pick as needed @ $3.00/ 1/2 Pint, $5/ Pint

*Note: Please wash them as we are now using the organically-approved copper spray to protect the plants from Late Blight – which has been found in our county and on our farm. You can usually see if there is copper dust on the fruit as it is blue-green. Rinsing quickly with water is sufficient, as the rain washes the copper off here at the farm all the time! If you’d like to learn more about Late Blight and copper, please read last year’s blog post about the time when late blight arrived in 2012 and 2009.

Yummy Peppers
CSA Members: 
Pick up to 1/2 pint per week or 2 pints for the summer
Farmstand & Market Members: $3 per per pint

Husk Cherries:These small fruits should be picked from the ground underneath the plant, when ripe they fall to the ground.
CSA Members: Weekly picking limit: 1/2 Pint
One time limit: 3 Pints
Farmstand & Market Members: Pick as needed @ $3.00/ 1/2 Pint, $5/ Pint

Edible Flowers:
Pick as needed!

We now have a patch on our Montague farm at 184 Meadow Road. This section is small, so there’s capacity for Montague, Amherst and Northampton area members only!

Please park on the grass along Meadow Road, not blocking any thruways or driveways. Also at head of driveway up to large greenhouse, not blocking the driveway.

Pick Your Own information is at the large old tobacco barn next to Meadow Road near the red hand-painted Red Fire Farm hanging sign. Pick Your Own details will be there, including an informational map attached to the side of the barn facing the road, a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting and measuring. Bring containers to take things home!

Self-serve. You can come to pick any day 9am – 8pm. There will be a log book, so you can keep track of your picking if you are at the $300 Farm stand member level, as those members pay half of retail price for PYO items. Please tally your purchases as you go, and we will process them periodically at the office. PYO for CSA level members is free up to limits provided.

Flowers: Your flowers will thank you if you bring a container of water along!
All Members:
 20 stems per week per member. Limit 3 sunflowers

They’re back!
CSA Members: 1/2 pint per week or 4 half pints for one-time pickers
Farmstand & Market Members: $3.50 per half pint.

Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Lemon Balm, Chives, Basil, Parsley and more can be picked as much as needed.
CSA Members: Pick as needed.

Farmstand & Market Members: Pick as needed.

Basil: Still some to pick. Pick as needed, no charge.

Yummy Peppers
CSA Members: 
Pick up to 1/2 pint per week or 2 pints for the summer
Farmstand & Market Members: $3 per per pint

Hot Peppers
CSA Members: Pick up to 1 pint
Farmstand & Market Members: $3 per per pint

Husk Cherries
CSA Members: Weekly picking limit: 1/2 Pint
One time limit: 3 Pints
Farmstand & Market Members: Pick as needed @ $3.00/ 1/2 Pint, $5/ Pint

Cherry Tomatoes
CSA Members: Weekly picking limit: 1/2 Pint
One time limit: 3 Pints
Farmstand & Market Members: Pick as needed @ $3.00/ 1/2 Pint, $5/ Pint

*Note: Please wash them as we are now using the organically-approved copper spray to protect the plants from Late Blight – which has been found in our county and on our farm. You can usually see if there is copper dust on the fruit as it is blue-green. Rinsing quickly with water is sufficient, as the rain washes the copper off here at the farm all the time! If you’d like to learn more about Late Blight and copper, please read last year’s blog post about the time when late blight arrived in 2012 and 2009.

CSA Members: Up to one pint per week
Farmstand & Market Members: $2 per pint


Fun things to do in Montague:

map to stand

Ryan’s handwritten map to the farm stand in Montague. Also features the Bookmill – great place for snacks and beer. And books.

  • Visit our Old Depot Gardens farm stand at 504 Turners Falls Road in Montague, very cute, with our produce and tasty local products.~ 2 miles from the farm.
  • Check out the Bookmill, cafe with waterfall, used bookstore, cd shop, art gallery, beer. 1/4 mile from the farm stand.

Enjoy the season and the fields!

Tomato Planting Tips for the Home Gardener

It’s tomato planting season!  We have been busy putting early season tomato plants in our greenhouses, and gearing up our bedding plants to be sold at markets and stands.  Some of our most popular garden plants are our juicy, colorful tomatoes.  While it can be fun and simple to grow your own tomatoes, they do have their quirks.  We thought we’d share some of our tomato planting tips with you, the home gardener!

Start with Good Soil

To begin, it’s important to know that soil quality is key for growing healthy tomato plants.  They are most happy where they can get full sunlight in fertile, nutrient rich soil.  Spreading compost is a very effective way to give your tomato plants a healthy environment.  You can buy it at garden centers, or make your own at home.

If you’d like to test your soil to find out the pH and how you are doing for nutrients, Umass offers soil tests. Their “Routine Soil Analysis” for Home Grounds and Gardens, currently $10, is a great basic test for home gardens and will give you recommended rates for how much fertilizer and lime to apply.

Compost in the making

Timing Your Planting

In Massachusetts, it is usually safe to plant your tomatoes outdoors towards the middle or end of May, keeping an eye out for frost to protect them as needed.  Memorial Day weekend is the classic time for planting tomatoes. Tomato plants can be transplanted as late as the end of June and still have time to ripen their fruits before fall cold arrives.

How to Plant

When you are ready to plant your tomatoes, dig a hole in the ground, deep enough to cover the base of the plant and all its roots. You can mix compost into the hole, or fertilize the whole area.  Settle the plant in, fill in the hole around the plant, and pick off any leaves towards the bottom of the plant that are touching the ground.  If your plants have a “leggy” look (their stems are overgrown), you can plant them on their side in a trench with just the top point and a few leaves above ground (remove any leaves that will be underground).  Tomato plants grow roots from anywhere along their stem, so they will straighten themselves upright a few days after planting.  Place tomato plants 18’’-36’’ apart from each other.  If you have had problems with cutworms in your garden, you can try protecting your tomatoes using a collar around the base of the plant such as a paper cup or toilet paper roll.  Once your plant is nestled in the soil bed, pat down the soil, and water it in to secure its placement.

