Archive for May, 2012

First fruits

Perennial plants provide a type of spring joy that will likely never be achieved by annuals, at least not in northern climes. Sure, annuals offer some of the tastiest harvest, but perennials often get the first (asparagus, anyone?) and last (apple pie, yes please) say of the growing season. While annuals often require certain temperatures and warmer soils to be planted, perennials begin their new growth as soon as Mother Nature hits the “Go” button. Their emergence may depend on the particular spring and your location, but by April or May, around the country we are all generally treated to some sort of perennial beauty.

I love early spring flowers – while in college in Tacoma, Washington, my favorite were the daffodils that bloomed in February – but the real treat to me are the early fruits. This last weekend, we were gifted with our first: vibrant red strawberries. We have patiently watched for these berries, having planted the initial starter plants in 2010. The first summer was just to establish the patch, and last year, the few berries that were produced were stolen by ants, so this year has been awaited with much anticipation.

Unlike anything you could ever get shipped from California, a fresh, tender Minnesota Grown strawberry delivers a burst of tanginess and sweetness that will leave you craving more. They almost melt in your mouth like a fine chocolate.

If you don’t have space in your own garden to grow berries, or you can’t grow enough to meet your needs for pies, jams or just plain eating, there are many ways to get your hands on these delicious treats. Check out your grocery and ask them if they carry local produce; if they don’t, as them to consider it. Find your nearest farmers market and get to know the vendors. Or, you can do what I find most satisfying, and that is Pick Your Own or PYO. One of my favorite places to pick strawberries is Sam Kedem Nursery & Garden in Hasting, Minnesota. Sam and Rachel have been growing wonderful produce for over 15 years, and for the past several years have been certified Organic. In addition to strawberries, they also have PYO raspberries, blueberries, cherries and currants, not to mention many vegetables. If you’re looking for some quality produce and friendly farmers, head on down!

Not near Hastings, but want to PYO elsewhere in Minnesota, check out this handy guide, organized by county.  Other states also have listings. Happy picking!

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May 31, 2012 at 12:06 am Leave a comment

Plant sale extravaganza!

Here in Minnesota, where Spring first peeked out two months ago, then retracted in to cold, rainy April, we are very ready to get our garden on. This past weekend, we were given the gift of two warms days on which to do our major plant shopping. Fortunately, it also happened to be a BIG weekend for plant sales.

I started my weekend with the annual Spring Plant Sale and Open House at Minnesota Food Association (MFA), which I have also volunteered at for the last three years. An organically certified farm, MFA’s plants are grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or GMO seeds. I spent the day helping others decide what to take home for their gardens, and then filled my own boxes full of tomatoes, peppers and our family favorite – Brussel sprouts! I’d like to take a moment to put in a plug for my favorite sweet pepper, the Gypsy pepper, which I discovered through the MFA sale last year. They start out light yellow and progress to bright red (see picture), and become the most magnificently sweet delights you could imagine.

The next day, my friend who runs Norsejenta’s Seedlings, had her annual batch of tomatoes and peppers ready for pickup. For tomatoes, I went home with wonders like Anna Banana Russian, Isis Candy and Mortgage Lifter! And of course, I couldn’t leave without a KBX, my favorite I discovered at this sale last year.

Next I headed across the river to the Friends School Plant Sale for their final day when everything is 30% off. I love going on this day because I am usually not looking for anything in particular, which is good because its pretty picked over, but I always find some fun (or funny) treasure. Last year it was “Gretel” eggplant (I didn’t get there in time to get the matching “Hansel” plants). This year I picked up a Thai Green eggplant and two varieties of kohlrabi.

If you missed out on any of these (or you’re in another part of the country), don’t fret, there are sure to be more in the coming weeks. Wherever you are, be sure to check them out and this year, consider getting something fun and new to try!

May 15, 2012 at 11:34 pm Leave a comment


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