July brings more produce to market

Published 8:24 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer is going by quickly, and we are now into July. For those fortunate enough to have missed the tornadoes, severe wind storms and hail, gardens are now doing pretty well, with sufficient moisture, and fairly warm summer temperatures. Field crops are looking wonderful here, with some field corn being over six feet tall and about ready to tassel out. Soybeans are also looking great. Garden crops are doing well, with vine crops starting to vine out, tomatoes growing rapidly, and setting on fruit, early potatoes are ready to dig, raspberries are ripening, and early sweet corn is tasseling out. Most crops are running at least a week ahead of normal. Each week finds more produce coming to our local farmers market. Green and yellow beans, cucumbers and zucchini were all available last week, along with beets, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, lettuce, green onions, sweet onions, peas, carrots, turnips, rhubarb, raspberries, various herbs and a very few early tomatoes. Of course, the market always has farm fresh eggs, locally produced meats, jams, jellies, honey, maple syrup, home made candies, a large assortment of home baked items (including gluten free products), plants and flowers, and various local craft items.

Many of our farmers market customers are concerned about their health and how the food they eat affects their well being. I certainly believe eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits helps us stay healthier, and researchers have proven this to be true. Statistics say that on any given day, half the U.S. population eats no fruit or vegetables, and only one out of 10 children eats the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables.

I think everyone who can have a vegetable garden should raise at least some of their own produce. For those families with young children, a garden can be a wonderful learning experience, and a good way to get exercise and spend more time outside. Planting those seeds, and seeing them sprout and grow and produce some great tasting food can give a child a sense of pride and accomplishment. Those children involved in gardening learn to enjoy eating a much wider variety of vegetables, many of them raw and fresh from the garden. What could be healthier? But if you cannot garden yourself, or can’t grow everything you need, our local growers who come to the farmers market will be happy to provide what you need — freshly picked. And if you have young children, bring them to the market. Let them take part in choosing what produce you will buy. They will be more eager to eat what they have helped pick out.

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Farmers market notes:

If you need a ride to the farmers market, the Albert Lea Transit bus is picking up riders from many of the housing units in town and bringing them to the farmers market. The transit is even giving the riders $1 to spend at the market. This is sponsored by Sanderson Auto and Albert Lea Medical Center, so a great big thank you to them for this wonderful service. Call Joann at 379-1111 for more details.

We have meals served each Wednesday at the market by a local group or organization. Come enjoy some great food, usually with entertainment, too. Don’t forget to register for the free basket of donated products at the table next to the Red Barn. The market opens at 4 p.m. and runs to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. And of course we are also open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, with free coffee and treats available. And for our computer savvy customers, you can now send us an e-mail at alfarmersmarket@gmail.com and get on our mailing list. Look for the latest updates about the market on Facebook also.

Produce of the week:

snap beans

Snap beans are now in season. They are delicious and can be prepared in many ways. Snap beans come in three colors: green, yellow and purple. Yellow beans are also called wax beans. Purple beans are purple when picked, but turn green when cooked. Some of the old varieties of beans were called string beans because of the stringy fiber along the side of the bean, which needed to be removed. The varieties most frequently raised today do not have this, and are more tender and crisp — therefore the term snap beans. Beans are usually of the best quality when picked the size of a pencil or thinner. By picking the beans frequently, the plants will continue to produce longer. Snap beans are rich in folate, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Beans are a warm season crop, and need to be planted after the soil has warmed up. They are easy to grow, and should be planted about one inch deep and about three or four inches apart in the row. For a continuous supply, you can make successive plantings each two or three weeks until about mid July. Pick beans when plants are dry to avoid spreading disease from plant to plant.

Green Bean Salad

6 to 8 c. cut green beans

1 thinly sliced onion

1 c. sour cream

2 Tbsp. vinegar

2 tsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. horseradish

1/4 tsp. salt

pepper to taste

Cook beans 3 minutes, rinse in cold water and drain well. Add remaining ingredients to cooled beans. Marinate overnight in refrigerator.

Green Bean, Ham and

Potato Casserole

3/8 c. butter

3/8 c. flour

3 c. milk

1-1/2 c. grated cheddar

4 c. green beans, cooked

4 medium potatoes, cooked and diced

3 c. cooked diced ham

Melt butter and stir in flour. Add milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat. Add cheese and stir until melted. Arrange potatoes in a buttered casserole. Cover with green beans. Pour one half of cheese sauce over green beans. Add ham and remaining cheese sauce. Top with buttered bread crumbs if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes.

Stir-fried Green Beans

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

4 c. one-inch cut diagonally green beans

2 ribs celery, cut diagonally

1/4 pound muchrooms, sliced in 1/4-inch slices

1/2 c. beef broth (or water)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. corn starch

1/4 tsp. ginger

Heat oil. Add green beans. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add celery, and cook two minutes. Add mushrooms, and cook three minutes or until beans and celery are tender crisp. Combine remaining ingredients until well blended and stir into skillet. Stir constantly until mixture boils and thickens. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost their homes, other buildings and crops in the storms the last few weeks, including some of our vendors. The outpouring of support from the community has been unbelieveable, but for some of the people affected the rebuilding process will take quite some time. Let’s continue to support all those affected.

Verlys Huntley is the president of the Albert Lea Farmers Market.