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Spring harvest guideline for 2014

HARVEST GUIDE  - SPRING 2014

April
radish
turnips
Japanese turnips
mache
arugula
spinach
mesclun mix
lettuce mix
mizuna
Swiss chard
bok choi
orach
scallions
sage
thyme
chives
parsley
oregano
sorrel
red veined sorrel
cilantro
lovage


May
radish
turnips
Japanese turnips
mache
arugula
spinach
mesclun mix
lettuce mix
mizuna
Swiss chard
Romaine lettuce
mustard greens
collard greens
turnip greens
kale
bok choi
orach
scallions
small onions
new potatoes
sage
thyme
chives
parsley
sorrel
oregano
savory
marjorem
red veined sorrel
cilantro
lovage
basils, cinnamon, lemon, thai, lime, licorice, 
shiso
dill
mints, chocolate, peppermint, spearmini
beets
carrots
beans
radicchio
fennel
zucchini
English peas
broccoli
cauliflower
sprouting broccoli
rapini
cabbage
cocktail tomatoes
sun flowers
cut flowers




June
radish
turnips
Japanese turnips
mache
arugula
spinach
mesclun mix
lettuce mix
mizuna
Swiss chard
Romaine lettuce
mustard greens
collard greens
turnip greens
kale
bok choi
orach
scallions
small onions
new potatoes
sage
thyme
chives
parsley
sorrel
oregano
savory
marjorem
red veined sorrel
cilantro
lovage
basils, cinnamon, lemon, thai, lime, licorice, 
shiso
dill
mints, chocolate, peppermint, spearmini
beets
carrots
beans
radicchio
fennel
zucchini
English peas
broccoli
cauliflower
sprouting broccoli
rapini
cabbage
cocktail tomatoes
cucumber
tomatoes
potatoes
fingerling potatoes
onions
leeks
garlic
mild peppers
hot peppers
sun flowers
cut flowers
 
 

Farmer Style

http://kplr11.com/2012/12/10/viral-farmer-style-parody-of-gangnam-style/
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Javajournal August, 2012

STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN


Wow.  Talk about a heat wave.  This is about as hot as we’ve ever seen in this area for early summer.  Even our weathercasters are calling the summer of 2012, historic and a classic drought.  It’s definitely had an affect on the supply and quality of fruit and vegetables this summer as you have noticed at farmers markets, farm stands and even in your own garden.  If you don’t have an available and constant water supply, growing anything has been a struggle for you. 

The worst part of the heat wave and drought is the devastating affects it is having on the grain farmers who rely on a steady supply of summer rain.  These farmers cannot irrigate the thousands of acres of corn and soybeans that are drying up to the point of total loss.  You have to admire the courage and strength of the farmers who simply shrug off the loss as “just part of Mother Nature”.  

We won’t see the consequence of drought damage until later this year when prices for many value added corn and soybean products begin to rise.  Look for increases in meat, cereals, breads, oils, snacks, and just about anything that uses corn or soybean oils.  Weather has and always will have a direct affect on the supply and quality of all food products, even yours in you home garden.  

Never mind the heat and drought, for it is time to start all over again for the fall for your local vegetables and herbs.  Yes, in the hottest part of the summer it’s time to plant the things that will grow perfectly in our moderate fall days and nights.  The first two weeks of August is the ideal time to sow all of the cool season seeds that we normally associate with spring.  Mustards, lettuce, spinach, radishes, beets, chards, kale, collards, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, cilantro, dill, parsley, and even short season basils should be sown directly now and throughout the rest of the month.

Professional growers have long known the value of planting in August for bountiful harvest in the fall and into early winter. It you have started your own broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel spout plants, they should be planted in the first three weeks of this months.  These are all very cold tolerant and will thrive in our fall.  Now is also a good time to try some of the more unusual cold tolerant vegetables that you may have wanted to plant.  Mache, fava beans, orach, chicory, mustards and endive all do very well in the fall and all the way to the holidays. 

When you do start your fall garden, remember that the moisture level in the soil is very low, even if you have been watering throughout the summer. Make sure that you newly seeded areas are thoroughly watered and don’t allow the surface to dry at any time.  The seeds need constant contact with moisture to allow the new plants to crack the surface and see the sun.  Keep the soil moist as the little plants continue to grow. They will do much better in the hot days with a good water supply to their roots.

