Tag Archives: fruits

Preparing to Overwinter Your Herbs

August 29, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

September and October can be some of the most rewarding months for a gardener. Plants are fully grown and pumping out as many fruits as they can before the first frost. It’s like they know their time is up.

But it doesn’t have to be the end for some plants if you know how to help them out, according to Tony Cirian of Cirian’s Farmers Market on 50th and Leavenworth. Most herbs, for example, are as simple to grow indoors as they are outside. So if you’ve developed a taste for fresh basil on your tomatoes or tarragon in your scrambled eggs, don’t despair the coming winter. These tips will keep you in fresh herbs no matter the cold:

  • Let annuals go to seed. Annuals, such as basil, cilantro, chervil, borage, and dill, are going to seed by now (and probably have been ever since temperatures started soaring). Collect the seeds and plant them in pots right away. Set the pots inside under a grow lamp or in a very warm windowsill. Keep them just moist until you start to see shoots.
  • Salvage smaller mature annuals. Dill, cilantro, and chervil are too tall to transplant easily and probably don’t have many useable leaves left anyway. Cirian says that you can pot up smaller annuals such as basil and parsley (actually a biennial) if they still have leaves to harvest; they’ll last a bit longer if you bring them inside, but they will die eventually. “You might get an extra month or so out of them,” he says. But by that time, the seeds you planted will have germinated. You’ll only have a small gap, if any, without fresh herbs.

Know the needs of your perennials. Perennials are essential additions to an herb garden, but they can vary in their care:

  • Rosemary, for example, is technically a tender perennial but isn’t usually hardy enough to endure our Zone 5 winters, according to Cirian. You can attempt to pot up the entire plant and bring it inside. Cirian does warn that the plant will get a bit woody and lanky over the winter. “It’s just not getting the sunshine and warmth to be really vibrant.”
  • Tarragon is another perennial that benefits from potting up over the winter for extra protection. It can be handy to divide a root clump, leave a few plants outdoors, and just bring one inside. (Note that Russian tarragon is unfortunately more commonly sold, though it tastes more like a weed than the licorice flavor of French tarragon.)
  • Other perennials, such as chives, common thyme (thymus vulgaris), sage, oregano, and lavender, are easily left in place throughout the winter and will come back nicely next spring. To enjoy them inside as well, root thyme, sage, oregano, and lavender cuttings in pots. Keep the cuttings moist until you see new growth. You can add chives to your winter kitchen by digging up a clump and dividing into pots.
  • Some perennial herbs can be invasive and so should only ever be grown in pots. A large pot of mint or lemon balm adds a fresh smell to your patio and can easily be moved inside before the first frost.

To make the most of your indoor herb garden, use potting soil (never garden dirt) and only water once a week. “You don’t want that root system to rot,” Cirian says. He adds that there’s not much need to fertilize over the winter, as “potting soil already has a slow-release food.” Just make sure light and warmth are in good supply, and that’s all it takes to keep yourself in fresh herbs all winter long.

 

Farmers Market in the Fall

Photography by Keith Binder

In 1994, Gene Sivard had an oversized garden with veggies to spare. The Old Market was having its first Farmers Market and was “begging for vendors.” Now, Sivard’s Gene’s Green Thumb has 14 acres, and the Old Market Farmers Market is in its 20th season.

Over the years, Sivard has seen it grow from a simple farmers market into a city bazaar of sorts. “Now you have crafts, meat, cheese, all kinds of beef jerky, bread,” he says. “It is a big event with a really big crowd.”

It’s become so popular, in fact, that Omaha Farmers Market added a second location. Now, you can visit the Old Market on Saturdays 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m. from the first week in May through mid-October and then hit the newer Aksarben Village market on Sundays from 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

“Every market is different,” says Heidi Walz, operations manager for Omaha Farmers Market. “And that means that every season is different, every week is different. We’re rotating new things in each week as the season progresses.”

You can find a harvest calendar, with general times to expect local produce, under the Local Resources tab of the Market’s website (which, by the way, got a 20th anniversary redesign):
omahafarmersmarket.com.

Worthy of noting in that calendar is that the fall is still a great time to hit the market.

“…at the market, we can look at all the different offerings right there, a couple blocks from each other.” – Heidi Walz, operations manager of Omaha Farmers Market

“The produce stays strong through the end in this area,” Walz says. “So you’re still going to see tomatoes and potatoes and peppers and the greens, and more of the typical table fruits and vegetables that people think of. But the other cool thing is, being in Nebraska, we definitely have some fall crops. You’re going to see the apples, the pumpkins, and the gourds, as well as some of the decorative things, like Indian corn.”

