Amira’s Prolific Pumpkins

Although not certified organic, Olana Farm grows produce on 2.25-acres using strictly organic methods.

What’s growing now

Arugula, avocado, basil (Thai, Italian, lemon), bak choy, beets, carrots, celery, chard (Swiss, rainbow), chives, cilantro, collards, fennel, green onions, ginger, guava, kale (curly, lacinato, red Russian, red curly), kaffir (leaves, fruit), mint, mustard greens (red, green), oregano, pak choi, papaya (green sunrise), pak choi (baby green, baby purple), parsley (Italian, curly), passionfruit, pea shoots, pineapple (white), pumpkin, rosemary, tangelo, thyme, tomatoes (cherry red, yellow pear), turmeric, turnips (white, red), yacón.

Amira Pumpkin 

“This variety was selected from seeds that were saved because they are adapted to Hawaii and resist powdery mildew and being stung by the fruit fly,” says Tom O’Connor. “We liken it to a tender butternut squash, but it has thin skin and sweet, tender flesh. We named it after my wife, Amira.”

Amira pumpkins have a deep gold, creamy interior that’s sweet and full of seeds, which can be planted in home gardens. You don’t need to peel them because the skin is smooth and tender enough to eat.

Pumpkins are a prolific crop and a medium sized one can make up to eight meals. They are considered a winter squash because they are harvested in late summer and early fall, and keep throughout the winter.

Season

Amira pumpkins take up to three months to go from seed to table. On Kauai, they are available from spring through summer and possibly into fall.

What to look for

Select pumpkins that are hard, heavy and free of soft spots. External skin blemishes do not compromise the integrity of the flesh. Stems should be attached, otherwise bacteria gets inside and spoils the flesh.

Storage

Store on a counter out of direct sunlight. O’Connor says pumpkins stored this way will keep for a few weeks.

Tip

Seeds make an excellent snack food. Scoop out the pulp and seeds and spread the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Lightly roast at 160 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Roasting for a relatively short time at a low temperature minimizes damage to healthy oils. 

Preparation

Purchasing pumpkins may seem expensive, but they are worth every penny. I used my pumpkin in four meals: the pilaf below, a kale and caramelized onion tart, ravioli (made with wonton wrappers) and a Thai coconut soup.

What’s Up with Carrots?

By Glenn I. Teves, County Extension Agent, UH CTAHR

When you think of an orange vegetable, carrots come to mind, but once upon a time the most common color of carrots wasn’t orange. It wasn’t until the 1500s that the Dutch stumbled upon an orange carrot and focused on developing more orange varieties.
Believed to be native to the area around Afghanistan, the first carrots were purple and yellow. Around A.D. 900-1200, they spread to the eastern Mediterranean, then to China and Eastern Europe by the 1300s. By the 1600s, yellow carrots reached Japan, but it wasn’t until the 1700s that orange carrots emerged in Holland and adjacent areas. White and yellow carrots are still used for livestock in eastern and western Europe, while red carrots are popular in Japan.

With the quest for new color choices in vegetables, we’ve gone full circle with the return of colorful carrots with names like Atomic Red, Nutri-Red, Purple Haze, Purple Dragon, Mello Yellow Scarlet Wonder and Rainbow. Breeding by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a high Vitamin A carrot led to the development of a cultivar called A Plus, which increased the carotene content by leaps and bounds. A collateral benefit was improved taste, especially sweetness.

A nemesis of the carrot is the root-knot nematode causing galls on the roots, and this microscopic eelworm is common in many of our soils. A solution is to grow cover crops, such as Sunn Hemp, African Marigolds, Sorghum-Sudangrass Hybrids, or a variety of cowpea called Iron and Clay.

Haleiwa Farmers’ Market gets a taste of state bureaucracy

Somebody please explain to me what I’m missing here. The State of Hawaii is telling the owners of the Haleiwa Farmers Market that they will have to move because they’re violating a state zoning law that prohibits vending from highways.

Have you ever visited this farmers’ market? I have, a number of times. I recall coming upon it about three years ago when it was in its infancy — a few vendors and a smattering of customers. We were back about a month ago, telling our out-of-state visitors it was something they should not miss on their tour of Oahu’s North Shore. They agreed, after spending about an hour chatting with some of the several dozen farmers and buying products to take back to Virginia.

I was delighted to see how the market had grown and how many people — an estimated 2,500 — visit it each Sunday. I explained that farmers’ markets were becoming wildly popular in Hawaii and that they were one thing that nobody could possibly find fault with.

I was wrong. I had underestimated our government’s ability to find wrong solutions to problems that do not exist.

To find the Haleiwa Farmers’ Market, drive through downtown Haleiwa on a Sunday morning to the north edge of town. Instead of rounding the curve to get back on the Joseph P. Leong Bypass, proceed straight ahead to a small piece of asphalt that used to be a highway. You not only have arrived at the farmers’ market, you have found the issue that has upset state officials.

The stretch where the asphalt still sits and the farmers’ market holds court on Sundays used to be a road. It stopped being a road when the bypass opened.

That was in 1993.

Allotment thieves caught after vegetable identity parade

Police caught a gang of allotment thieves after holding a bizarre identity parade – of stolen VEGETABLES.

Lawrence Miller, 44, and Steven Randall, 46, were caught carrying a bag of stolen fruit and veg at allotments in Brampton, Cambs.

To get evidence against the duo police lined up the food on the roadside and asked allotment holders to identify their stolen vegetables.

They instantly spotted their crops, including a marrow with a distinctive stripe, rhubarb, leeks and cabbages.

The two offenders were left looking red-faced as beetroot when they were ordered to pay £20 of compensation and £85 costs at Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court.

