Posts tagged where

Sweet corn has arrived (sort of)

   It’s a mixed bag on Iowa’s sweet corn season. Some of the farmers I spoke to today have it ready, but the crop is delayed in other areas. If you’re early, you might find sweet corn at Saturday’s farmers market in Cedar Rapids. Expect to see more sweet corn at area farmers markets in the next week.

  You can find a list of many Eastern Iowa farmers markets on this blog by clicking on the farmers market category at the right.

   Bob Shepherd, market manager for the Washington Farmers Market, said vendor Tom Vittetoe sold out of a pickup of sweet corn in 20 minutes at Thursday night’s market.

    Bob sent the following report from the market in Washington:

    Ears of succulent fresh picked sweetcorn are one of the special events at the Farmers’ Market; along with strawberries, vine ripened tomatoes, and the first tree fruit  – nothing attracts attention like that first offering. Central Park will hum with the excitement generated by this Iowa treasure.

   The selection improves with each Thursday Evening Market. Expect to see beets, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, kohlrabi, green beans, onions, lettuce, peas, turnips, tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers and chilies displayed by the local growers. Black raspberries and cherries have added their appeal as we anticipate the first apples shortly.    

   Farm fresh brown eggs have a definite ‘country’ appeal.

  An exceptional selection of fresh baked breads, pies, cookies, cupcakes, sweet rolls, bars, and short breads add their aromatic, mouth watering presence.

   The sound of a sharpening wheel means another fine tool has been keenly touched by John Moore, Bits ‘n’ Blades. Local artists display beautiful glazed ware, stitchery and jewelry.

  A couple of Markets ago samples of BB-Q’ed pork chops were tasted by Market goers. The rub used was a new technique and so successful the recipe is following for all to try on their home BB-Q.

                Cumin and Coriander spice-rubbed Pork Chops

Mix 1 Tbs. brown sugar, 2tsp. ground coriander, 2tsp. ground cumin, 1 1/2tsp. garlic powder, 1tsp sea salt, 3/4tsp. ground ginger, and 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric in a small bowl. Preheat grill to medium high. Lightly coat both sides of 6 3/4in. thick boneless pork loin chops with olive oil, and rub with the spice rub. Grill (uncovered for charcoal; covered for gas)until the pork forms impressive grill marks on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue to grill until meat is just firm to touch and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness. Transfer to serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes.

   The thick style chops are a favorite to BB-Q and the rub makes them even more delectable.

   The Washington Farmers’ Market starts at 5pm but the downtown square is home to entertainment until 9pm. Thursday Night Live at 6:30 and the Washington Municipal Band at 8pm extend the evening enjoyment under the lofty trees of Central Park. Join us downtown………..see you there!

Advertisements

Leave a comment »

Riverside Casino bets on farmers market

   Riverside Casino leaders are betting everyone wins at a new endeavor the casino has launched. Farmers market vendors will be hawking produce, crafts and baked goods in the casino’s parking lot once a month through September.

    Veggies and slots might not be synonymous, but public relations director Sharon Haselhoff sees the market as an added draw for people coming to dine, stay or gamble at Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. “It’s just one more thing that we could add to bring people here, for local residents and our guests staying here,” she said.

    Vendors — about 40 are slated to be there Sunday, June 28, 2009, — also have another opportunity to sell local products. While most markets charge stall fees, vendors only have to register to sell at the casino. Haselhoff said Sunday was chosen so the market would not compete with those in Iowa City or other nearby communities other days of the week. Riverside does not have a farmers market, she noted.

    In addition to this Sunday, markets are scheduled July 26, Aug. 30 and Sept. 27, all from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Vendors can contact Jessica Athen at (319) 648-1234, extension 1975, to register for the Riverside Casino farmers market.

For more on this story, see the Saturday, June 27, 2009, edition of The Gazette.

Comments (1) »

Gnat Attack

   If you’ve spent any time outdoors this spring in Eastern Iowa, you’ve probably seen them. Swarms of black flies –most people call them gnats – that surround their victims in a frenzied cloud.

   Bug experts say there’s not much you can do to protect yourself against black flies. The pests come out during the day; while mosquitoes come out toward evening, so you can either lock your doors and stay inside or put up with the huge welts they’ve been known to leave. See story here: http://tinyurl.com/mnqwen

    Removing the gnats’ habitat can reduce their population, as well as the number of mosquitoes, which start to appear about the time the gnats die. Linn County Public Health  monitors for mosquitoes, which carry risk of diseases such as West Nile virus. Residents can report bad infestations to the health department at (319) 892-6000. Workers are using larvicide to control mosquito larvae in standing water, but the same can’t be used against black flies, which live as larva in fast-moving water such as rivers.

   Both insects made my top 10 list of bad bugs: https://cindyha.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/bugged-by-bugs/

  What makes your’s?

Leave a comment »

Finding the elusive morel mushroom

Blonde morels/ photo from Forest Mushrooms Inc.

Blonde morels/ photo from Forest Mushrooms Inc.

I can finally say I’ve found some morel mushrooms! Actually, I didn’t have to go on a mushroom hunt, as many Iowans do in the spring, though I’d love to find them that way. The ones I saw were spotted at a grocery store in Cedar Rapids. They were selling for $12.99 for a 3.5 ounce package and came from Forest Mushrooms Inc., of St. Joseph, Minn.

