We have the best in diversity of agricultural methods and a wide variety of produce grown in the great state of Idaho, urban family garden-scapes, community gardens, rural farms and new school gardens cropping up all within city blocks of each other. They are all in various stages of harvest.
The harvest moon, defined as the full moon closest to the autumn equinox, will be on Sept. 22 this year. Having a special place in agricultural history, due to the difference in moon-rise time, the harvest moon provides extra minutes of light in the evening for farmers to harvest their crops.
I gaze into my own backyard of ripe raspberries and succulent juicy tomatoes and it reminds me of earths great bounty. A field of sweet white corn, just a few miles away plump, ready to harvest and available at the local farmers market, makes me giddy. From my backyard garden, to the school garden I volunteer at and a variety of local farmers markets to choose from, I do not have to travel far to reap the many health benefits of quality local produce.
A Mammoth Russian sunflower in the Meridian Middle School Student Garden, heavy with ripened seeds, towering over 9-feet tall, measured a whopping 50-inch circumference! With the harvest moon approaching and signs of plant maturity, it was time to cut it down and harvest the plump seeds, before the birds ate them all. The petals had lost their perky disposition, starting to brown and curl and the sunflower hulls matured to grey in color with white markings.
When harvesting sunflowers, you can use your hands to remove the hulls, which I prefer, or you can also utilize a spoon. Just be gentle. Once removed from the flower, place the hulls in a large bowl, rinse and drain well. If you prefer raw sunflower seeds, simply place them on a large tray or cookie sheet after draining and allow to dry 24-48 hours. Crack them open for a raw nutty flavor.
If you prefer roasted sunflower seeds, soak the hulls in 1/4-cup salt to 2 quarts of water, overnight.
Drain the salt water and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, turning frequently. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, as they are high in fat content and can become rancid.
Packed-full of essential nutrients, sunflower seeds are important for a healthy diet. To learn more about this healthy little seed, check out the web link attached to this column.
Recently, I was invited back to the University of Idahos Pomology Field Day, an annual event on the orchards of the U of I Parma Research Center. It is an opportunity for farmers, students and the public to meet Dr. Essie Fallahi, a national and international leader in horticulture, and learn about his extensive fruit research and production over the last 30 years. Another benefit in attending this annual event is the opportunity to sample hundreds of varieties of harvested fruit. You can learn more by following the link to an article I wrote about a year ago. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to learn just how many varieties of peaches, table grapes, apples and pluots we produce right here in Idaho.
It is harvest time so reap the bountiful rewards of a variety of locally grown food and share with your family and friends. When we care for and nurture our earth, we are simultaneously doing the same for our families, humanity and ourselves.
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