Posts tagged cucumbers

Warning of the Three Frozen Kings

    When it was sunny and 80 degrees for a brief day or two in April,  I heard from several people asking if they should go ahead and plant their gardens. In Iowa, that’s fine for many vegetables, such as cabbage, peas and potatoes, but I warned them to hold off on the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other tender plants. Those plants might actually have been OK during the past couple weeks, as it’s stayed fairly warm, so gardeners who took a gamble will be ahead of the game. But old-school gardeners often heed the warning of the Three Kings.     

   This is something that I ran last year on this blog,  but as it’s often asked, here’s what I’ve been told about the legend of the Three Kings:

    The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect tender plants against a possible late frost.  In one of various forms, the story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea.

    On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

    Since Czech immigrants found Iowa similar to their home country, those traditions carried over, and, whether or not the story makes sense,  it  seems sensible in many years to heed the Three Kings warning.

     Knowing the last average frost date for your area can also help. That date can vary, however, depending on the source. I’ve seen that in northeast Iowa, the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. Those might seem early in some years, but look accurate for 2009.

    A U.S. Climatography report placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3.

    Climatologists say the average can vary,  even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.  Because the frost date is only an average, your safest bet might be to heed the Three Kings warning and wait until May 15 to set out those tender plants.

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Starting seedlings

The following is by Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

It’s February.   It’s nearly spring.  Never mind that the ground hog saw his shadow, now is the time for all gardeners to commence gardening preparations. 

Following is one of the most popular questions that Master Gardener volunteers are asked on the Hortline:  when should I start seeds indoors for transplanting to the garden?  The often used phrase “it depends” applies to this question.  It does depend on what plants you intend to grow.  The number of weeks from first sowing the seeds to planting outdoors may vary from flowers to vegetables.  Seed start time for some popular ones are as follows:  Geraniums—10 to 12 weeks; Petunia and Impatiens—8 to 10 weeks; Marigold, pepper and eggplant—6 to 8 weeks; Tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower—5 to 7 weeks; Cucumbers, watermelon, muskmelon and squash—3 to 4 weeks.

If sowing seeds in flats or trays, fill the container to within one inch of the top with your planting medium.  Firm it down, water thoroughly, let it drain.  Fine seeds are sown on the surface and lightly pressed into the medium.  All other seeds are to be covered with planting medium to a thickness of one to two times of the seeds diameter.  Then water from the bottom (submerge) until the topsoil is wet then allow to drain.  Or you can water from the top with a bulb syringe.  Keep the soil uniformly moist, cover the container with a clear plastic food wrap. 

Always purchase good quality seeds.  Use clean containers.  Provide ample space for the seedlings to grow.  Air circulation should be good.  Follow planting directions on the packages and fertilize accordingly.  Adjustment to the out of doors should be a gradual process:  spending some time on the deck or porch before transplanting to beds would be wise.

My daughter and two grandkids are excited to plant their second garden.  Maybe we’ll try planting seeds and see if they get as excited as I do when sprouts commence popping through the soil.

 

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Forbidden Fruit: equal rights for veggies

The following on equal rights for European veggies is from FoodNavigator.com

EU scraps regulations on forbidden fruit

By Gavin Kermack, 13-Nov-2008

Ugly and misshapen fruit and vegetables are to be permitted for sale in Europe for the first time – but equal rights are still a dream for many grocery items covered by separate regulations.

 

The European Commission has torn up its much-maligned 100-page document providing legislation on the shape, size and texture of fruit and vegetables, meaning that from 1st July 2009 consumers will be able to purchase 26 items, including onions, apricots, Brussels sprouts, watermelons and cauliflowers with as many knobs, bumps and curves as they like.

“This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development at the EC. “In these days of high food prices and general economic difficulties, consumers should be able to choose from the widest range of products possible. It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the wrong shape.”

A further ten items, including tomatoes, lettuces and endives, lemons, limes and apples, will still be covered by the regulations. However, EU member states will be free to allow shops to sell them as long as they are labelled with words to the effect of ‘product intended for processing’.

These ten products account for 75 per cent of the value of fruit and veg trade in the EU.

FoodNavigator.com has learned that the continued segregation of deformed citrus fruits was a compromise reached by the EC in order to avoid a qualified majority of votes against deregulation.

16 of the 27 member states – including France, Spain and Italy – voted against the move.

Streamlining

Peka Pesonen, secretary general of Copa and Cogeca, which represents farmers and agricultural cooperatives in Europe, said that the move ignored the interests of the European fruit and vegetables sector.

“The use of objective parameters such as size and uniformity helps put a clear and univocal price on each quality, at both the producer and consumer level,” she said. “We fear that the absence of EU standards will lead member states to establish national standards and that private standards will proliferate, which will only hamper the smooth running of the single market and hinder simplification.”

The EC has been criticised in the past for over-regulation of foodstuffs. “[This is] a concrete example of our drive to cut red tape,” said Fischer Boel. “We simply don’t need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level.”

The decision has been welcomed by many in the food industry. A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said, “Defra welcomes this decision. It is a sensible first step on the way to further streamlining of the regulations.”

It’s bananas

Tim Down, a fruit and veg wholesaler from Bristol, UK, was outraged in June when he was forced to throw away 520 Chilean kiwis after being told by the Rural Payments Agency that they did not meet industry standards.

Some of the kiwis weighed up to four grams less than the stipulated 62g.

“Standards are necessary,” Down told FoodNavigator.com, “but they have to be implemented in a sensible way.”

“How anyone ever sat down in an office in Brussels and got paid an enormous amount of money to decide on the correct curvature of a cucumber beggars belief.”

Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1677/88 previously stated that Class I and Extra Class cucumbers were allowed a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length, with Class II cucumbers being allowed twice as much bend.

From next year, though, even bent cucumbers will be allowed into Europe.

However, we will not be seeing abnormal bananas just yet. One famous regulation, (EC) No. 2257/94, which states that bananas must be “free from abnormal curvature of the fingers”, is to remain.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Michael Mann, the EC’s agriculture spokesperson, told FoodNavigator.com. “Perhaps we will come back to bananas in the future.”

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