Produce At Its Peak: Gardening and Rhubarb

After living in my house for over five years, I will finally plant a garden this year. Last night my best friend and I prepared a small plot of land in my backyard for the addition of organic topsoil and compost. After adding the topsoil and compost, we will select starter plants from Riverbend Farm, which we are carrying at both Friendship and Franklin stores. You can plant herb and vegetable gardens on different scales and you can grow food with very little investment. Container gardens and raised bed gardens are great ways to start. Here are some tips I got from an expert gardener:

  1. Wait until the chance of frost has past. The Twin Cities fall in USDA Zone 4 on the plant hardiness scale and our last frost date was predicted for April 30.
  2. Position your garden in an area that receives a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day.
  3. Add organic mulch (like hay) to lessen watering and weeding needs.
  4. Plant what will be eaten.
  5. Add a top dressing such as worm castings or fish emulsion.
  6. Water and weed regularly. For best results, water in the morning before the high sun.

As of writing this, I have very little experience to impart on gardening. So far the only thing I’ve grown is rhubarb (it was there when I moved in). If you are a new gardener like me, I would recommend finding an accessible guide on the internet, or in a library, or bookstore to have by your side such as the Farmer’s Almanac. Not everything is as easy to grow as rhubarb!

Speaking of rhubarb, we are sourcing most of this year’s rhubarb from the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA). The HAFA Farm is a 155-acre research and incubator farm located in Vermillion Township, just 15 minutes south of Saint Paul, Minnesota. HAFA sub-leases the land to members who are experienced farming families. HAFA also maintains multiple research and demonstration plots to provide continuing education in sustainable agricultural practices to their member-farmers. Since acquiring the HAFA Farm in 2013, they have begun implementing numerous sustainable agricultural practices such as composting, succession planting, installing grass roadways, laying down erosion blankets, planting waterway pollinator habitat, and restoring oak savanna. They are also keeping bees, executing a whole farm pollinator plan and conducting a multi-year cover crop research project to study the effects of various cover crops on water and soil health.

Rhubarb is typically used as a fruit, sweetened with sugar and put into pies, crisps, and jams, but it can also be made into a savory recipe. This recipe for Rhubarb-Beetroot Salad with Arugula and Basil sounds absolutely refreshing.

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Rhubarb-Beetroot Salad with Arugula and Basil

Ingredients:
2-stalks of rhubarb, peeled
2-handfuls arugula, washed
2- beetroot, medium
1/2 tsp. of butter (or olive oil)
1 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 tsp.balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. teaspoon of honey
2 Tbsp. ricotta (or very mild creamy goat cheese)
alfalfa or other sprouts
4-Basil leaves
Salt and pepper

Preparation:
First, prepare the beets: wrap each of them in tinfoil and roast them in the oven for about 45 minutes or until tender. You can test this by pricking them with a knife. Peel the beets and cut into bite size pieces; set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, cut the rhubarb into slices. Heat butter in a pan, add the rhubarb when it’s sizzling. Add a teaspoon of honey and let it melt. Lower the heat and let the rhubarb cook for about five minutes; it should be soft but still crunchy. Deglaze with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Add a pinch of salt, set aside.

Wash the arugula and arrange on two plates. Add the beetroot pieces and the rhubarb slices. Add the basil leaves, the sprouts and a little ricotta here and there (you can salt the ricotta beforehand if you prefer).

Prepare a dressing from balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a little honey and salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad – enjoy!