Support Systems

Tomato plants grow wildly; they would sprawl all over the ground if you let them.  You can let them do this, however, it is often preferable to give them some standing support, so the tomato fruits do not end up compressed on the ground or scalded by sun.  If you only have a few plants, you may want to buy cages like these that you can place around each plant, or make some out of concrete reinforcement wire.

Stake & Weave Method – sandwiching the plants between string

Another option is to use a stake & weave method, which is what we use for our tomatoes.  Secure wooden stakes deeply in the ground (roughly the height of your future plants) about every three plants in your row of tomatoes.  Using a thick string that will last the season, go down the row at the level of the current growth, looping the string tightly around each stake, and then go back down the other side, effectively sandwiching the plants between a string on each side.  We find it effective to string a row along the bottom of the plants, another one along the middle, and a final one along the top, as they grow.  The string should be pulled tight to provide a stable structure for the plants to stand within.

To Prune or Not to Prune

As your plants grow, you will notice them growing “suckers”.  These are new growing points that grow in the “v” between the main stem and lateral branches.  Suckers will eventually grow and produce fruit.  You can pinch suckers off to prevent your plants from getting top heavy, and to focus the plant’s energy on the main stem.  Pinching the suckers will mean fewer, but larger fruits.  We only do this for our greenhouse tomatoes, and don’t find it necessary in the field. If you are going to prune, only prune indeterminate varieties of tomatoes (most types, see labels at the stands or look up your variety online). Determinate varieties grow only so long and set their fruit all at once – some paste tomatoes, for example, are determinate – so you will prune away part of your total yields if you remove suckers.

Diseases and Late Blight Resistant Tomatoes

Late Blight – the scourge of 2009, seems to return every year now

Tomatoes are fairly vulnerable plants in our climate.  There are many diseases to watch out for, some you can prevent, and others you just have to cross your fingers and hope you don’t get.  Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot are common problems that many tomato farmers in the area experience every year. These two diseases slowly kill the foliage of the plants.  Early Blight is a disease that overwinters in the soil, so rotating the tomato placement in your garden each year can help.

Late Blight now seems to come every year to our area towards the latter part of tomato season, and when it arrives makes quick work of the foliage and the fruits of the plants.

We sell quite a few Late Blight resistant tomato plants that we recommend mixing into your garden plot to add variety and prevent against the loss of all of your tomato fruits, should blight happen to find a home in your garden.

Our Late Blight Resistant tomato plant varieties are:

  • Defiant
  • Mountain Magic Cherry
  • Iron Lady – also resistant to Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot. Which basically means you should grow this tomato.
  • Mountain Merit
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry

Farmer Noticed Resistance:

  • Indigo Ruby Cherry
  • Indigo Rose

“Farmer Noticed” means when Late Blight came to the farm last year, these plants were still standing a bit into the infection. As well as the ones above that have been scientifically tested as resistant :).

Look for them at our farm stands over the next few weeks as you begin your planting. Each one is its own unique variety with its own unique fruit. Indigo Ruby, for example, has a dark purple skin with a blush red inside, and tastes equally sweet and tart!

Blossom-end Rot is another common problem.  This is caused by low calcium intake due to uneven moisture or to low levels of calcium in the soil.

Be sure to water your tomato plants regularly if nature isn’t keeping up, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings.  You want to provide your plants with constant water, yet not create a soggy soil.  Try not to water from above; aim your sprinkler at the base of the plant to keep the leaves dry.  Airborne diseases are more likely to infect wet leaves.

Some tomatoes will have a split skin or begin to crack.  This can happen when there is a sudden change in moisture (after a period of extended dry weather), or when the fruit is overripe.  Not to worry though, split skin tomatoes are still perfectly healthy and delicious to eat if you get to them quickly.

If you see a disease or problem on your plant and would like to identify it, a great resource is the Vegetable MD page at Cornell.

Harvest Time

As your plants bear fruit, harvest the tomatoes when they are in their expected full color and size.  Then onto culinary feats!  Tomatoes can be used in all sorts of ways in the kitchen.  Some are delectable sliced raw into salads, while others are designed for making sauces.  Check out our recipes to find unusual ways of cooking with tomatoes. Do note that tomatoes lose flavor when refrigerated, so keep them on your counter instead!

More About Variety Selection

We typically grow 150 varieties of tomatoes, many of which have won awards!  From slicing, heirloom, cherry to paste, our tomatoes come in all sorts of shades, and have all sorts of flavors.

Our recommendations for a good red slicing tomato are Jet Star and Super Beefsteak.  For heirlooms and specialty tomatoes, try a mix of colors and types. Brandywine and Wapsipinicon Peach both have won awards for flavor at our farm.  If you’re looking to make sauce, choose a paste tomato variety, bred to cook down quicker with less juice and more meat;  Federle is a great heirloom, and San Marzano is very productive.  For a simple snacking tomato, we love Sungold Cherry Tomatoes. Having a mix in the garden is the most fun.

If you like tomato salads, growing a selection of tomatoes with different colors can make a stunning salad. Try Green Zebra, Black Prince, Indigo Rose, Striped German, and Gary Ibsen’s Gold.

These and many more varieties – that we have taste-tested and field-tested at our farm – can be found at either of our farmstands in Granby and Montague as well as at our summer farmers’ markets, Tuesdays in Springfield, Northampton and Boston, and Wednesdays in Amherst.

