Order Online

In order to maintain distances as required by the state of South Dakota, Falls Park Farmers Market is offering on-line ordering and drive-by pick-up. Learn more and order at https://www.localline.ca/fpfm 

Read More »

Eye Candy

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Apple Of My Eye

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Give It A Whirl

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Pump It Up

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »


Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Hot Potato

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Room For Shrooms

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Pep Up

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Can Do Attitude

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Petal Pushers

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Priceless Heirloom

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Fresh Since 1912

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Nice Melons

Make Falls Park Farmer’s Market your go to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and delicious food. Open this Saturday from 8am to 1pm!

Read More »


Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Spin Doctor

Make Falls Park Farmer’s Market your go to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and delicious food. Open this Saturday from 8am to 1pm!

Read More »


Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Foodie Call

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

We Got The Beets

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

Spring Stalkings

Don’t miss out on some of the freshest goods in town! Make Falls Park Farmers Market your go-to place for fresh coffee, local flowers and great food. Stop on by this Saturday from 8:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M!

Read More »

The “Recipe”~G. Totten, Sioux Falls

By fallspark, September 4th, 2011 | No Comments »

Following is the recipe mentioned early on this season for the tomato and pepper canned mixture I have grown so fond of.  My daughter and I came up with this combination some years back, and I’ve used it for everything from salsa (just give it a quick spin in the blender or food processor, then return it to the jar and refrigerate) to a chunky dressing for baked chicken or grilled seafood.  It makes a good pasta sauce addition and is also great in chili and chicken gumbo.  I’ve combined it with macaroni and cheese (drain excess juice first, and this can be frozen and reused, as it is very flavorful) and topped it with buttered bread crumbs for pot luck suppers.  I have also thrown a jar into jambalaya and Spanish rice.  It just has a good flavor that adds depth and compliments a lot of foods. 

*Note:  I often do this in small batches as the tomatoes ripen, perhaps using a dozen or so at a time, and this usually equates to 4-6 pints per effort, but as it is an easy operation, that doesn’t bother me.  If you have a real glut of big juicy tomatoes, get out the quart jars!  The ratio of peppers, and onion to tomato is roughly 2/3 tomato to 1/3 onion and peppers combined.  Garlic is simply to taste, probably two full heads per the pan or tray holding these proportions.  A little more or less won’t make any difference.  

The Recipe 

Freshly picked, cored tomatoes, washed and cut into chunks (no need to remove skins or seeds)

Freshly picked peppers, Anaheim (my personal choice), Jalapeno or bells, whatever pepper you prefer, or a mixture of them, washed, seeded and cut into larger pieces

Fresh, mild onions, like Vidalia or Spanish yellows, peeled and cut into medium-sized pieces

Fresh garlic, peeled and left in whole cloves

Small amount of oil to coat, either olive or a good quality vegetable oil

A generous teaspoon of kosher salt and some freshly ground coarse pepper to taste

Fresh or dried herbs, as you prefer.  I use fresh oregano. 

Combine all on an un-greased cookie sheet and mix with clean hands.  Roast at 425 degrees until the peppers and onions begin to brown at the tips.  The time will vary depending on the size of your vegetables, so just keep an eye on them.    

Ladle the hot mixture into hot, sterilized canning jars, pushing down a bit to release some of the tomato juice.  Fill to ½ inch of top (if you don’t have enough juice from the tomatoes, I have added commercially canned tomato juice to supplement, or distilled water would probably work, as well), then remove any air bubbles by running a plastic (or other non reactive) knife down the insides of each jar.  Wipe jar tops with a clean paper towel moistened in hot water, then hand-tighten sterilized lids and screw bands and process in a pressure canner at 10 lbs for 20 minutes (pints) and 40 minutes (quarts).  

Please note that this is one of those items I mentioned in an earlier entry here that I used to can using the hot water bath method.  I learned from the extension educator that because the peppers, garlic and onion are all low acid vegetables, it really is not a safe method.  So, please–get a pressure canner!  In this writer’s opinion, it is well worth the investment. 

As the dismal year of my near garden continues, even my tomatoes have been uncooperative, only ripening a few at a time, and the few not eaten right away are being tossed into the freezer whole.  The few peppers I got from the two potted plants were also frozen and supplemented with some I bought at the Market; I even froze the garlic purchased there.  Although I won’t have my lovely jars ready to pop open as in past years, my plan going forward will be to simply roast the peppers, onion and garlic as needed and combine them with the thawed freezer tomatoes.  It will be the first time for this procedure.  I hope you have lots of tomatoes to use and enjoy this versatile mix.  

This evening I entertained a small group of women I have known for some years who meet frequently to share a common interest. Among them was Sioux Falls master gardener, Mary Ellen Connelly.  She is an unassuming person who writes beautiful prose about plants and the natural world, and I admit, I was a little disappointed to have her view the state of my yard.  Although she is the last person to be judgmental in even the smallest way, one still doesn’t want to tread too far off the path of acceptability, and my lawn, as well as the ever charging army of my 2011 weed consortium was obvious.  I know her to be an educated naturalist who wouldn’t bat an eye at any weed, but ugly is ugly, and for one reason and other, I’ve not been able to mow my lawn now for almost fourteen days. 

