Monday, November 21, 2011

October 2011 Crop Mob (Stick and Stone Farm)

A genuine man goes to the roots. To be a radical is no more than that: to go to the roots.  - Jose Marti

Autumn is root vegetable harvest time! As Katie says, "All summer long beet and carrot plants have been channeling nutrients down their leaves, sending tiny roots into the soil, and collecting energy in their orange and red sweet and crisp roots." First frost is when many summer vegetables leave us- tomatoes, eggplants, peppers- but others get tastier. When starchy roots like parsnips, carrots and celery root (celeriac) get cold, they begin converting those starches to sugars. Cabbage family plants (kale, collards, Brussels sprouts) protect themselves from freezing by increasing the amount of sugars in their cells- the extra sugars act as a sort of anti-freeze. Roots can be left in the ground over a few frosts, but must be pulled before winter freezes the ground solid. And as crop mobbers know, root harvest is best done with 30-some volunteers, on a warm, sunny day like this:

Last year's final crop mob at Stick and Stone yielded several thousand pounds of carrots- this year we tackled beets and kohlrabi (a cabbage family vegetable grown for its sweet, juicy swollen stem). Harvesting beets requires popping the roots out of the ground and topping them - cutting off their leaves except for 1/4-1", depending on who you ask! Since these beets would be stored in a root cellar for many months, greens left on would rot and encourage decay, and also cause the beet root to wilt. Aiming for a little green left on ensures that the crown of the vegetable does not get nicked, which can introduce rot. At harvest time, kohlrabi's succulent stems are cut from the root and their foliage cut at the stem, leaving a tasty, if alienlike, vegetable that can be cooked or eaten raw.

Pulling and topping beets and putting in buckets...
Our harvest in one of the 2,000 lb capacity vats used for storage on the farm.

After harvest, we shared a roasted cauliflower soup, homemade granola bars and more for lunch and Chaw and Lucy graciously offered volunteers butternut squash and as many beets and kohlrabi as we could use. Such are the perks of harvest season crop mobs! 

This is probably our last event of the year, so keep warm and eat your roots, and we'll see you in the spring!

Ithaca Crop Mob plans to have a fall planning session for crop mobbers to come together and share what they'd like to see in the Crop Mob next season. To get on our list and receive more information, send an email to