How does a seed become a plant? (video)
By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
May means garden season, and this year, amid predictions of food shortages, growing your own food might be a vital source of sustenance.
“I always feel a few pots of easy vegetables or a small garden should be a part of life for any family,” says Sandy Arnold of Pleasant Valley Farm. “It’s so easy.”
Yet, many claim they can’t grow food, citing past failures as evidence.
We at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market want you to try again.
Burger Farm and Balet Flowers & Design are selling vegetable, fruit, and herb seedlings to help you start. Others such as Gomez Veggie Ville make it even easier with pre-planted culinary herb mixes in a pot.
Here are some suggestions of my own:
● If you love peas, snag a bag of seeds and plant them now, up against a wire fence or trellis. They’ll start producing pods around July and will flourish for about three weeks. Plant more peas in three-week intervals through mid-July to ensure an ongoing supply.
● Hardy root vegetables such as radishes, carrots, turnips, and beets also are easy to start by seed, though sometimes seedlings are available. Radishes and turnips grow fast and will be harvestable in four to six weeks. Beets and carrots take longer. Plant these vegetables several times, as well.
● Plant lettuce seedlings from Burger or Balet and start harvesting the outer leaves in about two weeks. Keep harvesting like this or wait for the plants to grow larger and then cut all the leaves at the base. They’ll grow back, but you also can keep planting lettuce from seed to ensure a steady crop.
● Burger and Balet also have kale, Swiss chard, pac choi, and other leafy greens seedlings. Plant and harvest the leaves when they are eight inches long. These “cut and come again” plants, produce through late fall.
● You also can get broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts seedlings now. Consider a second planting of broccoli and cabbage in late June.
● After June 1, start planting summer seedlings. These include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squashes, melons, and basil. They’ll begin producing fruit in several weeks and will continue until the fall frosts arrive.
This week’s recipe: Farmers’ Market Green Salad
By Julia Howard
With schools closed and many of us working from home, parents are desperately looking for ways to keep their children occupied. Food provides many opportunities for learning and play as well as nourishing our bodies and teaching important life skills. Here are 5 simple ways to use food and our local food system as learning tools for young children:
1. Cooking and Baking
Cooking and baking offer many learning opportunities for children; organizational skills, counting, measuring ingredients, team work, even writing out a grocery list. Cooking can be as simple as a smoothie, a salad, no-bake cookies, or assembling a picnic. Offering choices and presenting the activity as a game can be helpful in keeping the attention of your little ones.
2. Crafts and Games
The internet is peppered with DIY crafts and games to keep kids entertained, but look no farther than your fridge for real fun. Making fruit and vegetable prints with discarded stalks, cores, and stems is a creative, no-waste activity for little ones. Building constructions or creating a piece of art from cut fruit and vegetable pieces can make a tasty snack much more entertaining.
3. Planting Activities
If you want to garden with your kids but you’re not quite ready to dig out a space in your yard, here are some ideas that provide opportunities to grow on a small scale. Herbs, leafy vegetables, and celery may simply grow in water by cutting the plant at its base and placing it in water. An indoor herb garden or an outdoor container garden offers the full gardening experience. If you don’t have time to plant seeds, contact your local nursery as many are offering curbside pickup for plants.
4. STEM Activities
Whether your child is learning about taste vs. smell or the phases of the moon, food can be used for countless STEM experiments to stimulate higher thinking and problem solving. Try shaking heavy cream to make butter, experiment with the many ways to bake a potato, or make ice cream with salt, ice, and cream.
5. Driving Farm Tour or Virtual Tour
For families itching to get out of the house, a short drive through farm country can lift spirits during this difficult time. Make a map of your local producers, roll down the car windows, and take in the beauty that the area has to offer. Nettle Meadow and the Kemp Sanctuary even offer a virtual tour of their farm with opportunities to meet their famous rescue animals.
This week’s recipe: Apple & Carrot “Superhero” Muffins
By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
My husband Jim and I love garlic. Not just the sight, smell, and taste of the bulbs, which are at their peak season now at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, but everything about the planting, tending, and harvesting of it.
We began growing garlic seven years ago, well before our backyard land became Squashville Farm. We started with cloves we got from the Row to Hoe Farm. The following year, we purchased garlic in bulk and began saving seed. By 2015, we were harvesting about 600 bulbs a year.