May you have a bountiful harvest!


Helping Monarch Butterflies with a Butterfly Garden

Butterflies bring joy to the garden – and you can make much needed habitat for them! Plants that butterflies love have flowers with lots of nectar, as that is food for butterflies. Not all flowers make good nectar sources; these ones below are especially rich in it. We carry these varieties and more at our farmstands over the month of May and into June. Many of these flowers are frost sensitive, so we will be stocking them in mid May.

A few key tips for butterfly gardens:

  • Plant nectar-rich flower varieties
  • Multiple plants of the same kind in one spot are easier for a butterfly to see
  • Choose host plants for the caterpillars of butterflies, like Milkweed for Monarchs, Lupine for Painted Ladies, Snapdragons for Buckeyes
  • Butterfly nectar plants are also great for honey bees and other beneficials, bringing pollination and protection to the rest of your garden

If you know only one butterfly, it is most likely the Monarch! Monarch butterflies especially need our help in providing nectar plants and safe habitats for caterpillars. Many of their previous safe grounds for feeding and laying eggs have been diminished by increased use of GMO glyphosate resistant soy and corn, or plowed over to grow government subsidized corn for biofuels. Parking lots, roads, and front lawns have also replaced the sweet fields of wild flowers necessary for a healthy butterfly population. Read more about what is happening with Monarchs and what we can do.

One critical plant for the survival of the Monarch butterfly is milkweed. Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars will only feed on this kind of plant. We have found a native variety that also has beautiful flowers and fall seed pods.



Above is Butterfly Milkweed, or Asclepias Tuberosa. It’s a bright orange wild flower that loves full sunlight and fairs well in dryer soil. Monarchs migrate north to lay their eggs and will only lay eggs on milkweeds such as this one. Seeing a chrysalis on a milkweed plant is a rare joy, something we should all get a chance to see.


Some of the other plants we grow that butterflies love:


Buddeleia Butterfly Bush: A woody shrub with fragrant lilac blooms that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and beneficials. Lovely at the back of borders for its height and arching shape. Perennial.


Verbena Bonareisis: Tall, beautiful and purple. An excellent cut flower. Clusters of tiny flowers on top of a long stem that Butterflies love to land on.

Poppies_and_Coreopsis_flowers_wallpaper (18)


Coreopsis: A bright blooming flower that does well in full sun. Perennial.


Marigolds: Bright colors that not only attract butterflies but also repel aphids from your garden. Annual.


Snapdragons: These attract butterflies and provide food for Buckeye butterfly caterpillars. The make beautiful cut flowers as well. Annual.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm

July 15,2011 006

Monarda (Red Bee Balm and Purple Wild Bergamot): A fragrant, fun and quirky flower. Grows tall and is also a favorite of hummingbirds. Edible for us too! Perennial.

Sweet Alyssum: This flower smells like honey and butterflies and bees enjoy the sweet scent. You will too! Growing in white and light pink. A perfect spring flower that loves cooler weather. Annual.


Echinacea: This flower is drought tolerant and makes an excellent addition to any bouquet. Also known for its healing properties. Perennial.



Salvia Gruppenblau: Shorter, fragrant blue spires that attract hummingbirds also. Great for drying! Perennial.


Cosmos: Idyllic, wispy flowers with long skinny stems. Annual.


Gomphrena: A shooting plant with spikey flowers perfect for drying. Butterflies love to dance around from flower to flower. Annual.


Cleome: Also known as spider flower, this flower is unlike any other. We feature it in many of our summer time bouquets. The large exploding flowers gain everyone’s attention, especially wandering butterflies. Annual.



Ellagance Lavender: Highly fragrant low growing purple flowers. Many uses. Perennial.

Benarys Giant Zinnia

Zinnia: One of summer’s most colorful features. Will bloom into the fall! Makes a great cut flower and can be featured in single variety bouquets. Annual.


Yarrow: Large flat-top flower heads on ferny foliage make clouds of color all summer long. A mix of colors on drought tolerant plants. Superb for cutting, and drying as well.


Come visit us at the farmstands in Granby and Montague for even more varieties! Keep an eye out for our poster at the stands that highlights these butterfly flowers, and also read the plant descriptions on display to learn more about each plant.


Best wishes in the garden this summer!


Cabbage Harvest Story and Sauerkraut Recipe

Brassica oleracea capitata. Latin for cabbage. From a wild cabbage, through centuries of breeding and selection, came many food crops in the brassica family that we eat today… broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower, bok choy. This family is very important on our farm, as many of the crops are hardy to the cold and help us extend the season of local food.

hamida with giant cabbage

Hamida found this giant cabbage in the field. It would make a great batch of kraut!


This time of year, hopefully before we get weather in the low teens or below, we are harvesting the cabbage for winter storage.  When the big fall cabbages start rolling in, it’s also the time we start to make sauerkraut in earnest at our house. You can make it too. You can find our organic cabbage at our winter farmers’ markets, with Bulk Order for pickup around Massachusetts, and in our CSA farm shares.

filling bins of cabbage

First we harvest the cabbage into rows. Then it goes air-born. Zeinab catches cabbage to fill up the pallet bins.

Sauerkraut is German for “sour cabbage.” Though I would describe the flavor as tangy instead – likely from the high vitamin C content. Sauerkraut is lacto-fermented, meaning the food is made with the help of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria that create a lactic acid environment. Eating this live food is good for your health, because of the live cultures, increased nutrient availability, and beneficial compounds. Read more about the health benefits from some of our local kraut makers – Real Pickles. And more on wikipedia.

It’s one of my goals over time to weave the making of sauerkraut and fermented foods into my life year round. The flavors and health aspects are so compelling. I’ve found sauerkraut makes a good place to start, as it is simple, and very worthwhile.

