A Briefer Guide to U-Pick Beans

What can you say about string beans?  …yup, I thought so.  (Now I’ll hear from various “beannies” on the Web, accusing me of having a “tomato-centric” worldview.  But I digress.)

As a companion to talking about U-Pick Cherry Tomatoes, I thought I’d give a brief guide to the U-Pick string beans.  I’m basing this on my observations, plus photos and write-ups from Johnny Selected Seed’s web site.  If I’ve gotten these wrong, I expect Aaron, Liz, or Mark will set me straight.





Dragon’s Tongue

03175_01_dragonstoungeAn alternate name for this variety is “Dragon Langerie”.  Go figure.

  • Unique flashy heirloom.
  • 6-6- 1/2″ flat pods are pale yellow with purple streaks.
  • They are tender and sweet and good in salads or cooked.
  • Purple disappears upon cooking.


00016g_01_jadeWhat we think of as “green beans” are the Jade variety.

  • Long attractive pods.
  • Jade’s 6-7″, slender, deep green pods are exceptionally tender and delicious.
  • Large, upright plants keep beans clean and straight.

Royal Burgundy

02944g_01_royalburgThe “purple beans” are the Royal Burgandy variety.

  • The brilliant purple, 5″ pods are eye-catching at market
  • Easy to spot when harvesting
  • Add stunning color to salads when used raw.
  • The pods do turn green when cooked.

A tiny blue damselfly in the U-Pick beans.Just to remind you that you are not alone when U-Pick, I observed a damselfly competing for beans.  Rather pretty.


Source for bean photos and details:  Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Source for damselfly:  the author

Updated:  8/8/2017.  Liz set me straight about the varieties.

About thImage_20150822_01e author:  Dave Gillen didn’t want to eat hotdogs for the rest of his life, so he learned to cook.  His mother taught him to boil water, fry an egg, and make oatmeal cookies.  Dave forgot how to make the cookies, barely remembered how to fry eggs, but is spot on at boiling water.  Currently, he divides his days between being wife Lois’ in-house techno geek and personal chef…and walking his greyhounds.

Brief Guide to U-Pick Cherry Tomatoes

We’re experimenting with something new this year.  We’ve prepared some aids In hopes of helping you enjoy the U-Pick portion of your CSA (half) share.  These aids come in two forms:  a brief guide to the different cherry tomato varieties, and signage in the patches showing where each variety is located.   The guide appears below.  You can print it, or pull it up on your smartphone when you want.  This same information for each cherry tomato variety will appear on signs throughout the patch near the individual vines.







  • Exceptionally flavorful
  • High-yielding cross between a grape and cherry (tomato)
  • Oval fruits with very sweet, rich flavor

Source & Photo:  J







 AuntMollyGroundCherry 2
  • Ground Cherry Tomato
  • Sweet and zesty
  • Some compare the flavor to pineapple

Source:  F, Photo: F & G1




  • Dusky color and complex flavor typical of the best black tomatoes
  • Somewhat late for a cherry tomato, fruit ripens slowly and individually until frost, but worth the wait.
  • Examine each plant closely at picking time: the dark-hued cherries are easy to lose in the foliage.
  • Best flavor if left to ripen on the vine till nice and dark.
  • Sweet and robust.

Source:  F & J, Photo:  J



  • Massive yields on big clusters.
  • Flavor is very sweet, but well-balanced with a tangy kick. Smooth, even texture adds to their exceptional snacking quality.

Source:  F & J, Photo:  J





 FargoYellowPear 2
  • Pear-shaped cherry tomato.
  • Each plant produces about three dozen sweet tasty 1 oz fruits.
  • The meaty morsels are crack resistant.

Source:  F, Photo:  F & G2





  • Grape tomato
  • Excellent, sweet flavor
  • Firm, meaty texture with few seeds and little juice.

Source:  J, Photo:   J





  • Striking dark-blue pigment over red flesh

Source: J, Photo:  J





  • Purple, round cherry tomato with metallic green striping
  • Excellent sweet flavor

Source:  J, Photo:  J






  • A perfect combination of deep sweetness with a hint of acid tartness
  • Intense fruity flavor.
  • Exceptionally sweet.

