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Apples ripening earlier this year

Published 9:16am Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Column: Verlys Huntley, Notes from the Garden

With only about 10 days until autumn officially begins, we are already feeling a chill in the air, particularly at night. Once school is back in session, we know summer is drawing to a close. Farmers are already starting to harvest both corn and soybeans. With the very dry weather in this area, corn stalks are in a weakened condition that could cause corn to go down, and even further decrease the yield.

Verlys Huntley

Gardens are beginning to get that fall look. Vines are beginning to die back, and many things no longer have that lush green color. Pumpkins and fall squash are beginning to ripen. Leaves are starting to drop, and fall colors are beginning to show on some of the trees and bushes. The drought this summer is probably causing some of this. I am certainly hoping we get a good amount of rain before the ground freezes, or it could have a devastating long term effect on many trees and perennials. Evergreens would be most susceptible to damage, and even if you can’t water everything, you may want to water what you can. And remember, when watering, soak the ground thoroughly so the moisture gets down to the root zone.

Like nearly everything else this year, the apple crop started ripening at least two weeks ahead of normal. We were fortunate that the freezing temperatures when the trees were blooming did not seem to cause any crop loss for us. Many local orchards and home gardeners are saying their apple trees have very few, or no apples on them. The fact our orchard is on a hill may have helped. We have noticed, however, that certain varieties of apples are smaller, and some of the apples are dropping even before they are completely ripe. I suspect this is due to the lack of rain, and the fact that certain trees probably had more apples than the tree could support.

This summer has truly been a summer to remember! The heat and lack of rain caused a lot of problems, but along with the bad, there seems to come a little bit of good also. We weren’t plagued by mosquitoes this year, and we didn’t have to spend much time mowing grass.

Even with the challenging weather this season, the farmers market continued to grow in popularity. We have had a record number of vendors, and our customers were pretty faithful — even during some extremely hot and humid weather. The variety and quality of local produce, and other local products, continues to amaze me. There isn’t much that can be grown in this area that you won’t find at our market. Thanks for supporting  these local growers, and helping our local economy. And remember, we are open until the end of October, each Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. One exception to this that on Sept. 22, the farmers market will not be in our usual lot, but will be on Broadway, as part of the Fall Festival on Broadway, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Don’t miss this event! There will be lots of fun activities for children and adults, many food vendors with lots of delicious food, cooking demonstrations, train and wagon rides, and lots more. The farmers market will have all their usual offerings, and probably a few new things for this special event.

I would like to give a special thank you to the city of Albert Lea for their support of the farmers market, and a big thanks to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center for giving us permission to use their building as a storm shelter in case of severe weather. Hopefully we will never need to use it, but our vendors and customers can now feel assured that we do have a safe place to go if ever needed.

 

Produce of the week: Apples

Apples are one of everyone’s favorite fruits, and what could be better than a freshly picked apple? Apples can be kept in cold storage, and that means we can have apples year around. But somehow, nothing quite matches a freshly picked apple for flavor and mouth watering goodness. As a quick and easy snack, apples will satisfy your thirst, alleviate that hungry feeling, and provide quick energy. Apples will store best at 32 to 35 degrees, and with high humidity. When storing in your refrigerator, you should either keep them in the crisper drawer, or keep them in a perforated plastic bag to keep them crisp and fresh as long as possible. Some varieties of apples do store better than others. Honeycrisp is one variety that can be stored for a long time and still retain crispness. Fireside, Haralson and Keepsake also keep well, but keep in mind that much produce, including apples, will  not only lose some crispness and flavor, but also some of the vitamin content when stored. Fresh is always best!

If you would like to visit a local orchard, Huntley Gardens is having our Annual Harvest Festival open house from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Anyone wanting to visit an orchard and watch (or help make) apple cider being made with an old fashioned cider press is welcome to come. We will sample cider and other garden products and will have activities for the kids, as well as display some antique garden and farm equipment. To those of us who are senior citizens, we will remember seeing and maybe using some of these things. We will have quite a few varieties of apples for sale, along with other fall produce, and jams. We are south of Twin Lakes on County Road 16. Our address is 10516 720th Ave., Emmons, MN, 56029, or call 507-297-5546 for more information.

 

Recipes

Apple pancakes

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 1/4 cups milk

2 Tablespoon oil

3/4 cup peeled, grated apples

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Combine egg, milk and oil. Add gradually to dry ingredients, stirring only until batter is mixed. Fold in apples. Drop by spoonfuls on hot greased griddle, cooking until surface is covered with bubbles. Turn and cook to a delicate brown.

(For a shortcut, you can use a pancake mix and add grated apples.)

 

Apple butternut bake

1 large butternut squash (2 to 3 pounds)

1/4 cup butter

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 quarts apples, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

Bake squash until tender, scrape out pulp and mash. Add 1/4 cup butter, brown sugar and salt. Set aside.

Heat other 1/4 cup butter in skillet, add apples and 1/2 cup sugar, simmering until tender. Spread apples in large flat casserole, and spoon squash on top.  Top with following topping. Mix three cups crushed cornflakes, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, two tablespoons melted butter and one cup brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through and light brown on top.

 

See you at the farmers market from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday or 9 a.m. to noon Saturday!

 

Verlys Huntley is a master gardener and the president of the Albert Lea Farmers Market.