Despite my efforts at controlling the situation, sadly documented here over the past few months, things simply got away from me.  My two teenage grandsons spent a recent weekend helping me to clear away a thick, thick stand of black nightshade and other noxious weeds from the area that last year, held my strawberry patch, so the view from my back deck wasn’t overwhelming, but the volunteer trees making upward progress in my sedum bed and back lawn was obvious, offset only by some really lovely blooms from a sadly neglected hydrangea malingering near the back gate.  Mary Ellen was gracious, finding more positives than I could imagine, and I thank her for the encouragement, for her recognition of my intention.  She honestly made me feel happy, as if I didn’t have to rush a thing. I also thank the other women, Sioux Falls writer, Dee Dee Raap, and mystery novelist, Nancy Steedle for their similar kind indulgence, both of whom also have yards far superior to mine! 

Along with these women, I have had several opportunities to visit Mary Ellen’s  comfortable home, and at this point I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that her yard and mine are miles apart in size and content.  Hers is serene, a kind of flowing mix of verdant hues with subtle surprises tucked away in little crannies, areas of shade and sun alternating, dancing arm in arm.  I’ve seen  bluebells covering a slope there in late April, and so many plants I haven’t a clue of identifying;  Mary always gives their names, and as a part of her  generous spirit, often offers to share divisions (as do all true gardeners, all farmers; I think she would plant the entire world!).  She has trees that are not commonly found, a redbud and black locust, interesting bark and blooms to make one weep.  And the wildlife is lush, as well; in fact, if I were to see a heron meandering down the lovely slope that works its way to a gradual kind of low,  inverted slow crescendo there, I wouldn’t bat an eye.  It has that dream like quality.  I know she has worked decades to achieve an uncontrolled perfection, yet she would be the first person to celebrate the out of control, the chaos that nature relishes in providing delightful surprises.  It is years and years of hard, love-inspired work; and it is backbreaking work.  I know, for I have done it in my own small measure.

My point is that even before her arrival and her soft, encouraging words I had come to an acceptance of my own domestic scene; it was the only way I had, and so acceptance was mandatory.  Today was breezy and dry, a lovely, seasonal afternoon, and the tall, uncut grass took on that flowing, quiet movement that along with the quivering aspen and the softly swaying hackberry tree behind my house, combined to create a place quite out of present day; something close to past Septembers found in the country of the place where I grew up, a very long time ago, and in a place very different from South Dakota.  But, of course, our memories transport us, and for me, in this untidy yard with my garden failure and weeds out of control, it felt comfortable.

That feeling has carried over.  For all of today I had the singular pleasure of looking forward to coming home from work and just puttering in the yard, walking around it, picking a few tomatoes, pulling a handful of weeds.  Much like the aging mistress of the lovely old house in the novel, Howard’s End, I am a woman who likes to wander around her home, and that means meandering outdoors, as well.

As we enter the lovely, warm winding down of our 2011 growing time, let us keep in mind that each season holds its own promise. Whether we are small-time home gardeners, or dedicated market shoppers, live in an overgrown split foyer or a sprawling mid-town walkout, our plot is our plot, good undisturbed soil, or a simple pot on a balcony deck.  The joy we find from observing it becomes endless.

Come out to the market next weekend and experience the temperate transition from late summer to early autumn, take note of the subtle change in sunlight, and celebrate the season, weeds and all.

One of the reasons to support the farmers market is to increase the nutritional value of what we eat (by buying fresh) while reducing the carbon footprint on the environment created by transporting all that food around the country (or the world–I frequently find grapes from Argentina and yesterday I saw “fresh” herbs from Portugal).  We try to buy organic as we can, and support our family farmers and market vendors to keep our local economy strong.  In our yards we opt for the most eco-friendly way to keep weeds under control and maintain a safe environment for bees and other pollinators.   

After reading an article in Eating Well magazine’s October 2011 issue, I thought it would be timely to mention another reason is to rid our diets of as many pollutants as we can.  Harriet Kattenberg of Seedtime and Harvest gives a class through Community Ed that touches on this topic, referring to these food pollutants as “sides,” and not the sort you want on your table; she is speaking of pesticides and herbicides, but other chemicals find their way into the food supply through packaging and cooking methods   In addition to  growing awareness of what we need to eat,  we must add a few more efforts to the ongoing quest to rid our lives of as many chemicals and pollutants as possible. It’s not only what we eat, but how we store and prepare that food that can also have an impact on the contaminants we ingest.   

