Sturgis Farmers’ Market update

Both the calendar and the increasing number of motorcycles in the area reminds us that the Sturgis Rally is almost here. It should come as no surprise that the Sturgis Farmers’ Market has temporarily suspended operating until mid-August. Once the 70th annual rally has passed and the vendors have moved on, the market will start up again on Main Street next to Weimer’s Diner. And think of the produce that will be available by then; it’ll be worth the wait.

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Time to dry herbs

Fresh herbs ready to be dried.

Summer’s peak is the peak time for drying herbs. Herbs produce more if they’re trimmed now and then, which also prevents them from going to seed. Harvest your herbs and then wait about a week, you’ll be able to harvest again, which makes it easy to spread out the drying over several weeks. For the best aroma and flavor, pick your herbs in the morning when their essential oil content is highest.

After you pick them just rinse them off, spin or pat dry and place in the dehydrator. I use an inexpensive dehydrator, but you can air-dry herbs as well by tying them in bundles for hanging or spreading them out on old window screens. I don’t recommend an oven for drying herbs; my experience is that it darkens them too much. Herbs dry quickly, especially chives, thyme, dill, and parsley, so you can dry a couple batches per day if you wish.

This week I dried parsley, thyme, rosemary and oregano. Now that my herbs have been cut back, I’ll wait a week and repeat.

Attract pollinators

Bees wallow around in these pink climbing roses

July brings a critical time in the garden, when the plants bloom profusely and hopefully start setting on fruit. I say hopefully because I’ve spent many days wringing my hands over tomatoes covered in blossoms but nary a tomato. Pollinating insects, like bees, are a huge help in crossing the bridge from blossom to fruit.

The catmint nearly vibrates with all the bees it attracts

You can attract more bees to your garden with flowers. The insects will be attracted by the bright colors and scents of the flowers, then hang around to pollinate your vegetables. I’m not big into pots of flowers, but I have a couple climbing roses and a few clumps of catmint and Russian sage; bees love them all.

Food preservation workshops

Learn to preserve your harvest. The SDSU Cooperative Extension Service will hold two food preservation workshops in the Southern Black Hills July 20 and 21. The workshops will cover canning, freezing and dehydrating fruit, vegetables and meat. There will be demonstrations of food preservation equipment and methods, such as hot water baths and pressure canners.

The July 20 workshop will be held in Hot Springs at the Fall River Courthouse meeting room at 7:00 p.m. On July 21, the event will be at the Custer Courthouse Annex Pine Room at 7:00 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public. Call 605-745-5133 to register.

Hail

Rag-tag zucchini and lettuce after the stormsOne word says it all. The first time, it was small, but there was a lot of it. The second time, there wasn’t as much, but it was quarter-sized. I don’t think I’ve lost everything; in fact, much of the garden should bounce back, but it’s still discouraging. Though the lettuce, spinach and chard look the worst, they have the most potential to recover. The tomatoes are beat up, but most of the branches lost were small; the worst part is losing a

These greens look pretty sad

considerable amount of blossoms. Hopefully the next few days will bring about some recovery.

The tomatoes are beat up, but it could have been worse

How does your garden grow?

Now that the cool weather has passed, with the exception of the last couple of days, how is the garden coming? My plants still look pretty young, having not been planted until June, but they’re making headway. Happily, the peppers are blooming and setting on baby peppers; once again, the holy moles are the first ones to produce. The tomatoes are a bit slower, but have grown tremendously and should be blooming within the week. After weeks of seemingly being frozen in time, the eggplants show new growth. I’ll be picking baby spinach and lettuce this week, finally.

How are your plants growing? Was your corn knee-high by the 4th of July? Trouble with grasshoppers or other pests? Let’s hear how everyone’s gardens are growing!

On buying ham

If, after reading about the ills of Smithfield, you opt not to support their farmer-crushing, poop-spreading ways, I’ve included a list of all the Smithfield brands. Since the mid-1980s, Smitfield has been very aggressive in buying their competitors, so their list of brands is substantial; I’m sure you’ll recognize several names.

Pork brands: Smithfield Packing Company, Smithfield Specialty Foods, Armour-Eckrich, Curly’s, Cumberland Gap Provision, Gwaltney, Lykes, Smitfield Premium, Peyton’s, Jamestown, Farmland, Cook’s Ham, Patrick Cudahy Inc., North Side Foods, Stefano Foods, Smithfield RMH Foods, Smithfield Innovation Group, Smithfield Foodservice, and Smithfield Deli.

Even better, you could stop by a local meat processor and pick up locally cured ham. Many processors have a retail side to their business, so stop in and ask. I’m cooking a ham from the half-hog we bought last winter and chilling it so we can have ham sandwiches this weekend.