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Potential New Crops for Upstate New York


docsconz
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In season local produce certainly can't be beat when it is fresh from the farm, but where can you find the gourmet items either imported from out of the local area or concocted locally and can it compete either quality or price-wise with mail order?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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What kind of items are you referring to? Can you be more specific? E do have some large Asian markets here in Syracuse that have good produce at fairly competitive prices during the winter and there's always Andy's Cah 'n Carry over near the Regional Market. He's a wholesaler who opened a retail operation a few years ago.

I'm starting to think that a hydroponics operation to supply freshe herbs and exotic lettuce products might fill a need in upstate and central NY. Do you agree?

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I'm not necessarily referring to anything specific, really any interesting quality product that is not industrial in nature. It sounds as if your asian markets are doing some of what I'm inquiring about.

While I know that I would support and enjoy the more exotic lettuces and produce from a local hydroponics operation, I'm not sure that there would be enough demand to compete against the presumably less expensive and presumably lesser quality industrial supermarket stuff to make it economically feasible. I would like to think that I am wrong about this. Any other thoughts or opinions on that? Woodburner or Gordon cooks want to weigh in on this?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I'm very curious because my mom's cousin had a full time hydroponics greenhouse operation in Sarasota FL and raised only lettuces. She sold exclusively to local restaurants and apparently had a good business going. They moved due to her husband's job relocation (I think they're in Louisiana now?). She now has less space and has switched over to growing only basil - several different varieties. Once again it is a full time business and she sells only to the trade - seems to be going very well for her.

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Owen,

NYSEG [a utility company] and Cornell together operate a pilot project on Rte.13 [near Rte.366] Freeville/Ithaca, growing hydroponic boston lettuce. i have had no luck suggesting that upland cress [barbarea] and wasabi could be usefully grown in those parts of the greenhouse that receive the lowest light levels. perhaps you might be interested to weigh in on this, as it involves our tax dollars.

In syracuse, Ahn's oriental store at Erie and Teall carry a fine line of Indian groceries, including prepared foods, breads, sweets and good mangoes.

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I would love to see crops like upland cress and especially fresh wasabi grown and marketed up here. Perhaps they already are, but ifso, not extensively enough for my tastes. v. gautam, what is it about those plants that would be successful in that situation?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 7 months later...

Docsconz,

Sorry for this belated reply—actually I had not seen your query at the time you posted.

If you are still interested: wasabi is a streamside plant, thriving near [or rooted in] flowing water, shade, high humidity, and temperatures above freezing.

Coming from an Eastern Margin Maritime/Monsoon climate in Japan, I suspect that it tolerates summer heat, provided the conditions above are met, better than do most strains of lettuce [which are inherently cool season plants]. Cooling the greenhouse in summer to temperatures low enough for successful bib/boston lettuce growth in areas of high humidity like NY with a pad/fan [i.e. evaporative] system is energetically not very sound.

Additionally, the 6 months of winter we experience accompanied by low insolation requires lettuce to be supplemented with artificial lighting. The metal halide and sodium vapor lamps that are used together are less than 33% efficient in converting electricity to light. When we factor in the sides and corners of the growing space, the net efficienct for lettuce growth drops to less than 25%, given the type of greenhouses used. Add to that heating to maintain Active growth for lettuce for the winter crops, and the thermodynamic account book begins to look questionable. Finally, the spectral quality of the supplemental lighting [highly enriched at 589 nanometers] leaves much to be desired for efficient growth in terms of lettuce production and disease resistance.

The spectral quality, fluence levels and ambient temperatures we experience in New York recommend themselves to a polyculture that includes wasabi and Barbarea, much in the same way that polyculture of carp of different species as practiced in India and China are more’efficient’ for the prevailing conditions than monoculture. In this context too, the several tilapia aquaculture ventures in the Fingerlakes region would be better served by including a vegetable crop, either wasabi, Cambodian herbs, or Ipomea aquatica, as part of their operations for much higher feed conversion efficiency, fish health and improved water quality.

Lastly, consider that even if wasabi is a 8-24 month crop, it sells for $35/lb; its leaves sell for 25 cents each, and it may be most useful as a leaf source.

But nuff said- the powers-that-be [re the Cornell pilot project] seem reluctant to admit the principles of thermodynamics, growth and yield physiology vis-a-vis lettuce monoculture, and so be it.

As a plant physiologist with a lifetime passion for value-added agriculture, I feel most discouraged by all the opportunities we are letting go to waste in upstate NY. In a decade or two, meat prices will rise to at least 4-6 times the present rates at current dollars, owing to the large demands of both grain and livestock in emerging Asian economies. We just seem to sit back and blame the whole world for its competitive ferocity but do not care to investigate the fabulous bounties present at our very doorstep. Please PM me for details re NY ideas, if interested. Sorry for the rant.

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Docsconz,

Sorry for this belated reply—actually I had not seen your query at the time you posted.

If you are still interested: wasabi is a streamside plant, thriving near [or rooted in] flowing water, shade, high humidity, and temperatures above freezing.

