Friday Jul 29 2011
High temperatures help local fruit
By: Billie Jean Salle Special to The News Messenger
Heat is sweet! I know it is hard to convince yourself all this heat is really necessary but just wait until you taste the fruit. Wow! What a difference a few warm days make. We farmers were getting pretty discouraged lately with the unseasonably cool weather. Nothing was ripening on time, the fruit size was smaller and the flavor was less than spectacular. But now, after a week of higher temperatures, we are slammed with produce. Last week, we were behind schedule and, by next week, we will be drowning in produce. We will be going crazy trying to pick and sell everything before it gets over ripe. For you, the consumer, that means better-tasting fruit, more choices and some fantastic “heat wave sales.” Peaches in particular will be outstanding in flavor and price. Be sure to ask for a sample before you make your purchases because you may want to buy extra. Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes, especially the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and the red sweet 100's taking over the gardens. Gordon from Willow Creek said he could pick all day and still not get them all picked. The heirloom tomatoes are just taking their time but will be arriving soon. As for us, that is how we feel about the blackberries: we pick in the morning and, by evening, have to pick again. We are getting a huge amount from our little patch. But I'd rather pick blackberries than cherry tomatoes. It seems there is never an end to tomatoes. And besides, I like to sample as I pick and I do love blackberries. Squash is loving the warmer weather and is another crop that you could pick twice a day to keep it manageable. The good thing about squash is .... everything. It can be eaten morning, noon and night and even for dessert. I was given a fantastic squash recipe last week that was unbelievable. Squash Pie. You would swear it was an apple pie. This very unique pie was enjoyed by all who were lucky enough to get a bite. Speaking of apples, yes they are ripening too. We have started picking the Ginger Gold apple, which is similar to an early Golden Delicious but denser with a nice flavor. Apricots are history. Sadly, the heat picked the remainder of the crop. I just hope we got enough dried for the winter. Pears are just getting sugar and will be ready soon. Strangely enough, plums are slow to ripen and are in short supply now. It is time to get your canning jars ready because the peak of canning season is upon us. Cucumbers for pickling are perfect and not showing any signs of heat stress. Best get them before they become stressed and bitter. Cucumbers are so healthy for your system because they help naturalize the acid and lower PH levels. Try slicing them on a sandwich with a little cream cheese; it’s very light and refreshing. Sweet corn has been great and both white and yellow are available. Garden beans are literally being picked by the five-gallon bucketfuls. Do you realize how much labor and time that takes? Next time you’re checking out the green beans, think of the farmers bending or crawling on their knees and picking them one by one! The farmers have earned every cent they charge for that bean. The large commercial growers machine harvest their beans in minutes. A human hand doesn't even touch them. The real heat lovers of the garden, peppers, eggplants and okra; have flooded the market in only a week. Yes, it is finally summer! I love to walk the Downtown Lincoln Farmers’ Market every Thursday through Aug. 25 and enjoy the different tables and appreciate the hard work of our dedicated farmers. The Farmers’ Market is on F Street, between 5th and 6th streets and at Beermann Plaza. Take a moment, stand back and admire the beautiful colors, textures and aromas of summer, and say thank you. Thank you for doing this for me. You have fresh, locally grown, just-picked fruits and vegetables bursting with nutrients right there in front of you. Your choices are endless and you can feel secure knowing where your next meal is coming from and knowing the proud farmer who grew it. Billie Jean Salle is the Sierra Fresh Farmers manager.