How to Make Sauerkraut

  1. chopping cabbageChop cabbage to desired size for eating
  2. Salt to taste, and then squeeze or pound to get the water moving out of the cabbage. You can mix in flavorings at this point. See below for ideas!
  3. Pack cabbage tightly into a clean non-reactive container, pushing it down so that liquid rises above the vegetables. You can add water if needed. We usually weigh down the kraut in our glass jar with another smaller glass jar filled with water that nestles inside the mouth of the main jar, then cover the whole setup with a cloth or napkin to keep dust and bugs out of the opening.
  4. Let sit out on a counter, and taste often until you like the flavor, then put in the fridge to slow the ferment. Skim off any mold that forms on the surface (it’s okay, just remove it). Make sure the liquid level is above the vegetables when you check it, as you want to keep the process anaerobic. You can add more brine (2 tbs salt per quart water works). If the top layer gets exposed to air and looks bad, remove a layer, often it is perfect and smelling good underneath. Don’t put in direct sun like these photos, as UV rays kill your beneficial bacteria.

    sauerkraut fermenting

    Red cabbage sauerkraut.

I find I usually like how the sauerkraut tastes after about 3-5 days in our kitchen. I like the freshness and crunch of the cabbage at this stage. You can have cabbage ferment at a much slower pace in a cooler environment – this is how lacto-fermentation was used as long term storage for many foods to help people get through the winter. That is essentially what you are doing when you put it into the fridge as well, slowing down the ferment. But it keeps going and stays alive, and will hold a very long time in your refrigerator.

For the amount of salt, Ryan just wings it. Fermentation master Sandor Katz says, “In most ferments, including vegetables, salting can be done to taste, without any need for measuring.” He also says that commercial sauerkraut makers use 1.5-2 tsp salt for each pound of chopped cabbage. You can ferment without salt, though salt helps keep vegetables crunchy, brings water out, and makes a more secure environment for lactic acid bacteria (ones you want!).

sauerkraut with caraway

Sauerkraut with caraway seeds. The weight jar is covered by a napkin and the cover is secured below the rim of the large jar in case of dust or bugs. Kinda makeshift.


If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut…
Lately we are fond of caraway seeds, they add such dimension to the taste of sauerkraut, nuttiness and aromas. Some other fun options… juniper berries, dill seeds, celery seeds, ginger, hot pepper flakes, turmeric, apples, cranberries, sweet white wine, oregano, other vegetables. Go exploring!

Another way to go is to make Kimchi, which tends to be cabbage with a mix of vegetables and includes some hot pepper. Here’s a kimchi recipe from Amy, one of our members.



How to Eat It

sauerkraut snack

Sauerkraut snack.

This time of year we are starting new batches soon after one finishes, and eating them right quick. You are likely to see me eating sauerkraut or something lacto-fermented at any meal of the day now that we are in the groove. Wally likes to snack on it! I am fond of putting it out with a bit of other snacks like carrots and cheese as a finger food or lunch. Raw is best as you get the probiotics. It tops salads, goes along with any meal on the side, and dresses up sandwiches. Great with breakfast eggs and toast. And on bagels with cream cheese. Basically you can eat it anywhere is what I’m saying here. More versatile than ketchup! And it will save you from scurvy.

Further Reading
If you want to delve deeper into the fascinations of lactofermentation I recommend Sandor Katz’s books, Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. If you have read any other good ones, please share in the comments!

Here is a larger batch sauerkraut recipe on Sandor Katz’s website.

bucket sauerkraut

Ryan tasting some of his bucket batch of kraut.

If you add water at some point to keep your liquid level up, beware of chlorine. Chlorinated water can cause problems for fermentation, as chlorine kills your beneficial bacteria. If you have chlorinated water, you can boil it in an open pot to evaporate the chlorine, then cool it to room temperature (so hot water doesn’t kill desired microbes). You can also let it sit in an open container for a few days, and the chlorine will evaporate. Or you can filter it with charcoal filters.

Glass jars are a good container as they are non-reactive. I got some larger half gallon Ball jars that fit right into the fridge after fermenting on the counter. You can use quart jars or whatever you have. We also do bigger batches in food-safe plastic buckets.

I read recently in Katz’s book about a woman who uses the old style canning jars with glass lids and rubber seals to ferment – she says that she can close the jar and the gases of fermentation escape through the seal when the pressure builds, but it is sealed, so nothing gets in, and she has no incidence of mold. Sounds worth trying.


max pulls in cabbage

 Bringing in the Harvest

There’s Max pulling in a bin of cabbage. After harvest, we bring the bins in and store some in our root cellar for the winter. Storage varieties of cabbage will last months in the right conditions. We have a good amount of it this year! Please take some off our hands and make sauerkraut!



Bulk Order Online

Winter CSA Sign Up

Winter Farmers’ Market details

What’s Cooking – Our Farmers Share Their Thanksgiving Recipes

Around the farm we’re all thinking about the best dishes we can make for our families with the abundance of organic vegetables we’ve been helping to grow all season. It’s fun and satisfying to make an original dish for our families and friends with the vegetables we have so lovingly planted, tended, harvested, stored and washed.

You can find our produce right now at the Winter Farmers’ Markets, in our Winter CSA, and as Bulk Orders for parties or storage.

Let’s see what’s cooking … 

Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Leila harvesting thyme on a beautiful November day.


Leila, our Georgia native, will be flying back home with a bag of Brussels sprouts this Friday so she can make bacon Brussels sprouts for her family. How she does it? First she fries bacon in a pan, she then removes the bacon and cuts it into bits. Next she sautés the Brussels sprouts in the bacon grease. Last, she adds the bacon bits to the plate of cooked Brussels. Simple, easy, and delicious!