Coming from an Eastern Margin Maritime/Monsoon climate in Japan, I suspect that it tolerates summer heat, provided the conditions above are met, better than do most strains of lettuce [which are inherently cool season plants]. Cooling the greenhouse in summer to temperatures low enough for successful bib/boston lettuce growth in areas of high humidity like NY with a pad/fan [i.e. evaporative] system is energetically not very sound.

Additionally, the 6 months of winter we experience accompanied by low insolation requires lettuce to be supplemented with artificial lighting. The metal halide and sodium vapor lamps that are used together are less than 33% efficient in converting electricity to light. When we factor in the sides and corners of the growing space, the net efficienct for lettuce growth drops to less than 25%, given the type of greenhouses used. Add to that heating to maintain Active growth for lettuce for the winter crops, and the thermodynamic account book begins to look questionable. Finally, the spectral quality of the supplemental lighting [highly enriched at 589 nanometers] leaves much to be desired for efficient growth in terms of lettuce production and disease resistance.

The spectral quality, fluence levels and ambient temperatures we experience in New York recommend themselves to a polyculture that includes wasabi and Barbarea, much in the same way that polyculture of carp of different species as practiced in India and China are more’efficient’ for the prevailing conditions than monoculture. In this context too, the several tilapia aquaculture ventures in the Fingerlakes region would be better served by including a vegetable crop, either wasabi, Cambodian herbs, or Ipomea aquatica, as part of their operations for much higher feed conversion efficiency, fish health and improved water quality.

Lastly, consider that even if wasabi is a 8-24 month crop, it sells for $35/lb; its leaves sell for 25 cents each, and it may be most useful as a leaf source.

But nuff said- the powers-that-be [re the Cornell pilot project] seem reluctant to admit the principles of thermodynamics, growth and yield physiology vis-a-vis lettuce monoculture, and so be it.

As a plant physiologist with a lifetime passion for value-added agriculture, I feel most discouraged by all the opportunities we are letting go to waste in upstate NY. In a decade or two, meat prices will rise to at least 4-6 times the present rates at current dollars, owing to the large demands of both grain and livestock in emerging Asian economies. We just seem to sit back and blame the whole world for its competitive ferocity but do not care to investigate the fabulous bounties present at our very doorstep. Please PM me for details re NY ideas, if interested. Sorry for the rant.

Fascinating discussion. What is the potential for these non-native crops, etc. getting out into the ecosystem and running amok, especially if they are so well suited to this climate? I was just reading how they are beginning a program to bring a European beetle in to combat purple loosestrife, a pretty European import that has run amok. Supposedly the beetle will control it and nothing else.

from a personal point of view, I would love to see wasabi grown here. It sounds as if this would have been the perfect summer to do it!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Read this about wasabi. There are techniques for growing it that are not as simple as one would think.

From Condé Nast Traveler: Hot and Bothered: A U.S. farmer has Japan’s centuries-old wasabi industry seeing red. Robert Sullivan travels to ground zero.

I heard about this guy from a friend of mine in Santa Monica. Roy Carver is also the guy who is trying to give the French a run for their money by growing truffles.

FreshWasabi.com: order the real deal. And they offer a "grow your own" (ha ha, good luck): six live plants for $23.

I thought y'all would find that interesting.

Edited by tanabutler (log)
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What is the potential for these non-native crops, etc. getting out into the ecosystem and running amok, especially if they are so well suited to this climate?

I think v. gautam was suggesting that greenhouse conditions would be ideal for wasabi. I don't think it would stand a snowball's chance in hell of surviving in the wild here.

Edited to add: although one can hope. :smile:

Edited by GG Mora (log)
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GG Mora is right--neither wasabi nor kangkong, Ipomea aquatica, can survive upstate winters.

Tanabutler is also correct in saying that wasabi is not an easy crop to grow, especially as attempted in Washington state and North Carolina outside [e.g. streambed cultivation in the latter state]. However, Ms. Butler may not necessarily be intimately familiar with the type of flowing, nutrient film techniques relevant to the greenhouse cultivation of lettuce which also would wasabi very well indeed, especially wasabi grown for its leaves.

I have given the matter close thought for a decade, and remember, we are not confined to the two Japanese strains currently common in the trade. Wasabi sets seed easily and breeding for greenhouse strains can be useful, just as ghse strains of tomato and lettuce, to say nothing of other vegetables, have been developed through targeted breeding.

Regarding livestock, yak, reindeer, chicken-guineafowl hybrids, in addition to the well-researched alpaca, are new meat crops that are being assiduously developed elsewhere [idaho, Mass., TN , but not reindeer] while NY is not yet alive to the remarkable possibilities these new industries offer. Sad but strange in a state that pioneered the Hudson valley duck liver industry, and the cool climate winegrape revolution!

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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GG Mora is right--neither wasabi nor kangkong, Ipomea aquatica, can survive upstate winters.

