August Farm School: Full as the Fruit on the Vine

Last Saturday, I helped harvest 300 pounds of produce. I picked eggplants and peppers. I dug up more potatoes (purple Viking, this time around) and lots of multi-colored carrots. My fellow farm school students picked squash, cucumbers and tomatillos. We filled the back of a pick-up truck with boxes of what we’d picked.

I thought harvesting would be boring, but to my surprise, there still a lot to learn. I saw that eggplants grow out of what ultimately becomes the thick-green cap at one end of the plant. I admired the plant’s sweet purple flowers and carefully avoided the thorns as I picked. I learned that when eggplants are overripe, their skin becomes dull-looking. We picked the largest, glossiest-skinned eggplants off each plant, learning to pull the eggplants up to snap the stems.

We mostly thinned the peppers, picking the largest 3-4 peppers off each plant. In June, these plants didn’t look like they were going to make it but they’re thriving and heavily laden with peppers. Some of the peppers had black streaks on their skins, a sign of cold weather.

After we’d gone through the eggplants and peppers, we tasted some of the different pepper varieties. Most tasted similarly, but even raw, the peperoncini’s still had a slight heat to them. A mole pepper stood out to me, too, with it’s almost herbal taste; it tasted less pepper-y than any of the other varieties.

The carrots were dug up like the potatoes: loosening the dirt around them and then gently working them out of the soil, ideally with the green tops still attached. We washed the carrots and bunched them.

It’s been a cooler summer in Sonoma so most of our tomatoes are still green, waiting for some serious heat to ripen. The plants look healthy — despite all of our trellising, the rows are scraggly —  but some of the tomatoes have end-rot, which the farmer says may be from calcium deficiency.

I used to feel anxious before each farm school day, worried that the day would bring something that I wouldn’t be able to do correctly. But I’ve begun to look forward to these days in the field. This month, I was anxious to get up there. Every time I’m in the field, there’s a moment that I realize how happy I am to be there. It feels good to be outside, in such a beautiful place. It feels good to see things grow.

We were done with our farm work before I was ready to leave the field on Saturday. So I lingered at the farm after most of my fellow farm school students drove off. I walked through the messy rows of tomato plants, inhaling that gorgeous tomato-leaf smell.

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