Peas now available at the market, green beans coming soon

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

As most of you realize, we are having a rather unusual gardening season this year. This is reflected by the produce that is becoming available at the local market. Most of the produce is about two weeks behind normal. Strawberries began ripening about two weeks later than normal, and may have hit the peak production this past week. Peas, new potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, onions, Swiss chard and kohlrabi are coming in now. Some strawberries will be available this week yet, and raspberries will start coming very soon. A few early raspberries are already starting to ripen.

Our growers have been hit with a number of different weather problems. The cool weather early caused the soil to remain exceptionally cold, and many seeds did not germinate well, and the plants that were up did not grow. Then, we had two or more heavy rain events, where we got over 3 inches of rain, (and some got considerably more) which not only washed out the seeds and packed the ground, but actually flooded and drowned out some of the crops. Over all, many people have told me that the soil has not worked up very well this year. Although the tomato plants are setting on fruit, the plants do not seem to be nearly as large as they normally are at this time. Many plants still look to be stressed. Hopefully, with enough rainfall or water, and maybe a little extra fertilizer, most of our plants will grow out of this.

In spite of some difficult weather conditions, there has been a nice variety of produce at the market, as well as meat (pork, beef and elk), eggs, a wonderful variety of baked goods, some beautiful annuals and perennials, herbs, lots of jams, jellies and honey, popcorn and quite a few craft items, including quilted and crocheted items, stitched pictures, hand-made soap, woven rugs, pet supplies, bird houses, children’s non-toxic play dough and sidewalk chalk and much more.

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As a customer, your local farmers market can offer you many benefits. The products sold there are produced locally and the money stays in the community, supporting local businesses. The sellers are local people, who grow or produce their product on a small scale, generally using few or no chemicals. You can ask the grower about their growing practices to know where your produce is coming from. Contrast this to grocery store produce, which comes an average of 1500 miles away, and you probably will not know where it originated. For example, the recent food born illness at first attributed to tomatoes still seems to be spreading, and officials do not seem yet to be able to identify the source of contamination. And the biggest benefit of all of shopping at your local market is the wonderful freshness and flavor of local produce, which in many cases is picked only hours before arriving at the market.

If you are a person who enjoys gardening, and usually has more produce than you can use, consider joining the market. You can make some extra money, and I believe you will enjoy meeting the many wonderful market customers and the other vendors.

If you are someone who believes strongly in the locally grown concept and enjoys coming to the farmers market, we are looking for volunteers to help with market activities. We now have a little red barn on the lot, and this can enable us to carry on more activities, but we need more help from community members.

Or if you belong to a non-profit organization that wants to raise some money to promote your group, maybe you would like to schedule an event at the market where you would sell some type of food. We can provide the tables and an awning, as well as an electrical outlet, at no charge to your group.

If you are interested in pursuing any of the above opportunities, call Verlys Huntley, 507-297-5546.

And for all of you with young children, or grandchildren, don’t forget about the Albert Lea Park and Recreation carnival at the market today. The activities will be set up on the east end of the lot, and the market itself will operate as usual in the remainder of the lot. Come join in the fun!

Fresh peas are a seasonal treat that should be enjoyed while they last. They are available late spring or early summer, and generally are finished before the onset of summer heat. Similar to sweet corn, they are at their best when eaten soon after harvest, as their sugars quickly convert to starch..

Fresh peas nutritionally offer good amounts of vitamins A, C, K and the Bs. They are high in the minerals iron, potassium, and phosphorous, in a high fiber package.

The three types of peas are the shell type, snap peas and snow peas. Shell peas need to be taken from pods, and can be eaten raw, mixed in vegetable sautes, stir-fries, soups, salads or fried rice. If cooking them, blanch or steam for only two to four minutes. Do not overcook. Snap peas look similar to shell peas, but the pods are sweet and edible. They can be eaten raw, after snapping off the stem tip. If cooking, cook no more than two minutes. Snow peas are flat, and frequently larger than snap peas. They should be picked while still flat, and before the peas inside develop much. They may be eaten raw, but are used more classically in stir-fry recipes.

Herbed New Potatoes, Onions and Peas

1/2 pound young onions

1 pound small new potatoes

2/3 pound sugar snap peas

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, dill or cilantro

Butter, salt and pepper, to taste

Boil potatoes and onions until nearly tender, about 10-12 minutes. Add peas and cook for a couple more minutes. Drain, and toss with herbs, butter and salt and pepper.

Fresh Pea Pod, Broccoli and Rice Salad

1 package (6 oz.) long-grain and wild rice mix

1 1/2 cup chopped broccoli

1/3 cup sliced onions

1/4 cup bottled clear Italian salad dressing

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 to 1 1/2 cup edible pea pods

1/3 cup slivered almonds

Prepare rice mix according to directions. Cool slightly. Steam broccoli until crunchy tender. Toss with remaining ingredients and refrigerate at least two hours.