Handle Produce Correctly To Retain Best Value
By Steve Cummings
Thankfully, we have been getting rains over the last few weeks. You can certainly tell the difference in the crops, pastures, gardens, and lawns. We need one or two more timely rains and this year’s crops will be made.
Occasionally, you make a mistake, and I did that in last week’s column. Since I did not attend the Regional 4-H Horse Show, I inadvertently made a mistake in the placings. Instead of placing in three of his four classes, J.W. Pipkin placed in all four of his classes, as he got seventh place in Non-Trotting Pleasure. Sorry about the mistake, J.W., and congratulations again to everyone involved on a very good horse show.
There is a term in financing – “sweat equity” – that refers to the value of work it takes to get a product to market. Vegetable gardeners during August put in a lot of sweat equity to put fresh produce on the table. One quick way to lose this value is to not handle produce correctly after it is picked. Okra should not be washed. Tomatoes should not be put in the refrigerator nor should watermelon before slicing. Everything else should be cooled or cooked as soon as possible. Southern peas and butter beans will shell easier if they are placed in the shade overnight before shelling. Southern peas and butter beans should be processed as soon as possible after shelling and shelled ones should be refrigerated until they can be cooked, canned, or frozen.
Now that the rains have started again, weeds are becoming a problem in many gardens. The pre-emerge herbicide you put out in March is gone. The three inch layer of organic mulch you carefully spread between the rows has been pounded into the soil. It is time to re-establish the barriers to weed growth you used a season ago to prevent having a marvelous crop of unwanted plants.
Beets are high on the list of vegetables providing antioxidants. Plant anytime from September until April, but only in a location where you can irrigate easily. The seed are very slow to germinate and you need to keep the soil moist for up to two weeks until the seedlings emerge.
Allowing the soil to dry anytime during the eight week growing season will slow down the growth rate and produce tough, pithy, and not very sweet roots. Beets require the same growing conditions as cabbage, but are even more sensitive to acid soils. Make sure pH levels are above 6.4 and add a little boron to very sandy soils. roots.
A colorful addition to the garden is Bull’s Blood beet, which makes a purple-to-maroon leaf and is often used in salad mixes of baby greens.