The magic will show as the days get shorter and temperatures start to drop.  If you have a germination or growth problem with a vegetable or herb, simply replant it later.  You can continue to plant short season seeds all the way into mid September such as radishes, lettuces, mustards, arugula and spinach.  You will have an abundant supply of crisp and flavorful greens, root crops and herbs that will continue into late fall and early winter.

And don’t give up on the summer vegetables that have been producing for you all summer long.  Give them a trim and cut back all dead leaves and branches.  They too will rebound as the moisture increase and temperatures decrease into the fall.  You will be amazed at the variety and quality of vegetables and herbs that you can grow when most gardeners give up for the year.

Meanwhile, you will continue to find typical summer products at farmers markets and farm stands this month.  Here will be tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini/summer squash, eggplant, and okra.  Beans and sweet corn will be scarce, as will melons. The quality of these items depends a lot on soil moisture and the drought has had a negative affect on both supply and the quality.  Peaches and apples will also be below par this year.

Gardening and growing is a never-ending process.  There are many variables with the most important being weather.  This year the weather has been a challenge, but now is the best time to start all over again and plant your fall garden, which will be the best vegetables and herbs of the year.            

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Javajournal July, 2012

Here we are at the beginning of summer or the time that most people in St. Louis enjoy for our heat loving vegetables.   Small tomatoes should already be in abundance at farmers markets, groceries and roadside stands.  You’ll see more and more colors and shapes as the season progresses.  Some will be fruity and sweet, some tart and some juicy.  But one thing is certain, they are what we have waiting for and they are delicious. 

Try as many you can find and eat them in salads, pastas, or just eat them as snacks.  There is nothing better in this area than the tomatoes.  Hot days and warms nights ensure the distinct flavors that we all enjoy and associate most with summer.  And before your know it, the larger tomatoes will make their appearance.  They will be big and bold, colorful, juicy and above flavorful. 

You will easily find beefsteaks and other hybrids just about everywhere you look.  You will also begin to see some early heirlooms, the best of which are in the Brandywine family. July will be a very good month to begin trying any and all varieties of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes.  This is just the beginning of a tomato season that will range into October. 

Those of you who grow your own tomatoes and herbs know the value of planting the types that you enjoy to eat.  The freshness of the basils with the flavors of the tomatoes gives you unlimited number of way to prepare the best dishes from your garden.  Many of you enjoy the simplicity of pestos, tomato salads with cheeses and tomatoes cut into light pastas.  Yes, now is a great time to be in this area for the culinary spirits who crave fresh flavors and tastes.

The long hot, dry spell in June is causing some serious problems elsewhere in the gardens and fields.  Blueberries and blackberries are struggling due to the weather and should be smaller and less abundant than usual.  The same is true of sweet corn, unless it is irrigated.  Several sources of excellent irrigated sweet corn can be found just across the river in Granite City at Relleke Farms and in Collinsville at Keller Farms.  Both have quality corn at both their farm and roadside stand locations.

Home gardeners know full well how difficult this late spring has been due to the dry conditions.  Everyone is watering as much as they can to keep the plants fresh and in some cases alive.  May was very, very dry and the hot days of June have made matters worse.  However, this is the Midwest and the rest of the summer could be wet and warm. That’s the challenge of growing here in the fields or in the backyard.  We don’t control the weather and we can only be prepared for what it gives us.  

Until there is an increase in the amount of rain we receive, you should expect cucumbers, summer squashes and beans to be inconsistent in both quality and availability.  They will be available at your favorite farmers markets and farm stands, but probably not in the quantities or appearance that you normally expect.  This was also the case last summer as farmers and growers struggled to produce the type of summer vegetables that we normally enjoy in our area. 

You may want to even take a weekend drive north where the rains have been more consistent and the crops are being reported as very good.  Or you can drive over to Calhoun County, Illinois to pick up some early peaches, plums and nectarines.  You might consider taking the Great River Road outside of Alton to Grafton and then the Brussels ferry across the river to Calhoun Country. There you will find many orchards and farms with good supplies of fruit and vegetables.  It’s a good family trip that all will enjoy.

Summer is in full swing and so are the temperatures.  Even home gardeners know the importance of being safe and cautious during the heat of the day.  Most of us who grow start very early and will stop in midday as the heat intensifies.  We also know to drink water, water, and more water.  These hot, hot days will take every bit of liquid out of your system and dehydrate a person quickly.  So if you are out working in the heat, take water breaks every hour.  You will need it.

