Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Growing Saffron in the Northeast

April 23, 2020

Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is the dried stigmas of flowers of the fall-blooming saffron crocus, Crocus sativus (not of the autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale, which is toxic). Research from the University of Vermont tells how to grow this spice in crates or in raised beds in New England. Read about the fascinating and entertaining talk that Dr. Arash Ghalehgolabbehbahani and Dr. Margaret Skinner gave at MOFGA’s 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference in “Saffron: A Good Fit for New England” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Birthday Greetings, Maine!

March 12, 2020

In her State of the State address in January, Gov. Janet Mills noted that after Maine separated from Massachusetts 200 years ago (this March 15), “we, Maine people, learned to be self-reliant and, at the same time, to rely on each other.” She also noted, “We stand here today because of the resilience of Native Americans.” So much history … and much of it lives on in the seeds that continue to grow here – some conserved thanks to Native Americans, some that washed up onto Maine’s shores after shipwrecks, some brought by early settlers even before Maine became a state, some saved by MOFGA members. We love seeing this mix of crops in the Exhibition Hall at MOFGA’s Common Ground Country Fair – part of a living representation of all that history. Grow on, Maine!


Grow (and Eat) More Squash

November 17, 2016

One way to make winter squash consumption easier is to cook whole squashes. Just use a sharp knife to poke a few holes in a winter squash, put the squash on a cookie sheet and bake it in a 350 F oven for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until a knife slides into the squash easily. Then take it out of the oven, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, remove the skin and enjoy with a little salt, butter and/or maple syrup.

For other delicious squash recipes, see Roberta Bailey’s article, "Satisfy Those Squash Cravings." Cranberry squash, winter squash soufflé, squash and butternut risotto … yum! Happy Thanksgiving!


Watch Your Squash

November 10, 2016

Winter squash stores best at temperatures of 50 to 55 F and at 50 to 75 percent relative humidity. Keep a close eye on stored squash and pumpkins so that you immediately use (or compost) any that show signs of incipient deterioration. In a talk about squash cultivation some years ago, Rob Johnston Jr. suggested this order of eating for quality: Acorn by November; Delicata by December; Buttercup/Kabocha, January; and Butternut (the most easily stored squash), February.


When to Mulch Garlic

November 3, 2016

Mulching garlic about six weeks after planting, once the soil freezes, may help protect the bulbs from frost heaving over winter – although garlic planted 4 inches deep and early enough for a good root system to develop may not heave even if it is not mulched. Even if garlic is well rooted and planted deeply enough to prevent heaving, mulching will protect soils from erosion and nutrient loss over winter. Different growers mulch with different materials, including straw, hay (which likely contains weed seeds), shredded leaves or even hilled soil. Some pull the mulch off in spring to hasten soil warming and promote garlic growth; others leave it on. Read more in "Garlic, In Depth" in the summer 2013 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Plant Garlic Soon

October 8, 2015

Many Mainers shoot for a mid-October planting date for garlic to encourage good root growth before the soil freezes - often around Thanksgiving time. "Getting the timing right is rather a crapshoot," says MOFGA member and gardener extraordinaire Tom Vigue in his article "So When is the Right Time to Plant Garlic?" "Who knows when the ground will freeze this year, or next year, or any year?" asks Vigue. "All we can do is try our best." To do your best, read Tom's article and MOFGA's coverage of our 2013 Spring Growth Conference on garlic.



Cure Onions and Potatoes Before Storage

August 27, 2015

After you harvest onions and potatoes and before you put them in a cool place for storage, keep them in a warm, well ventilated place for a couple of weeks so that surface wounds can heal and outer layers of tissue can dry. Don't wash harvested potatoes. Do keep potatoes away from light - in a closed paper bag, for instance. Ideal curing conditions are 68 to 86 F and 70 percent relative humidity for onions; 55 to 65 F and 95 percent relative humidity for potatoes. If you're thinking of storing other crops this winter, check out Adam Tomash's article, "Using a Bulkhead as a Root Cellar," in the summer 2011 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.