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2016-Dec17
  • Why Buy Sustainably Grown Fruit Especially?
  • How to Buy from PlayHaven Farm LLC
  • Available in 2016: (Discount pricing available on most items for Harvest Help - see individual description for how much.)
    • Aroniaberries (fruit) Available in late August, $10.00/lb (or $0.625/oz.). Sold by weight, not volume.
    • Blackberries (fruit) Available in July, $10.00/lb (or $0.625/oz.). Sold by weight, not volume.
    • Comfrey (herb) Cuttings and seeds are available throughout the summer. Price still to be determined.
    • Elderberries (flowers and/or fruit) Flowers available in June $1.00 per stem, Berries available in late August $6.00/lb.
    • Osage Orange (fruit) NOT EDIBLE, DECORATIVE ONLY! Available in October, $1.00 each.
    • Persimmons (fruit) Availability after September. $1.50/lb - you harvest. Sold by weight, not volume.
    • Rhubarb (vegetable)Available in late Spring, $5.00/lb -- cut into 3/4 inch pieces and frozen. Sold by weight, not volume.
    • Strawberries (fruit) Available in May and as long as they bear, $5.00/lb (or $0.3125/oz). Sold by weight, not volume.

WHY BUY SUSTAINABLY GROWN FRUIT ESPECIALLY?

When I talk with people about why I practice Sustainable Farming, the conversation usually gets round to how expensive the products are and they inevitably ask me: if you couldn't afford to go with ALL sustainably farmed food, what would you choose first? My answer is always: Dairy first. Fruit second. Grow your own veggies and herbs. Buy your meat from a local farmer. I don't even address grain, that is another topic all together for another place and time.

I don't sell any dairy products (at least not yet, LOL) and the reason I started growing fruit is precisely in line with why I answer that question the way I do.

Fruit is one of those really difficult products to grow without using the "icides". Let me rephrase that... fruit is REALLY sought after by all kinds of diseases, fungi, insects and animals which makes the competition for the fruit VERY HIGH. The way humans have reduced the competition in our favor is by finding ways to make the fruit unappealing to the competition. Traditionally, "icides" are used on the plants and even the fruit itself. I know it reduces MY desire to eat the fruit!

By the way, this large appeal is completely on purpose by the plant. The more things that eat the fruit, the more likely the seeds will be spread and produce more plants (offsetting the danger to the parent plant through disease and pests). Abundance is the rule.

The way to grow fruit sustainably is .... a topic for the experts! LOL But seriously, it's very difficult and that's why the produce is more expensive than when "icides" are used.

My way to grow fruit (and the rest of my vegetation) is: 1) go with native plants, 2) focus on very healthful plants, 3) feed the soil, 4) be sure to have a healthy ecosystem that includes welcoming the predators of the insects et al that will reduce the harvest, 5) be a predator where there is no native predator, and 6) don't expect to harvest 100% because sharing is part of abundance.

HOW TO BUY FROM PLAYHAVEN FARM LLC

Since produce from plants is seasonal, the best way to purchase from me is to contact me ahead of the harvest and let me know how much you are thinking about getting so I can reserve a portion for you OR schedule your visit to pick your fruit yourself.

I DO NOT SHIP FRUIT OR PLANTS. Fruit and plants are picked up at the farm.

You are welcome to help harvest (i.e. pick your own) and get a discount because you are doing work I won't have to do.


Here's what I'll have (weather et al allowing) in 2016:

ARONIABERRIES: Available in late August, $10.00/lb (or $0.625/oz.) -- cleaned, bagged and frozen. Sold by weight, not volume. 25% Discount for Harvest Help.

aroniaberries

What the heck is that? I hear you saying. Aronia melanocarpa is a bush-type berry that is amazingly healthful. Commonly called 'black chokeberry', it "has attracted scientific interest due to its deep purple, almost black pigmentation that arises from dense contents of polyphenols, especially anthocyanins. Total anthocyanin content in chokeberries is 1480 mg per 100 g of fresh berries, and proanthocyanidin concentration is 664 mg per 100 g. Both values are among the highest measured in plants to date." (Quoted from Wikipedia).

Aroniaberries contain 4 times more antioxidants than acai and 3 times more than blueberries. (Source: University of Maine Extension: Research Market Potential of Antioxidant-Rich Aroniaberry.)

I learned about these amazing berries through a friend who is a Master Gardener. He teaches at a local High School and they have a plant sale every year. So I started with six (6) bushes and discovered that I LOVE ARONIABERRIES.

Here is a PDF flyer that the Botany Teacher supplied to me.

The berries are slightly smaller than a blueberry and much bigger than an elderberry. They are not overly sweet and they have a slight chalky tone when you first bite into one (which is probably the "choke" part of the nickname). But the flavor is better than blueberries (in my humble opinion). I have been freezing the berries (after removing the stems and putting them through a good rinse in water) for the last several years. I like to put a handful of frozen berries on my cereal. Now, considering how much I LOVE these berries, I eat a little more than a pound a month.

They can be substituted for blueberries with no changes in a recipe.

