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Archive | Bloomin’ Summer

Want to teach your children to be good stewards? 

BLOOM-Garden1

Time to get your hands dirty

(BPT) – Growing your own garden is a popular pastime that cuts grocery bills and puts fresh produce within arm’s reach. But to parents it’s so much more than that. Gardening is a trending family activity that provides plenty of teachable moments, and it also promotes positive characteristics like self reliance and stewardship of the earth.

“You don’t have to be a green thumb to start a garden at home,” says Kevin Bryant, a garden enthusiast and director of national marketing at Tractor Supply Company. “It’s a fantastic activity for families to do together that also lets parents teach valuable lessons to their children. Whether it’s just a few garden boxes on the deck or a full plot with backyard chickens, families everywhere are embracing the adventure of gardening together and learning so much about nature and each other in the process.”

BLOOM-Garden2The recent self-reliant movement sweeping the country is highly appealing to families. Plus, growing basic vegetables, fruits and herbs at home is a viable option whether in the city, suburbs or rural areas. In fact, 29 percent of Americans obtained locally grown food in the past year from a home garden, according to a national Tractor Supply survey – and interest appears to be on the rise.

Furthermore, many families have a deep desire to improve their children’s comprehension of nutrition and food resources. A whopping 89 percent of American parents agree with the statement “My children need a better understanding of where their food comes from,” the survey found.

Now is the ideal time to start planning your garden. Consider these four steps to ensure your family gets the most out of their gardening time together:

1. Research plants

The region where you live will dictate which seeds you should plant and when. It’s best to select high-yielding plants that you know will be successful, particularly if you have a small garden. Your local extension service is a great resource.

2. Decide on size

If you have a large backyard, a bigger plot might be a good option and allow you to grow a wider variety of plants. If you live in the city or a restricted area, container gardens or garden boxes are a great option for herbs, flowers and some vegetables. Don’t bite off more than you can chew during the first year; starting small increases the likelihood of success, and you can always increase the size next year.

3. Go shopping

Once you have a general idea of your garden’s size, location and types of plants you’d like to grow, it’s time to take the family shopping. Visit a store, such as your local Tractor Supply, for seasoned advice, tools, soil, seeds, fertilizers and pest control. You can also find all the supplies necessary for raising backyard chickens, which offer a great way to eliminate backyard pests and boost the health of your garden. Additionally, the kids will love tending to the flock.

4. Make time together

Children love to get their hands dirty, so involve them in every step of the gardening process, from tilling the soil to harvesting the produce. Set a schedule for watering and weeding to teach kids responsibility. Be sure to keep an open conversation about their observations and try to answer their questions. If you don’t know all the answers, explore and learn together.

“Getting outdoors, growing a garden and learning about the land is one of the best things families can do during the warm-weather months,” says Bryant. “Plus, kids are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they help grow them in their own backyard. That’s a win all around.”

Gardening tips for every season are available online at TractorSupply.com/KnowHow.

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Mulching Can Keep Your Lawn Healthy

BLOOM-Mulching

(StatePoint) When working in the yard, you may be tempted to simply bag your yard clippings and set them out to the curb for pick-up. But experts say that mulching grass clippings is a much better alternative for the health of your lawn and the health of the planet.

“Mulching is hands down one of the best ways to maintain a beautiful, low-maintenance lawn,” says Daryn Walters, at Exmark Manufacturing, a manufacturer of turf care equipment. “It’s free and it’s great for lawn health.”

Furthermore, mulching can help you greatly reduce your family’s contribution to landfill waste, points out Walters. Of all the municipal solid waste collected in the United States, 13.5 percent of it is comprised of yard trimmings, according to the EPA.

For best results, try these lawn care tips:

• Practice the 1/3rd Rule: Never cut more than 1/3 of the length of the grass blade when mowing, to avoid clippings accumulating on the surface and making your lawn susceptible to disease. Additionally, this will improve the productivity of your mower, as cutting more than that can bog it down with clippings.