In June I gave one of my daughters a large pre-seasoned cast iron skillet for her birthday  and was both pleased and surprised at the current resurgence of their popularity.  I used cast iron decades ago because it was inexpensive and could be put right into the oven for pan corn bread and similar recipes, but I’ve not used it for some years.  Then I learned from this same daughter that the new pre-treated pans are PFC (perflourocarbons) free and a better alternative to cooking with non-stick pans, something we have likely all read.  Although I still use my non stick for some things, I no longer use high heat (something else I learned from my girl).  The Eating Well article explains that this tends to cause more of these contaminants to be released from the pan as fumes. When the pan eventually becomes scratched, I discard it.  Stainless steel is deemed safe to use as well.  The article also mentions this.   

So here is another good reason to buy fresh and in season, and home can or freeze what you will.  Broth can be made at home and frozen flat in double freezer bags (freezing in ice cube trays before bagging is another way to have small quantities at hand), or one can always use the broth cubes and granules that are packaged in glass from the store or buy the boxed broths and freeze any not needed right away.  I often combine instant broth with small bags of chicken broth that I freeze after roasting chicken.  Tomatoes may be frozen whole, right off the vine, and make an easy transition into sauces and soups (just run them under warm tap water and the skins will slip right off with no need to blanche them as one does when canning).  Peppers are easy freezers, as well.  They thaw fast and keep their flavor, as do onions.   

A final note about freezer bags; many may contain something called phthalates, a substance used in plastics and a lot of pre-packaged food packaging. The Eating Well article mentions that Glad and Saran Wrap products claim to be free of phthalates, and indicate that plastic wrap manufacturers are not required to list this on labels, so it would still be a leap of faith.  BPA free plastic containers might be a safe alternative, although of course they would add bulk that freezer bags would not.  It’s not an easy solution, but one worth pursuing to reduce these potentially harmful chemical’s build up in our bodies.   

The Eating Well article cited here gives additional information about other sources of these contaminants and is well worth a read.    



Harvest Recipes-G. Totten, Sioux Falls

By fallspark, August 14th, 2011 | No Comments »

With the seasonal abundance of cucumbers and tomatoes, here are a few good recipes to preserve the fresh taste of summer.   

This is a tomato/pasta sauce recipe from the Ball Blue Book canning guide that does not require the cook to remove the tomato skins prior to cooking, a time saving step up front.  These are pureed and strained out after the first simmer.

45 pounds tomatoes                    1 TBS black pepper

6 cups chopped onions                1 a/2 TBS sugar

12 cloves garlic, minced              ¼ cup salt (optional)

½ cup olive oil                             2 Tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

2 TBS oregano                   bottled lemon juice

6 bay leaves 

Wash tomatoes; drain. Remove core and blossom ends.  Cut into quarters; set aside. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil in a large saucepot. Add tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, black pepper and sugar.  Stir in salt and crushed red pepper, if desired.  Simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove bay leaves.  Puree tomatoes using a food processor or a food mill.  Strain puree to remove peels and seeds.  Cook the pulp in a large, uncovered saucepot over medium-high heat until sauce thickens, stirring to prevent sticking. Reduce volume by one-half.  Add 1 TBS bottled lemon juice to each pint jar, 2 TBS bottled lemon juice to each quart jar.  Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving ½ inch headspace and wipe top of jar with a paper towel dipped in boiling water.  Adjust and hand tighten two-piece caps with the lids sterilized. Process pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes in a boiling-water canner.


And from Cooking Light’s August 2004 issue, here is a recipe for Marinara Magnifica that Harriet Kattenberg (Seedtime and Harvest) shared in her newsletter a few years back.  I have made this and frozen it flat in heavy freezer bags to save space, or it may be canned.  It is a versatile, full flavored sauce. 

 Marinara Magnifica

2 TBS olive oil                                      6 cloves garlic, crushed

6 cups chopped onion                                       6 pounds fresh tomatoes, skins removed

1 TBS sugar                                                     1 tsp salt

½ tsp dried marjoram                                       ½ dry red wine

½ tsp dried oregano                                          ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

½ tsp dried thyme                                             two 6 oz cans of tomato paste

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion and sugar.  Cook 30 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Stir in wine, cook 1 minute.  Add remaining gredients; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Yield: 9 cups


Bread and Butter Pickles

2 ½ lbs (8-10 medium) cucumbers (theses should be as fresh as possible from the market or garden)

2 large onions, thinly sliced

¼ cup pickling salt (can use Kosher salt as a substitute, regular table salt has additives in it that will turn the pickles dark and muddy the color or the pickle juice).

1 ¼ cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)

1 cup apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)

2 ¼ cups sugar

1 TBS mustard seeds

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

¾ tsp celery seeds

1 inch cinnamon stick

6 allspice berries plus a pinch of ground allspice

6 whole cloves plus a pinch of ground cloves

½ tsp tumeric


Carefully rinse the cucumbers, scrubbing away any dirt that may have stuck to the ribs.  Slice off 1/8 inch from the ends and discard (these can carry traceg amounts of bacteria)

Slice the cucumbers in ¼ inch thick slices and place in a large bowl.  Add the sliced onions and pickling salt.  Stir in so that the salt is well distributed among the cucumber and onion slices.  Cover with a clean tea towel (thin towel, not terry cloth).  Cover with a couple of inches of ice.  Put in the refrigerator and let chill for 4 hours.  Discard any un-melted ice, rinse and drain.  Rinse and drain again. 