Beet Rosti 

Christina and Kristi enjoy their lunch break in front of our House fields.

Kristi, our Wholesale and Logistics Manager, recommends trying beet rosti as an appetizer this holiday. “The rosemary is a really nice light flavor with the deep dark flavor of the beet” she says.

4-6 red beets (peeled and grated)
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1/2 cup flour
2 tbs butter

Grate beets and toss with rosemary and 1/4 cup flour. Toss thoroughly and then add the remaining flour. Heat butter at medium/high heat until golden brown in skillet. Add beet mixture to skillet and press firmly with spatula. Cook for 8-10 minutes. To Flip: remove patty from pan with spatula and slide onto new plate. Put an additional plate on top of patty and turn over so that the patty falls cooked side up onto new plate. Use spatula to slide patty off plate and back onto pan. Cook remaining 10 minutes or until brown. Can be served hot or cold.

Caramelized Shallots 

Kristi will also be featuring caramelized shallots on her Thanksgiving table this year. In fact, they were the first to come to her mind when thinking about holiday dishes.

Saute shallots and a few tablespoons sugar on medium heat in unsalted butter. Add a bit of red wine vinegar and salt, cook until brown. Then place sauté pan in the oven and roast until juicy and tender.

9″ Butternut Squash Pie

Packing Supervisor Rich with a purple cauliflower.

Our Packing Supervisor, Rich, says he’s excited to try a variation of the pumpkin pie this year, using butternut squash.

1 9” pie plate
2 cups of butternut squash puree
1 ½ cups of creamy coconut milk, some people use a 12 oz can of evaporated milk
¾ cup of sweetener, sugar molasses, honey, whichever
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
2 large eggs or egg substitute (my favorite is soaked flax seeds 1 tablespoon of ground seeds to 3 tablespoons of water soak until gelatinous.)
1 pie crust (unbaked)

Mix spices and salt together in a bowl then add the eggs (or substitute) and pumpkin puree, mix thoroughly and fill the (unbaked) pie crust. Cook at 400 for 15 minutes then turn down the temperature to 350 for 40 to 50 minutes, until you can stick a toothpick into the pies center without it coming out covered in gelatinous pumpkin mixture. Cool on a rack. Serve. With whipped cream. And other pies.

See more seasonal recipes on the blog.

We hope everyone has a delicious holiday filled with fresh and tasty New England vegetables!

Holiday Recipes with Local Produce

The fall crops are rolling in. Read below for many recipes to try for local feasts and winter dinners. You can order produce in bulk right now for storage and parties – visit our Bulk Order page for the list of seasonal produce.

Carrots in fall gain a most wonderful sweetness from the cold. This fall they are almost like candy. With a little local maple syrup, mmm. Try this easy recipe below….

Carrots right out of the ground


Maple Glazed Carrots

An easy side to sweeten up any cold winter meal. 


10 or so medium Carrots, Sliced
4 Tbsp Butter (Can use coconut oil also)
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Ground Ginger

Chop carrots into 2 inch long sticks or slice them into disks. Steam for 15-20 minutes. In a saucepan on low mix together a 1/2 stick of butter a ¼ cup of maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of ground ginger. Once the butter has melted and the spices have mixed in, drizzle it over the top the carrots and serve.  You can keep a little boat of the sauce around for those who like it sweet!


More Seasonal Recipes from the Farm Collection

Roasted Watermelon Radishes – Surprisingly sweet, tasty, and so pretty.
Kohlrabi and Potato Gratin
– Rich and creamy
Raw Parsnip Winter Salad - Sarah makes this for fall and winter feasts. Parsnips are amazing raw.
Mashed Potatoes with Shallots – Shallots give a really nice flavor to the potatoes.
Daikon-Apple Salad – Refreshing and light.
Caramelized Leeks and Apples – A sweet and savory side dish.
Turnip Puff – A really fun way to serve turnips.
Maple-Glazed Sesame Sweet Potatoes - yum.
Rosemary Vinaigrette – A nice way to use this aromatic herb.
Warm Maple Dressing with Shallots – Great flavor to warm up a salad, or for slightly wilting spinach or other greens.
Parsnip “Fries”
– A good appetizer
Beet and Winter Squash Strudel
– Appetizer or main dish.
Kale ‘n’ Apples – Stellar fall/winter combo.
Butternut Squash and Rutabaga Puree – Smooth and creamy.
Butternut Apple Bisque
Curried Carrot Dip
German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage - Tangy and sweet, and a gorgeous purple color.
Gilfeather Turnip Puree - Featuring Gilfeather turnips from the Slow Food Ark of Taste. They are so flavorful!
Stuffed Delicata Winter Squash – You can use this recipe with other types of winter squash too.
Coconut-Rutabaga-Carrot Mash
Baked Apples- Very easy, personal-sized, and delicious dessert.
Sweet Potato Pie – Sweet potatoes make a really amazing pie. Most say it’s better than pumpkin.

Visit our Bulk Orders page to see what is in season now. Happy cooking!

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

What you might read about here below….

Lovely Tomato Recipes…. including ways to preserve tomatoes (Bulk Order Tomatoes Here)

Tomato Tasting Results from the Tomato Festival. The votes are in…

Tomato Trot Race Results.

…Read on

tomato festival

The festival scene, and on the left our wonderful Event Organizer Maria Lane who made it all happen.

We just wrapped on Tomato Festival 2013. Thank you to all who came out – we had over 2,000 guests! Though the fest has passed, we are still swimming in tomatoes – it’s the peak of the season! Our farmstands and markets now have tons of heirloom, red, cherry, and paste types for you to try. And you can also order heirlooms, slicers and pastes in bulk for preserving.