• Use a Mulching Mower: Consider investing in a commercial mower to regain productivity that can decrease when mulching. Manufacturers such as Exmark offer mulching-specific blades on both their walk-behind and zero-turn riding mowers, designed to deliver maximum productivity and cut-quality when mulching.

• Ditch the Chemicals: There’s no need to pay for chemical fertilizers to give your lawn what it needs to thrive. Mulching feeds the lawn nutrients and organic material, and can even help with moisture retention — which can significantly reduce the time and expense you spend on watering the lawn.

More information about mulching, lawn care and mowers can be found at www.Exmark.com.

“Your yard trimmings are not trash — they are an effective, natural and free fertilizer,” says Walters. “For a healthy lawn, drop the bag and let the mulch do more for you.”

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Simple tips to get growing at home 

Burpee offers a wide range of flowers, vegetables and herbs to grow at home.

Burpee offers a wide range of flowers, vegetables and herbs to grow at home.

(NAPS)—There may be few things more satisfying than growing colorful flowers or eating vegetables picked fresh from the garden. That might seem ambitious if you haven’t gardened before, but getting started this year need not be difficult. Just follow these simple gardening tips to enjoy the benefits of fresh air, gentle exercise and healthy produce:

1) Pick your spot with care. Plants need sun and water to survive. Vegetables and most flowers need full sun—at least six hours of sunlight every day during the growing season. Plant close to an outdoor water source to make hot weather watering easier.

2) Start with the soil. Because plants live by their roots, the most important part of any garden is below ground. Most soil around houses isn’t ideal for plants but can be improved by adding nutrient-rich organic matter, usually in the form of compost, shredded leaves or composted manure. Bagged soil mixes marked specifically for growing vegetables are ideal for containers.

3) Keep your first garden manageable. For beginners, try a plot 4 feet by 8 feet, or half a dozen good-sized (24–36”) containers. That’s enough to provide a satisfying harvest of herbs, greens or a few tomato plants while you get a feel for the amount of time and effort it takes to water and weed. Pots are the easiest to control soil, water and light. Creating a container garden of vegetables, herbs and patio flowers is a good place for novices to start.

4) Get a head start. Some vegetables and flowers may need to be started from seed 6–8 weeks before it’s safe to plant them outside. You’ll need to do this for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and petunias. But other favorites like zucchini, cucumbers, beans and sunflowers are easily sown in the ground with seed. You can learn more about starting and sowing seeds at www.burpee.com. Planting time will vary in each growing zone, but is generally best in the late spring.

5) Watch your garden grow. It’s fun for the whole family to observe seeds taking root and growing into plants. Be sure to water and weed regularly as you wait for the bounty of your first harvest.

Burpee’s free Garden Time Planner app makes planting in specific garden regions easy. To download the app, buy non-GMO seeds and plants, or to access helpful “how-to” articles and videos, visit www.burpee.com or call (800) 888-1447.

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Old fuel can be hard on lawn mowers

BLOOM-Old-fuel-can-be-hard-on-mowers

(BPT) – Nothing says summer like neighborhoods coming alive with the sounds of lawn mowers and the smell of fresh-cut grass. But getting the lawn mower out of the shed and running properly can be a struggle early in the season.  You turn the key and the riding lawn mower roars to life. Then the engine promptly sputters and dies. Before tearing apart the engine or calling a mechanic, look inside the gas tank.

“Every spring, we see issues with mowers caused by homeowners using gasoline left over from the year before,” says Dwight Grosz, a small engine mechanic near Bismarck, N.D. “Over time, untreated fuel begins to break down, which leads to hard starting, poor performance or an engine that won’t start at all.”

Why gasoline goes bad                                                                                          

What causes gasoline to break down? The first thing to go is gasoline’s volatility. The lightest chemicals evaporate first, leaving a heavier gasoline that doesn’t combust properly. The engine will probably still run, just not as well.

“A more serious problem is oxidization,” says Paul Herskind, a refined fuels expert at CHS, which refines and sells Cenex-brand fuels at more than 1,400 fueling locations. “When inspecting fuel that has sat unused over the winter, watch for signs that it is darker in color and smells sour. It might have small pieces of gum floating in it. These are all signs the fuel has oxidized. You don’t want that in your engine.”

