Ah Flava! What else is there to live for if it is not Flava!
Perhaps I should pause here. It just occurred to me that my use of “Flava” might be misconstrued, as maybe a misspelling of “Fava”, as in the bean, or even “Lava”, as in the molten variety, but that makes no sense at all. Anyway, before I get too far lost in this entry… “Flava” is a colloquial derivation of “flavor”. Egads but I have started this entry out on an awkward note…
Flavor! What else is there to live for if not…
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we have already been annoyed by that!
Okay, let me jump into this a little more quickly. So, here it is, the farming season of 2013. The year has been untypically cool to start, which has many crops weeks behind schedule. The farmer’s markets are weeks underway, and as some of the field crops are starting to come in, some early crops, in particular strawberries, have led to some comments… which has led to this entry, “Flava”, which should probably have been entitled, “Flavor”.
Only a few customers got to experience the asparagus that we grow at the farm. It is an uncommon variety, known as Connover’s Colossal asparagus. There are too many asparagus growing issues to properly describe here, but nonetheless, those that were able to “enjoy” the asparagus did so to an extreme level, at least that was what was referred to me. The statement recurred…”I have never had such great asparagus!”
Before the reader jumps to the conclusion that I am bragging about this, I will quell those thoughts. You see, there is little reason for me to brag about something that nature brings about with little assistance from me. I do admit that there is a LOT of labor involved in growing organically, and the choice of variety that is grown is also important, but all in all it is the vegetable’s interaction with nature that does the talking… with little help from me.
Once the farmer’s markets started, there was little to offer at my stand by ways of produce, other than early greens… and strawberries! I have already posted an entry about those strawberries. Amazing! But that is my opinion. And my opinion does not count. Even though… I will move on.
At our farmer’s market there are a handful of us vendors that offer strawberries. Personally, I feel no competition in the matter, not that I feel any competition at any time. The thing is, whether my produce is organically raised and another farm’s is not, if that is an issue, that is up to the customer to decide. My decision to be one hundred percent organic is one I have decided to live with for over a decade now. And I stand by my practices concretely for many, many reasons, but this has been a digression…
So the strawberries were for sale at the market by numerous vendors. Many customers were excited by those strawberries, and who wouldn’t be? However, some of those customers proved to be “shopping sleuths”, if you will. They went to each strawberry vendor and tasted the berries. I have the memory of one lady in particular who had traveled to each booth with strawberries doing a “taste test” particularly in mind. She returned to my booth to purchase quite a few strawberries, because mine were the best tasting by far at the market…
Hold the phone! (Wow, but how antiquated that statement has become… now that almost everyone has a personal cell phone… but I have digressed again…) Why were our strawberries so much better tasting than the other vendors’? Again, I reassert, I would not be writing this if the number of similar comments were not given to us by other customers. Our strawberries were apparently without equal in the arena of taste.
I will mention Lori here. Lori has just moved into the area from western New York state, where the climate is much different… usually. Anyway, she is helping me at the farm and is quite used to farmer’s markets in general. She witnessed the comments about the strawberries and we discussed why that could be at the market.
From my perspective, strawberries are quite different than, say, tomatoes. While there are thousands of tomato varieties, strawberries tend to have much fewer, and on top of that, those of us that grow strawberries in a certain region, tend to grow the same strain… purchased from the same nursery. I mention this because for the most part, we grow the same plants… only using differing farming techniques. So, why did our strawberries taste the best?
There were a few reasons that came to mind, such as, perhaps we harvested them when they were more ripe, thus sweeter to the taste. Perhaps we DO grow different varieties, but I find that one hard to believe. It is true that no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides are used on our strawberries, and I strongly doubt that the use of such chemicals adds anything to the taste of the fruit. Beyond that, the soil in which the strawberries grow on the farm has been nourished organically for well over a decade now, and that is where my thought lingers the longest.
As has been my experience, the tastiest fruit/vegetables result from the healthiest soil. This year in particular has up to this date related that to be true. When fruits and vegetables thrive in a soil, with the proper moisture, sun, temperature, etc., their flavor reflects the health of the plant. It is how nature works. If a plant is malnourished, or lacking certain aspects that make it thrive, the produce will lack traits, especially flavor. I realize that in our current age of chemicals and such, what I just wrote is considered absolute hearsay, but historically, that is, before the age of chemicals, that was typically considered the truth. Now, with such age old wisdom deemed veritably heretical, all one can seemingly arm oneself with… is the tastiest produce!
Lori and her family are big fans of sugar snap peas. While the season warmed up so gradually, the multitude of sugar snap peas growing in the fields have ripened very slowly. (They are in full swing now, by the way.) Since our farm stand had very few sugar snap peas to offer, she purchased some from another vendor at the market… and was considerably disappointed. Not only did the peas lack the flavor she had become accustomed to from the sugar snap peas from our farm, but the flavor of the peas purchased was actually disagreeable to her palate. How is it possible to grow sugar snap peas that do not taste good?
Beyond the customer assertion that our strawberries tasted the best, now, the sugar snap peas… actually taste delicious! I must admit that this is a first to me… but it fits into my theory on why growing organically is important quite nicely. But once again, we analyzed the situation to attempt to figure out why the flava, I mean flavor, would be so much more pleasing in our peas.
Perhaps the variety is the issue. This could be the case. To explain, seed companies do what they have done for a hundred years or so, and that is to figure out how to develop a plant that produces fruit that “looks” like what the consumer wants, only the flavor is deemed unimportant in deference to production. If the plant produces twice as much, who cares about the flavor?
That said, my suspicions lie in the healthy organic soil in which we grow our produce. To explain this a little, most farms use synthetic fertilizers to feed their crops. It is quick and easy, and seemingly instantaneous. Our organic approach would never imagine using anything synthetic on any crop grown whether as fertilizer or pesticide, etc. As a certified organic grower, stewardship of the earth is a main priority. The point is that we treat the soil in such a manner that it improves every year, even with the crops produced. The health of the soil is what is important, and every year, the produce grows healthier and more abundantly. (This is another aspect of organic farming that is considered hearsay by the chemical people.)
So as for the flava, that is, flavor of the crops, I wish I could state that I have some secret formula for farming success in regards to the flavor of the produce. I do not. There is no secret at all, so long as one looks beyond the confines of chemical farming. And I will pause here, because I have a legion of home gardeners who can relate the same advice at this point. For years I have provided the advice that helped them grow organic gardens and their experiences reflect my own, albeit on a much smaller scale. And each year, as their soil improves, so does their harvest.
In summation, it really strikes me as odd at the moment of what I have just written. I feel as though I have been defending nature and its practices against the chemical approach. Indeed I have. But such is the state of agriculture in our current day. Whereas our species has thrived on an organic diet for countless years and generations, over the past one hundred or so years, chemical companies have persuaded the vast majority of farmers to go against the age old tradition in lieu of a humanly manufactured one. And it has failed. Unfortunately, this is not all that obvious to most. To those of us daily in the organic soil of an organic farm, we can see it quite clearly. And while there are a myriad of reasons why organic farming is the necessary form of agriculture for our species, ultimately, it is all about the flava!