Upper South

July, 2008
Regional Report

Order Garlic for Fall Planting

You might think that all garlic is alike, but just as with other vegetables, there are variations in flavors, hardiness, maturity times, storage quality, and so forth, with dozens of varieties available through mail-order specialty growers. Late fall is the ideal planting time, but in order to get the varieties you want, it's best to order in the summer, with delivery in September or later. There are two main types of garlic, softneck and hardneck. Softnecks have a milder flavor and are ideal for braiding, while hardnecks have a more full-bodied flavor and are easier to peel. Add some shallots and potato onions to the order, too.

Make Vegetable Salads

Lettuce and other greens may struggle during the heat of summer (although growing under shade cloth helps), but there are plenty of other salads to enjoy. Many combinations of raw or lightly cooked fresh vegetables combined with a vinaigrette are possible. Best of all, they can be made ahead of time for "fast food" when you're hungry. For example, try combining corn, cherry tomatoes, green beans, black beans, onions, and cilantro with a dressing made of olive oil, lime juice, jalapeno, garlic, and cumin.

Keep Hummingbird Containers Clean and Fresh

With summer's heat, it's more important than ever to clean and refill hummingbird feeders at least every other day to prevent the buildup of mold and bacteria. To make hummingbird nectar, mix 4 parts water with 1 part sugar. Boil the mixture, let it cool, then fill your feeders. The homemade nectar can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Tap water is best since it contains minerals; water that is high in iron should not be used. Don't add red food coloring. If the hummingbirds are not using all the nectar, just add a smaller amount to the container.

Learn To Pick a Ripe Melon

Telling when a melon is ripe can be a challenge, with much depending on the type of melon. Muskmelons are easy as they naturally detach, or slip, from the vine, leaving a dish-shaped scar where the stem attached. For ones already harvested, the scar will have a pleasant, musky aroma. For watermelons, wait for the tendril that attaches at the same point as the melon to dry and turn brown. Also, ripe watermelons normally develop a yellow color where the fruit lies on the ground. Except for the variety 'Earlidew', honeydew melons do not slip, but they do become soft on the flower end of the fruit.

Make Applesauce

For many gardeners and cooks, no apple makes better applesauce than 'Yellow Transparent'. This long-lived, super-hardy apple was brought from Russia to the Upper Midwest by the USDA in the 1870s. If you don't already have one of these, check out local orchards and farmers' markets. To make applesauce, core the apples but do not peel and quarter. For each quart of apples, add 1/3 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic and citric acid mixture, such as Fruit Fresh. Cook apples until tender and puree. Cool and freeze, or process in a boiling-water bath for 20 minutes.

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