Tanabutler is also correct in saying that wasabi is not an easy crop to grow, especially as attempted in Washington state and North Carolina outside [e.g. streambed cultivation in the latter state]. However, Ms. Butler may not necessarily be intimately familiar with the type of flowing, nutrient film techniques relevant to the greenhouse cultivation of lettuce which also would wasabi very well indeed, especially wasabi grown for its leaves.

I have given the matter close thought for a decade, and remember, we are not confined to the two Japanese strains currently common in the trade. Wasabi sets seed easily and breeding for greenhouse strains can be useful, just as ghse strains of tomato and lettuce, to say nothing of other vegetables, have been developed through targeted breeding.

Regarding livestock, yak, reindeer, chicken-guineafowl hybrids, in addition to the well-researched alpaca, are new meat crops that are being assiduously developed elsewhere [idaho, Mass., TN , but not reindeer] while NY is not yet alive to the remarkable possibilities these new industries offer. Sad but strange in a state that pioneered the Hudson valley duck liver industry, and the cool climate winegrape revolution!

gautam, let me say again: you are one of egullet's most valuable treasures.

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The organic market I worked for in Halifax bought basil and spinach year-round from a local greenhouse operation. They had a rather synergistic approach; they grew tilapia for market in their plant-watering system. The fish fertilized the plants, and in turn helped keep the water system healthy.

They're a small company, but they seem to be making a go of it.

On the other hand, a much-ballyhooed attempt at introducing large-scale greenhouse growing to Newfoundland collapsed miserably. I don't know enough about it, though (it happened while I lived out West) to discuss where they might have gone wrong.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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However, Ms. Butler may not necessarily be intimately familiar with the type of flowing, nutrient film techniques relevant to the greenhouse cultivation of lettuce which also would wasabi very well indeed, especially wasabi grown for its leaves.

No, you are wrong. I know everything. :smile:

But seriously...

Of course I know little about most anything about actually bringing rhizomes/seeds/cuttings/anything to life (and sustaining that life), but please someone tell me what is the value of wasabi leaves.

Please don't tell me they will compete with frisee or arugula for the world's most bitter green. Like we need more bitter greens. If you are what you eat, I don't want to be a jealous frog.

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Regarding livestock, yak, reindeer, chicken-guineafowl hybrids, in addition to the well-researched alpaca, are new meat crops that are being assiduously developed elsewhere [idaho, Mass., TN , but not reindeer] while NY is not yet alive to the remarkable possibilities these new industries offer. Sad but strange in a state that pioneered the Hudson valley duck liver industry, and the cool climate winegrape revolution!

I have discussed guinea fowl with a number of area poultry raisers. While many of them raise some guinea fowl for specific barnyard reasons, none have appeared enthusiastic about raising them commercially. Some reasons are that they appear to be particularly annoying birds to raise and they grow too slowly to be profitable. Raising a "meat" chicken such as Cornish Cross is much easier and cheaper even in a true free-range situation. This is too bad since guinea fowl is in my opinion one of the very best eating birds around. I enjoyed some wonderful "faraona" in Italy and some particularly fine guinea fowl at Blue Hill in NYC. Then again, this weekend I had some roasted fresh free-range chicken from Flying Pigs Farm that was also spectacular.

Bison is being raised very successfully at Sunrise Mountain in Cambridge, N.Y. I'm surprised that goat meat isn't easier to find.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Ms. Butler,

Re: wasabi leaves, I quite agree with you; but check out the prices in NYC, ~$ 3.50 for 6 leaves. If that is what the famous and trendy are going to make famous and trendy, I would certainly advise small-scale ghse owners, of the type the Cornell pilot project was designed to serve,[ peri-urban, operated by 2 persons, like mom/pop] to consider wasabi for leaves. Note that I emphasize only operations corresponding to the CU pilot mission statement. You are right, it beats me why people would pay such exorbitant amounts for trendy produce like micro-greens, etc. but who am I to argue with sophisticated consumers.

Docsconz,

You are correct about guinea fowl being difficult to raise, but note that I mention INTERSPECIFIC hybrids of domestic chicken and guinea fowl. These share characteristics of tasty flesh, tameness plus hybrid vigor; they are raised in enclosed spaces. TN is one state actively pursuing this area.

Re: goat meat; please google Empire State Meat Goat Producers Association or contact Dr. Tatiana Stanton at the Dept. of Animal Sciences, Cornell University for vendor info.

Yak deserves close attention. Bos grunniens interbreeds with domestic cattle to produce exceptional [though sterile] hybrids. In upstate New York, cold-hardiness adds to efficiency; domestic cattle burn significantly more feed to keep warm than do yak hybrids; we are talking about the Adirondacks, Potsdam and places like these, which could use a higher value adjunct to ordinary cattle raising. Yaks store their fat subcutaneously, which means that their meat is low in intermuscular fat, and will satisfy a certain niche. [For value-added products like jerky and biltong, where marbling =rancidity, this lean muscle meat is especially desirable. And to say nothing about heart healthy beef. These hybrids have been around for hundreds of years in Tibet and india, and they are far, far better than the Beefalo hybrids, regarding tameness and ease of rearing] The milk is rich and the butter is fabulous; really needs some determined entrepreneurs.

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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