In a 4 or 6 quart pot, place the vinegars, sugar, all of the spices and bring to a boil.  Once the sugar has dissolved (only takes a minute) add the cucumber and onions.  Bring back up to a boil and ladle the hot cucumber/onions slices into sterilized jars, then ladle in the hot liquid to within ½ of top.  Remove air bubbles with non-reactive knife (plastic works well) and wipe top of jar with a paper towel dipped in boiling water.  Adjust and hand-tighten two-piece caps with the lids sterilized.   Process pints 20 minutes in hot water bath canner. Yield, about 7 pints.   

Note:  Any remaining pickle brine can also be canned or stored in the refrigerator. This is a good flavoring for dressings and salads, like tuna, chicken salad etc. 

Yesterday I canned thirteen pints of bread and butter pickles, half of which were made with cucumbers from my own garden, half given to me from a generous neighbor.  As feared, however, the beans are an absolute bust.  This is realized after yet another week’s time, and finding the same small handful of white blossoms with vines topping the trellis and spilling over upon themselves.  There is also some wilting of the bean leaves, and I wonder if this is caused by occasional chemical vapor drift from an adjacent neighbor’s yard.  If so, it is surely minimal (tomatoes are said to be the most susceptible to such drifting, and the remaining three plants show no signs of wilt).  Whether it is that, or insufficient pollination, the beans are a total loss and will be cleaned up later today.  The yellow wax beans went some days ago.   

The red cabbage never took off. It grew very slowly and the earwigs made a mess of it; one patch of the Swiss chard was similarly ravaged (happily, the one left standing still looks pretty good).  So those plants are gone, as well.  I will give the cucumbers another week to see if any new fruit forms on what I fear are un-pollinated blossoms.   The remaining tomato plants appear to be growing a few dozen healthy looking tomatoes, so we’ll see where they end up, and the Anaheim peppers planted in pots are doing well, unlike the bells that were put into the ground.  At the very least, I’ll have a dozen or so to freeze for later use.   

 All in all, it’s been a dismal year for my garden, and much of this is my own fault.  I planted late, and the area that supports the plot seems to receive an hour less of sun each year, due to a huge stand of blue spruce at the back of my neighbor’s property and a tall ash tree on my own, and no matter what you add to clay subsoil, no matter how long you add it, it simply never improves to the point where it will ever be good for gardening; turning it into workable topsoil would take more years than human life has time.  So we live and learn, as the saying goes, and are grateful to be added to the “produce pity list,” of our more successful friends and neighbors.

My crash and burn experience this year makes me appreciate what the market farmers do.  Each year for them is an equal risk, and I know the regular shoppers who frequent the Falls Park market are grateful for their tenacity.  For those of us who dabble in home gardening, they are our disaster backup.  For those who just enjoy the social experience and the weekend pleasure of taking home freshly baked bread, and those who support buying local and look for the freshest produce they can find, the farmers and merchants there provide these things, many continuing throughout the year through subscription sales of locally grown, hothouse vegetables and flowers.

 As to my own small effort, I’m not giving up, not yet.  I’m taking my own advice, and have a handyman coming over to give me a bid on constructing some 4×4 foot raised beds, and will fill them with the best soil I can create throughout the autumn for use next spring.  Going forward, I’m a raised bed and container gardener only. 

 These beds will be located on the opposite side of the back yard that receives full sun all day, and nearer my opposite neighbor, who doesn’t use a yard service, so drift damage is minimized.  The soil should warm more rapidly in the spring, so plants can be set out a bit earlier.  I’ll transplant lily divisions into the old garden area, tenacious summer bloomers that will withstand some occasional vapor drift, aren’t too picky about soil quality, and will thrive in light shade or full sun. 

 Here is another argument in favor of raised beds.  I want to plant some of those same lily divisions as well as other perennials near my opposite neighboring fence, but in my neighborhood, the underground utility lines crisscross from front to back.  So not only does one struggle with poor soil, but it is required to call ahead and have the area marked before digging.  Even then, you run the risk of hitting a line and can still be held accountable for any damage.  So I will put the decorative plantings in one of the 4×4’s.  Everything on top of the ground. 

 If you are interested in raised beds, there are two books mentioned earlier in the season that I highly recommended for home gardeners and still hold them to be the two best I’ve ever read.  In addition to great general gardening advice, for vegetables and flowers, annuals and perennials, they give detailed, easy to follow instructions for building raised beds and for creating good soil to fill them.  Additionally, they offer back saving advice on alternatives to tilling and mixing soil.

They are Lasagna Gardening, by Patricia Lanza, and All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  Both are large-sized trade paperback and cost around $20.  