July is usually the time of year when most home gardeners surrender after the first tomato harvest.  But for all of you brave ones, this is only the beginning as we prepare soon for the great fall harvests.  Yes, Hot Fun in the Summertime is the prelude to the Best of the Midwest coming this fall to a market or farm stand near you.
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Javajournal June 2012

What a wild ride it’s been in the gardens this spring.  Just about everything has been earlier than normal by many weeks.  And now it is nearly over long before it should.  If you are like me, you have already disposed of the greens, which probably have bolted due to the higher temperatures.  Root crops like radishes and turnips are starting to taste hotter and pithier by the day.  So let’s move on to the most consistent season we have here for the gardens.

Yes that would be the coming of summer and the coming of hot days and warm nights.  By now you should have planted your tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini/summer squash, eggplant, okra and corn, if you have the space.  All of these sun lovers thrive in our climate.  And many consider the tomatoes here to be the best in the country.  I’d have to agree as the warm nights add fullness and character to the taste of any tomato grown here.  You should be seeing all of this summer delights in local groceries, road side stands and farmers markets by mid month and lasting long into the remaining growing season.

Look for English, snow and sugar snap peas at your markets in the first two weeks of this month.  They should be better than average but the season is short and they will only be available for a few weeks.  You will also start to see many items that you should try if you have not in the past.  For example, bulb fennel is outstanding and great prepared with seafood or simply grilled.  The beautiful Swiss chard is a must for those wanting to add earthiness and texture to any number of dishes. And we must not forget the beets of all colors, red, yellow, striped, and white.  Try them roasted or grilled to bring out the sugars and intensify the flavors.  Beets are especially good when paired with a goat or cream cheese. 

There will be broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage this month.  You should try it, as it will be good.  But remember the taste and compare it later in the fall when the best Cole crops are grown in this area.  The same goes for carrots and the last of the spring greens, including kale, mustards, and collards.  The heat does change the taste of these vegetables and are best grown and harvested in the cool days and nights in the fall.

For those of you who garden and have lots of space, consider melons and winter squash.  Now would be a good time to plant these for harvest later this summer and fall.  Melons are a bit tricky and require a sandy soil.  Far too often, they look good on the outside but really aren’t as sweet as we would like.  It is best to buy these at markets from growers who have the soil conditions to ensure the sweet tastes that you will enjoy.

Winter squash is on a roll in this area and some growers are introducing many varieties that are discovering a rebirth in Midwest kitchens.  Local restaurants are demanding more and more winter squash for the fall and winter and you will see many more varieties at the markets later this year.  It will be an exciting time to experiment with one of the most flavorful and versatile vegetables.  Use them in soups, pastas, stews, and desserts.

Herbs are popping up all over.  Basils, parsleys, chives, dill, oregano, and mints of all kind are ready for your kitchen.  Cooking with fresh herbs is enjoyable and adds flavor to whatever you prepare for friends and family.  You can even use some in desserts and drinks. Fresh herbs give you the opportunity to experiment and discover flavors that you may be missing.  Give them all a try, even the unusual ones like shisho, borage and savory.

Those of you who took advantage of the early strawberry season know how good they were this year.  And the blueberry and blackberry seasons will be too.  Look for both of these beautiful berries all month at just about every market.  You may want to be adventurous and try some gooseberries or elderberries, but they will be a little more difficult to find.

The growing season has been a real success this year in spite of the unusual weather patterns and roller coaster temperature changes.  This month will be a strong month for lots of local vegetables, herbs and fruit, and cut flowers for those who enjoy the beauty of summer bouquets in your rooms.  Sunflowers, zinnias and others will be in great supply at farmers markets as many growers have added them to their fields.  June will be a very good month and will be busting out with the best of spring and summer.
          
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Javajournal May 2012

At long last spring is here with warmer and longer days.  Everything should be improving in the gardens from this point into fall. You may already bee seeing spring greens, radishes, beets and small carrots from your gardens.  And now that the rest of the local Farmer’s Markets begin to open, you will see the many of your favorite vegetables, herbs and fruit, including asparagus and strawberries.

Yes, fresh asparagus and strawberries should be incredible this spring and they will be earlier than normal.  Both are short spring seasons in our area and will last only to the end of the month or a little later.  You should see them everywhere, including farmer’s markets, CSA’s, commercial and local groceries. 

Fresh local asparagus and strawberries have intense flavors making them one of the most prized items during any of our growing seasons. Local asparagus will be very tender with outstanding flavor and texture.  And strawberries will be big, juicy and with a sweet taste that will make you come back for more. Asparagus and strawberries both freeze well and strawberries have the added value of being made into jams, jellies, and preserves.   