Source:  F & J, Photo:  J





  • Delicious, pink cherry tomato
  • Sister variety to Sun Gold, but not as tangy and acidic
  • Very sweet with excellent flavor

Source:  J, Photo:  J





  • Yellow, round cherry tomato with red stripes and pink interior marbling
  • Excellent sweet and tangy flavor

Source:  J, Photo:  J


A little background on the information in this guide and on the signs.  The Common Name is how the variety is listed in the seed catalogs (and on web sites).  The Details are distilled from the description for each variety.  The Photos are downloaded from the seed company web sites.  We are using this information to help educate about the cherry tomatoes.  We are grateful to the following companies for the photos and source details (they’re footnoted after each variety using these letters):

F – Fedco Seeds:  www.fedcoseeds.com
G1 – Google search, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds:  www.rareseeds.com
G2 – Google search, Seattle Seed Company:  www.seattleseed.com
J – Johnny’s Selected Seeds:  www.johnnyseeds.com


About thImage_20150822_01e author:  Dave Gillen didn’t want to eat hotdogs for the rest of his life, so he learned to cook.  His mother taught him to boil water, fry an egg, and make oatmeal cookies.  Dave forgot how to make the cookies, barely remembered how to fry eggs, but is spot on at boiling water.  Currently, he divides his days between being wife Lois’ in-house techno geek and personal chef…and walking his greyhounds.

…And it begins.

Liz here. I just got done harvesting one of our first rounds of summer squash.  And it was exciting! Because summer squash is exciting! …For about a week.  Maybe two weeks.  And then, the squash plants are so prolific that it’s just overwhelming.  So while for now you are still (hopefully) excited about summer squash, sooner or later you might get overwhelmed by an inevitable question: What do I DO with all this squash in my share? I thought I’d provide some preemptive inspiration in the form of three recipes that I snatched from the internet.  Hopefully, this will help to get you thinking creatively about summer squash.  It’s all about perspective: instead of dreading round after round of sauteed squash, perhaps a new recipe will help bring new life to this CSA classic.


Garlic Parmesan Yellow Squash Chips

An incredibly flavorful, crispy, and absolutely delicious snack!

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 20 minutes

Total Time 35 minutes

Servings 6 Servings

Author Katerina | Diethood


  • 4 yellow squash (small to medium), sliced into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch rounds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper , to taste
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • cooking spray (I use Organic Olive Oil by Pam)
  • Serve with Non-Fat Plain Yogurt


  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine squash, olive oil, salt and pepper; mix until well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, and garlic powder.
  5. Dip slices of squash in cheese mixture and coat on both sides, pressing on the coating to stick.
  6. Place the squash in a single layer on the previously prepared baking sheet.
  7. Lightly spray each slice with cooking spray. This will help with achieving a crunchier texture.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven; gently flip over all the slices, lightly spray with cooking oil and bake for 8 more minutes, or until chips are golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven; transfer to a serving plate and serve with a dollop of Non-Fat Plain Yogurt.

Recipe Source: http://diethood.com/garlic-parmesan-yellow-squash-chips/


Summer Squash Succotash

Serves 4 as a side

1 fresh ear of corn, husked
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
12 small pattypan squash, sliced in half or quartered if large (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 baby zucchini, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 scallion, diced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the kernels off the corn and place in a bowl. Use the back of your knife to scrape the juices off of the corncob into the same bowl; set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let cook until soft, about 3 minutes, then add the red pepper and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the squash and zucchini, cut-side down (as best you can) and another pinch of salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes without moving them so they brown on one side. Stir in the chickpeas and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in the corn, corn juices, and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the cherry tomatoes, scallion, and paprika. Stir and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and basil. Season to taste as needed.

Recipe Source: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-summer-squash-succotash-233931


Curried Squash Soup

4 Servings


  • 2 large summer squash, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Sour cream, freshly cracked black pepper, cilantro sprigs (for serving)


Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add squash, onion, and curry powder; season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 8–10 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until very tender, 25–30 minutes. Purée until smooth. Serve soup warm or chilled, topped with sour cream, cracked pepper, and cilantro sprigs.

Recipe by Allie Lewis

Recipe Source: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/curried-squash-soup


The Zen of U-Pick

Consider the quiet solitude of threading through the vines, choosing succulent cherry tomatoes.  Moment to moment, we focus on the different colored fruits,  they almost mesmerize us as we fill our baskets.  There’s a Zen-like, meditative quality to it.  We’ve forgotten the stress of the day or our trip to the farm.  We don’t even realize there are several others doing the same thing among the vines.  It’s that rare time when we leave reality and lose ourselves.

Indigo Cherry Drops on the vine

Indigo Cherry Drops on the vine

This, of course, changes as the season progresses.  Near the end of the season, we wonder if we’ve become part of a B-grade movie, where the vines will slither up and devour us (like Audrey from “Little Shop of Horrors”).  Or maybe a collection of mosquitos will gang up and take one of us hostage (I’m imagining a high-pitched squeaky Jimmy Cagney imitation, “no spray or the kid gets it, see?!?”). Then again, maybe spending too much time among the vines triggers such thoughts.