High summer brings images of tall stands of corn; Saturday afternoons spent sipping cold drinks between outdoor chores, stopping to visit with the neighbors, and listening to the swell and fall of cicadas in the trees. Windless, fog infused mornings with humidity so heavy that one can hardly breathe just doesn’t fit that picture, but here we are at the end of July, and there is nothing stirring.

Still, the produce at the market was abundant yesterday. Jensen’s had a whole truckload of sweet corn, and it was going pretty fast; indeed, all the vegetable vendors had nice displays of eggplant and cabbage, different kinds of beans, potatoes and carrots, herbs and greens, with lettuce still available in good variety.  The heady aroma of new bread intermingling with the fresh scent of just picked corn and other vegetables was impossible to pass, so I bought a loaf, some tomatoes and lettuce and headed home for my own version of an English ploughman’s lunch.  I had to wait in a few lines to procure these, but it was well worth my time.

This morning I read on the KELO website that the Salvation Army just had a Christmas in July fundraiser.  This created a segue of sorts; directing my thoughts to the fall and winter holidays, and it occurred to me that many of the items for sale at our market would make good holiday gifts, or a nice addition to a holiday dinner. There is some very nice jewelry for sale there, as well as packages of dried pasta in a really impressive variety, those and the specialty jams, sauces and canned salsas would make good additions to a homemade gift basket (as would one’s own home canned foods) and this prompted me to start making lists in preparation, something to do indoors while waiting for our “real” summer to return.  One year I gave gift packages comprised of items made in South Dakota, and they were well received.  Perhaps this year my theme will be to “support community and the environment by buying local,” an idea that is becoming universal in the common sense it imparts.  I know one of my favorite gifts has been a jar of homemade honey and pecan jelly from a sister in Tennessee, who orders it from a woman in her small community there.  A spoonful of that jelly on a hot buttered biscuit is such a treat! 

With the heat index predicted to climb to dangerous levels again this coming week, early morning or later in the day will be the best time to get out and perform those tasks that cannot be put aside.  As a suggestion to make this easier to manage, I’ll share my plan of attack; I divide my mowing into sections and do one part over each of three days, first the front, then the back yard, then the area behind the fence.  That enables me to keep my asthma under control (not to mention that unruly mob of torch wielding neighbors from pounding on my door— Get out here and cut the grass!).  The weeds, on the other hand, are once again out of control in some areas, and will just have to languish a bit longer.

Still no pole beans forming on the garden trellis, and it doesn’t look very promising, but I did notice quite a few bees in numerous cucumber blooms, so am hoping to salvage at least that part of this year’s plan. Then while watching a re-broadcast of Garden Line yesterday, I learned that in dry times, blossoms don’t produce as much nectar, and this will limit the time for attracting the pollinators.  Well that makes sense, but I realize that our short dry spell coincided with my own cucumber blossoms, even though I believe I kept them evenly watered.  So I hope that they too, don’t succumb to the same failure as my pole beans; but as a farming co-worker stated just the other day, farmers don’t have to be in Vegas if they want to gamble. That goes for home gardeners, as well.

Here is a quick way to enjoy either eggplant or zucchini (from the back yard or the market), which are interchangeable in this recipe.

Fried Eggplant or Zucchini

Two small eggplants or the equivalent amount of zucchini.

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp of seasoned salt and 1/8 tsp white pepper

2 eggs beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Equal parts of oil and butter to cover the bottom of a heavy fry pan (maybe start with a few tablespoons of each, adding a bit more as needed)

 Peel and slice vegetables into ½ inch rounds

Combine the flour and seasoned salt

Heat oil until it just begins to shimmer

Dredge the vegetables in the egg and water mixture, then in the flour mixture

Sauté until light brown and crusted (this just takes a minute or two), first on one side then the other (*maintain just a steady oil/butter temperature but don’t let it get too hot, as the flour will easily burn)

Remove to a doubled paper towel to absorb any excess oil while continuing to cook remaining pieces

Serve warm as a side.  These are also good at room temperature.   

 Although the extreme humidity this week made the yard feel like a sauna, I had the opportunity to get out early to mow the lawn and pull some weeds that were taking over.  The nice breeze on Saturday helped!  Although a completely weed free yard will take some work yet, it is looking better.  A large, lightweight electric fan and yards and yards of extension cord made this activity doable until midday, at which time it seemed sensible to admire the result of my labor from an air-conditioned kitchen view.   

 While weeding my small vegetable patch and tying up wandering vines, I found a few early cucumbers and a handful of yellow wax beans, but the pole beans are only sending out vines with no blooms or fruit apparent.  At this point, I am hoping the seeds I planted are of a late variety or all I’ll have are some pretty vines.  Other than that concern, growing as much as I can on trellises seems to keep the earwigs at bay, but sadly, the Swiss chard and red cabbage appear to be falling victim.  

