Spring Gardening with Wheatsfield
May 2013 Produce Parable
By Adam Calder
It seems nature is not without a sense
of irony, and April leading into May brought us weather in the 70’s,
then snow and 30’s, then the 70’s again. If nothing else, nature
like this keeps us sharp and on our toes.
Flurries aside, it is time for
gardening. We are ready to help you cultivate a fine garden and
are happy to extend a new line of gardening products. Potting
Shed Creations has a creative selection of aesthetically pleasing and
sustainably produced gardening products, and we have brought in a few
of their items for you to try. We have Bloom in a Bag, Garden
in a Bag and Potting Shed Kids products to meet the needs of casual
window-box gardeners, more serious back-yard gardeners and any
children out there aspiring to be little gardeners themselves.
As always, we are proud to offer a
selection of heirloom seed packets from Seed Savers Exchange. Go
ahead and grab some peas, radishes and lettuce seeds to plant outside
now (they like it when it is a little bit chilly outside still) and
pick up some pepper and tomato seeds to start your own seedlings
indoors so you can be ready to plant them outside mid-May.
Starting plants from seed is not
everyone’s strong suite, and that is why we offer Onion Creek Farm
seedlings. Every year we sell through trays and trays of
seedlings, a verdant army of plants marching off to gardens all
across our community. This year we are offering mostly tomato
and pepper seedlings. Due to a lack of greenhouse space on
their farm and a desire to increase sales at their Ames Downtown
Farmer’s Market stand, Onion Creek Farm will have herb seedlings
available at their farmer’s market booth instead of at Wheatsfield
Cooperative as they have in prior years. Wheatsfield will still
have a great selection of red tomato seedlings such as Saint Pierre,
Brandywine, Nordak Early, Mortgage Lifter and Big Red Wonder Boy;
orange, yellow, black or green tomatoes such as Juane Flamme’,
Taxi, Chocolate Cherokee or Green Zebra; small tomatoes such as Fence
Row Cherry, Patio Red, Texas Tiny and Rio Grande; and paste tomatoes
like San Marzano and Roma.
April Produce Parable
By Adam Calder, Produce Manager
The Produce Department is thrilled to
offer a new line of gardening products from Potting Shed Creations, a
gardening supply company based in Troy, Idaho. Founded in 1998 in an
old elementary school building, Potting Shed Creations has been
designing gardening products that are organic, sustainably produced
and practical. Their minimalist designs are both efficient and
eye-catching. The company states on their website: “we believe
style and substance are not mutually exclusive” and this philosophy
is evident in the simplistic design and beauty of these products.
We are bringing in a small selection of
their products for adult and children gardeners alike. Here’s a
list of the products we will be bringing in this spring:
Alpine Strawberry: Who wouldn’t want
to pick fresh, bright red and delicious little berries right off
their windowsill? These plants produce strawberries that are larger
than wild berries, but not quite as big as ones you can buy in the
store. They will likely not produce fruit until the second growing
season so you can use the plant that first year as a lovely green
Catnip: Give your furry little buddy a
treat by way of this little bag of catnip. It’s easy to grow and
maintain, and your cat will absolutely love it. Let them roll around
in it fresh, or dry it and stuff it inside a cat toy. You can even
enjoy catnip yourself; it makes a calming tea when steeped in hot
Forget-Me-Not: Having long been a
symbol of undying love, the forget-me-not is a wonderful addition to
any gardener’s home. These tiny blue flowers have been used
throughout the ages to remind people of their love, but also to
remind people of the plights of the poor, destitute and to honor the
Basil: The king of herbs, basil has a
long history of culinary and medicinal use. Undemanding to grow,
lovely to look at and a delight on the tongue, basil is an easy
addition to make too many dishes. Grow your own right from the bag,
then eat it fresh or whip up some pesto.
Jack’s Magic Beans: Made from
recycled US steel, this 5” by 1” tin contains organic bean seed,
garden stake, pencil, activity and recipe cards as well as
directions. Your child will delight in watching their beanstalk grow
to the sky, just like in the children’s story Jack and the
The Princess’ Pea: This tin is also
made from recycled US steel, and contains organic pea seeds, garden
stake, pencil, activity and recipe cards as well as directions. Your
little princess’ face will light up as her pea plant grows big and
strong. Don’t forget to put a pea under her mattress to see if she
is really a princess or not, just like in the children’s story The
Princess and the Pea.
Bird Habitat Scatter Garden: The seeds
in this mixture will attract songbirds and hummingbirds to your
garden, bringing with them all the magic and wonder those birds
contain. You and your children will become bird-watching
professionals in no time with the included notes and field guide.
The seed mix contains annuals and perennials so your bird watching
can start this season and continue on for many more. Each kit
includes thirty five seed varieties (enough for planting 100 square
feet), notes, field guide, pencil and directions.
With these exciting new products, what
are you waiting for? Come on in and get some soon and get a head
start on spring!
Use Your Head...of Cabbage
By Adam Calder, Produce Manager
“There once was a man filled with dread, wondering how his family’d be fed. He realized, with a shout, they’d eat coleslaw and kraut, all he had to do was use his head.” ~ A Cabbage Limerick by Molly McDonald, Produce Staff Member.
It really is that simple, all one needs to do to feed their family is use their head of cabbage to make something wholesome and filling for dinner. Whether you want creamy American-style coleslaw, hot German sauerkraut flavored with juniper or a savory stuffed cabbage roll, you just can’t go wrong when you make cabbage a part of your meal.
Cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, so much so in fact that sailors used to take barrels of sauerkraut with them on voyages as they noticed regular consumption of it prevented scurvy. Cabbage is also a good source of beta-carotene, fiber and it only has 25 calories in a 3.5 ounce serving. Do be careful when cooking cabbage, as over cooking produces hydrogen sulfide gas and this gas causes the cabbage to have a strong, unpleasant odor and taste.