What happened at the Festival? Check out the photos on Facebook.

Tomato Recipes for the Peak Season

We all have favorite tomato recipes. Here are some of ours. Click the links to read the recipes.


Ratatouille in the pan.

Roasted Tomato Basil Salad Dressing
Fresh Tomato-Corn Salsa
Tomato Basil Salad  
Panzanella: Tomato and Bread Salad 
Dekal’s Tomato Bean Soup
Husk Cherry and Cherry Tomato Salsa
Ratatouille Outside the Box
Garlic and Herb Ratatouille

Recipes for Preserving Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Tomato Sauce Farmer-Style – the recipe Sarah Voiland did for the Tomato Canning Demo at the fest.
Canned Plum Tomatoes

We have half bushels of heirlooms, reds, or paste tomatoes that you can order for pickup in the Boston area and around Western MA at our farmstands, markets and CSA pickups. Everyone is welcome to order.

The Famous Tomato Tasting  ~ Results 2013

tomato tasting

Tomato Tasting at the Tomato Festival, 2013.

There they were – the many many varieties of tomatoes, ready to taste. We laid them out in the tasting barn in sections by type with the categories of Cherry, Paste, Heirloom type, and Red Slicer. Unbeknownst to many there is also another category in our farmer minds – the Cocktail Tomato (which we break out in the results). What is a cocktail tomato… not quite a regular tomato, not quite a cherry tomato, a little bigger than a bite.

If you came to the tasting at the Tomato Festival, you received six stickers to assign to your favorite tomatoes (3 stickers to first favorite, 2 to second, and 1 to third). As the tasting goes along you can see which ones are working it by the collection of stickers on their card. I wonder if we had the votes hidden if it would affect the winners. It is hard to taste all the varieties laid out there anyway, so the outcome is skewed by which tomatoes people choose to taste more. Cherry tomatoes anybody? And I would say the tasting also favors those tomatoes with fresh eating qualities, as opposed to cooking or saucing qualities.

The votes are in. The public has spoken.

Overall Top 20 – Type, Variety Name, Total Votes

Cherry Sungold 130
Cherry Matt’s Wild 113
Cherry Lucia 87
Cherry Black Cherry 79
Cherry Jasper 67
Cherry Esterina 52
Cherry Supersweet 100 49
Cocktail Tomatoes Indigo Rose 49
Cherry Sunpeach 37
Heirloom Type Watermelon Beefsteak 37
Cherry Coyote 34
Heirloom Type Juane Flamme 32
Heirloom Type Striped German 31
Red Slicer Hybrids Mountain Merit 29
Cherry Golden Sweet 28
Heirloom Type Pink Beauty 28
Heirloom Type White Tomesol 28
Heirloom Type Paul Robeson 27
Heirloom Type Anna Russian 26
Cherry Sakura 24
Heirloom Type Hog Heart 23

Thanks very much to our many tomato chopping volunteers, especially Alicia and the Malek family, and very especially Matt and Linda Soffen – who help organize the tasting. Thanks Micky McKinley, Stephanie Clay, Dot Moore, Marilee Booth, Les Gagne, and our other very helpful volunteers!

Top Tomatoes in Each Category


Sungolds in the sun.

Sungold won best of Cherry Tomatoes – shocking, I know.
Indigo Rose won in the Cocktail Tomato category.
Watermelon Beefsteak took top honors for Heirloom style tomato. What a name – wouldn’t have thought watermelon steak would be so tasty.
Mountain Merit proved most meritorious in the Red Slicing category.
And a three-way tie for the Paste Title, between Gilberte, Granadero, and San Marzano. Albeit with only four votes each. Something tells me they taste better as sauce.

There were some previously reigning champions missing from the tasting table this year, either due to lack of ripeness from the cool weather or other factors involved in harvesting thousands of tomatoes. For example, Federle won the overall tasting one year, despite being a paste tomato. Come taste them next year! And you may well taste them this year if you order paste tomatoes in bulk as they are now ripening like crazy.

If you would like to see the full results from the tasting, click to see the PDF of Tomato Tasting 2013 – All Results.

Tomato Trot 5K Race Results


John McCarthy takes first place for men in Tomato Trot 2013.

Congratulations to John McCarthy for first place in the men’s category and Samantha Presnal for first place in the women’s category! A cross-country style trail race through farm fields. Did you run the race and want to see your time? Click here to see the race results.

Trot race photos on Red Fire’s Facebook.

Lots of race photos by Northeast Race Photo.

Congratulations to all runners for a great race!


Thanks to all for a great festival! It will happen again next year, round the same time, when the tomatoes start to weigh heavy and ripe on the vines.

Stay tuned for more recipes, stories, coupons and events from the farm with our e-news – you can sign up here.

stand stock

Steve keeps the farmstand stocked with many cherry tomatoes during the festival.

~ Sarah Voiland

Melon Harvest Time at the Farm

It’s melon season on the farm! Check out the photos below to see how we harvest them.

We grow a whole bunch of types of melons. Muskmelons (like cantaloupes) of different sizes, Honeydew, French style melons, Watermelons of many varieties, like Peace the awesome yellow-fleshed watermelon, and Little Baby Flower, the sweetest little melon ever. These melon varieties are superior in flavor to the large commercial types of melons – give them a taste and you will know.

You can now find the melons at our farmstands and markets!

piling melons

First, we pick and collect the ripe melons into “nests” organized up and down the field.

piling closer up

Here’s a closer up photo. Elly, the Granby Harvest and Packing Manager, piles muskmelons in the field.

tossing melons

Then the truck pulls up and the crew tosses melons up to the truck, where Elly catches them and puts them into pallet bins. Precision throwing. Gentle catching.

bin filling


melon tasting

Taste-test subjects.


