Produce At Its Peak: Summer Squash

Summer Squash

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Did you know summer squash is not really a vegetable? The many varieties of summer squash are a type of “pepo”, or hard-walled berry that are harvested while the rind is still tender and edible. Summer squash is in season now and we are carrying at least five varieties (green and gold zucchini, crookneck, zephyr-my personal favorite for its sweetness-, patty pan, and calabacita, a small tender zucchini). Wisconsin Growers Co-op, Featherstone Farm, Heartbeet Farms, and Sin Fronteras are delivering these squash multiple times each week. Select firm, unwrinkled, evenly shaped squash and store in your crisper drawer.

Sin Fronteras

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Sin Fronteras (Without Borders) is a Stillwater, Minn-based family-farm growing fresh, healthy Latino food. Farmers Eduardo Rivera and Madeline Shaw bring to the Twin Cities sustainably grown and at times challenging to find varieties of chile peppers, tomatillos, and espasote along with familiar roots, greens, and herbs. These foods can be found at area coops, the Linden Hills Farmers Market, and through a culturally appropriate Latino CSA. Look to their Facebook page for recipes using Sin Fronteras produce.

Wisconsin Growers Co-op

Wisconsin Growers Co-op was founded in 2006 to help 20 families maintain ownership of their farms. Its members are dedicated to the idea that if farmers take “good care of the soil, the soil will pay back with high-quality produce.” This mindset has proven effective; Wisconsin Growers often brings us produce all year long, from greenhouse radishes at the first sight of spring clear around the calendar to over-wintered parsnips. The key to the longevity of their growing season are labor-intensive, fossil fuel-free farming methods. On nearly 40 acres of the co-op’s land, these farmers plant, tend, and harvest crops exclusively using horses, horse machinery, and hand tools. In addition to more popular produce items such as potatoes, onions, and radishes, the Wisconsin Growers Co-op offers unique heirloom squash varieties, such as Queensland blue and Long Island cheese.

Featherstone Fruits and Vegetables

Featherstone Fruits and Vegetables started in 1995 as Jack Hedin and Jenni McHugh’s five-acre garden at the Zephyr Valley Land Co-op near Winona, Minn. Since then, the farm has relocated to land near the town of Rushford, Minn., and now employs nearly 50 people working on over 250 acres of optimal vegetable-growing ground. Beginning in late May with leaf lettuce, through a summer’s harvest of zucchini and cherry tomatoes, into winter squash and carrots in the winter, there’s hardly a month that Featherstone isn’t represented in the co-op’s Produce department. The farm is certified organic and is dedicated to creating a truly sustainable agriculture system. That includes geothermal heating and cooling for the packing shed, as well as a solar array that generates about 60 percent of the farm’s energy. Featherstone Farm also operates a large community-supported agriculture program.

Heartbeet Farm

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Heartbeet Farm is a family farm owned and operated by Joe and Rebecca Schwen. Located in Zumbro Falls, Minn, the fields that now comprise Heartbeet Farm are the same fields that Joe was raised on and where he learned to farm. Recently, Joe and Rebecca have begun to cooperatively market their produce as Heartbeet Farms along with two nearby small family farms: Easy Yoke and Hare & Tortoise. Working together allows these farms to operate at a scale that enables them to directly interact with the plants, soil, animals, and farm ecosystem while still being productive, efficient, and sustainable. They employ a combination of draft horses, small tractors, woodstove heated greenhouses, and other technologies to grow a wide variety of vegetables. Look for beets, shiso, Hakurei turnips, and many other items from Heartbeet Farms throughout the growing season. All three farms are dedicated to farming in a healthful, holistic, and sustainable way and are certified organic.