I spent a good portion of today getting pretty wet and cold. I was bedding down young chickens in a leaky coop in the pasture, securing a greenhouse in some high winds, and seeding in our greenhouse kept cool so as not to burn too much propane in a spring storm. To warm everybody up a bit, I thought I’d share this video Lakes Country Living TV program did on us last summer. It was hot out and produce was peak season. Try not to pay too close attention to that sea of foxtail in the onion patch!
As we approach the end of the season, we start playing the good/bad crop game. When you’re cleaning up a bed of one crop at the end of the year, you can’t help but judge how the year went. So, kind of like the Oscars for vegetables, we have the good, the bad, and the ugly for the year.
• Peppers: Hey I was just in the entryway where we have a few bushels of peppers and I can still smell them…great. Now that a number are turning colors, these clearly go into the good category. Not only did we have a lot, but they were a good size too…last year the Italias looked like big jalapelos or something.
• Salad mix: I’m finally getting the hand of growing this stuff well. We should have had a second planting for mid-season, but the stuff we put in the box looked great.
• Spring brassicas: this is the cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, and cauliflower at the beginning of the season. The cool wet spring worked well for these crops. What was most impressive is how long the spring bassica season lasted…you probably got sick of broccoli or cabbage at some point there!
• Tomatoes: a surprise here. Although it has taken forever for them to ripen, the plants set a lot of fruit and they look in good shape.
• Garlic: A real disappointment because I just go crazy for a good garlic crop. These plants do not grow well in a mud puddle like they had to this season.
• Green onions: This is in the bad category because it was the crop that never happened…do you ever remember getting green onions? They got planted first thing in the spring but that entire patch got overrun with weeds and I never got another succession planted—you can also put cilantro in this camp too.
• Head lettuce: After last season when we had a bumper crop, the lettuce was worthless. The window of lettuce was short and a lot bolted before it came of size.
• Melons: There’s been a whole lot of ugliness here. The main factor is all of those cucumber beetles, who attack the plants and kill them off mid-season and then chew up the fruit if it starts to grow. Ugly.
• Second set of cucumbers: in part due to those pesky cucumber beetles and the new ground, this second planting put on nothing but deformed cukes. The timing was right to take over when the first planting pettered out, but they were too ugly to use.
All told, I can’t complain too much about the season. The weather was funny, but things still got produced and I know we improved on last year overall even if some crops did worse. Since you have to be optimistic in this line of work, what we do is ask ourselves how we can improve for next year.
Earlier this week I attended an Extension training for farmers market managers in the twin cities. One of the other “hats” I wear is as president of the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes, which, since we’re an all-volunteer market, makes me the market manager by default. We were there to learn how to conduct good market surveys, but I really liked talking to others and learning about their markets.
I learned that we all have the same issues, but each market is really different. Some of this comes from the types of vendors or the organization, but, really, the people give a market its personality. We were on-site of the Midtown Farmers Market on Lake Street, which really had an urban feel. Again, this personality sprung the neighborhood: Somali, Latinos, tattooed twenty-somethings, crunchy yuppie-types all mingling together. You also saw folks coming to the market by bike or light rail instead of by car. The scene was quite a bit different from our mix of lakes people, tourists, and small-town families down by the pavilion. But what’s incredible is that Midtown is quite a bit different from Mill City Market nestled amongst all those high-priced condos just a few miles away in downtown or the Kingston Market near all those cool Uptown hipsters at the other end of Lake Street.
As a vendor I often think of a farmers market as just a place people go to get food, but, really folks go there just as much for the people as the produce. If you just want a cheap tomato, go to the supermarket. But, if you want to banter with the vendors about the weather, run into some of your neighbors, and do some serious people-watching, then go to your local farmers market. It’s a place you can really celebrate your neighborhood each week.
IN THE BOX:
These are a variety called Cherokee Purple. They are totally ugly, but don’t let looks fool you, these have great taste. Best for fresh eating…don’t cook with them.
These are our main crop tomatoes called Red Sun.
A few leeks
Check out the recipe below. To clean, cut lengthwise and peel back the leaves and wash.
A few onions
The yellow type is a sweet onion called Alisa Craig and the red is called Red Bull.
A Bunch of Carrots
A white variety called Silver King. First time I’ve grown it…nice size ears.
Summer Squash Mix
Red Norland Potatoes
Potato Leek Soup
4 T unsalted butter
1 large or 2 medium sliced leeks, white part only
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T chopped parsley, optional
Clean and thinly slice leeks. Melt butter in large, heavy soup pot; add leeks and sauté slowly until glassy-do not brown. Add chicken broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until potatoes are soft, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Mash or puree. Add cream, milk, salt and pepper, and parsley. Reheat and serve-do no boil. Makes 8 servings.
Reprinted from The St. Paul Farmers Market Produce Cookbook, 1999.
Well, the first of the year’s produce is coming in. We went to the Lakes Area Farmers’ Market for the first time last saturday (6/24) and people were out in full force scouring DL for fresh produce.
Mar and Sylvie holding down the fort
I think strawberries were the driving force. It’s all the talk about this time of year as people search high and wide for good berries.
We sold a lot of berries, but the garlic scapes certainly got the most questions from people. FYI garlic scapes are the shoots a garlic plant produces in an attempt to reproduce.
We actually set up on the “lakeside” of the market this year…we were there for a few market days last fall and we liked it, so we decided to return.
Hey, come on, live a little. Red oakleaf tastes just as good as green leaf…I think it’s a bit “nuttier” in flavor and certainly prettier. Actually oakleaf and greenleaf make a good mix.
Coming up for July 1:
Greens: collards, kale, chard
The start of the peas
Saturday is the first day we are going to the market in Detroit Lakes. I actually try putting off the first market day because you are “locked in” after that point. But things are growing well enough that we can’t put it off any longer…
At the market on Saturday:
Greens (kale, swiss chard, collards)
Not a lot going on just yet…but it will grow.
Again, we are at City Park in Detroit Lakes near the Pavilion (by the lake) from 10-2.