Welcome to U-Pick.  That’s shorthand for “you pick”.  Meaning you (or me) pick the small, numerous cherry tomatoes or string beans.  There are so many and they’re so intertwined in their greenery that it’s more effective if you or I pick the veggie.

Whether you consider U-Pick as meditation or a visit to Hell on Earth, you really want to take the time each week to make the trek into the field.  You see, U-Pick is a very valuable portion of your CSA (half) share.

I’m at home with spreadsheets.  Since I’ve been a CSA member, I’ve kept a spreadsheet measuring each week’s half-share (for me), and then calculating its value.  I published my results in 2015.  I failed to publish for 2016 because I finished the tally late in the season.  Looking back, here’s something I learned in 2016:  I received about $429 of produce for my $300 half-share investment.  Of that $429, $66 was for all the U-Pick cherry tomatoes.  My U-Pick tomatoes were about 15% of my CSA half-share harvest.

(Note:  My numbers are based on buying equivalent produce at my local Meijer’s.  $66 is based on the cost of buying NatureSweet Cherubs.  Retail Price:  $3.99 for a 10oz container.  These were the closest I could find matching the size and variety of cherry tomatoes in the CSA U-Pick.  I also calculate price on a “per ounce” basis where possible.  As always, your mileage may vary.)

So as we’re about to enter the U-Pick part of CSA season, be sure to take the opportunity to fill your pint or quart baskets with tomatoes and beans.  It’s worth your time (besides, you paid for it).  And who knows?  Maybe you’ll discover aliens hiding in that mass of vines hoping you’ll take them to an old Steve Reeves movie.


About thImage_20150822_01e author:  Dave Gillen didn’t want to eat hotdogs for the rest of his life, so he learned to cook.  His mother taught him to boil water, fry an egg, and make oatmeal cookies.  Dave forgot how to make the cookies, barely remembered how to fry eggs, but is spot on at boiling water.  Currently, he divides his days between being wife Lois’ in-house techno geek and personal chef…and walking his greyhounds.

Farm Rhythms, with a tangent on keeping cool.

Hi, everybody!
I get to write the blog this week, and I thought I’d share some things I’ve been learning in my second season at the Blandford Farm.
Growing seasons have a rhythm to them, and as I continue to work as a grower, I become increasingly aware of those rhythms. Greens, alliums and brassicas are the first transplants to go in the field. Flea beetles are among the first of the pests to appear. (The holes in your Asian greens, arugula and radish greens were the work of flea beetles.) As we harvest greens, scallions and radishes, we are transplanting peppers, tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini. Soon, we will be harvesting their delicious fruit and transplanting fall crops, such as brussels sprouts and root vegetables which will be ready in their due time.
Then there are weekly rhythms. Mondays are for planning and general farm maintenance, Tuesdays and Thursdays are harvest/market preparation days, Wednesdays and Fridays are market days for Mark, and general farm maintenance days for myself and Aaron. So you’d probably never see us moving animals to a different pasture spot on a Tuesday, and we wouldn’t harvest greens on a Friday.
Last year was my first year at Blandford Farm, and I spent that year getting acquainted with all these seasonal and work patterns. This year, I am taking on more responsibility. I have been handed the baton on CSA communications, and I’m also responsible for our direct seeding schedule. (These are seeds that get planted directly in the ground, instead of started in trays and then transplanted. Some items that we seed directly into the soil are: carrots, beets, radishes, peas, beans and cut greens.)
It’s a different perspective. Instead of being told what to do and when to do it, I am in tune with what needs to happen enough that I can arrive to the farm in the mornings and just start doing what needs to be done. I can see a field full of weeds and know which section needs to be weeded first.
It’s a good feeling. Even though I have much more to learn, I feel like I’m growing as a fledgling farmer.
I’ve also been learning good tips to keep cool while working in the fields, as it has been draining-ly hot lately. My #1 hack for keeping cool on hot days is: don’t work on hot days. …At least not in the hottest part of the day. I’ve been coming in to work earlier than usual and leaving earlier than usual to try and escape as much of the heat as I can. It is much more pleasant to work at 7:00am these days than it is to work at 3:00pm.
Tip #2: Wear a bandana around your neck and keep it cold and wet. This can be achieved by periodically drenching it with a hose. It’s amazing how much cooler I feel when the back of my neck is cool.
Tip #3: Wear a hat with a wide brim. Create your own shade!
Tip #4: Stay hydrated. You’ll sweat more and thus stay cooler.
Tip #5: Wear sandals, not shoes. Your feet can feel the breeze, and you can occasionally put your feet under the hose. It’s very refreshing.
Tip #6: This one is mainly for those who sunburn easily. (And as a redhead, I can tell you that I sunburn easily!) It is easier to wear light, long layers than to apply sunscreen constantly throughout the day. I find that I get just as hot in shorts and tank-tops as I do in long pants and a *light* long sleeved shirt. So I opt for the longer option so I can protect myself from constantly getting sunburned. My farmer’s tan cuts off at the wrists!