To get you excited about making cabbage for dinner tonight, linked below is a recipe for cabbage rolls stuffed with a mixture of sushi rice, spicy house-made Italian sausage (from the Wheatsfield Meat Department), grass-fed beef and onions. The rolls are covered in a zesty tomato sauce and baked in the oven until tender. They are great for dinner or a wonderful appetizer for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
If this recipe has won you over, and you want to make cabbage dishes several times a week, then you may want to try your hand at growing cabbage. Start with the right seed for your home garden and/or growing region. If you live farther to the north, where the growing seasons are shorter, you may want to find a fast growing cabbage variety such as “Early Jersey Wakefield” and if you have a small garden then the compact, upright “Winnigstadt” variety might be the one for you. Look for cabbage seeds in the Produce Department from Seed Savers Exchange.
You can buy cabbage seedlings from transplants, but it is easy and fun to start your own from seeds. Start the seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost of the spring. Plant seeds one quarter of an inch deep in a small seedling pot full of moist potting soil. Seeds should germinate in about a week to a week and a half. Harden off the seedlings by exposing them to outdoor temperatures for an hour at a time adding an hour each day until a few days before you are ready to transplant them. At this point the seedlings should be hardened and can stay outdoors until they are ready to plant. Transplant the seedlings outdoors, spaced two feet apart, about a week or two before the last frost. Plant the cabbage in a sunny place with well draining soil. Even moisture will help the heads grow densely and uniformly.
I hope these recipes and the planting tips above inspire you to cook or grow some cabbage of your own this growing season!
Fun Cabbage Facts
According to the Guinness Book of World Records records:
Heaviest Cabbage 127.0 lb
Longest Cabbage Roll 50.4 ft
Largest Cabbage Dish 2,040 lb
Store the whole head of cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Cabbage can be stored for various time periods depending on the cabbage cultivar and harvest techniques.
The older it gets, the stronger the flavor and odor will be!
March Produce Parable
By Adam Calder, Produce Manager
The produce staff and I have all been
taught to appreciate the unique nature of our department. We are
taught to look at produce with a trained eye when we are setting it
up on the sales floor. The colors, shapes, textures and sizes off
all the different food we sell is taken into account every day in
each display we build, each bunch of celery we trim and every apple
Does that blocky green pepper look good
next to those shiny, curvy black eggplant, or would that slender
yellow crookneck squash really pop next to the eggplant instead? The
long, mousy tails to the radishes really draw your eyes in, so let’s
leave them on instead of trimming them off. Alternating the rows of
shimmering blackberries, glossy and ruby-red strawberries, slightly
ashen looking blueberries and dark, deep red raspberries makes for a
cascade of beautiful berries. What looks better next to the rough,
mottled brown skin of a bosc pear: nectarines with their smooth skin
and fiery splash of red and yellow, a peaches golden hue and fuzzy
skin or the taught, burgundy peel of a plum? Do those apricots all
have a slight blush of the side that was facing the sun? They sure
do, so we’ll be sure to stock those apricots so each and every one
is revealing that blush to you. When we do, you will look at them
and think the same thing we think each and every day: “This
produce, it’s all so beautiful, like a work of art!”
No artificial pigment, volatile
chemical or processed food will ever match the vivid colors, aromas,
flavors and textures of whole, fresh fruits and vegetables. It is
our job to use all of that produce as a palette, to use our produce
department as a canvas. We’ve spent years learning, training and
growing and each year our department grows a little bit more. Each
season increases the diversity of the palette we get to craft from.
Many people may not realize how much thought and care goes into the
produce we sell at Wheatsfield Cooperative, into each and every
produce display we set up and in each piece of produce we sell. It
is much labor indeed, but it is absolutely a labor of love. Come on
in for a visit and see for yourself what beautiful, edible works of
art we are creating here every day.
All's Fair(trade) in Love
February Produce Parable
By Adam Calder, Produce Manager
Fair trade roses will arrive on Friday, February 8 and will be red, yellow, pink and lavender. We will be selling them by the each and the dozen.
Instead of giving someone wine and
chocolates, why not give someone social justice, environmental
protection and economic development for Valentine’s Day this year?
If you give the gift of Fair Trade
roses, you are doing just that. Not only are these roses stunning to
look at, these flowers come to us from One World Flowers. This
business is committed to the people growing these flowers, the land
and the economy that ties the two together.
Social Justice is ensured for the
farmers in the 10% price premium all importers pay to purchase from
the farm. The farm workers vote on how to spend these funds and
voted to use them to fund scholarships, microloans and on-site
day-care. Sexual harassment and any discrimination are also
forbidden on One World farms. Women are given 12 weeks of paid
maternity leave, and when they return to work there are on site
doctors to help make sure they stay healthy.
Environmental protection comes in the
form of Integrated Pest Management, where applications of chemicals
are made in accordance with the cycles of plants and pests to best
mitigate their environmental impacts. Natural pesticides, like
chamomile extract and cayenne pepper, are used in lieu of
carcinogenic ones. Some of these farms grow chemical-runoff eating
algae in fish ponds built in to catch rainwater. These nutrient-rich
algae are then harvested and used as fertilizer for the roses.
Lastly, the economic development
spurred by these farms has improved the nearby economy by paying
workers a living wage. In Ecuador, where these roses are grown, the
minimum wage is $240 a month, although the estimated living wage is
$500 a month (the pay rate of the fair trade farmers.)
So this year, show the ones you love
that your love extends beyond them all the way to a hard working
farmer in Ecuador.