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As Summer Wanes, Weather Makes and Breaks Seasonal Crops

Aug 09, 2012 08:05PM ● By Anonymous

We've had quite the growing season this year. Remember when we had strawberries in April?

Stephen Blades of Blades Orchard in Federalsburg says the exceptionally warm weather this spring and summer made it difficult to get many crops started, requiring a few replantings as some plants repeatedly burned up. Once they got going, however, most crops still flourished in the heat, particularly peaches, tomatoes, and even early apples, he says. “As long as you can get water to them, they develop flavor very well,” he says.

 That was until the last week of July, when a hail storm ruined 50 percent of the late-season peach crop, as well as damaging corn, tomatoes, and other plants. “Any field crop imaginable got beat up pretty badly,” Blades says.

With irrigation running again nonstop, he says they’ve been grilling lots of peaches and squash and selling well at FRESHFARM markets in Annapolis and St. Michael’s. Blades also says that, as part of their CSA subscriptions, they’ve been sending out their recipe for grilled ratatouille with squash, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and onions, rough chopped and with a bit of basil and thyme.

emilys-tomato-pie
Emily's famous tomato pie. Photo courtesy Kelly Jackson of Emily's Produce

To combat the weather, Emily’s Produce in Cambridge has been running manual irrigation and pushing to offset any disadvantage they might have had from weather, says  owner Kelly Jackson. Though the farm has a great crop of tomatoes and sweet corn, Jackson says lima beans just don’t stand up well to this kind of heat.

In addition to setting up shop at Cambridge Farmers Market on Thursdays, Jackson said the new commercial kitchen in the store has homemade dishes such as tomato pie flying off the shelves. “They don’t have time to even sit around and get cool,” she said. “We have people waiting around at 9 [a.m.] to get them.”

For about five weeks, Jackson said they have been making the pies on Fridays and Saturdays and, two weeks ago, added Sundays to keep up with demand. They’ve been making fresh salsa daily as well, asking customers’ opinions and experimenting with their recipe. “Some of your more avid foodies make their own, but it’s something that people love trying,” she says.

As summer wanes, both owners will have to wait and see if their early fall crops will allow for extended seasons or falling short on returns, as some farms experienced with summer produce.