Blog Photo

I’m the one in the straw hat, following *most* of my own advice for keeping cool!  The rubber boots were a bad idea. (At least as far as heat goes.)

And Now For Something Completely Different

The Blandford Farm CSA season begins this week.  Since all seasons have an “opener”, I thought I might borrow from sports to celebrate ours.

I suppose I should choose baseball metaphors since this is baseball season, but I’ve never been much for the sport.  It’s far too slow for me.  When I lived in Dallas, a friend invited me to a game of the Frisco Roughriders (the farm team for the Texas Rangers).  I was bored to tears, and the beer was awful, too.

I’m a hockey person.  Although the season doesn’t start until the Fall, I can always dream.  Let’s see if I can re-imagine some hockey terms with a CSA meaning.  Following is my attempt:

Blue line – The imaginary line you cross when you come to the farm, ready to pick up your CSA share, and realize you left all your bags in the car (or at home).

(Body) Checking – Physically bumping into another member while picking up your share.  Of course it was unintentional…

Goal – We got all our vegies for the week.  Made it home.  And our family EATS them.  You SCORE!

Goalie – The role your kids or significant other play when you get your vegies home.  “We’re not letting that stuff into our house or our mouths.”  Ptui

High sticking – Don’t carry that crate above your head because you’ll tip and trip and … we warned you.

Icing – You showed up before paying for your CSA share.  Naughty naughty

Penalty Box – What U-picks feel like in the heat of summer, the tangle of vines, and the bite of bugs.

Period – Divisions of the CSA season.  First period:  the vegie selection is light because things are still growing.  Second period:  The summer weeks when you have tomatoes and zucchini coming out of your ears.  Third period:  Ahhh, the root vegies have arrived.

Puck – What your potatoes become if you leave them in the basement too long.

Referee – The role Aaron plays when not out in the field or greenhouse.

Scrum (normally a Rugby term but Hockey players seem to practice it) – We’re all gathered around that one basket trying to guess what’s inside.  We can’t quite figure it out, not sure how many we get, and Aaron is away at the moment.

This cup is for the Blandford Farm team. (Yes, it's the real Stanley Cup.)

This cup is for the Blandford Farm team. (Yes, it’s the real Stanley Cup.)

Stanley Cup – This really should be awarded to Aaron, Liz, Mark, and their team.  Their work, sweat, and persistence gave us healthy vegies throughout the season.  I’ll bet Lord Stanley of Preston was a carnivore.

And finally, a tip of the hat to the late Frank Deford, NPR’s sports commentator.  He gave me the idea that sports can intersect other areas of our lives.  Dunno if he did a commentary on CSAs, though.



About the author:  Dave Gillen didn’t want to eat hotdogs for the rest of his life, so he learned to cook.  His mother taught him to boil water, fry an egg, and make oatmeal cookies.  Dave forgot how to make the cookies, barely remembered how to fry eggs, but is spot on at boiling water.  Currently, he divides his days between being wife Lois’ in-house techno geek and personal chef…and walking his greyhounds.

Farm Day 2017

Do you want to get some farm in your life? There is no better way to support local farms and jump start a summer of healthy eating than by purchasing a CSA share.

CSA shares:
…Give you a chance to see where and how your food is grown. Vegetables are picked up each week right where they are cultivated!
     …Offer the freshest food available. Veggies are harvested the same day you receive them.
     … Provide an opportunity to learn about vegetables that you might not have tried before. Expand your vegetable repertoire with the help of a handy recipe guide created by one of our long-time CSA members.

Whether you are a long-time CSA member or are still considering your first share, you can get some farm in your life by attending “Farm Day:”  a family friendly open house style event at the farm! Meet the goats, sheep, chickens and pigs, say “hi” to your local farmers, check out our plant sale, listen to a story and play some games. There will even be draft horses plowing the field in old-school style! This is a great option for a Memorial Day “stay-cation.”

Farm Day:

May 27, 2017


3143 Milo St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49534