Onalaska Farmer: From Garden to Market

By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle

Yet another spring has proved challenging for local gardeners in Lewis County, but Onalaska farmer Linda Clark, a retired United States Army Master Sergeant, remains undaunted.

“It’s definitely a challenge to get in an early garden in Lewis County,” said Clark.

Especially at her place.

“When you see snow up on the hills above Onalaska, and you notice the first snows or the last snows of the season,” Clark said, “that’s where I am, just up above that snow line.”

Clark has a small garden and orchard, intensively gardened and with organically grown – although her farm isn’t certified organic, she clarified – fruits, vegetables and berries. She sells her produce at the Mossyrock Farmers Market.

Clark said she has never been able to ripen a tomato outside of a cold frame at her Onalaska retreat, but that hasn’t stopped her from growing the warm weather loving plants.

“I have about 200 heirloom tomato plants,” Clark said, “and a lot of the Early Girls. I just keep them growing in cold frames.”

But there are plenty of cool weather, dependable vegetables that survive the weather and satisfy the craving for something fresh, she said.

Clark has baby-leafed lettuces, greens, spinach, radishes, and rhubarb available right now at her booth at the Mossyrock Farmers Market. She is looking forward to harvesting beets and carrots soon, with more vegetables to follow.

She enjoys growing a variety of vegetables, some of which aren’t as well known by the average consumer.

“I spent about 12 years overseas when I was in the Army, I learned to eat a lot of different foods,” Clark said. “I just love growing my own food, doing the research and learning – you can save a lot of money growing your own food, too.”

Spring greens are easy to grow, Clark said. Some of her favorite spring greens are arugula, collards, kale, mustard, beets and turnip greens.

“Not only do they taste good, but cooked mustard, kale, collards, and turnip greens have the highest nutrient-per-calorie value of any garden vegetable,” she said. “A tossed salad with spicy arugula, raw green and purple tangy mustards, and cherry-red radishes will satisfy you with its healthfulness and surprise you with its flavors. Even my logger husband – who is obviously no sissy eater – helps himself to a second plate of these hefty salads.”

Clark shared her hints for cooking spring greens and a favorite recipe for greens with lemon and bacon.

“Any green you have growing will work,” Clark said.

Another early spring treat Clark is currently offering at the market is rhubarb. Terri Marko, another vendor at the Mossyrock Farmers Market who sells jams and jellies made from local fruits and berries, has a favorite recipe for rhubarb, shared below.

Rhubarb is amazingly simple to save for strawberry season – strawberry-rhubarb pie – or for a winter pie, Clark said. Just wash and dry stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces, pack in freezer bags, and freeze. No sugar or blanching is necessary. Batches of 4 cups are a handy size.

 

Steamed Greens

The key to cooking greens is to cook the shortest length of time possible.

To steam or blanche:

  • Beet greens: 3-4 minutes
  • Turnip greens: 4 minutes
  • Mustard greens: 2-5 minutes
  • Kale: 5-10 minutes
  • Collards: 10-20 minutes
  • Spinach: 3-5 minutes

Yield: 1 pound fresh equals about 12 cups chopped and 2 cups cooked.

 

Greens Saut’eed

With Bacon and Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Canadian bacon
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 pound greens, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoon lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a large saut’e pan and saut’e Canadian bacon and garlic for 5 minutes. Add chopped greens and toss to coat, and then add lemon juice and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 to 7 minutes until greens are limp. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

 

Rhubarb Custard Pie

  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups rhubarb, 1-inch slices
  • Butter
  • Pie crusts for 9-inch pie

Mix sugar, flour, ground nutmeg, and a dash of salt. Add to beaten eggs, beat smooth. Stir in rhubarb. Prepare pastry for 9-inch double crust pie. Pour rhubarb filling into bottom crust, dot this mixture with 2 tablespoons butter. Add top crust, seal. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

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