If you prefer to pick your own strawberries, there are many U-Pick farms in both Missouri and Illinois that offer you that option.  Nothing better than being in a huge strawberry patch with nothing but time to fill your containers to the top.  It’s a very satisfying experience as you pick as many as you need while occasionally popping one in your mouth. This is one of the real treats of spring and always worth the time and the effort.  

Many local restaurants will also be featuring them as long as the supplies last. The local food magazines, Feast and Sauce, generally publish information on where to find asparagus and strawberries in local restaurants.  Both magazines maintain close relationships with the city’s best chefs and are a source of local fresh information on restaurant scene.  

Now that it is May, expect all of the local Farmer’s Markets to begin to open throughout the month.  Market, markets everywhere, from Tower Grove Park, to Clayton, to Edwardsville, and to Ferguson.  There are too many to list here but most are open on Saturday mornings early until the early afternoon.  A good directory for local farmers markets can be found here:

http://agebb.missouri.edu/fmktdir/index.htm

Farmer’s markets will be loaded with freshness in color, texture and taste.  You’ll see greens of every shape and color, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, onions, radishes, kale, collards, mustards, arugula, parsley, chives, sorrels, mints, and other early herbs.  Later in the month, the first of the peas, beans, zucchini, garlic, potatoes and summer squashes will make the scene.  

May is a very good month to make that commitment to Local Fresh that you have been talking about for some time.  Fresh market shopping is a very good experience.  There will be lots of growers, lots of eggs and meat and lots of things to see and do.  You will enjoy the color, the crowds and the joy of knowing that you are buying the freshest and best products in this area.  It will be habit forming.

Meanwhile, all of your local home growers are also benefiting from the great weather and should be harvesting much of the same things sold at the market. You enjoyment is even greater as you can pick what you grew to feed yourself, family and friends.  There is nothing better for the soul than to walk though your own garden to search for just the right items for your next family meal.  

Commercial produce coming in from the coasts and the south gets better too in May.  You will begin to see corn, tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, and berries.  The quality will be better than you have seen since the beginning of the year, but nowhere near the same as comparable local products. 

Just do a simple taste test between a California and a local strawberry.  The difference will be striking and mainly because of two factors.  Commercial vegetables and fruit are bred to withstand the riggers of transportation and are generally firmer and often picked partially ripe. But more importantly, local fresh products are usually harvested and sold within 48 hours giving them not only the best taste but also the highest levels in nutritional value.  

May is now the time to begin to plant the first of your warm season plants.  By mid-month you should have tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, eggplants, okra and beans in the ground.  The cycle really never ends as you will be harvesting and planting for the next several months.  You should take pride in you garden and use it for that special place in your home.  And for those items that you don’t have or can’t grow, you can always go to Market to Market with your friends and family.    
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Javajournal April 2012

