Archive for June, 2011

June 14, 2011

Children’s garden harvest and edible weed #1

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that teaching my son about plants, gardening, cooking and the environment is very important to me.

In addition to helping out in the garden at home, he also has a 4′ x 16′ garden that he shares with a buddy at the MN Landscape Arboretum as part of the Seed Sowers (children’s garden) summer program.  The group has had two weekend planting days prior to today, one in late May and one in early June.  Today was the first day of the weekly program where they tend to their garden by watering, weeding, harvesting and cooking.

Since Grandma brought him to and from the Arboretum today, I was anxious to hear how it went and what he did.  He came busting in the door, so proud to tell me all about his day.  He had been very busy watering, weeding, making his own hummus with “beans, garlic, lemon juice and goosefoot”.  Plus he brought a bag home with a head of lettuce and a radish!

His garden harvest made a nice addition to the Quinoa Risotto with carrots and sugar snap peas we had for dinner and was he ever proud to put the salad on the table!

As he was telling me about his day, I decided to ask a little more about goosefoot.  “Goosefoot?” I asked.  “Yep, goosefoot, mom.  It’s a weed we can eat.” he explained.  (Since Seed Sowers planting day #2, he’s been on the search for goosefoot in our garden as well).  “We put it on top of our hummus.”

Not knowing a lot about goosefoot, I did a little internet research tonight so I know what to look for in our garden.  While researching, I found that goosefoot is indeed edible and very nutritious, another interesting tidbit… goosefoot and quinoa (that we coincidentally had for dinner) come from the same plant.  So, now I know, and if you didn’t before, now you know too!

Happy harvest from a proud mom!


June 7, 2011

Water, water, water!

We’ve had record-breaking temps in the Twin Cities the past couple of days. This weather is tough.  It literally feels like a blast furnace to us and most of us aren’t outside all day and night.

This is the kind of weather that really tests Darwin’s theory or evolution and truly the strongest (healthiest and most fit) will survive.  Plants and trees have no respite right now, so they really need us.  We all need to do our part to keep our plants and trees well watered right now, not only to keep them moist, but on these really hot days, their roots need cooling too.  Container plants especially need their roots cooled.  Remember a few days ago I was mentioning that it’s great that the soil in containers heats faster than the soil in the ground because you can get a jump-start on seed germination and plant growth?  Well, here we are, less than a week later and I get to remind you that there’s a down side to containers as well.  The soil in containers heats faster than the soil in the ground… On days like today when temps are over 100 degrees the soil temperature in containers is soaring as well.  If your plants look limp, but the soil is still wet, please give your plants a drink anyway.  Just like us, they may not be thirsty so much as just too hot.  The cool water will help cool their roots and get them back to a comfortable temperature, lessening the stress on the plant.

As if these temps alone aren’t enough to torture plants and trees, add dry air and high wind and we’re asking a lot of our green friends.

And now for a little plant biology. 🙂  Much like human perspiration, plants lose water through openings on their leaves in a process called transpiration.  The rate of transpiration (loss of water) is affected by humidity in the air, wind, air temperature and light intensity. The drier the air, the higher the wind, the higher temperature and the more intense the light is will increase the rate of transpiration/loss of water.

So… on hot days, water.  On dry days, water.  On windy days, water. And on hot, dry, windy days… please, please water!


June 3, 2011

To market, to market….

One of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings in the summer is grab a cup of coffee and “hit the market”. And by this I mean the Farmers Market.

I grew up a market kid. For pretty much as far back as I can remember, Saturday mornings meant heading to the Farmers Market with my mom.  As a kid I didn’t get it.  It all seemed the same: rows and rows of tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, cukes, you name it.  My mom would check each of them out and move on, keeping tabs on the vendors who had produce she was interested in.  At the time I couldn’t figure out what on earth the difference was.  WHY did we have to go down EVERY row?  They all have the same stuff, or so I thought.  I swore she just brought me along to haul the bags for her and when you’re 6 or 7, carrying bags of carrots, beets, radishes, kohlrabi, etc. can get pretty heavy!  Not to mention it can be kind of scary when you lose your mom because she stopped to check out the 10th tomato vendor (because the others “didn’t look good” even though they all looked just fine to 7-year-old eyes) and you got distracted by the brilliantly colored flowers across the aisle and turned to find people are swarming everywhere.  Despite all these hurdles I had to overcome (wink, wink) I came to love the market.  I started to learn the difference between the fresh and not-so-fresh, the ripe and the “not quite” and why my said some things “didn’t look good”.  Then there were the brats hot of the grill.  Like Foot Longs at the State Fair, no matter what time we got to the market, a brat was our reward at the end.  Many brats were eaten before 7:30am!  Mom liked to go early, and she still does.  Get there early, get the freshest produce, get a hot brat and head out before it gets too crazy.

I grew up going to the Minneapolis Farmers Market, you know, the one that has the red roofs you can see from the freeway, but can’t figure out how the heck to get there?  Yeah, that one.  That market has changed a lot over the years, yet the core has remained the same.  Nice people, nice produce, nice vendors. Nice and busy, yet laid back.

Although I don’t get there often, only because it’s “on the other side of the river”, I’ve also like the St. Paul Farmers Market too.  For lack of a better way to describe it, this one feels a little more trendy to me.  The one thing I really like about this market is that 100% of the produce is locally grown.  I’ve heard that this year they’ve also added free horse-drawn wagon rides from the parking lot to the market.  My son will love this!

When I don’t have a lot of time or just want a more low-keyed market experience, I head to the Richfield Farmers Market. This market has yet to fail me.  They always have a little bit of everything, just enough selection, large bouquets of fresh-cut flowers on the cheap and crepes! Oh, and cheese and bread and jams and such just like their bigger relatives, what’s not to like?

Regardless of where you live, what you like in a market or farm stand, whether you’ve never been to one or go all the time, support them. Especially if the produce is local!  The market is an experience. Plus, there’s nothing like a fresh radish, fresh lettuce, fresh asparagus and oh…. the fresh sugar snap peas… I can’t wait until they’re ready!

My challenge to you is this:  Get to a market (or farm stand).  Buy something new to you.  While you’re there, talk to the vendor.  REALLY talk to them.  Find out where they’re from, how long they’ve been growing produce or how long they’ve been selling at the market, some of their stories can be amazing.  This does a few things… gets you out, exposes you to something that could become a new favorite food, and brings back our connection to people, our food and where it comes from. It helps bring us full circle.

So, tomorrow is Saturday. If you’re looking for me I’ll be “at the Market” bright and early with coffee in hand, my market bag on my shoulder and hauling my son along to help carry… flowers.

I hope you go.  I hope you love it as much as I do.   And I hope you jiggety-jog as you go home again.