 The vendors at the market have these concerns, as well, and I am hoping they will have sufficient beans for a bit of canning if mine don’t make it.  The same goes for canning tomatoes.  Even with regular watering, I found blossom end rot and some early indication of septoria leaf spot, and so threw out one of the plants.  Although I love the convenience and economy of having my own fresh produce, I don’t hesitate to purchase a box of apples and peaches each September; buying quantities from the market vendors just makes sense when my own attempts at gardening fall short, as they often do.   Fresh picked produce is essential to good canning, and I know what is available will be fresh. 

Without much else going on in the garden and a freezer full of June strawberries, I thought I would make some jam.  However, the thought of large containers of simmering water adding to the already extreme humidity didn’t seem a good idea.  Instead, I brought all my canning supplies up from the basement and bought some pickling salt and a few other things I know I’ll be in need of soon.  Then I got out the newest Ball Blue Book guide to preserving and perused the different things to pickle brine and cook.  It’s like looking through a seed catalog in January–lovely jars of red tomatoes, jams and relishes!   

This affordable book is available anywhere canning supplies are sold, and is in my opinion,  essential to any home canner.  It gives easy to follow directions for preserving foods, be it water bath or pressure canning, dehydrating or freezing, recipes, and the illustrations are great.  So nice in fact, that if I didn’t already can, they would inspire me to do so.  Because safety standards change, it’s always a good idea to update your go-to guide.  So I save a good recipe or two from each of these and purchase a new book every five years or so. 

 I also see that the annual county extension canning seminar is being advertised.  I took this two years ago at the Ace Hardware location on South Minnesota Ave. and learned a lot, especially how to use a presser canner, and why some things I thought safe to can in a hot water bath really should not be done that way, like the roasted tomato, garlic, Anaheim pepper and onion mixture I am so fond of.   Because the peppers, garlic and onion are low acid, they need to be pressure canned.  Sandra Aamlid, county extension educator, is the instructor for this enjoyable evening clinic, and she is as pleasant to listen to as she is knowledgeable.  The class is free and very nicley sponsored by Ace Hardware annually, but one needs to sign up.  Call 336-6474 to register.  This year’s seminar is scheduled for August 23rd.   Seating is limited, naturally, so reserve your spot soon.  

Not able to attend?  One can certainly contact the Minnehaha County Extension Services directly for specific canning questions; drop by the office located at 220 West 6th Street, Sioux Falls, or phone them at (605) 367-7877.

 After reading about the recent bee concerns experienced at the Kattenberg farm (Seedtime and Harvest) I was inclined to do a bit of research about Colony Collapse Disorder, the name given to the phenomenon of honey bee workers that simply disappear.  There is a lot of ongoing research out there, but in a nutshell it appears that the over use of pesticides, along with viruses and something called varroa mites are all key factors in their mysterious demise.  Certainly, providing an environment that is conducive to bee nesting and supportive of their life needs is something we can all do in some small measure.
Perhaps the most important thing to do is to drastically limit or better yet, just stop using lawn fertilizers and pesticides.  Many of the chemicals used in these products are deadly to bees, or at the very least can weaken their immune systems, making them much more susceptible to viruses and other plagues.  Try introducing more ladybugs, praying mantis and other insects that prey on harmful pests in the garden.  Less pesticide will also help these beneficial insects to do their job and allow the natural balance of the yard to return. If you must fertilize, look for natural, chemical free fertilizers.  
Hand picking troublesome insects is a time tested tactic, or using more natural spray treatments, like soapy water, or the tried and true Jerry Baker concoction for both feeding and pest control  (the Jerry Baker of the Talk to Your Plants, and Plants are Like People fame so popular in the 1970’s).  This uses tobacco juice (you soak 1/3 pouch of tobacco in a quart of boiling water, to which you have dissolved a package of Knox gelatin.  Allow it to steep and then discard the tobacco-no need to chew and spit!  Then add 1 cup of grated laundry bar soap solution (like Fells Naptha) and 1 cup of mouthwash.  Spray this with twenty gallons of water to feed your lawn and repel pests.   I have used this for years and it is fairly effective.  It does need to be re-applied pretty much every two weeks, or after a heavy rain, but it is poison free and safe for all ornamentals and edibles.
Another thing I do to repel slugs around hosta and other ornamentals is to save all my eggshells in a covered coffee can then smash them with a potato masher.  I then lay a crushed layer around the plants; wood ash poured in a protective ring around the plant is also a good deterrent, and as they eventually work their way into the soil, they add nutrients.
Something I just learned is that heavy mulching can block bee access to the ground areas where many bees nest, so a lighter hand here is preferred.  The use of groundcover, like creeping sedums, might be a good alternative for some of the border areas, as it still leaves some area open for them to dig.  Interspersing this with a few areas of mulch is quite attractive, and the sedum is a magnificent fall attraction. 
In an earlier blog entry, I mentioned adding white clover to my lawn to help attract bees and provide a natural weed control, and I am pleased to report that it is working. The area behind my fence is just thick with white bloom, it is crowding out some of the more noxious weeds, and as an added bonus, it appears the rabbits are going after this before attacking my small vegetable patch, as I was told they might.  I only mow this area every other time I cut my lawn, and set the blade a bit higher so it doesn’t deplete the blooms.
Although clover may be considered a weed by many, it isn’t unattractive or overly invasive, and bees are very fond of the fragrant blooms.  It has been suggested to allow a few weeds like dandelions to bloom as well, then simply digging them up just before they go to seed.  I suppose if one is diligent enough to do this, it would be another benefit.  However, I am not, and so dig them as soon as they catch my attention.  But the clover is a winner in my opinion. 
Although it is said that bees prefer flowers in hues of yellow, blue and purple, I have a big bunch of bee balm that blooms bright-red and it is usually thick with bees. Other popular flowers and plants include: Asters, Marigolds, and Zinnias, buttercups, clematis, cosmos, Echinacea, geraniums, hollyhocks and sedum (a big bee attractant in the fall).  Fruits and vegetables include: blackberries, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, gourds and raspberries, strawberries and watermelon.  Herbs include bee balm, cilantro and fennel, lavender, all the mints, rosemary, sage and thyme.  A few shrubs are blueberry, butterfly bush, and honeysuckle, but any blooming shrub will find bees in attendance.  For instance, my spireas have a lot of bees when they are in bloom.  An added bonus is that butterflies are also attracted to many of these same plants.  Hello monarchs. . .
Finally, if you are a little bee-nervous, do some bee-related reading.  I learned last year that the scary bumblebees (also great pollinators) are mostly drones that do not sting.  Use common sense, don’t act aggressively around them and you may find you can happily work right along side them in the yard.   At the very least, just walk away and let them have the right of way to complete their important work.