Muskmelons are easy to tell ripeness, as they blush golden.

searching for watermelon

Watermelons are trickier. You have to search for the brown tendril across from the stem, check the yellow spot under the melon, tap it for a ripe round sound… Ryan searches for ripe watermelons.



wally taste

Wally approves the first watermelon harvest!

Sarah holding watermelons

The best part is taking some home to eat! Sarah carries out some of the harvest. Plus a camera full of these pictures!

Keeping Your Produce Fresh – Storage Tips for Summer

early season share

An early season CSA share. Photo by Micah Schneider.

When you come home from the market or CSA you may have a big load of the season’s bounty on your hands. With such a variety of crops, it’s typically not best to open up the bottom drawer of the fridge and let everything get cozy together. In this article, we aim to give some tips for quickly organizing longer, more vibrant lives for your produce. Just a little more time/thought upfront, and you can get days more life.

If conditions are sound, vegetables will surprise you with their last-ability. For example, carrots will store for 3-5 months or more in the right cold, humid climate.

General Tips

  • Perishability – Use the most perishable things first, and the hardier stuff later.
  • Dream On. Look at your goods and dream up ways to use them when you get them. Something strange? Look it up on the internet for recipes and use that one early on, to prevent it sitting for a long while…
  • Smoothies Rule. Try vegetables in smoothies or juices – very easy to make and drink!
  • Stock it Up! – Make soup stock with your vegetable trimmings and anything you don’t think you’ll get to using. Cover trimmings with water and simmer covered for hours, then strain and store in fridge or freezer. Look up nice herbs to add. I like bay leaf and thyme.

Refrigeration is Your Friend

Here at the farm we have 3 large geothermal coolers and a root cellar to store our produce post-harvest. Cooling dramatically slows respiration and break-down processes in produce. Most of your produce would love to be refrigerated.

We make sure to lay thick sheets of plastic over all of the cooler-kept vegetables like salad greens and roots to keep them from drying out from the cool winds. Your refrigerator has cool winds too. Good for getting things cool, but protect your veggies from the wilting and drying effects.

bagged greens with Sarah

Bag up lettuce, greens, pretty much all refrigerated produce when putting away to preserve moisture. There’s Sarah with lots of bags of greens for delivery!

When packing away your vegetables remember these tips:

  • Bag it Up. Never store produce directly in the refrigerator. Keep items like greens, cucumbers, beets, broccoli, all roots, peppers, even corn*, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.
    *Keep corn wrapped in its protective husk.
  • Bunched items. Cut the edible greens from crops like beets, radishes, carrots, and kohlrabi, before storing. The greens will drain moisture from the roots if left attached.
  • Remove rubber bands, twisty ties, and other fasteners from vegetables for better circulation.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables separate. Apples, apricots, avocados, ripening bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, citrus fruit (not grapefruit), cranberries, figs, guavas, grapes, green onions, honeydew, ripe kiwi fruit, mangoes, melons, mushrooms, nectarines, okra, papayas, passion fruit, peaches, pears, peppers, persimmons, pineapple, plantains, plums, prunes, quinces, tomatoes and watermelon all release ethylene gas which will cause your remaining produce to spoil and change in flavor in proximity, especially sensitive greens. Try one of those ethylene “eggs” and report back to us.
  • Try not to wash or chop vegetables before storing. The extra water will create conditions that are too damp and not ideal for crisp, tasty vegetables. If washing before storing, make sure to dry produce as well as possible and store in the company of a dry paper towel.

    carrots and beets

    Cut the roots from the greens when you put away bunched crops to preserve the moisture in the roots. You can put them all in the same bag.

  • On the other hand, Prep for Easy Use. Wash your lettuce leaves for salad and spin them nice and dry when you receive them, it will make it easy and quick later, and you’re more likely to make the salads! Same for other things you want to use soon washed.
  • Wilted from rough travels? If your greens or other items had a rough ride home in a warm car, say, or a 90 degree day at the CSA, you can perk them up with a soak in a bowl of cold water before drying and putting them away.
The gardening department at Cornell University has assembled a useful reserve of storage guidelines.  Check out this link to learn ideal temperatures and how long each crop can stay fresh in storage. 

Don’t Refrigerate These!

tomatoes in wooden boxes

Keep tomatoes at room temperature for best flavor and texture.

Some crops, such as basil and tomatoes, need to be kept out of the refrigerator to maintain optimum freshness. Basil leaves will quickly turn shriveled and brown if stored bare in the refrigerator. The best way to store a bunch of basil is on the countertop in a container of water like flowers. You can also cover the basil “bouquet” loosely with a plastic bag to contain moisture. Tomatoes lose flavor and texture when chilled, so only refrigerate if you want to stop them from imminent death.

Sweet potatoes also are a tropical tuber and they get chilling injury if stored below 50 degrees, so keep them in a paper bag or basket.

Winter Squash – also gets chilling injury if stored below 50 degrees. Around 55 degrees is ideal. Though a kitchen will do just fine as long as you use it in a few weeks.

Okay for Room Temperature Storage

Tomatoes, Basil (in vase), Melons, dry Onions without green tops, Winter Squash, Potatoes (though keep them in the DARK, and for long storage refrigerate), Garlic, Shallots, Sweet Potatoes.

Freezing Makes for a Delicious Winter

Vegetable season in New England is short. But freezing some of your CSA bounty will let you taste summer when sunlight is fleeting and vegetables are from far away. Many items like tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, peppers, greens, zucchini, and the like, can all be stored in the freezer. Everything can be frozen direct, but some things will have longer, better freezer life if blanched.