Oxidization is the result of hydrocarbons in the fuel reacting with oxygen to produce new compounds, explains Herskind. This results in gum, which can clog gas lines and filters and create deposits in the fuel system. Gummed-up carburetors can be expensive to fix and may not run properly until deposits are removed.

“Finally, there’s the issue of water contamination,” adds Herskind. Water usually finds its way into fuel tanks through condensation caused by fluctuating temperatures. Water in your engine will lead to hard starting and sputtering.

How to fix it

If your mower won’t start because you’ve been using old gasoline, you’ll need to remove the old fuel and any built-up residue in the engine. Begin by referring to the owner’s manual for service procedures.

Next, siphon out the old gasoline into a container for proper disposal. Then, if the lawn mower runs for a few seconds and dies, the carburetor might be clogged or have old fuel in the float bowl.

“When the volatile ingredients in fuel evaporate, it leaves a sticky, varnish-like substance that clogs the small jets in carburetors,” says Grosz. “Once that happens, the only solution is to use a carburetor cleaner to remove varnish deposits.”

After cleaning the carburetor, add fresh fuel and a fuel stabilizer to help keep the system clean.

After treating the fuel

Grosz advises going through a quick checklist to ensure your mower’s ready for the season. Consult your owner’s manual for maintenance recommendations.

First, change the oil to remove contaminants, sludge and acids. Drain the old oil out and refill the crankcase. Grosz recommends using oil manufactured specifically for smaller engines and lawn mowers, such as Cenex 2-Cycle Oil. Consult your owner’s manual for manufacturer recommendations.

Next, replace the air filter. Last, don’t forget to sharpen the mower blade and remove any grass that’s caked to the underside of the motor deck.

How to avoid future issues

“To avoid future issues with stale fuel, try not to store gasoline in tanks or containers for more than two months,” says Herskind. “If you know gasoline will be sitting for longer than that, add a fuel stabilizer. This will help prevent oxidization.” At the end of the season, use a fuel stabilizer rather than draining the gas tank, which exposes carburetors and fuel lines to water and air.

“A quality fuel stabilizer can keep gas fresh for as long as 12 to 15 months. But the stabilizer needs to be added to new gasoline,” says Herskind. “It won’t bring stale fuel back to life.”

For more helpful information, Herskind recommends reading the blog on cenex.com. “Readers are also given an opportunity to nominate someone they know for free fuel,” adds Herskind. “It is always easier to get the lawn mower started with a fresh tank of gasoline, especially if it’s free.”

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Ten ways to help bees and butterflies thrive

 

You can help bees and butterflies thrive by creating natural habitats.

You can help bees and butterflies thrive by creating natural habitats.

(NAPS)—Here’s news that’s created a buzz. Three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants and food crops rely on pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies to help them reproduce.

Unfortunately, bee populations are being threatened by a range of issues, such as colony collapse disorder, pesticides, mites, disease and climate change. Butterfly populations are also at risk.

The good news is that gardeners can help restore balance by creating habitats that encourage pollinators to thrive.

Bees and butterflies need places to live and breed in, and food to eat. The plants that provide this food also need pollinators to help them reproduce, so planting gardens that are friendly to bees and butterflies is a win-win situation.

Pollination occurs naturally as small creatures forage for food, carrying pollen from plant to plant as they go. That is why it’s important to offer them a “buffet” of attractive flowers throughout the seasons, and to have sufficient natural habitats so that they don’t have to travel far to find what they need.

Here are 10 easy ways to help:

1) BEE friendly to bees! Honeybees are not aggressive; they sting only as a defense mechanism.

2) Plant trees, shrubs and flowering plants to increase food and shelter for bees and butterflies.

3) Create a seasonal buffet for pollinators by planting perennial flowers with a mix of colors, shapes and scents in containers, window boxes and plant beds.

4) Choose perennials with simple, single rather than double flowers to make nectar and pollen more accessible to bees and butterflies.

5) Cut and use garden flowers for bouquets to encourage re-blooming and to prolong the foraging window for pollinators.

6) Use beautiful native plants such as echinacea, coreopsis, sunflowers and butterfly milkweed for at least 75 percent of your garden.

7) Water, weed and fertilize soil appropriately to create a healthy garden that minimizes pests and diseases.

8) Provide clean water for insects in shallow bowls, birdbaths and ponds, or let fresh water drip over stones.

9) Imperfection is OK! Bees and butterflies may damage leaves and flowers while breeding and feeding. Create areas of natural habitat with old stumps, fallen branches and tall grass for nesting.

10) Help convert small parcels of land into community gardens and green spaces to create closely linked areas for bees and butterflies to visit.

Burpee offers a wide range of seeds and plants that are attractive to bees and butterflies. All of Burpee’s seeds are Non-GMO.

To learn more about protecting pollinators, visit the website www.burpee.com/pollinators or call Burpee at (800) 888-1447.

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Build a lasting memory with your backyard project

 

Color-treated lumber keeps your backyard project from becoming a faded memory.

Color-treated lumber keeps your backyard project from becoming a faded memory.

(BPT) – There are regular backyard projects and then there are those special backyard projects that bring families closer together, both during the construction and while enjoying the finished piece.
If you want to improve your backyard with a special project for your family this year but you’re not sure what to build, here are a few fun ideas.
* Wood raised-garden planter. If anyone in your home has a green thumb, this is a great idea. A raised planter bed keeps the soil warmer longer, which will extend the gardening season. Your plants will also enjoy better soil conditions because the soil won’t be walked on. Finally, raised beds make it easier to protect your plants from hungry woodland animals.
* Wood treehouse. One of the iconic mainstays of childhood: If you have young children at home, they will love it. Incorporate extra elements into your tree house (ladders, slides, climbing wall, etc.) for prolonged enjoyment and consider putting walls on the structure. This will allow your children to play inside longer into the year.
* Wood swing set. Build it as an attachment to the treehouse or as a standalone project. In either case, a swing set is sure to be popular. Basing the posts into the ground and building your set from quality treated lumber means it will be ready for your children – and for any full-grown kid who wants to swing away nostalgically.

The preservative used in ProWood pressure-treated lumber is safe for humans, animals and the environment.

The preservative used in ProWood pressure-treated lumber is safe for humans, animals and the environment.

* Wood sandbox. Another iconic childhood toy. Building a sandbox with higher side walls will reduce the amount of sand that spills over the side, and adding a base means this section of your yard won’t be filled with sand forever. You may also consider building a wooden cover for your child’s sandbox to hide toys from sight and from the elements.
* Picnic table. Not every project has to be designed just for the kids. A picnic table provides that at-the-park feeling right in your own backyard. Before you start your picnic table project, however, determine what style table you want (square, rectangle, hexagon, etc.) as well as the size of the table. If you have a large family or frequent guests, you may want to build a bigger table (but remember that this table will be harder to move around). If your table will only be used by a couple of people, a small, portable table is probably the better option.
When it’s time to choose a building material for your backyard project, consider pressure-treated lumber, which is both affordable and easy to use. Additionally, some brands of treated lumber give your backyard project a professional-grade look. When using treated lumber, be sure to check the end tag as it identifies the treatment type. Look for the ProWood end tag, because it’s an indicator that tells you it’s building code approved and treated for your intended use. ProWood MCA (Micronized copper azole) treated lumber has a lighter, fresher appearance compared to other current or previous treatments. MCA pressure-treated wood is the logical, safe choice – it’s completely safe for people and pets.
To learn more about ProWood MCA treated lumber and to find inspiration for your next project, visit www.ProWoodLumber.com.

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Fresh Market

BLOOM-BeansBeans, one of the Three Sisters

(part two of a three part series)
by Vicki Babcock

Native Americans speak of the “Three Sisters,” referring to corn, beans, and squash that were grown together.  The following is another legend about the sisters.
Long ago there were three sisters who lived together in a field. Each sister was very different from the others, both in looks and temperament. Each had their own interests. They were bound by love for each other and they always stayed together. But a crow came one day and talked to the horses and the other animals. The sisters watched this behavior and, shortly after, the youngest sister disappeared. This left the two remaining sisters very sad. The crow returned to gather reeds at the water’s edge and the sisters watched. That night, the second sister disappeared. This left the eldest sister all alone to grieve. When the crow saw her sadness, he brought the sisters together again and they continue to be together to this day. The eldest stands tall as she always did watching out for the crow. They find strength together and each sustains the other. These three spirit sisters are represented in the crops themselves.
Native Americans used this form of “companion planting” for their three major crops, which they believe were gifts from the Creator. The corn provided a pole for the beans, which, in turn, nourished the soil. The squash provided cover to keep the soil moist and to deter weeds. Eaten together, the three crops provided a balanced diet.
Beans are one of the oldest known cultivated plants, dating back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians left the beans with their dead to sustain them through their journey and mention was made of beans and chickpeas cast on the threshing floor in the Iliad, written in the late 8th century BCE.  According to Wikipedia, the oldest-known domesticated beans in the Americas were found in Guitarrero Cave, an archaeological site in Peru, and dated to around the second millennium BCE.
Beans from the New World include lima beans and common beans such as Navy or Pea Bean, Red Kidney, Pinto, Great Northern, Marrow, and Yellow Eye. Also included are our string beans (now stringless) and snap beans. Varieties you might find at farmers markets today include such interesting names as Dragon’s Tongue and Trail of Tears.*
Beans were an important source of protein for Native Americans. They are comparable to meat when it comes to calories. Unlike meat, however, they have a high fiber and water content which helps you to feel fuller faster. Adding beans to your diet will help you cut calories without feeling deprived. One cup of cooked beans provides about 12 grams of fiber, nearly half of the RDA recommended for women and about one-third for men. Fiber means that beans are digested slower, helping stave off hunger longer. In addition, beans are low in sugar, which prevents insulin in the bloodstream from spiking and causing hunger (Beans, Protein-rich Superfoods By Jenny Stamos Kovacs WebMD, the Magazine).
Beans are high in antioxidants, which help to control cell damaging free radicals in the body. According to Kovacs, free radicals have been implicated in everything from cancer and aging to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
In a study by the U.S Department of Agriculture of the antioxidant content of over one-hundred common foods, three types of beans made the top four: small red beans, red kidney beans and pinto beans.
Nuff said? If you haven’t done so already, do your body a favor and add these powerhouses to your diet. You’ll be glad you did.
*Dragon’s tongue and Trail of Tears can be found at Solon Market when in season.  Please check for availability.

O-Beans! Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Beans in cookies? You bet! Try these for a healthy choice!
Makes 3 dozen
Ingredients
Cooking spray
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
½  tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup Great Northern beans, drained, liquid reserved
3 tbsp. butter, softened
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. pkg. semi sweet chocolate  chips
Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Process beans and 2 tbsp reserved liquid in a blender until smooth. Combine bean puree, butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla in a separate bowl and beat well. Stir in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheets. Bake 15 to 17 minutes until centers are firm and edges are lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Unlike most cookies which are best fresh from the oven, these are better the second day.  Best served at room temperature.
Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

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Preserve the Harvest for Winter Meals and Holiday Gifts


by Melinda Myers

Fermentation is an ancient food preservation technique making a comeback. Photo from Gardener’s Supply Company.

Fermentation is an ancient food preservation technique making a comeback. Photo from Gardener’s Supply Company.

The cucumbers have filled the vegetable drawer, you’ve run out of cabbage recipes and your family is refusing to eat one more BLT. Or maybe you just couldn’t resist that special deal on a bushel of tomatoes, potatoes or apples at the farmer’s market. So what is a gardener or shopper to do with all that produce?

Since properly stored vegetables will hold their flavor and nutritional value longer than those left in a plastic bag or set on the sunny kitchen counter, consider preserving some for the long winter ahead using one of several methods.

Storage orchard racks and slatted crates placed in a cool dark location have long been used to store squash, onions and potatoes. The stackable nature or drawers provide ample storage space, so fruits and vegetables do not touch. Keeping stored fruit separated prevents rot from spreading from one fruit to the next. Plus, the slatted sides allow airflow to extend storage longevity.

Those in colder climates can store their carrots and parsnips right in the garden. Once the soil gets a bit crunchy, cover them with straw or evergreen boughs for easier digging in winter. Then dig as needed or harvest during the first winter thaw. If this isn’t possible or not your style, try out a root vegetable storage bin. The root crops are layered in sand or sawdust and placed in a cool dark location. Just remove and use as needed. No snow shoveling needed.

Drying is one of the oldest food preservation techniques. Most of us have grabbed a few bundles of herbs to hang and dry. Expand your drying endeavors to include fruits and vegetables. The goal is to quickly remove moisture without cooking the food. You can make your own dehydrator or purchase one. Research has shown that blanching vegetables and fruit before drying helps destroy harmful bacteria. Blanching involves a steam or boiling water bath followed by a cold-water bath. Timing varies with the fruit or vegetable you are preparing.

Another ancient food preservation technique, fermentation, is experiencing a comeback. Cultures around the world have fermented fruits and vegetables for thousands of years. Unique flavors, storage options and health benefits have many gardeners revisiting this tradition. Fermenting cucumbers into pickles, cabbage into sauerkraut, and berries into preserves are just a few options. The ingredients can be as simple as water, salt, and spices. All you need is a vessel, vegetables and fermenting culture. You can jump-start your efforts with a fermentation crock kit (gardeners.com) that includes the crock, cover and weights to make sure your veggies stay safely submerged in water.

Or quickly lock in the flavor and nutrition of your fruits and vegetables with freezing. You’ll need airtight containers or bags that are durable, don’t leak and won’t become brittle in cold temperatures. Some produce does not freeze well and others may need to be blanched before they are packed in the freezer bag or container. But frozen items can easily be retrieved from the freezer and included in your winter meals.

Canning is a bit more involved, but can be lots of fun. This process preserves the food and keeps it safe by preventing the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeast and mold. The sealed jars keep the flavor in and bad microorganisms out. So gather your produce, jars, pressure cooker, canner and friends to create tomato sauce, salsa, jams and jellies to enjoy or give as gifts.

Whatever method you choose, do a bit of research before you start. You’ll have greater success and a lot more fun. The National Center for Home Food Preservation website, http://nchfp.uga.edu, provides all the basic information for storage and food preservation.
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

 

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Fresh Market: Corn, one of the Three Sisters 

(part one of a three part series)

by Vicki Babcock

 

BLOOM-cornThere are many legends associated with the “Three Sisters,” a method of crop farming created by our Native Americans. Their basic food sources, corn, beans and squash—the sustainers of life—were planted in a hill together. The corn stalk provided a pole for the beans to climb, and the squash or pumpkin provided cover for the ground, preventing weed growth and helping to hold moisture in the soil. They were seen as three loving sisters, each sustaining the other in their growth. The Indians believed the plants should be grown together, eaten together and celebrated together.

One such legend holds that a medicine woman could no longer tolerate the friction between her three daughters and so called on the Creator to help her find a way to end the fighting. That night she had a dream. In her dream, each daughter was a different seed. The medicine woman planted the seeds in one mound, as they would have lived at home and told each that they must be different but dependent upon each other if they were to grow and thrive. They would need to perceive that each had their own special qualities that set them apart and yet, together provided qualities that benefited each other.

The next morning she cooked each of them an egg, one scrambled, one hard-boiled and one over easy. She told her daughters of her dream and explained that they were like the eggs, each different with different textures and flavors and yet, they were still eggs. She told them that they each had a special place in her heart and in the world. The young women began to cry and the hugged each other. Now they knew they would celebrate their differences and love one another more because of them. And so the practice of planting the crops together began, each representing one of the three sisters, helping and caring for each other.