It’s difficult for Walz to choose a favorite thing about the markets. But “I have two little boys, and to be able to go there and see all the varieties of pumpkins,” she says, is one of them.

“It’s fun to go to the pumpkin patch, and we do that. But at the market, we can look at all the different offerings right there, a couple blocks from each other. And the boys look at what is the most unique pumpkin, or the biggest pumpkin, and explore so many different options. It’s just really fun to let them come down and pick out a really unique pumpkin, like maybe a green one that’s really tall and slender,” she says. And, because the farmer is right there, “you can find out way more about your selection.”

Sivard also loves the fall markets. For the veggie lovers, Sivard recommends getting winter squash, like acorn squash, which can be stored in a cool basement and eaten all the way in January.

Even when the weather turns, you can still find treasures at the market. According to Sivard, “One season, we had six inches of snow on the ground and still had a lot of apples.”

And although Oct. 19–20 is the last weekend for the season, you can get a taste of the market in December at the WOWT and Physicians Holiday Market. The Holiday Market is hosted under two large, heated tents in Aksarben Village on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7–8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Although the Holiday Market doesn’t have produce, you will find a lot of your favorite regular-season Farmers Market vendors, as well as additional gift vendors.

“It’s just so festive and local, which is cool—to get some of your holiday shopping done in a local way. Such an awesome event.” Walz admits, “It’s one of my favorites.”

The Best, Local Farmers Markets

July 22, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Krisha Goering has made a weekend visit to the farmers market a summer tradition for the last four years. The Millard mom, who often takes her own mother along for a little girl time, enjoys spending an hour or so each Sunday morning walking the farm stands at the Aksarben Village market and buying the bulk of the fresh groceries she’ll need for her weekly menu and beyond.

The veteran shopper says she heads to market each week with an action plan. “I know exactly what I’m going to get when I get there. I make a swing through the market with $20, and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” Goering says.

“I typically buy whatever’s in season. At the beginning of the summer, that’s asparagus and a variety of lettuces. Eggs are abundant [early summer], so I eat a ton of them, too. Come August and September, when the harvests are plentiful, I buy tomatoes two or three cases at a time for canning, and I grab a couple of bushels of green beans to freeze. I also buy cucumbers for canning pickles, as I haven’t had much luck growing [cucumbers] in my own garden.”

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Goering says she buys her fruits and veggies at the farmers market whenever possible, preferring locally-grown over store-bought, organic produce in almost every instance. “They’re simply more fresh and more nutritious. Store-bought goods just don’t ripen the same or taste the same.”

Visiting with her favorite vendors, some of whom she now considers her friends, is one of the perks of frequenting the same market each week, Goering says. “We chit-chat a bit, talk about our kids, share a little news…” she says. “These [farmers] are quality people. They work many hours a day and grow and sell wonderful product. I really respect them. But I don’t want to occupy too much of their time visiting, as I know they’re aiming to make new clients and I don’t want to cost them business.”

Omaha shoppers are fortunate in that they have three large outdoor markets from which to choose, all accessible by bus, bike, car, or foot. The Omaha Farmers Market at 11th and Jackson streets in Downtown Omaha is open every Saturday from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The Historic Old Market, which served as a city market for local produce vendors over a century ago, today offers more than 100 vendors selling everything from fruits and veggies and baked goods and dog treats, to teas and coffees and jewelry and toys. Great Harvest Bread, The Tea Trove, Big Kahuna Kettle Corn, and Cibola are a few of the names you’ll see each week.

The same group of sponsors that produces the Downtown Omaha market also organizes the farmers market held each Sunday at Aksarben Village, 67th and Center streets. More than 85 vendors participate in this market, which offers much more than produce as well. Goods from Goodrich Pottery, Honey Creek Creamery, and Soup-n-More can be found alongside fruits and vegetables from Birdsley Road Blueberries, Shadowbrook Farms, and Hillside Orchard, among many others.

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Both Omaha Farmers Market ventures participate in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which helps financially strapped families afford healthy food options.

A third farmers market is hosted Saturdays all summer long on the south side of Village Pointe Shopping Center, 168th and West Dodge Road. A wide variety of produce from farmers within a 150-mile radius is available, as well as food and gift items from Jisa Farmstand Cheese, C&C’s Bzzz Honey, Dance in the Wind Iris Garden, and dozens of other retailers. The shopping center hosts a fun family event, Harvest Fest, on the final day of the market October 5.