 Per their Web site: Established in 1985, Forest Mushrooms, Inc. is a Minnesota company engaged in the research, cultivation and distribution of edible specialty mushrooms. They particularly specialize in the production of oyster mushrooms, and more recently, in growing shiitake mushrooms.  Their production facilities are located in St. Joseph, MN, 90 miles northwest of Minneapolis. They distribute  mushroom products to wholesalers, supermarkets, restaurants and specialty shops. The majority of products are delivered to the Twin Cities area, but they also distribute locally and nationally. See: http://www.forestmushrooms.com/

 Here is more that Kevin Doyle, president of Forest Mushrooms, Inc., sent to me about his company and his insight into morels:  All morel mushrooms are wild-harvested, not cultivated.  There have been many attempts to grow morels, and some occasional successes but nobody has been able to repeat their successes, and thus there are no farms that currently grow morels, to the best of my knowledge.  This is because there is a very complicated and interesting relationship between the morel mushroom mycelium (which are the vegetative strands of the fungus that grow underground), and the root hairs of the trees that are host to them.  We think that the strands of morel mycelium help the tree to absorb nutrients from the soil, especially minerals, by carrying the minerals through the mycelium and then inserting the mycelium and the nutrients in to the tiny root hairs of the tree roots.  The mycelium is much much smaller than the root hairs, and wrap themselves around the root hairs and then penetrate into the root. In turn, the morels likely absorb some carbohydrate (sugars) from the vascular tissue of the tree roots, so they relationship is helpful to both organisms.  

 However, there are conditions, including but not limited to damage to the tree from fire, Dutch elm disease, wind damage, etc., that cause the morel mushroom mycelium to send strands of mycelium to the fungus where they then produce the specialized reproductive organ that we know as a mushroom.  That mushroom then produces spores which are dispersed by the wind and are carried away to start a new colony in another area of the forest, thus propagating the life of the morel fungus.  This is an adaptive response that has developed through evolution to help the fungus survive adverse situations or events.  The mushroom is just a specialized part of the fungus’ life cycle, but the main act occurs way underground for decades and helps to sustain the trees themselves, thus morel mushrooms and also many other types of mushroom fungus are essential to the health of a sustainableforest ecosystem.

 The morels in North America are widespread, though we in the Midwest often think of them as a local phenomenon.  In fact, the morel season begins much earlier in almost every other area of the country than it does in the upper Midwest, due to the milder climates and earlier onset of Spring in other regions.  In the Pacific Northwest the morel season begins in late March, and can actually continue right on into early August in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains.  In Minnesota, where our business is located, we are used to seeing morels during the second half of May, typically.  I would imagine in your region it is the beginning of May most commonly.

During the milder and earlier Springs we were having a few years ago, the season began a bit earlier.  The season is triggered by the combination of adequate soil moisture and enough sunny days and warm temperatures to warm up the soil adequately to spur the growth of the mushrooms.  There have been years when the moisture is there, but the temperatures are too chilly, and by the time the mushrooms come up as temperatures warm up, the grass and small plants in the forest have already sprung up and obscure the mushrooms from view, so people think there is no mushroom season, when actually we just can’t find them under the forest floor cover!

 The morels you saw are blonde-colored morels from the western slope of

Packaged mushrooms from Forest Mushrooms, Inc.

Packaged mushrooms from Forest Mushrooms, Inc.

the Rocky Mountains in Oregon.  These are the best  morels in the country at this time, for flavor, appearance, and shelf life.  They are also similar in appearance to the mushrooms that we commonly see in the Midwest.  Later in the Spring there are several other varieties that grow in abundance in the Pacific Northwest, including “fire morels” (also called “burns”), which grow in huge numbers on the sites of last season’s forest fires.  These burn morels are smaller, not as thick, and have a conical shape.  Another morel commonly harvested commercially in the mountains is simply called a “natural” and is shaped more like a golf-ball, without the conical shape and more rounded, with a thicker shell.  (All true morels are hollow inside.)  The latest morelspecies to fruit in the Rockies is called the “grey morel” and can also grow on fire sites.  It is the largest morel in the country, grey in color, thick walled, and has a great shelf life for transport to market.  All of these morels are also dried, often on-site, or in large gas-fired driers, for preservation and enjoyment in the off-months.

 Forest Mushrooms flies in morels, as well as many other wild-harvested mushrooms, every few days all year around.  We inspect and sort them, and then market them to both the foodservice and grocery store markets.  We are licensed as “Wild Mushroom Experts” by the State of Minnesota, which is required for the commercial handling and sale of wild-harvested mushrooms.  Any establishment  in Minnesota that sells wild-harvested mushrooms of any type, including morels, to the public, needs to be able to show that they were obtained through a state-licensed Wild Mushroom Expert.

I do not know whether Iowa has any such requirement, since this varies from state to state.  But it does provide a measure of food safety and confidence for chains when they chose to carry these products.

 FYI, Forest Mushrooms, Inc. has been in operation since 1985, and we specialize in growing oyster and shiitake mushrooms (about 3000 lbs/wk,  all year aound) and in distributing all other specialty mushrooms, fresh, dried and frozen, both cultivated and wild-harvested.  We also have a full line of organic fresh mushrooms for both foodservice and grocery customers.  We do NOT sell to the public directly, but are strictly growers and wholesale suppliers.

Back to Cindy:

The annual Czech Village Houby Days celebrates the mushroom (houby is the Czech word for mushroom) and I’ve heard they might go back to using morels in their breakfast!! About half of the businesses in Czech Village have returned since the flood and more are hoping to come back in time for the celebration on May 15-17. Below is a photo of Jan Stoffer, of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, giving a tour of Czech Village to students from McKinley Middle School last month.

Jan Stoffer leads tour of Czech Village for McKinley students.

Jan Stoffer leads tour of Czech Village for McKinley students.

Leave a comment »