For example, extra kale can be frozen and easily added to soups in the winter, try blanching the kale (or spinach or chard or basil etc.). Remove the bottom of the stems, wash the greens, and then follow the blanching steps below.

Blanching is a method to deactivate enzymes that reduce the storage life of frozen produce. Steam or boil produce in water for 2-3 minutes (time varies by produce, do a web search for how long to blanch your item). Then quickly plunge produce into cold water (ice in water is good) to prevent over-cooking (let soak for same amount of time you blanched to cool), and then drain and pat dry, bag in freezer bags, and label.
Save your blanching water for soups! I blanched snow peas and the water tasted like peas. Yum.

To blanch or not?
From what I can tell, blanching preserves the vitamins and nutrients in frozen vegetables, and color and texture. Blanching also kills some bacteria. Without blanching you will lose some nutritional value, not sure how much. Blanching also causes some nutritional loss itself (thus use your water as stock for soups!). You can freeze everything without blanching. Some fruits and vegetables have high enough acid that they don’t need to be blanched for nutritional preservation. Blanching takes time, so if you have no time, then just freeze direct and use earlier.

Blanching times and methods at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Cook more corn-on-the-cob than you can eat one night? It’s blanched already :) Cut the corn off the cob and freeze it!

freezing blueberries

Blueberries filling a tray for freezing.

Some things you can freeze straight up

  • Tomatoes can be frozen as is, whole. Their skin will peel off when thawed. Core or chop if desired.
  • Peppers can be cut into large pieces and frozen directly.
  • Onions can be frozen directly.
  • Freezing herbs in water in ice-cube trays, chopped leaves or pureed, makes cubes that are perfect for adding to soups. You can also freeze them loose in a bag and take ‘em out to chop up later.
  • Berries are great to freeze because they make deliciously thick smoothies! Pare them first to remove inedible pieces like stems and pits. Freeze on trays, then transfer to bags, or freeze in serving-size bags.
freezing strawberries

Bagging up frozen berries for storage.

Most importantly, make sure you freeze your produce as soon as possible while it is lively.

Other sources:

Quality Control in Frozen Vegetables – overall article about commercial scale freezing considerations.

Other Ways to Preserve

Jamming – check out our blog post
Drying Herbs – blog post with herb ID photos
How to Store Winter Vegetables – tips for long-keeping and root cellaring
Preserving Recipes on our website, like Bread and Butter Pickles, Pesto, and more.

We don’t have a post on it, but you can dehydrate things too! Some of our crew are having success using hot cars in the sun to dry crops for storage.
And lactofermentation is another great way to preserve things for longer, stay tuned for a post on that later in the fall.

If you have more tips from your experience, please share them here!

~Thanks for reading!

PDF of this post to print, includes edits and comments through 8-4-2013.

The Flower Crew & How to Care for Your Bouquets

Whether you are getting our Flower Share or enjoying bouquets from the farmers’ market or stand, we wanted to share some tips about care for flowers. And tell you a little bit about the crew that grows and arranges flowers at the farm….

Our 2014 flower crew: Kiersten, Andrew, and Emily.

Our 2014 flower crew: Kiersten, Andrew, and Emily.

This season we’re happy to have returning Flower Growers, Andrew Lacasse, who has been with us since 2011, and Kiersten Wulf, our flower intern from last year. We’ve welcomed Emily Davis as our new intern and she’s awesome!

Our Flower team gets up the earliest of all the crew, to pick the blooms when the day is coolest, starting at 5:30 am. They harvest in the morning for freshness. Then they arrange bouquets later in the geothermally cooled root cellar.

The flowers at Red Fire are grown organically, so feel free to stick your nose down into them to get the best of the scents. Not all the flowers we grow are fragrant, but many are, and we also often include fragrant herbs in bouquets to help take care of your nose as well as your eyes.

Andrew and Kiersten are a passionate team, knowledgeable about all things flowering. They often bring bouquets into the farm office and make arrangements for ours special events. They’re creative and exceptional at highlighting the beauty that blooms with the passing phases of the season.

 Tips for Keeping Your Flowers Fresh:

Flower stems are like pipes bringing water up to the bloom. You want to keep the pipes clean of any bacteria that may grow in the vase in order to have longer lasting flowers. Here are a few methods:

  • Keep your vase as clean as your dinner dishes, changing the water often.
  • Re-cut stems about 2 inches above the tip when you get home.
  • Any foliage that ends up below the water line of the vase will quickly gum up the water, so strip off any leaves that might get wet.
  • Keep your flowers in a relatively cool spot, ideally out of the sun.
  • Remove individual elements of the bouquet as they wilt. Some flowers have longer vase lives than others and removing the delicate ones will help keep the water clean and the bouquet looking fresh.

Home-Made Flower Food

asiatic lilies

Asiatic Lilies are the natural fireworks of July!

Try a recipe of these flower preservatives to fill your vase.

Cut Flower Preservative Recipe #1
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach or 1 crushed aspirin tablet
1 quart warm water

Cut Flower Preservative Recipe #2
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach or 1 crushed aspirin tablet
1 quart warm water

Did you know we also do flowers for special events like weddings?

wedding bouquet of flowers

Sarah Voiland’s bridal bouquet.

You can order arrangements of various sizes, as well as DIY buckets of flowers. Organic, local and very beautiful. Contact us at flowers@redfirefarm.com to set up a time talk to us about your design ideas and what’s in season for your event.

Some event options:

  • Pick Your Own flowers with your bridal party
  • DIY buckets of flowers by color or variety to arrange your own bouquets
  • Arrangements to-order designed by our Flower Grower
  • Have your favorite florist order organic flowers from us to have local flowers for your event


Check out our Flowers page for some photos and seasonal lists of local flowers.

Enjoy a gorgeous season!