Browsing the flowers, arts and crafts, yummy treats, and unique gift items at the farmers market can make for a fun, leisurely outing for some shoppers. But for health-conscious grocery shoppers like Goering—there for the fine, locally grown produce and foods and not much else—here are several tips that can help produce a fruitful visit. (Sources: Krisha Goering, tasteofhome.com, and localfoods.about.com).

  • Go early for best selection of produce, thinner crowds, and to beat the summer heat. Go late for (again) thinner crowds and the best deals; some farmers discount items at the end of the day to avoid hauling them home.
  • If you’re new to the market, make a swing through just to get an overview of what’s there. (Some markets offer a map of vendors.) Don’t buy at the first stand you see; you may find better goods cheaper down the line and have buyer’s remorse.
  • Bring your own reusable bags. Reinforced plastic or canvas bags work best and make carting produce around more convenient. If you’re buying a lot, bring a wheeled cart.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen and bring a water bottle and your patience. You may have some waiting in line to do, and not all areas are tented with shade.
  • Be considerate of other shoppers. Don’t overstay your welcome at a busy stand, block the roadway with a huge stroller, or allow your dog to invade others’ personal space. Shopping in small groups is recommended.
  • Get to know your vendors during the market’s downtime. They may offer great food prep or cooking advice, share recipes, or give referrals to other vendors you’ll enjoy. They might also share their growing techniques or food philosophy.
  • If you’re looking to not break the bank, set a budget and stick to it. Make your grocery list beforehand and avoid impulse buys.
  • Respect the vendors. Selling their goods is their livelihood, and a farmers market is not a flea market. Don’t haggle on price. If you’re not willing to pay it, politely move on.

For more info on farmers markets in Omaha, visit OmahaFarmersMarket.com or VoteRealFood.com.

Local Farmers Markets

Omaha Farmers Market—Old Market

11th & Jackson streets

May 4 – October 19

Saturdays 8am-12:30pm

Omaha Farmers Market—Aksarben Village

67th & Center streets

May 5 – October 20

Sundays 9am-1pm

Village Pointe Farmers Market

South side, Village Pointe Shopping Center

168th & W. Dodge Rd.

May 4 – October 5

Saturdays 8am-1pm

Cultivating Your Vegetable Garden

May 25, 2013 by

Sustainable vegetable gardens are a great way to encourage organic living. When beginning yours, plan for year-round growth. Keep a gardening log to record tips and tricks you’ve picked up along the way; it can help you determine what may or may not work for next year. It’s also a good idea to educate yourself at your local nursery or farmers market about proper care and growing techniques.

Thanks to Mother Nature, almost every vegetable has at least one companion plant that helps protect it from pests and insects. For example, marigolds repel beetles, nematodes, and rabbits. Dill and parsley attract “garden heroes,” like spiders and ladybugs, that love to eat garden pests. And while most people know that herbs, such as basil and chives, make great additions to your fresh dishes, others such as yarrow and lavender protect plants from moths.

Here are more tips for maintaining your vegetable garden in the summer months:

JUNE

All warm-season plants should be in your garden now. Remember to water weekly and pull weeds when they sprout. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac (almanac.com), “By keeping your plants well-watered and fertilized, they will quickly fill in spaces instead of weeds.” Start seedlings for broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage now so they’ll be ready for fall. Use nine-cell containers that can be watered from the bottom. Then, transplant to bigger containers 1-2 weeks later, or when sprouts begin to appear.

JULY

If you have summer squash in your garden, harvest when they grow to eight inches. Fertilize tomatoes and peppers lightly, and water the garden in the morning or later in the afternoon to prevent evaporation. Also, make sure to stake the taller plants to encourage growth and protect them from falling over during any summer storms. You can now begin sowing all your seeds for your fall garden: beets, carrots, collards, kale, radish, snap beans, turnips, and winter squash.

AUGUST

Continue to harvest your fruits and veggies every few days—this will promote production well into fall. This is a good time to begin canning. In fact, can everything you can! Let your tomatoes ripen on the vine. If any green tomatoes fall, store them in a paper bag with an apple to help them ripen. Keep planning for your fall garden and watch for pests and diseases. And don’t forget to share your harvest with friends, family, and neighbors! Backyard parties under summer skies are always better with fresh vegetables on the grill anyway.