Spring is here. Seedlings are started or are going to be bought soon. Frost free date is only a handful of weeks away. If you are planting in containers, the question arises … What soil mix do I use?

At Nobska Farms, we have developed an organic mix that gives good and consistent results. We’re passing the recipe along for your use and as a basis for further experimentation.

The recipe is in two parts: the bulk soil recipe and the nutrient charge. A five gallon bucket makes for a convenient measuring container for the soil mix.

Soil mix:

  • 7 1/2 gal loam or top soil
  • 2 1/2 gal peat
  • 2 1/2 compost
  • 2 1/2 perlite
  • 1 qt nutrient charge (see below)
  • … mix together thoroughly with enough water to moisten

Nutrient charge:

  • 7 1/2 cps bone meal
  • 7 1/2 cps dolomitic limestone
  • 5 cps kelp meal
  • 5 cps blood meal
  • … mix together thoroughly and keep dry

For a single chili plant, choose a container that is 3-5 gal. We plant up to three chili plants in a 10 gal container. Dig a hole for the chili plant and put in about a teaspoon of plant starter fertilizer. (We use organic Whitney Farms Smart Start, but there are many others.) Scratch in about a tablespoon of bone meal on the surface after the chili plant is planted. Be sure to leave enough space in the container for mulch, up to about 5 inches. We principally use straw or seaweed for mulch. Many other types of mulch are fine. The key is to prevent the hot sun from striking the surface of soil in the container. Water only when the soil a few inches deep is dry. The mulch will significantly reduce your water needs and virtually eliminate weeds.

More about watering? Watch the leaves. When they wilt, it’s time to water. If the leaves look Ok in the morning and are wilted in the hot sun later in the afternoon, delay watering. Chili plants conserve water on a hot afternoon and pull water out of their leaves. If the leaves are full again in the morning, don’t water, yet. If they are wilted in the morning, water heavily. The leaves are your water indicator. By being stingy with the water, you will encourage the plant to send roots deep and give it strength against dry conditions. Furthermore, if you like hot chili peppers, being stingy with water stresses the plants, and stressed plants produce pods with higher concentrations of capsaicin, and higher concentrations of capsaicin makes … well, hotter chili peppers. That’s a good thing, right?

In addition to chili peppers, this container soil recipe would be excellent for tomatoes and eggplant. Might also give it a try for container growing of other vegetables including squash, cucumber, and strawberries. With a trellis, or at least a set of string upon which to climb, you can also grow peas and beans in containers.

Happy growing for 2014!

Cheers,
  Rooster

And so we begin a new collaboration. This with foodie and photographer, Katie Salerno, at her blog Oh Shine On. Katie is passionate about life in general and about food in particular. We like her enthusiasm and her style. It’s going be fun.

Recently we gave Katie a bunch of chili peppers to start her experimentation. It didn’t take long. Katie’s first post about Nobska Farms came when she helped us set up our event at Marty’s Fine Wines in Newton, MA. Soon thereafter, Katie created her first recipe using chili peppers, a Spicy Broccoli and Coconut Milk soup. From the recipe description: “It torched my taste buds and made its way to my nose and throat. In a really cool super rad good way, I promise.” Like we said, we love her style.

Stay tuned. Over the coming months, you will see more of Katie’s recipes as we provide chili peppers to her and she shares the results of her culinary developments.

By the way, you should also check out Katie’s extraordinary photography. It ranges from “a day in africa” to “apple orchard” and more.

Cheers,
  Rooster

Over the past couple of months we’ve been working with two talented designers to update our branding image and develop new product labels. The results are beautiful and have received lots of positive feedback from customer.

The Rooster art was created by Ariel Simon. With lots of creativity, she gave the rooster a mischievous smirk while allowing his heart of gold to show through. Try that with a bird that hasn’t any lips!

Next, Sam DeWys took the graphic and integrated it into our new logo, which is the centerpiece of our labels. It is simple. And, it captures the essence of Nobska Farms. We’re a farm with ties to the past and hope for the future. Visit our products page to see the new labels in action.

Special thanks are due to the designers for their extraordinary work. Every company should have it so good.

Cheers,
  Rooster

Nobska Farms on FCTV

In the fall of this year, we were interviewed for a video segment on Falmouth Community TV by Basia Groszczynska. The resulting segment was broadcast on FCTV starting December 23.

During the interview, we described our chili pepper growing operations; we also described our plans for an aquaponic system to experiment with one aspect of high intensity urban agriculture. Research and development of these systems is an example of our dedication to Farming for the Future℠. As a community, we must work together over the coming decades to figure out how to expand global food production, and aquaponics is one part of the solution.

In comparison to the stark winter landscape we now see in December, the lush, green foliage of the chili plants in the video looks like it was filmed on a different planet. Reassuring to know that winter will pass in its time and that these incredible green displays will once again return to the farm.

Winter’s comin’! Temps in the low 30s. Gotta act. Gotta act now!

We have more chili plants than can fit into our greenhouse. We also have plans for an aquaponic system in our greenhouse, which further limits the available space. So, what to do? Move some of the plants to another greenhouse and retire the rest. We are doing a little bit of both.

For the plants we’re keeping, we’ve mobilized to a large greenhouse in the area owned by Miskovsky Landscaping. For several months, we’ve been collaborating with Miskovsky in various ways. Using their greenhouse will continue our work together. If all goes well, we will have fresh chili production throughout the winter.

