Farmer's Market News...What's in Season

About now I am anxious for the local produce stand and farmer's market to open. Unfortunately, that is still a couple of months off. The produce stand opens first (sometime in April) with produce they truck up from California and eastern Washington. I like to go there since it is in the open air and it gives me a little "Saturday market fix." The big whopper of a farmer's market, The Beaverton Saturday Market, isn't open until May.

So, what's in season now? Mostly produce from the southern states (I will include California in that, since they are pretty much considered to be part of the southwest)...that is some citrus for fruit, but mostly root vegetables and cole crops, such as cabbage and broccoli.

Some people are really missing out on a treat if the only root veggies they eat are potatoes and carrots. I have become addicted to a variety of roasted root vegetables.  It is amazing how sweet and flavorful they become, and are so healthy! I roast two large baking pans full of them in one evening and that will last us for at least four nights' meals.

Here is how I prepare them, and then the dishes I use them in...

Vegetables to roast:
red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled
rutabagas, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
carrots, unpeeled
parsnips, peeled
onions, peeled
leeks (white and pale green parts only)
turnips, peeled
sweet potatoes or yams, unpeeled
beets (blanch & peel before roasting)
squash, asparagus and fennel (I know, these aren't root veggies, but good)

Cut all of the vegetables into large chunks. Place them in a large bowl(s) and drizzle a little olive oil over them along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. You can also mix in your favorite herbs, such as rosemary and garlic. Toss them with your hands to coat them all. Place on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 1 hour until brown and caramalized, stirring and turning the vegetables mid-way. It's not an exact science and is easy to do...when they are brown and smell really good, you know they are ready.

Let them cool and then refrigerate in covered bowls or freezer bags.

  • Plain as a side dish right out of the oven is my favorite. But, they are also good reheated and served with any main dish such as pork or fish.
  • Heat some in the microwave and then mash them with a bit of butter and milk. Serve as you would mashed potatoes with meat loaf, chicken, etc.
  • Make a quick au-gratin by slicing, layering them with bread crumbs, cheese and a small amount of cream or milk. Top with bread crumbs mixed with a little melted butter. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
  • Add roasted vegetables to hot chicken or vegetable stock for a very quick soup. I use an emersion blender for a creamy soup. Add a dollop of sour cream and some chives on top.
  • Toss cold, sliced roasted vegetables with a vinegar and oil salad dressing (Italian dressing) and place on a bed of lettuce for a winter salad. Add chunky croutons or a bit of gorgonzola cheese on top.

roasted vegetable soup....roasted vegetables mixed with penne & cheese

Don't let those parsnips or beets intimidate you! We had a friend in his 50's that had never had fresh cooked beets. He said he didn't like beets (he was used to those in a can!)  Now he loves them and we make sure to plant a few extra to give to him. If you have time, pickle some little beets to use in green salads instead of those rubber tomatoes they have in the grocery store in winter.
Eat your vegetables!

In the Garden...Buy Your Seeds NOW!

I have planted Heavenly Blue morning glories on my front porch trellises for the past few years. That is, until last year when I couldn't find any seed packets from the multitude of farm stores around here. This year I knew to buy early, so when the first seed packets hit the racks in January, I got a jump on other gardeners. ugh...There were other morning glories, but the slot for Heavenly Blue was empty.

This is a beautiful, well-tamed morning glory. It is the truest blue of any flower I've seen, and has gorgeous deep green heart-shaped leaves.
 "We had them, but they went fast. I doubt if we'll get more in. All of the stores are having trouble re-ordering any seeds now that people have started gardening again." To aid in the economic crisis along with knowing where their veggies came from, it seems many people found out what a joy it was to garden last year. I guess they added a bit of Heavenly Blue color to the garden while they were at it.

So, if you haven't purchased your seeds, you better get them as soon as possible. Gardening has become the number one pastime. I am glad to see it, although it is making it harder to get the seeds that I rely on each year. This year I am turning to 100% heirloom seeds and going to start saving my own seeds each year. Here are some great sources for heirloom seeds with some rich history contained in each variety. (click on the name to go to their website)

Seed Savers Exchange  is a non-profit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage. Today, the 890-acre Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa is the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States. "We permanently maintain more than 25,000 endangered vegetable varieties, most having been brought to North America by members' ancestors who immigrated from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and other parts of the world." Here are just some seeds I am trying this year...

Broom Corn ($2.75 for 100 seeds) for autumn projects and Milkmaid Nasturiums, a creamy lt. yellow that grows to 12 feet to add to my window boxes.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, established at Monticello in 1987, collects, preserves, and distributes historic plant varieties that center on Thomas Jefferson's horticultural interests and the plants he grew at Monticello. It also covers the broad history of plants cultivated in America by including varieties documented through the nineteenth century.

The vegetable gardens at Monticello

Heritage Harvest Seed specializes in rare and endangered varieties. This young company's catalog is chock-full of intriguing heirlooms, like this rare French cherry tomato that is a very dark red and sweet, called Tonodose des Conores. ($3 for 25 seeds)

Ronniger's Potato Farm is known for its amazing collection of interesting potato varieties, including a number of rare spuds, along with garlic, onions. Many of the old-timers had faded to obscurity, but Ronnigers brought them back and now offers them virus-free thanks to the high-tech world of meristem tissue culture. Certified organic. This beautiful red potato is one of theirs, called Rio Colorado. It is a small, firm mid-season potato that is great for stews, creaming, and any time you want those tasty small potatoes.

South Carolina Foundation Seed Association  is perhaps the most interesting source of pass-along and handed-down heirlooms from Georgia and the old South. This foundation offers beans, butterbeans, corn, peanuts, squash, pumpkins, and others adapted to hot summers. Each of these varieties has a rich history, including some traditional Native American and African-American varieties. You have to download their order form and send it in. But, if you want seed such as Texas Longhorn field peas that can be grown up John Haulk Corn (which grows to 15 feet) and is good eating and for corn meal, it is worth the old fashion trouble of sending in the form.

So, what about my Heavenly Blue morning glories?

I found them at a seed company not far from where I live, called The Victory Seed Company. They are a small, family owned organization that works to preserve plant varieties by locating, growing, documenting and offering heirloom and rare open-pollinated seeds to home gardeners. Along with some nice information about World War II Victory Gardens accompanied by original posters and pamphlets, this family seed company offers a good-sized assortment of heirloom and more recent vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Have fun planning your own victory garden, and remember, buy your seeds early!

St. Patrick's Day Embroidery (free pattern)

Hi friends. Well, Valentine's Day is only 2 weeks away. Did you embroider last month's pattern? Here is a picture of a completed towel. "Elizabeth" was embroidered on a purchased kitchen towel with a blanket stitch around the edges of the towel in 6-strand black embroidery floss. Prim cute!

Now it's time to start the St. Patrick's Day pattern.

Whether embroidered all in green or the colors shown, this will look cheery for the entire month of March. Is someone you know a little under the weather or have the winter blues? Line a basket with this embroidered towel, place a few teas in the basket and wrap it up with a pretty green bow for a real mood booster.

To print pattern: click on the following picture. A large picture will come up on your screen. Right click on it and then click on "print picture." The pattern will be printed to scale.

Click here for materials, directions and how-to embroider videos from the past blog, "A Year of Tea Towels."

Have a beautiful week and fun crafting!