What’s new this year at Halcyon Acres?

We’re offering some new crops this year (2021), available to both our regularly scheduled delivery clients and as bulk orders for crops that have a short season. As is the case with much of what we offer, these are hard-to-find items in the Roanoke, Virginia area.

Elderberries

We introduced this crop last year in small quantities, but have switched our approach to bulk sales only for this year. We planted trees a few years ago and they’re now producing an impressive amount of fruit. Whether you are thinking of making jam, syrup, tea, wine, or something else with these tasty, tiny fruits, we guarantee what you get from us is chemical free. They pack a powerful punch with health benefits too – especially when they’re not sprayed with man-made toxins.

If you’re going to be needing a pound or more, please get your order in early. We expect this to be a popular crop that will be distributed on a first-deposit, first-come basis. We ask for a $10 deposit to hold your spot that is credited toward your purchase upon delivery.

Your order will be fresh-picked day of delivery and delivered in stem clusters. If you’d prefer berries only, we flash freeze them to remove the stems and charge a bit more for the extra work.

Tomatoes

It probably sounds silly that tomatoes are new this year, but this isn’t a crop we’ve traditionally offered in the past. Part battle with the deer, part everyone else has them, it didn’t seem wise to allocate limited space to plants being razed that didn’t cause client excitement anyway.

This year is different. Now with success on the deer discouragement front (after trying dozens of methods, would you believe the winner is Irish Spring?) and the opportunity offer some unusual varieties that come early, plans have changed. This year will include yellow pear, purple Cherokee, black cherry, and rio grande. We’ll be offering a little bit of standard fare too, for those not keen on experimenting.

Pickling Cucumbers

From reading, consulting with homesteaders and asking around, I’ve discovered pickling cucumbers are tastier fresh eating than the normal fare. They’re crunchier, less seedy, and have a sweeter taste. The experiment starts with Pioneer. I’ll be testing more varieties in the future.

Figs

These have a very short season rather late in the year. Last year it was mid to late October before they were ready. Our fig fruits are small, but tasty sweet. It’s not a crop where harvesting can be predicted on a calendar. You just have to see when they’re ready.

The best way we’ve found to harvest figs is to pick them a few days before they’re ripe. Contrary to what many seem to claim on Google about the fruit, our figs ripen nicely on a countertop. While we’re happy to provide figs fully tree ripened (ants can be an issue), we recommend getting the figs before they’re fully ripened on the tree. If you want figs in the fall, contact us by August or September. We get about 100 in a two-week span and then they’re gone.

Bok Choy & Chinese Cabbage

Chinese cabbage is a crop I had great success with in the Northeast. This was something I could plant in the spring and harvest throughout the growing season. I’ve learned, the hard way per usual, fall planting is the key to a successful strategy. Don’t limit your thinking with this delightful leafy vegetable to just stir fries. It’s wonderful as a salad main ingredient that’s sweeter than lettuce with a much longer shelf life. I tend to use it in combination with lettuce and herbs for a super mix of taste and texture that will excite your palate.

This spring was my first attempt at bok choy. I had beautiful young plants (should have harvested them then) that went to seed when we had a couple of warm days. I’ll be planting a lot of it for fall harvest as it’s delicious, requires not much space, and, based on what I saw this spring, really enjoys the soil available here.

Leeks

After a couple of years of failing with leeks, I think I’ve finally figured out how to help them thrive. Curiously, out of all the items in the garden, a critter decided to decapitate the largest ones, and only those in an isolated bed close to a building, last week. The good news is, they’re scattered throughout the garden rows this year, so many happy, healthy ones remain. The main reason for deciding to offer this crop is I’m aghast at what they charge in the supermarket around here for product that’s likely coming from Mexico. We deserve fresh, chemical-free leeks for that price, don’t we?

Parsnips

Admittedly, this is a test that may or may not be successful. So far, I’m not seeing a lot of sprouts coming up from seeds. But found a soup recipe I wanted to try this winter that required parsnips as a main ingredient. They were hard to find and costly where available. Frankly, it’s the first time I had every tried this vegetable. I liked it a lot. The soup was fantastic. I’ll share the recipe in a later blog post. Time will tell if this crop wants to grow here.

Celery

If you’ve never had fresh celery, you don’t know how it’s supposed to taste. The flavor and smell is nothing like what’s available in the supermarket. Know, though, you won’t get anywhere near the shelf life of those packaged stalks in the store. That’s why I often provider outer stalks with clients who have ordered regular deliveries, instead of the entire plant. It keeps growing more stalks if you leave it in the ground. The smell and taste fresh celery provides is so delightful and pungent you only a little bit to add tremendous taste and texture to any dish.

Kale & Swiss Chard

These aren’t crops I’ve generally offered to clients as they’re a bit hard to grow here and I don’t like them very much. But, I’ve had a lot of requests to include these leafy treats in client deliveries. So, I’ve decided to give it a go this year with some soil amendments designed to make these plants happier. Time will tell.

More Carrot Varieties

Carrots are one of my favorite fresh-dug enhancement items to add incredible flavor to just about anything from salads to stews. This year we’re adding a bunch of new types to see if they grow, taste, or appeal to clients better. That means more will be available to clients during the various stages of harvest.

We start with baby carrots to thin out the rows. These are tender, sweet, and a whole lot of fun, but don’t go very far. Our main harvest of mature carrots begins in August. Since carrots are a root vegetable, this is a crop we can harvest all winter long and into the spring, provided we have an early snow or adequate ground cover to protect the top of the roots from freezing.

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