This rather mild winter can lead us into the rites of spring—a time some people consider sacred—when we may begin the rituals of planting, growing and harvesting the best of local, fresh produce. This may apply to those of us who have the desire to grow the finest vegetables, herbs and fruit for ourselves, our families, friends, neighbors and our customers. After all, gardening continues to remain one of the top-10 most popular hobbies in America.
    First, let’s all remember that in this part of the midwest, we can have three distinct outdoor growing seasons.  Let’s start at the beginning, the usually cool season, spring. In our gardens, we should typically be planting all of our cool-loving vegetables and herbs. You can plant any and all greens, root crops, peas and alliums to your heart’s content if the soil is in workable condition— not too wet or muddy.
    Also, you should now be planting those cool-loving herbs, including parsley, cilantro, thyme, mints, sorrel and chives. I think a good resource for the home gardener for choosing seasonal vegetable and herbs in your garden is the University of Illinois Extension website http://web.extension.illinois.edu/vegguide/.  
    As the days warm, you may be outside more and more to take advantage of the good weather and planting conditions.  At the same time, you may be starting your seedlings for the summer. You can enjoy starting tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers and squash indoors to get that head start for the summer. This can be an economical way to lower your costs and let you try varieties that you may not find at nurseries and garden centers. 
    Now let’s talk a little bit about the bonus season that most gardeners here may simply forget. I think the absolute best growing season here is fall. Everything grows outdoors between mid-August and the first nights of the killing freeze. The days tend to be hot but shorten until the temperatures moderate into the mid-70s to low 50s at night. 
    Yes, your summer vegetables will continue to thrive, but at a slower pace. The bonus typically comes in early August, when you can start to plant all of the cool spring vegetables and herbs again for the big fall finale. It may be hot and humid for you, but not for the little seedlings as they pop open and show themselves to the world. 
    As the seedlings mature, the last hot days of the harsh summer should not affect them, nor will they sprout to seed. You have to make sure that they have plenty of water to keep them strong and cool. In September, October and November, you could be rewarded with the best cool and warm season vegetables and herbs—and you may be amazed.
    There can be much to look forward to in the months ahead, but it’s only April and you may want to taste some excellent local products. Thankfully, more and more farmers and growers have taken advantage of the mild winter and early spring by planting earlier than normal. There should soon be an early supply of typical spring greens, onions and radishes that ordinarily are fast growers in cool, early-spring conditions.
    And a few farmers’ markets plan to debut this month with the first signs of spring.  Maplewood Farmers’ Market plans to begin in the middle of this month on Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Schlafly Bottleworks on Southwest Ave. at Manchester Road. Several good growers will arrive at Soulard Market on Saturday mornings this month. These are very fine growers who normally bring in very high-quality, early harvests.  
    Until our spring harvest really starts to roar into our area markets, anticipate large supplies of California avocados, strawberries and asparagus at your local grocery. They should be excellent in quality, but you can also anticipate higher prices due to rising fuel and operating costs. The avocado crop may be massive, with potentially strong supplies all the way into the fall.
    You may also see more and more U.S.-grown vegetables and fruit in your local grocery store.  This may only make you want more of our great local fresh products. You shouldn’t have to wait long, as the days get warmer and longer. More and more items will make their way to farmers’ markets and local groceries, including Sappington Farmers’ Market. 
    By May, everything should be in full swing, including local strawberries and asparagus. All of your favorite cool season crops should be readily available, including fennel, endive and tatsoi. Now is also a good time to start thinking about your canning and preserving plans for the rest of the season.  There should be enough bounty this year to allow you to can preserve or freeze vegetables and fruit into jams, jellies, salsas, sauces, or pickles. 
    Let the rites of spring begin!
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JavaJournal March 2012

It’s been a mild winter and we’re in the stretch run to warmer days with increased sunlight. Now is the time when the fun begins for gardeners of all ages and experience levels. It’s time to begin this season by recognizing the seed as the source of all gardens and growth. The seed is nature’s way of giving us a new beginning.


Whether you saved your vegetable seeds from the end of last season or have purchased new seeds for this season, you have all that you need to begin. The cycle never ends. It’s timeless. It’s natural. And it opens the doors to the magic of nature.


Gardening rewards you as you follow the development of your plants every step of the way. Soon you will see the beautiful textures and colors fill your once brown space. And, you will enjoy the taste of freshness and flavor like no other.


If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to plan your garden. Simply keep two things in mind: grow what you like to eat and plan to use our three distinct growing seasons. Our growing seasons are the cool season of March though May, the hot summer season of June, July and August and the moderate season of September through November.


Our cool spring season is actually the trickiest growing season we have, as there’ always the possibility of a late frost and/or the weather often warms much too fast in May. This month, as soon as your soil is ready to till or rake, plant radishes, turnips, peas, beets, chards, onions, carrots and any type of leafy greens to get a head-start to the season. All of these will sprout and grow well in our spring climate.


Now is also the time to start your tomatoes, peppers and eggplant summer seeds indoors to let the plants develop before placing in your garden in May and June. You can also plant summer squash, zucchini, okra and cucumbers indoors at this time or direct plant them in the garden later. Summer vining plants like melons, cantaloupes and winter squash require lots of space. Plan accordingly, but keep in mind that any vining plant can be grown vertically.


If you’re not a gardener, you’re probably craving local, fresh items and looking for them to buy. You might find the first supplies later this month at groceries that specialize in local products, like Local Harvest Grocery in the Tower Grove area. You will have to wait until April for the first of the farmers’ markets to open as the supplies begin to increase as the weather warms.


By May, all of the farmers’ markets will be in full swing with oodles of fresh local products for all tastes and preferences. If a CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription is an option for you, better look now before they are all sold out.


 Meanwhile, back at the local grocery, you are seeing more and more American-grown products on the produce shelves. The California strawberries are big and bold and avocados will be very strong this spring. Produce from the warmer states, such as Florida and Arizona, is arriving daily with more fresh options for you and your family. The quality of the products will improve steadily and will be good until our local season gets in gear. Until then you may want to consider the frozen option. These are generally better quality products since they go straight from the fields to the packing process—usually the same day. Frozen products have very good taste and color, and are higher in nutritional value.  


