Here comes the harvest

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Mike Moldstad of Rochester, Minn. picks some kale at Zumbro Park South garden plots. Mike and his wife Annie share a plot with some of Annie's co-workers from St. Mary's Hospital.

Never mind that it was a wet and cold spring that had the farmers worried they would have minimal crops. It is turning out to be a bountiful harvest, as you will see if you go to the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market this Saturday.

It is the peak of the season. Dave Kotsonas, market manager, is impressed by what is coming in.

"Corn, tomatoes, beets, eggplant, cucumbers, raspberries. Everything looks fantastic," he said. "Tomatoes did suffer some from the weather, so there may be shortages there but overall there should be plenty of everything else."

Kotsonas does point out that some crops might be a few weeks later than normal, like Brussels sprouts and apples, though he adds "some of the earlier varieties like State Fair are showing up."

Kostonas has made it a point to visit every Farmers Market member farm over the past two summers — half of them last year, the rest this year.


"It has been a real education for me to see how the different farmers handle their crops," he said. "They all take great pride in what they have and are happy to show it off."

Asked about the success of the mid-week markets, he points out that while they are not as active as on Saturdays, they still draw customers, especially seniors. "It is easier for them to park and make their way around than at the big market," he said.

Restaurant reaps rewards

Chris Rohe, chef/owner of Prescotts, counts on his three-acre garden to provide vegetables for the restaurant.

"Things were slow getting started, but it is crazy now," he said.

To emphasize, he showed me what he had just brought in: Five field crates of tomatoes — every size and color, from 16 different varieties. There were crates full of beets, carrots, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, peppers (again, 16 varieties) and okra.

You think you have a lot of zucchini? Rohe has 10 crates. "It will all get used," he said. "We bake 18 loaves of zucchini bread every day. Zucchini pasta is popular." (That's zucchini shredded on a mandolin and sauteed in garlic and olive oil.)

"The garden is producing a lot of everything right now, but nothing is wasted," he said. "The vegetables turn into a side dish, soups or specials. Some also get canned or pickled."


Both Rohe and wife Jenna do most of the garden themselves with some assistance from employees as well as customers. Vegetables are mostly grown from seed, though they do use some starters. No chemicals or fertilizers are used and most of the time they don't bother with the weeds. Deer? "They help themselves but we have more than enough," Rohe said.

Home gardens prolific

Home gardeners and folks with community garden plots are picking as fast as they can.

Julie and Dave Warner, of rural Rochester, maintain a 1/4-acre garden on their property.

Julie: "It has been very prolific and for us the wet and cold didn't turn out to be much of a factor. What problems we had were deer, which we solved with a very high fence. Ours is a pretty traditional garden. We have a lot of cucumbers since my husband planted 12 vines, and there is broccoli, onions, kale, Swiss chard, beets, all sorts of herbs and chili peppers.

"We also had a huge crop of garlic — well over 100 bulbs — the most we have ever had," she said. "We also grew both heirloom and hybrid tomatoes, including an Italian variety that I can sauce from."

The Warners planted mostly from seeds as an experiment after Philip Nicklay of Viola Nursery advised them to. Though they did use a few seedlings, the seeds turned into a very successful venture.

The Warners also have a mystery garden.


"We have a compost pile and at the end of the season that is where the garden remains go," Julie said. "Every year something grows out of it — it is always a surprise, and this year it was dill. I have lots of wonderful dill."

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