If you were lucky enough to be at the market early yesterday you were treated to some lovely breezes, just before the arrival of what looks like the mid-summer heat and humidity doldrums–time to take care of a few indoor tasks and let the yard take care of itself.  It’s also a good time to leaf through old recipes, and that is what I did yesterday afternoon.  I think I found a few that seem very timely and refreshing, given the herbs and vegetables available at the market now, in hot July~Georgia Totten-Sioux Falls 

Minted Whole Carrots~1 bunch young carrots, 1 ½ cups water, ½ tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. melted butter, 2 Tbs. minced fresh mint, 1/8 tsp. white pepper, extra salt to taste.

Select small, young, sweet carrots; scrap and wash; leave whole.  Pour water into saucepan over medium flame; add salt; bring to rapid boil; add carrots.  Cook uncovered 10-15 minutes (depending on size), or until tender but not soft. Remove from heat and drain.  Season lightly with pepper and more salt, if desired.  Return to heat.  Pour melted butter over carrots; add minced mint; stir gently to coat carrots.  Serve piping hot.  Serves 4-6.  Fresh green peas, potatoes, spinach and string beans may be prepared in the same manner. 

Gingered, Buttered Beets~¾ tsp. ground ginger, ½ cup sugar, 1 ½ Tbs. cornstarch, ½ cup cider vinegar, 1 ½ cups sliced cooked beets, 2 Tbs. butter, 1 Tbs. chopped parsley

Blend ginger, sugar and cornstarch in a heavy saucepan; gradually add vinegar; stir until smooth.  Place saucepan over medium heat and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add beets and butter; lower heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve hot garnished with the chopped parsley.  Serves 4.  This recipe can also be used for carrots and sweet potatoes, just substitute the same amount of vegetables.

Mint Syrup~6 sprigs fresh mint (any kind), 3 cups sugar, 1 cup water

Select fresh, crisp mint.  Wash thoroughly; dry on absorbent paper. Crush or bruise leaves and stems in a small bowl.  Pour water into heavy saucepan; dissolve sugar in water; add crushed mint.  Bring to boil over medium flame.  Boil 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Allow to stand at room temperature 15 minutes.  Remove mint springs. When syrup is cool, pout into a bottle and keep in the refrigerator ( plastic squeeze bottles work well).  Yield: 1 cup.  Use as a flavoring for hot or iced tea; also with fresh fruit cups and desserts.  My youngest daughter taught me to also keep a container of this simple syrup without mint for those who prefer their iced tea a little sweeter.  It is better than adding granulated sugar because it is already dissolved.  Great tip!

Herb Potato Cakes~4 medium-sized potatoes, 2 Tbs. butter, ¼ cup warm milk, 2 Tbs. chopped chives, 3 Tbs. extra butter, salt and pepper.

Wash and peel potatoes, place in saucepan and barely cover with water; bring to a boil and boil 20-25 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain and mash well; add 2 Tbs. butter, salt and pepper to taste.  Add milk and mix well.  Add 1 Tbs. chopped chives.  When cool enough to handle, or cold, shape into round, flat cakes about ¾ inch thick.  Place 3 Tbs. butter in a skillet and heat about 2 minutes over medium heat.  Fry potato cakes until golden brown and crisp on one side, about 2 minutes.  Turn and brown other side.  Garnish with additional chopped chives and a small dollop of sour cream.  This is a good way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.   