What the growers I've spoken to say is that most people don't like them raw. They recommend using them in jams, jellies, pies, etc. where you add sweeteners. I do not make any of those products, so if YOU DO... maybe we can make a deal where you get berries in return for a review and your recipe to share on this website.

More information can be found at these links (or type in Aronia melanocarpa into your Search engine for even more):

September 2016 Update:

The Aronia Berry bushes are fully harvested and yielded 26 pounds of cleaned and packaged berries. I harvested half the last week of August and the other half over Labor Day weekend. They were a bit early this year, but considering that everything has been about 2 weeks early this year... that didn't really surprise me. This harvest (of the six mature bushes) equalled the 2015 harvest and that data helps me project how much each mature bush will likely yield next year.

The Aronia Berries are packaged 1 pound (by weight) per bag and those are quart size bags... which may help to figure out how many berries you get in a pound. The price is $10.00 per pound for the packaged/frozen berries.

If you would like fresh, picked-yourself-berries in 2017, please make a note that they will be ready to harvest between August 21st and September 15th. AND to contact me BEFORE THE 1ST OF AUGUST saying you would like to pick your own berries. I will then call you when they are ripe and set up your visit to pick your berries. There is a 25% discount for picking your own berries because you will then get to take them home, remove the stems, wash them and package them yourself.

My records and calculations show that it takes me about 8 minutes to pick a pound of berries. Then it takes about 20 minutes per pound to clean, wash and package. Of course, I've been doing it for several years now and have a system in place. So you should plan on a bit longer for both picking and processing.


BLACKBERRIES: Available in July, $10.00/lb (or $0.625/oz.). Sold by weight, not volume. 25% Discount for Harvest Help.

blackberry

My blackberries come from native stock purchased from the MO Department of Conservation.

The plants have nasty thorns and great, big, sweet, juicy berries.

September 2016 Update: The season for blackberries in 2016 was really short: about three (3) weeks from the end of June to the middle of July. Yield was 12 pounds.

If you are interested in picking your own blackberries, contact me BEFORE JUNE 1ST and I will contact you when they are ripe and set up your visit to pick your berries. There is a 25% discount for picking your own berries mainly due to the hazard of being grabbed by thorns.


COMFREY: Cuttings and seeds are available throughout the summer. Price still to be determined. 10% Discount for Harvest Help.

comfrey bed

Comfrey spreads and GROWS!

The bed at left started with six (6) single root plants and looked like this by the end of that first summer.

Pollinators such as bumble bees LOVE IT.

comfrey blossom

Comfrey (also comphrey) is a common name for plants in the genus Symphytum. Comfrey species are important herbs in organic gardening. It is used as a fertilizer and as an herbal medicine. (from Wikipedia)

My plants are from organic stock and are NOT hybrids. Every part of the plant can be used in some way. I introduced the plant so that the seeds could be spread throughout my pastures making the plant available to my animals upon their discretion. The birds clean out the remaining seeds first thing in the winter.


ELDERBERRIES: Flowers available in June, $1.00 per stem. Berries available in late August, $6.00/lb (with stems).

elderberry flower

I only have a few plants, so availability of flowers and/or berries will be limited.

I do not know the variety of these plants, I purchased them from the MO Department of Conservation.

elderberry fruit

September 2016 Update:

Imagine my amazement when I went on-line to research pricing for fresh elderberries and found they go for $16.00/lb and UP! I also found dried elderberries for sale starting at $20.00/lb. (Dried costs more due the energy/space of dehydrating the berries.)

Do you know why they are so expensive? Labor. Yep, it's not the berries as much as it is removing the berries from the stems. And if you wait until the berries are ripe enough to fall off the stems, more than likely the birds will beat you to them. So you REALLY have to pay close attention to the plants and gamble with waiting that extra day (or hour) to make your work easier.

I sell my berries ON THE STEMS for $6.00 per pound. You get a BIG price break for doing the work. The berries are ripe before they fall off the stem, but they get sweeter the longer you leave the ripe berry on the stem.

If you are interested in picking your own elderberries, contact me BEFORE JUNE 1ST and I will contact you when they are ripe and set up your visit to pick your berries. Which is actually cutting the stem that holds the mass of berries which is why there is no Harvest Help discount.


OSAGE ORANGE: NOT EDIBLE, DECORATIVE ONLY! Available in October, $1.00 each. 25% Discount for Harvest Help.

osage orange fruit and cut

Previously established on the farm are Osage Orange trees (some people call them "Hedge Apple trees").

While it is widely believed that these fruits help to deter pests when placed around the home, this has not been proven.

They are primarily a decorative item and are NOT EDIBLE.

osage orange fruit in hand

PERSIMMONS: Availability dependent upon the weather, sometime after September. $1.50 per pound - you harvest (bring a bag to haul them home). Sold by weight, not volume.

persimmon fruit

Another MO native, my trees just started producing fruit in 2015.

The fruits are small and vary in color and flavor from tree to tree.

They are best harvested after a heavy frost or freeze.

persimmon fruits with seeds

September 2016 Update:

UGH! Web Worms!! The trees are LOADED with persimmon fruits and I was thinking: How do I market these things? and other such money making thoughts. AND THEN.... WEB WORMS! The nasty things have invaded my two (2) biggest trees. I can't spray them without spraying the fruit. Normally, it's common practice to just cut ends of the branches off where the bags are and burn those bits. But that would be most of my tree!