To get the plants to Miskovsky, we loaded them into a box truck and off they went for their winter protection. The operation was an exercise in mobile farming. Unloading into the greenhouse was an exercise in reverse. Things are looking good.

Every year we grow new varieties of chili plants to explore flavors, hardiness, heat, and colors. Some are a good match to our product offering, some are interesting, but don’t match our business needs. These retired plants are offered for pickup at the farm at $10 per plant. They are potted in 3 gal. buckets and ready for over-wintering. The plants range from super-mild to super-hot as shown in the table below. Let us know if you want any of these plants. Come and take your pick!

Mild Medium Hot Super-Hot
Chimayo Jalapeño Aji Criolla Sella 7 Pot (red)
Relleno Ecuador Sweet Aji Benito Charleston Hot Moruga Scorpion (yellow)
Tequila Sunrise Aji Bishops Crown Aji Inca Red Drop Naga Viper
Uba Tuba Aji Atomic Star Aji Cito Scotch Bonnet (yellow)
Takanotsume Scotch Bonnet (red)

Should you want to try your hand at over-wintering, there are two general approaches. The first is to let the plants go dormant. With this method, the plant is pruned back to a stump with no leaves and put in a cool place (50°F is good). Since the plant is not growing, no sun is needed. You are simply keeping the root stock alive for a quick start in the spring. We’ve found the biggest problem with this method is soil moisture. Too much moisture, and the roots rot in the cool conditions. Too little moisture, and the roots dry out and die. It’s like Goldilocks; the soil moisture has to be just right.

The second method of over-wintering is to keep the plants actively growing. You need a warm place with good sunlight for the plants. Regular watering and fertilizing will keep the plants going strong. The problem we have found with this method is aphids. Inside there are no natural predators for aphids. Keep an eye out and remove any aphids immediately. Immediately! These little critters propagate at a prodigious rate. Organic control methods include mechanical removal (soft artist’s watercolor brush works great), insecticidal soap solutions, and natural fungus to attack the aphid (Beauveria bassiana, available in commercial preparations).

The turn of the season is upon us. Transition into winter mode is in progress. Never an idle moment on the farm.

Cheers,
Rooster

Fall on the Farm

Fall is the time for harvest on the farm; it’s also the time to prepare for winter. To celebrate the fall harvest and the glorious bounty of the chili peppers, we have had many farm tours. During the tours we show folks the operation and, at the end, let them sample our products, which are for sale. We’ve had lots of happy customers for sauce, chocolate, jelly, and fresh chilies. Based on previous years, chili production should continue throughout October and likely into November. We’ll have tours as long as the weather cooperates.

We have plans for expanding our product line. The next products are Nobska Farms™ chipotle dry rub, along the lines of what we described previously; Nobska Farms™ Double Hot Fudge (spicy hot fudge – great on ice cream!); and a variety of chili powder blends that feature the diversity of flavor and varying heat levels of the chilies that we grow.


This year, we are preparing our greenhouse to overwinter chili plants in a conventional sense, and we’re also setting up an aquaponic system. Both approaches will provide for fresh chili production throughout the winter. We’ve had a gas and electric line run to the greenhouse. The end wall studs are complete. We still need to install the insulated, polycarbonate panels and mechanical equipment. This will be done over the next few weeks before Old Man Winter moves in for his annual visit. The greenhouse will be the center of our research program on expanding agricultural production in an urban environment while minimizing energy and water use.

As preparation for winter production, we are selecting certain chili plants to keep while others will be retired. The retirees will be available for $10 should you be interested in trying your hand at overwintering. Well have a variety of chili plants available including Naga Viper, Inca Red Drop, Criolla Sella, Aji Benito, Bishops Crown and others. If you are interested, get in touch.

Recipes are coming in from our customers. With their permission, we’re posting the recipes on the blog to share with the community. If you have found a good recipe using Nobska Farms products or other chili related ingredients, drop us a line. We’ll review and post for others to use and enjoy.

It’s been a wonderful growing season. If our plans work, production will continue over the winter. Time will tell!

Cheers …


Previously, we have talked about dry rub for chicken. Here we offer a dry rub developed by one of our customers for beef brisket. The rub uses Nobska Farms™ Ghost Peppers.
It creates a spicy, delicious crust on the brisket with good flavor permeating into the meat. Let’s go!

Ghost Pepper Dry Rub for Brisket

Ingredients

  • 1/8 cp black pepper
  • 1/2 cp salt
  • 1/4 cp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cp crystallized ginger
  • 1 TBL chili powder
  • 2 TBL ground mustard
  • 1 TBL garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper) powder
  • 1 tsp Trinidad Scorpion powder

Instructions

  • Blend all ingredients into a fine powder
  • Put rub in shaker and use for dusting brisket
  • Diagonally score brisket on both sides
  • Dust meat and let sit for one hour in refrigreator
  • Smoke meat in Weber or other smoker with indirect heat
  • While cooking, re-apply rub occasionally
  • For tenderest brisket, heat should be low and slow, about 225°
  • Cook until internal temperature is about 185° – cooking time 1 1/2 to 2 hours per pound

See one of the many links on the web for smoking brisket. Use the Ghost Pepper Dry Rub described here to add some zing to your next brisket.

Thanks to Peter Cook for sharing this rub that he developed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 408 other followers

%d bloggers like this: