Do you like zucchini? We have lots of fresh local zucchini for sale

While our cold, wet summer hampered the growth of some of our veggies, zucchini has been our bumper crop of the season at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. We’re harvesting about 70 pounds a week right now. We tried a new type of zucchini seed from FoundRoot seed company in Haines, and it really does well in Sitka.

So if you need any zucchini, please give St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt a call at 738-7009. We also will have zucchini for sale at the Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (and again on Aug. 19, and possibly on Sept. 2 and Sept. 9).

Don’t know how to use zucchini? The UAF Cooperative Extension Service has this free publication that has all kinds of information about zucchini and several recipes. Zucchini is very versatile and can be used in main dishes, side dishes, pickles, breads, salads, and desserts.

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St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm still producing veggies this month, and they’re for sale

zucchini

Do you have a need for locally grown zucchini? How about some other veggies grown here in Sitka? Even though the Sitka Farmers Market is over for the year, we still have some veggies for sale.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt said we still have enough produce growing that she can sell 5-10 weekly boxes of produce through the next month. She said the boxes will run $30, and will likely contain about four pounds of carrots, two pounds of potatoes, two pounds of beets, one bundle of chard, one head of lettuce, with other possibilities such as cucumbers, basil, a half-dozen eggs, etc. She also has an excess of zucchini.

To learn more, contact Laura at ljschmidt835@hotmail.com.

• Two new books from UAF Cooperative Extension Service encourage kids to eat more veggies

FNH-00540KaleRecipes_Page_01 FNH-00557AKkidsVeggieCookbook_Page_01So you’ve got a nice garden but your kids don’t want to eat their veggies? What is a parent to do? Two new books by Sarah Lewis of the Juneau District Office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service can help get your kids eating their veggies. And they’re available for free downloads.

Sarah is the Family and Community Development Agent for Southeast Alaska, she travels throughout the region giving cooking and canning classes. She will be back in Sitka in mid-July to test pressure canner gauges and teach several classes yet to be determined.

“Sitka’s 4-H Cloverbuds Club helped me refine a few of the recipes after we had a wonderful time in the kitchen together last year,” Sarah said. “Talk about some fun publications to do research for.” (Note: contact the Sitka Conservation Society for more information about Sitka 4-H clubs.)

The first book is Time for a Kale-abration! Introducing the wonders of kale to Alaskan kids. The free 12-page booklet is all about a garden plant that grows well in Sitka, but one some people have trouble eating. The book features information about the varieties of kale, nutritional info, and several kid-friendly recipes from main courses to desserts.

The second book is The Alaska Kids’ Healthy Harvest Cookbook: Alaska kids grow, cook, eat and love vegetables. This free 12-page booklet lists several common vegetables found in Alaska gardens (kale, carrots, peas, zucchini and potatoes) and provides a variety of recipes using these veggies. It also includes recipes for venison stew and salmon chowder (both heavy with Alaska veggies).

According to the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, “Research shows that helping kids have fun with vegies, even ones they say ‘eeewww’ to, increases the chance they’ll try and like then as they get older. For this reason, our very own Sarah Lewis, Family and Community Development Agent for Southeast Alaska, has written two publications to introduce veggies (especially Alaska Grown ones!) to kids. Time for a Kale-abration and Alaska Kids’ Healthy Harvest Cookbook offer simple and tasty recipes that can be cooked with or by kids, with a menu for a kale-themed party or a harvest festival. Sarah has held local food parties and festivals with 4-H kids and Girl Scouts throughout Southeast Alaska, and now you can hold some with your kids, class, or youth group.”

• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing zucchini in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

LoriAdamsDownToEarthUPickGarden(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING ZUCCHINI

Oh, zucchini …. the “hit or miss” crop.  Some years it does fantastic and you start to think that you’re an expert, and then the next year it totally fails and you realize that you know nothing.

I DO know that zucchini plants hate to get wet, that almost all varieties need insects to pollinate them to produce fruit, and that the plants do best in warm weather.  The best zucchini plants I’ve seen in town have been grown under some sort of clear roofing with open sides.  The roofing lets in the sun but protects the plants from rain.  The open sides allow the wind to blow through (reducing mildew and rot), and gives the insects access to the blossoms.

If you grow yours outside don’t expect the plants to get huge and sprawl across the garden like they do in a greenhouse or down south — they will probably only get big enough to take up about nine square feet.  I grow mine in black plastic longline tubs on a shelf that runs the length of my house.  They are under the eaves which gives them a little protection from bad weather.

Zucchini is a heavy feeder so prep your bed or pots with plenty of nitrogen rich fertilizer (fish carcasses or compost).  It also needs potassium to produce healthy fruit  (seaweed) and plenty of lime (sea shell sand).  Early April is the time to start seeds indoors.  This is where I often run into trouble.

This year I planted my seeds in seedling trays in the sunroom and none of them germinated.  TWICE. I figured there must be something wrong with the seeds and did a germination test (sandwiched seeds between damp paper towels in an open Ziplock bag in the warm kitchen) and ALL of the seeds germinated. Once they germinated I carefully planted them into the seedling trays and then they did really well!  (If the sprouts were stuck to the paper towel I just cut around them with a scissors and planted the whole thing.) I have decided that from now on this is how I am going to germinated zucchini seeds every year.  Once the seedlings have been planted into trays they can be placed in a cooler environment, but they still do not like to be really cold.

Zucchini seedlings can be transplanted outdoors in early May. Handle them very carefully because they hate to be transplanted.  If you are planting in tubs be sure to make a depression in the soil, dig a hole in the bottom of the depression and then plant the seedling in the hole up to its first set of true leaves.

Tubs have a tendency to dry out really quickly, so the depression can help channel the water to the roots rather than just running out between the soil and the sides of the tub.  It’s a good idea to add a 3-4 inch layer of seaweed as mulch on top of the soil to help retain moisture, but be sure it doesn’t touch the seedlings possibly causing them to rot.  If you are planting in the ground then catching water is not as critical.

It’s really important to protect the seedlings from the cold.  I cut the bottoms off of plastic milk jugs and place the tops over the seedlings (with the lids off) like little miniature greenhouses and then cover the entire bed with floating row cover that is held up by hoops.  When the plants grow big enough to “fill” the milk jugs I take them off but continue to use floating row cover.  Once the plants start to blossom I remove the row cover, but have it handy for cold nights or really bad weather.  If you keep your blossoming plants covered the insects will not be able to pollinate the blossoms and you will not get any zucchinis to mature.

Each zucchini plant produces both male and female flowers.  The male flowers grow on long skinny stems and the female flowers grow at the end of tiny baby zucchinis that are on short squatty stems. The blossoms are only open for about a day or two and if the female flower does not get pollinated during this time the baby zucchini will start to wither and then die.  If this keeps happening you could try to hand pollinate by breaking off a male flower, pulling back it’s petals and rubbing a little bit of it’s pollen inside a couple of female flowers.  Some people chose to grow “self-pollinating” varieties to eliminate this problem.

Once the blossoms have closed they are of no use to the plant and should be removed, but be sure they are “ready” to come off.  Gently break them off sideways with your fingers.  If they don’t want to come off easily then just wait a day or two otherwise you might break off the entire tip of the zucchini and ruin it.

Zucchini blossoms are edible and quite delicious when stuffed with cheese, dredged in flour and fried in butter.  But be sure to leave them on the plant until they have done their job!  Zucchinis are edible at any stage of maturity, but it seems like a waste to eat them when they are tiny.  On the other hand it is not good to leave them on the plant until they get huge because the plant will think it has done its job and will stop producing fruit.  For best results harvest all the zucchinis that are over nine inches long and then your plants will keep producing fruit until the first frost kills the plant.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

• Sitka growers to contribute to local CSA venture

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

One of the latest trends in farming is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which enables people to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. Renee and Brian Pierce, who own the locally made kelp products and wild berry jelly shop Simple Pleasures of Alaska, are working with Sitka growers to start a small CSA venture with local produce during the summer growing season.

Renee Pierce said that instead of the CSA being a true farmers’ cooperative, she will buy produce from several local growers — including Florence Welsh of the Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals, Judy Johnstone of Sprucecot Gardens, Evening Star and Fabian Grutter of Eve’s Farm, and Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens. The CSA also will include produce from the Pierce Family’s Simple Pleasures garden.

The Sitka CSA will start small, with membership slots for just 25 families the first year. Renee Pierce said of those 25 slots, only about 10 memberships are left. CSA members will commit to paying $50 plus tax every other week, which will give the member families a selection of produce that includes some organic produce purchased from Organically Grown Company of Portland, Ore. During the months when Sitka growers aren’t producing many vegetables, there will be more produce purchased from Organically Grown Company. There also will be an option to buy bread at $6 a loaf beyond the price of the produce box.

The produce selection includes many crops that can be grown in Sitka — such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, radishes, zucchini, green beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, tomatoes, etc. But with the Organically Grown Company providing some of the produce, CSA members also can choose items that aren’t regular Sitka crops — such as bananas, lemons, limes, pineapples, oranges, etc.

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce said she has worked with Organically Grown Company for about four years, purchasing organic produce for the Pierce family and several friends and other Sitka residents who heard about the venture (at one point she had about 60-70 families buying from her). She said she orders produce by the case, and it is available for pick-up from 3-6 p.m. every other Monday afternoon at the Simple Pleasures store next to Kettleson Memorial Library. The first pick-up day for the Sitka CSA is March 29 (which will be for the 15 or so families that already have reserved a spot in the CSA), and the next pick-up day is April 12. CSA members are encouraged to bring their own bags and/or boxes on pick-up days.

The pick-up days are slated to be during the weeks between the every-other-week Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, which will give local growers and buyers the opportunity to buy and sell local produce for both. Renee said there will be some produce extras for families that want to adjust their allotments, but everybody’s allotted produce value will be $50. If you add from the extras you will need to pay the difference, and if you give up some produce you don’t want so your value dips below $50 there are no refunds. She said the CSA is being done as a community service and it’s meant to just break even so the bills get paid.

To learn more about the Sitka CSA, contact Renee Pierce at 738-0044 (cell) or 747-3814 (home). You also can e-mail her at mpierce@ptialaska.net.