Now is the time of year for growers, like me, to spend time in the kitchens with the chefs for whom we grow in this area. Some think that planting is everything, but there is something even more important. Planning is everything. Communication between executive chefs and small specialty growers is vital to the overall success of the season. With this information, the right amount of the right products is planted to meet each restaurant’s needs.


We share information on changes to their menus and plans for their seasonal specials and events. We discuss varieties that they like or dislike, and anything else that will make the growing process organized and efficient. We review new vegetables and herbs that we tried and tested that will add value to any plate.

Gardening and buying fresh, local products is a choice. You choose what to grow and when to grow it, which is part of the fun and adventure. If you do not garden, but choose to buy the best in fresh local produce, you demonstrate that you also have great taste (so to speak).


Growing unique vegetables and herbs from all corners of the world with rich colors, textures and tastes is my passion!

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Javajournal February 2012

As we near the midpoint of winter, are you missing the smells, colors and tastes of fresh, locally grown vegetables, herbs and fruit? It seems like just a short time ago that local farmers markets, roadside stands and even major grocery stores carried the bounty of the St. Louis area harvest season. For those of you who regularly buy local fresh produce, your fresh, winter commercial options just do not compare.
   
Our area is blessed with a long and plentiful outdoor growing season that provides a huge variety of vegetable, herb and fruit options. Now that winter has arrived, locally grown produce is limited to those items that can be grown in greenhouses. The cold of winter severely reduces the supply and types of available locally grown vegetables and herbs and eliminates fresh fruit completely.

While a number of local farmers and growers use these methods for cold weather products, there are just a very few in the area. You may find locally grown lettuces, spinach and mustards now, but expect limited quantities and higher prices. The same is true of hydroponically grown vegetables and herbs. In short, our winters restrict produce production to a tiny fraction of the typical outdoor season.
   
If you still want fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit, your local grocery store is about your only option. As you shop, you will see beautiful produce departments with multiple colors and textures, but not necessarily the taste you expect. The reason is the source of the products and the distance from the grocery shelves. At this time of year, some of what is on display comes from our warmer states, but the majority comes from just south of the border and into parts of South America.
 
These extreme distances add days and sometimes weeks to the final delivery to our grocery shelves. The distance also limits the quality of vegetables to varieties that are grown for their stability during transportation. As you might expect, both of these factors will affect the product’s taste as it ages during transportation and storage.
   
So how does your favorite farm-to-table, local restaurant cope during the winter? They, too, are limited to basically the same products that you see at your grocery store. Without the local sources for their vegetables, herbs and fruit, their options are limited—which does change their winter menus. A few of these restaurants use growers with winter growing methods or will special order products from their commercial suppliers. However, most cannot justify the added costs and just wait out the winter and pray for spring.
   
For those who value organic products, the same is true of produce sold by your favorite national organic/natural retailer. They, too, are affected by winter, with the majority of their organic products being imported from Central and South America. And the distance has the same effect in the overall shelf quality of the products. They look nice—with good color and texture—but they just don’t taste the same as fresh locally grown.
   
Now might be a good time for you to experiment with sprouts or micro-greens. Both are easy to grow in your kitchen and require a mason jar, sprouting tray or hemp bag. In a matter of days you can grow yourself as many tasty and nutritious sprouts for salads, sandwiches or soups. The varieties and mixes are endless, inexpensive and fun to grow. There is a great deal of information available on the internet about the growing process and companies that sell seed and growing products.
  
With two more months of winter, home gardeners should be planning for their 2012 harvest. Take the time to research new varieties and learn more about what grows best in this climate.  Start your Sunday morning with your coffee and your keyboard and surf the net to learn more about mizuna, lovage and mache. 
   
Explore the hundreds of varieties of radishes and pick a few that you haven’t tried before for this year’s garden. Learn about the differences among the hundreds of pepper or tomato varieties. The information is all there. The major seed suppliers do a very good job in describing their products. And for the thrifty, now is the time to check out the clearance seeds that many seed companies are either discontinuing or making available to reduce their inventories.      
   
My growing plan is nearly complete and starting seed begins now. Early planning is essential to a successful growing season. Shopping online will provide you with not only loads of valuable information, but the photos and page displays will make you think and feel spring. It will brighten your spirits for the rest of the winter. It always works for me!  ?

 
 
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