Corn or maize, one of the three sisters, has its origins in South America and Mexico and has been harvested by the Mayan Indians for millennia. Most historians believe maize was domesticated in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico and quickly spread (possibly as early as 2500 BC) throughout the Americas. Sweet corn, a mutation of field corn, is eaten in the immature stage and was grown by several Native American tribes. The first recorded sweet corn was given to European settlers, by the Iroquois, in 1779.

Modern Americans look forward to summer celebrations with corn on the cob and, although we’re all familiar with the adage ”knee high by the Fourth of July,” many of us are looking for the popular crop for our Independence Day celebrations. The United States grows about 40 percent of the world’s production, about 332 million metric tons annually. Of that, approximately 40 percent is used to produce bio-fuels.

Corn has surprisingly many health benefits. They include controlling diabetes, prevention of heart ailments and lowering hypertension as well as aiding in the prevention of digestive ailments such as constipation, hemorrhoid and colorectal cancer.   It is high in fiber and a rich source of vitamins A, B and E. Corn is a rich source of antioxidants which have been known to be an aid against cancer.  Corn, unlike most other vegetables, actually increases the amount of usable antioxidants by cooking.

So belly up to the corn bar but remember—everything in moderation.

Corn Salsa

Ingredients

1 cup fresh corn kernels, cooked until tender

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

2 tablespoons chopped onion

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon Salt

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Stir together corn, jalapeno, cilantro, and onion. Add olive oil, lime, sugar and salt. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. Frozen corn can be used in place of fresh.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

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Getting the most out of farmers markets and seasonal produce

BLOOM-Getting-most-out-of-farmers-market

(BPT) – Warm weather months bring an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, and for those who enjoy buying local, farmers markets are popular destinations. Produce choices available at farmers markets are now reaching their peak. So how can you make the most of this seasonal bounty?

Chef Daniel Reyes, culinary faculty member at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire, a campus of Argosy University, believes that it’s important to know the difference between buzz words common at markets.

“If you have questions about how farmers do something, they are more than happy to talk to you and educate you about sustainable and organic farming,” he says.

Reyes explains that while some produce may look unfamiliar, a good market salesperson will provide tips on how to use the items. Farmers markets are not just great places to buy, they’re also great places to learn new culinary techniques and food pairings.

Another tip? Shop early—that’s when chefs at are the markets. “Chefs are usually there early in the morning. See what they are buying,” says Reyes. And remember to bring bags to carry your items home—cooler bags are especially helpful when you’re buying delicate goods such as locally made cheeses, eggs or meats.

A sense of community

Farmers markets allow people to gather in a common place to meet neighbors and make friends who share a passion for locally grown food. The markets build a sense of community, according to Reyes, that contributes to a stronger local economy and smaller environmental footprint.

“Get to know your purveyors. See where they come from,” Reyes advocates.

This sentiment is shared by Chef Elizabeth Thompson, culinary arts faculty member at The Art Institute of California—Inland Empire. Thompson recommends asking farmers what’s best to buy right now.

“They grow whatever they sell, which makes them experts. Ask to put be put on their email list. They may send out information about what is in season and what to do with it,” she adds.

Thompson makes it a point to try something new each time she visits a farmers market. “Sample everything! That is how the farmers sell their products, and you will know what you like.”

CSA – Community Supported Agriculture

In addition to visiting the farmers market, many people are choosing to become CSA shareholders, paying in advance for weekly boxes of produce.

CSAs create a direct relationship between farmer and consumer, according to Thompson. CSAs allow busy people to pick up their share boxes at a convenient location, and teach them how to use what’s inside.

For those interested in supporting local farmers, CSAs provide a critical influx of cash to farmers during the off season, helping them to better prepare for the planting season ahead.

Whether shopping weekly at the farmers market or picking up a CSA box of fresh produce, buying local allows consumers to taste fruit and vegetables at their peak flavor. From striped heirloom tomatoes to strawberries picked fresh just hours before, farm fresh foods provide a burst of flavor and a connection to the community that cannot be found within a large supermarket.

 

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire, a campus of Argosy University, is one of The Art Institutes, a system of over 50 schools throughout North America. 

 

 

 

 

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