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Weather and Farmers Market Foods

8/11/2014 9:47:00 AM

Tags: farmers markets, Earth Gauge, Washington D.C.

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August 3 to 9, 2014, is National Farmers Market Week! Throughout the week, USDA will celebrate our nation’s farmers markets, the farmers who make them possible and the communities that host them.

10502240615_b7915bace9_mHave you ever wondered how weather impacts the fruits and vegetables you find at your local farmers market? Here are a just a few ways weather plays a role in crop growth and harvest.

Many stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines and cherries) need a certain number of “chill hours” – exposure to temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit – in order to flower and produce fruit. Buds that don’t receive sufficient chilling hours during the winter months can result in small or misshapen fruit, and reduced fruit quality.
Very hot weather, too much moisture and other stressors can reduce production in vine crops like melons, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash. Cold rains and cloudy weather can inhibit pollination in these crops. Too much rain during the growing season can cause rot and disease, and in the case of watermelon, the fruit can actually swell and burst!
Heat and low humidity affect the blossom growth and pollination of beans and corn. When temperatures soar above 90 degrees, fruit on tomato, eggplant and pepper plants is significantly reduced.

Tip: Lots of planning and care goes into the farmers market foods we enjoy! See what’s in season: check out USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory to find a market where you live. Interested in growing fruits and vegetables at home? The National Gardening Association’s Food Gardening Guide has lots of info to help you succeed.

Photo: Lance Cheung, USDA. Taken at Kirby Farms, Mechanicsville, VA.

(Sources: USDA. “Know Your Food, Know Your Farmer.” http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/knowyourfarmer?navid=KNOWYOURFARMER; Clemson University Cooperative Extension. What are chilling hours and what do they have to do with dormancy? Do cultivars differ in their chilling hour requirement?” http://www.clemson.edu/extension/peach/faq/what_are_chilling_hours_and_what_do_they_have_to_do_with_dormancy_do_cultivars_differ_in_their_chilling_hour_requirement.html; Texas A&M University. “Chilling Accumulation: Its Importance and Estimation.” http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/stonefruit/chillacc.html; Casteele, J. Demand Media. “What is the Effect of Too Much Rain on Watermelons?” http://homeguides.sfgate.com/effect-much-rain-watermelons-75177.html; Colorado State Cooperative Extension, Plantalk. “Hot Weather Impacts Vegetables,” http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1830.html)



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