Summer heat and lack of rain continuesPublished 9:18am Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Column: Verlys Huntley, Notes from the Garden
The forecast for this week continues to be for hot weather, with some possibility of showers. The problem with the rain showers we have had this year is that they are very scattered. Usually, the rain that has fallen has gone north of us, and northern Minnesota has at times had even too much rain.
The rain that we had on July 18 varied a lot within this area. Albert Lea reported seven-tenths of an inch. South of Albert Lea near the Iowa state line, we got 5/10 inch, and a few miles south of us, they received only about one-tenth of an inch. We really are in need of a good general rain, so everyone can get some relief from this drought. Nationwide, this is the worst drought since 1956, and the impact is already being seen in increased grain prices. However, this is not going to help those farmers who are getting reduced yields, or maybe no crop at all. And as grain prices rise, we can expect meat prices and many other things to follow. So whether you farm or not, you are going to see the impact of this dry weather.
Those of us who garden are more fortunate than crop farmers in that we can water at least some of our garden area. Therefore we are able to report that the farmers market produce has been fairly abundant and of good quality, in spite of the dry weather. Although early tomatoes are now coming to the market, I think there may overall not be as good a crop as there would normally be. Tomatoes will not set on fruit when the temperatures (day and night) are too high. Once the temperatures moderate, the blossoms will then develop into fruit, but that crop will come fairly late. If we don’t get an early frost, we could see a lot of tomatoes coming on later in the season.
Soybeans are setting on pods and field corn is developing ears, but both desperately need rain. Early apples are beginning to ripen; vine crops setting on fruit (melons, squash, pumpkins, etc.); fall raspberries blooming and setting on small green berries; cucumbers, summer squash, sweet corn all abundant now; most onions have been pulled up for storage; potatoes have been dug or are ready to be dug; and we are probably into the part of the season where the largest quantity of produce is available. So, if you want to can or freeze something, now is the time to start thinking about doing that. There will be a canning class through Community Education at the Albert Lea High School on Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. The cost will be $25 for the two sessions, and you will get a Ball Canning Discovery kit and four pints of canned product to take home. Call Community Education if you would like to take part in that class, and learn how easy home canning can be!
Produce of the week: Beets
Beets may be one of the most under-rated vegetables. There are many varieties of beets, not only various shades of red, but even yellow and white, most generally round in shape, but also can be in a longer cylindrical shape. Most garden beets, however, are globe shaped and a gorgeous bright red.
Beets can be an excellent and tasty addition to our diets. Both the tops and the beets themselves can be used. Beet greens are rich with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C, as well as calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and iron. Swiss chard is in the beet family, and beet greens and chard are very similar. The beets themselves are also rich in folate. Researchers believe the red pigment in beets could protect against the development of cancerous cells, and might play a role in reducing the inflammation associated with heart disease.
Beets can be steamed, boiled, roasted, juiced, pickled or eaten raw. They are particularly delicious when oven roasted, as that concentrates the natural sugars. Leave the tap root and about one half inch of the top on the beet when cooking them. The skins will slip off easily after cooking.
Beet, pear and walnut salad
1 pound beets
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 large pear, cored and sliced
3 cups mixed salad greens
4 Tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)
Dressing: 1 Tablespoon orange juice, 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar (or could use balsamic or red wine vinegar), 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 1 Tablespoon minced shallots, 1/4 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Roast beets 45 minutes, slip off skins and slice. Drizzle with one tablespoon of dressing and toss.
Divide salad greens on six plates, top with beets, onion, pear slices, cheese and nuts. Drizzle with remaining dressing.
Orange glazed beets
3 cups cooked, diced beets
2 Tablespoon butter
2 teaspoon flour
2 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
Melt butter. Blend in flour. Add brown sugar and orange juice, stirring constantly until thickened. Dice cooked beets and add. Heat until bubbly, and serve.
See you today from 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the farmers market on North Broadway Avenue!
Verlys Huntley is a master gardener and the president of the Albert Lea Farmers Market.