Macaroni with Blended Herbs~¼ lb elbow macaroni or spaghetti, 3 quarts boiling water, 2 tsp. salt, 1 cup basic white sauce (recipe listed below), 2 Tbs. chopped green olives, 6 tsp. shopped fresh parsley, 2 Tbs. chopped pimiento, 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or ½ tsp. dried oregano, 2 Tbs. olive oil, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 cup grated sharp American or cheddar cheese.

Cook macaroni only 7-10 minutes in salted, boiling water or until tender but not soft.  Drain well.  Add white sauce, olives and all other seasonings except cheese and cayenne pepper to macaroni; mix gently but well; add ½ cup grated cheese.  Pour mixture into large buttered casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cayenne pepper then with the other ½ cup of cheese.  Bake in preheated over at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes and serve while hot.  Serves 4.

 White Sauce~1 cup milk, 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. flour, ¼ tsp. salt and dash or two of pepper.  Melt butter, add flour and stir and cook for 1 minute, just long enough to cook out the raw flour taste, but not long enough to break down the thickening effect of the flour).  Add milk salt and pepper and stir until thickened.  This can be doubled, tripled etc.  Just increase the  ingredients by this same ratio.   

Cheddar and Chive Baking Powder Biscuits~2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 Tbs. baking powder,¼ tsp. salt,1 stick cold butter cut into pieces, ¾ cup milk, ½ cup shredded cheddar or Parmesan cheese, 1 Tbs. chopped fresh chives

Combine flour, salt and baking powder, cut in the cold butter pieces with a pastry blender or fork, add cheese, chives and milk and stir until just combined.  Do not over stir or over handle the dough or the biscuits will be tough.  Pat or roll on a lightly floured surface to about a ¾ inch thickness and cut with small-sized biscuit cutter.  Bake at 425 degrees about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Brush tops of hot biscuits with a little melted butter if desired.  These savory biscuits are even good cold. 

This year it is apparent that time has finally caught up with my sixty-year-old joints, hence my kneeling pad in the yard and garden has become my new best friend, and it occurs to me that there are a few affordable products out there that really do make outdoor work a bit easier.  I have two kneeling pads, former heavy foam stadium cushions left over from my children’s high school days. To me, they’re a proven godsend, as the soil in my yard is rock-hard. They are also fairly waterproof in case you inadvertently leave one out in a summer storm.  These sturdy cushions may be ordered online from any one of the high school websites, and the proceeds will no doubt go to a worthy educational cause.   

Other little treasures include a lightweight garden bench that becomes a portable seat, then when turned over provides a kneeling pad and two “handles” to aid in rising (I found mine at Menard’s against the garden shop interior wall-about $14 on sale).  Although not worth much as a kneeler (it’s a bit too high off the ground and so puts a strain on one’s lower back), it’s still a good “hands up,” a help to anyone who has asthma on these heavy, humid days.  Used as a lightweight seat, however, it is a perfect height for pruning when the shrubs get out of control. I also purchased a smaller-sized plastic garbage can on wheels for $16 at Ace Hardware.  This latter item is so light it feels almost weightless (FYI-you will need the 45 gallon garbage bags to go around the top opening of this cart, or a really stretchy, 39-gallon size). After a few months of usage, I actually prefer this to the yard card I mentioned in an earlier entry here.   

Trellis gardening is looking better and better, as well. The pole beans and climbing cucumbers are clinging to the supports, whipping their trailers a little higher each day, and I know this is going to ensure an easier harvest.  The varieties are all new to me, so time will tell if the climbing varieties are worth the saved effort, but right now, it’s looking good. Initially, I planned this to save space in my small plot, but I realize now this creates yet another bonus; because trellised plants use less soil area, the weeds are easier to control.   

The last to mention here are lightweight, foam-based pots. The Anaheim peppers I stuck in them are flourishing, and they have been easy to move around as the shade to sun ratio becomes apparent around the yard. And here is something I learned from watching our county extension show last week.  Most gardeners know that peppers love the heat, and although I likely knew that soggy soil and cooler soil temperatures would stunt them, it wasn’t until I saw the plants in those foam pots nearly double their size in the same time as those planted in the ground, that I became convinced this is the way to go in our area.  With less surface area to heat, they warm up quicker than the soil.  The peppers planted in the ground look spindly; some even have a few yellowing leaves.  But the ones in those pots appear to be jumping for joy, with blossoms and lots of new growth.  With the wet, late springs we’ve had the past few years, this may be a good way to get those plants out early.  Additionally, they can be moved into the garage fairly easily if a late frost threatens.  Foam pots look like terra cotta or stone, but they are a fraction of the weight.  With the use of a light potting mixture even I can easily lift and move them.  Wait for end of year clearance sales, and save a bundle on their purchase. ~Georgia Totten, Sioux Falls