Miller and Randall, who were both on benefits, were said to be living “in extreme poverty” and stole the vegetables to feed their families.

Both men were granted a conditional discharge.

Prosecutor Penny Cannon said police spotted them run across the road into the allotment and when they stopped and searched them found stolen produce.

She said: “Police carried out a unique investigation by photographing the fruit and vegetables and then putting them on the verge, asking people if they could recognise or identify the vegetables.”

One of the plots had also been damaged on the same night, the court heard,

Colorado farmers worry that Listeria outbreak has ruined prime selling season

DENVER — A multistate Listeria outbreak linked to a Colorado farm has the state’s melon farmers worried that their prime selling season has been ruined.

In Rocky Ford, farmer Greg Smith this week laid off his lone farm stand employee because he said customers all but vanished when news of the outbreak spread.

The outbreak has killed as many as four people. Colorado officials said Friday the contaminated melons were whole fruit from a Jensen Farms in the Rocky Ford region and have been recalled.

Angry at reporters and camera crews reporting on the tainted melons, Smith said, “You’ve basically put a .30-caliber bullet between our eyes.”

Mike Bartolo, a Rocky Ford-based vegetable crops specialist for Colorado State University, has been fielding questions from the two dozen or so farmers who make a living selling Rocky Ford cantaloupes. He said the Listeria outbreak is a major blow to the farmers, but it would have been worse if it occurred a few weeks ago.

“If this thing had happened at the beginning of the season, instead of the end, it would have been just devastating,” Bartolo said. “As it is, I think it’s too soon to know what will happen next year.”

Bartolo said the “Rocky Ford cantaloupes” name has no legal protection, such as the strict legal definition of a Vidalia onion, to prevent farmers outside the region from using the name. In fact, he said, Rocky Ford was a major melon-seed producer from the 1900s to 1940s, selling melon seeds nationwide under the name “Rocky Ford” or “Rocky Sweets,” so there may be cantaloupes from far away sold under the name.

Colorado Chief Medical Officer Chris Urbina said he understands the anger of other farmers who feel tarnished by the outbreak.

Hawaii farm owners face human trafficking trial

Two brothers who run one of Hawaii’s largest vegetable farms are going to trial this week on federal charges they illegally shipped 44 workers from Thailand, housed them in dirty metal containers and forced them to work for little pay.

Alec and Mike Sou of Aloun Farms each face up to 20 years in prison without parole if found guilty after they backed out of a plea deal last September that came with a five-year maximum sentence. The trial opens with jury selection Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors claim the Sou brothers gamed the United States’ guest-worker visa system in a way that economically trapped the rural north Thailand laborers on the 3,000-acre Oahu farm, which grows a variety of foods including lettuce, apples, bananas, parsley, watermelon and pumpkin year-round in Hawaii’s mild climate.

Aloun Farm owners deny threats

The sentencing hearing for the owners of Aloun Farms on forced-labor charges will continue in September because brothers Alec and Mike Sou refused to admit to committing acts to which they had pleaded guilty in January.

Alec Souphone Sou, president and general manager of the Ewa farm, is facing 46 to 57 months in prison for conspiring to commit forced labor in connection with the importation of 44 farmworkers from Thailand in 2004, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

Mike Mankone Sou, vice president and operations manager, is facing 41 to 51 months in prison for the same crime.

The sentencing guidelines are based on a number of factors, including the seriousness of the crime and a defendant’s actions and criminal history. Alec Sou has a higher prison range because he has prior DUI convictions.

Dozens write to support Aloun leaders

Two former governors and community leaders have submitted letters to a federal judge in support of two brothers facing sentencing today for employing Thai immigrants under forced labor conditions in 2004 and 2005 at the well-known Aloun Farms.

John Waihee and Ben Cayetano, former Land Board Chairman William Paty, Hawaii Foodbank President Richard Grimm and dozens of others sent letters to U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway on behalf of Alec and Mike Sou, who hope to avoid a prison term.

Aloun Farms, a major agricultural business in the state, produces Asian vegetables and other crops on about 3,000 acres in the Kapolei area.

Alec Sou, president and general manager, and Mike Sou, vice president and operations manager, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge after they helped bring in 44 laborers from Thailand in 2003. They admitted they told workers they would be sent back to Thailand if they were disobedient or if they tried to leave.

Federal prosecutors and lawyers for 22 of the workers contend that the immigrants were mistreated and forced to lived in substandard conditions, but the Sous’ lawyers and supporters say the brothers are being unfairly characterized and that their farm operation will suffer if they are sent to prison.

Celery root may be daunting, but it can rewarding to have in your garden

Discover celery root in a produce bin and it will not be love at first sight. What, you ponder, would anyone do with these bumpy beige orbs, from which someone has removed the nice green tops?

Pull one out of the ground and you’ll be even more daunted, faced with a tangle of gnarly roots. But persevere. Chop off those tentacles with a large knife or cleaver, and then keep chopping until all the bumps and soil-choked crevices are gone. By now the thing might be half its original weight and size. Scrub it some more, then chop it up, boil it and puree it with a little cream. Then you will see why my friend C.R. Lawn of Fedco Seeds calls it “the frog prince of vegetables.” Imagine a pile of very smooth mashed potatoes with the flavors of celery and parsley and a bit of sweetness — so rich and elegant it doesn’t need butter.

Celery root is a celery plant that’s been bred not for succulent, crunchy stalks, but for its root or, more accurately, a tuberlike enlarged stem base. (Its top growth can be used to season a soup but is not tender enough for nibbling.) Other names for it include celeriac, turnip-rooted celery and knob celery. In Europe, where it is more popular and better known than stem celery, it’s often grated or julienned and used raw in a salad, absorbing the dressing like a sponge.