A Note From Layton | Fruits, flowers and cover crops - late summer at Quail Hill Farm

September 1, 2023

By Layton Guenther

Farms for the Future
Quail Hill Farm

Labor Day Weekend is upon us, and with it the return of the Great Tomato Taste-Off (aka GTTO) of 2023. With a fine tomato crop this season, the GTTO is an excellent opportunity to come and sample the myriad colors, shapes and sizes of our near-50 varieties planted throughout the farm. The GTTO is free for Quail Hill Farm members and guests, and $10 suggested donation for admission to members of the public. Help us spread the word! And, as always, thank you to the illustrious Jane Weissman for organizing this favorite event of our Community Farm.


Last week, we celebrated the nearly completed construction of our Quail Hill Farm Barn around The Common Table. For those of you who have yet to visit the Barn, stay tuned! We’ll be welcoming QHF CSA members in for an informal get-together this fall.


Up on Birch Hill, we’re reveling in a well-watered late summer, and our fields are replete with flowers and fruiting crops alike. Cut flowers like dahlias are pumping out bloom after bloom: consistent water, as well as good soil fertility, helps flowers maintain productivity over a prolonged period of time. For those keen on dried flower arranging, everlastings like statice, strawflower, nigella (especially their seed pods), larkspur, gomphrena (and many more!) will hold their shapes and colors beautifully through the winter– simply arrange a relatively small, spacious posey and hang upside down out of direct sunlight with decent airflow.

In addition to our beautiful tomatoes, you’ll notice a plethora of other fruiting crops up on Birch Hill. Take, for instance, the elusive Bitter Melon: relative of the cucumber, and commonly found in regional Chinese and Indian cuisines as well as across Southeast Asia. You’ll find the bitter melon growing adjacent to another fun cucumber cousin, the Mexican Sour Gherkin (aka mouse watermelon aka dinosaur eggs!) in Block 9. It seems we have a new favorite cucumber of Quail Hill: this season, I’ve seen an almost comical number of massive (like, 3 footers and above) Painted Serpent cucumbers.


Walk westward into Block 11 and you’ll find my favorite corner of the farm, the pepper block. Separated by a bed of shishitos, the hot and sweet peppers are both slowly ripening with fruits of all flavors, shapes and sizes. So far, my favorites from the hot side are the birds-eye thai chili (a borderline ornamental variety with upward-pointing fruits that fade from peach to crimson) and poblanos. On the sweet side, our old friend Jimmy Nardello brought the party (this is an old standard italian frying type, excellent in the oven or on the grill) and Lunchbox makes for a quick sweet snack in the rows.

What’s been your favorite fruiting crop of the season so far? Let us know!

Thank you, and see you in the fields,


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