During those years, we also helped form the Friends of the Saratoga Market volunteer organization. In that capacity, we got to know local farmers, learned more about growing food, grew an increasing variety of vegetables, and began raising laying hens, meat chickens, and goats.
This spring, we became vendors at Saratoga’s Wednesday market. At our stall, just past the central pavilion on the north end, you will find lettuce, kale, chard, and other greens; a range of seasonal vegetables; eggs, chicken, and several cuts of goat meat. And, of course, garlic. This is the food we grow to eat and enjoy offering to others.
Garlic comes in numerous varieties, and we like to sample a lot of them. We do this by traveling to the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, where we meet growers and taste their wares. We decide what to plant based on what our taste buds like.
This year, we chose three varieties, one from each of the “hard neck” families. Our Red Chesnok is a purple stripe, great for baking and eating roasted; our Georgian Heat is a porcelain, great for general cooking and longer-term storage; and our Ukrainian Red is a rocambole, known for having a lot of cloves in varying sizes and a true garlic taste.
We planted cloves in November. They sprouted in the spring. The sprouts turned into stalks that produced scapes in June, which we cut off and sold. The stalks then turned brown, telling us it was time to harvest.
As my husband notes, garlic is magical. It’s a year-round anticipation, planning, and celebration of farm-grown food.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays at High Rock Park. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and check out the FreshFoodNY app. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for volunteer opportunities.
By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market hosts its third annual Spring Festival tomorrow. Between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., the festival will feature hourly workshops and family-friendly activities aimed at helping both market regulars and newcomers gain a stronger understanding of how the local food system operates.
All of the workshops are free, open to all ages, and will offer attendees gifts. The schedule includes:
In addition, the Friends of the Market will host a take-home planting activity for children of all ages and abilities, and the Children’s Museum of Saratoga will offer a spring-themed activity.
Over the past two years, the festival has drawn hundreds of visitors, and in 2016 it prompted I Love NY to declare the Saratoga Farmers’ Market the No. 1 Must Visit Farmers’ Market in the state.
The goal, says market director Julia Howard, is to raise awareness of the value of local food and farming in a fun way. “Getting people involved in their local food scene is a great way to get them to participate in it. The farmers’ market embraces its role in this respect as an educator and resource on local food.”
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays at the Lincoln Baths Building in the Saratoga Spa State Park through April. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; and contact email@example.com for volunteer opportunities.
By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Ten days ago, as temperatures hit the 60s, I looked at the fresh-cut tree I had gotten at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market in December. It still smelled fresh but was drying out. Time to take it down and to think about filling its space with seed trays for the spring.
Farmers who bring the earliest spring herbs and vegetables to market often start seeds under grow lights, on heating mats, and in greenhouses. They rely on such innovations as high tunnels to prolong the garden season. Backyard gardens usually remain a mass of frozen soil until April.
Still, now is a good time to plan a spring garden, order seeds, and gather supplies.
Local gardening expert Sadie Ross recommends starting seedlings in starter pots or seedling trays and covering them with some kind of clear plastic to simulate a greenhouse. She often uses clear plastic deli tray covers. She recommends filling the starter pots with potting soil, dropping seeds on top and covering them with about 1/8 of an inch of soil. These pots should be watered lightly once a day with a spray bottle until the seeds germinate and sprout two true leaves.
How does one know when to plant certain seeds?
Many experts recommend creating a growing calendar with the last frost date as a pivot point. Charts listing when to start seeds indoors and when to transplant seedlings or direct sow outdoors are widely available on seed company and gardening websites. Nearly all are based on that frost date.
After taking down my tree, I created a growing calendar, based on our area’s last frost date of May 20. Working with charts on the Hudson Valley Seed Company’s website, I found out that while I can start celery and celeriac this weekend, and parsley, onions, and chives next weekend, I should hold off on starting my favorite greens and root vegetables until mid-April, as they’re best transplanted in mid-May.
“There isn’t much that one can start indoors this early,” says Ross. “Wait a few more weeks.”
Patience can pay off. As I’ve learned from years past, poor conditions will kill your plants. But when the time is right, they’ll thrive.
Visit the Saratoga Farmers’ Market 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays at the Lincoln Baths Building in Saratoga Spa State Park; follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for volunteer opportunities.