Well, there will still be persimmons available, but not as many as I had hoped. Cross your fingers and toes for me (and you!).


RHUBARB: Available in late Spring, $5.00/lb -- cut into 3/4 inch pieces and frozen -- (or $0.3125/oz). Sold by weight, not volume.
25% Discount for Harvest Help.

rhubarb stalks

My rhubarb plants are from organic stock.

I companion plant them with the strawberries.

Rhubarb has often been called the “pie plant." It's true that the unique, tart flavor of rhubarb has made it a favorite in pies and desserts, but it's also a fantastic ingredient in tangy sauces, chutneys & compotes that make a great accompaniment to savory dishes, including meats, fish & fowl.

rhubarb with strawberries

Originally cultivated in Asia over 2,000 years ago for its medicinal qualities, it was not until the 18th century that rhubarb was grown for culinary purposes in Britain and America. Because of its use in pies & desserts, rhubarb is generally considered by many to be a fruit, but it's actually a vegetable!

Rhubarb is good for you, too. High in Vitamins A and C, calcium and fiber, one cup of rhubarb contains only about 26 calories. Only the petioles (stalks) are edible, however. The leaves of rhubarb contain high amounts of oxalic acid and are unsafe to eat in any quantity.

Enjoy the tart, excitingly tangy flavor of fresh rhubarb while it's in season!

September 2016 Update:

2016 was the first year I was able to harvest rhubarb. It was a short season primarily due to the Japanese Beetles. I have applied nematodes this fall and hope they will reduce the number of Japanese Beetles for 2017.

I have discovered the reason that rhubarb is pricey to purchase from someone else. Yes, this is a perennial plant and since you don't have to plant it every year and you just have to cut off the stems, the price (you would think) should be pretty low. Yeah, right (she says sarcastically). Of course, when it's your own plant, you don't have to weight cost/pricing scenarios. So most of what I'm going to tell you about isn't even associated with the cost of the resulting harvest.

First, it's not easy to get rhubarb to establish itself. You have to have the right soil conditions which (depending on your soil) can take a few years and/or lots of testing and amending to prepare. $$ Then once your plants do take hold, you have to wait at least a year until the plant produces leaves/stems that are long enough to harvest without endangering the health of the plant. AND, there are pests (like the Japanese Beetles) that will either eat your harvest or shorten your harvest window. So you have to do pest management or figure on a smaller harvest. $$$

Then, once you have mature plants you can harvest the stems. "Just break them off near the ground" they tell you. HA! The thing about rhubarb is it is FIBEROUS. They are NOT easy to break cleanly, so you definitely need a good quality, sharp knife or shears. The leaves of the plant are poisonous and must be removed and disposed of safely (a compost heap works nicely) which also requires the use of your good quality, sharp knife or shears. $$ (NOTE: when you harvest for yourself, you probably don't care about a clean break... but you do if you are buying it from someone else, don't you?!)

Now you have 8 to 12 inch long stalks/stems. Should you cook them that way? NO. They are FIBEROUS. You end up with gooey hair like stuff that is really difficult to eat (or at least I imagine it would be hard to eat, I did not try to). Every recipe for rhubarb has you cut the stalk/stem into small pieces so you can boil it down to a chunky sauce. Remember what I said about them being FIBEROUS? Processing them into small pieces is very similar to celery... but WORSE. They are tough to cut and you get these hair like strands that just won't be cut through nicely. Now if you are doing this at home, you probably don't care; but if you are buying the cut pieces from someone else, you are likely to be expecting clean breaks (again). Processing takes time and effort and quality equipment; not to mention packaging. $$$

OK, so what this tells me is it's least expensive to grow your own. Next money saving is to buy the long stalks and process it yourself.

And finally, if you don't want to or can't do either of those things... just buck up and quit complaining. (She says sweetly.) The farmer has to make a profit so they can buy food, pay their bills, etc. JUST LIKE YOU.


STRAWBERRIES: Available beginning in May and continuing as long as they bear, $5.00/lb (or $0.3125/oz). Sold by weight, not volume. 10% Discount for Harvest Help.

strawberry

The variety of everbearing strawberries I have is: Sparkle.

The berries are smallish compared to what you get in the grocery store, but they are very flavorful.

September 2016 Update:

Oh my, it was a short season. Two (count em, two) weeks and then the Japanese Beetles hit. I had to do something and so I sprayed the plants with that tea I made from dead Japanese Beetles. No way I could harvest any new berries after that; but I had to save my plants so I can have strawberries in 2017.

The results of that spray were successful. I included a microbial tea in that spray and the plants have bounced back enough that I can separate them and expand the area of strawberries! I was able to get straw bales this fall and am creating more raised beds using the straw bale gardening techniques to get them going. The decomposing straw will keep the plant roots nice and cozy this winter.

There should be a bumper crop of strawberries in 2017... even if it is a short season (cross your fingers and toes that the nematodes I applied this fall reduce the number of Japanese Beetles in 2017).



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