Goods from the garden

Mary Wicoff|Commercial-NewsMaster Gardeners, gathered at Atwood House at Kennekuk County Park, talk about the produce they'll take to the annual Garden to Table program on Aug. 20. From left to right are Jerry Trosper, Marjorie Loggins and Kasi Mitchell.

DANVILLE — If you’ve never eaten a yellow tomato or a husk cherry — because they look different — how would you know if you like it or not?

Adventurous eaters can sample a variety of produce at the annual Garden to Table program sponsored by the Vermilion County Extension Master Gardeners.

The event will be 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the Danville Public Library. There is no charge to attend; however, people are encouraged to pre-register so there are enough handouts and samples.

Master Gardeners will talk about their successes and challenges, and then people can sample their produce.

The program attracts about 50-60 people each year, said Jenney Hanrahan, horticulture program coordinator with the Extension. Last year, 10-15 Master Gardeners brought fruit, vegetables and other goodies, including caramel corn, from their gardens.

At the program, the gardeners will discuss and answer questions such as: What thrived? What struggled and why? How did they manage specific insects or pests?

They also will share information on seed varieties, soil, fertilizer and water recommendations.

Attendees will learn how to grow the best-tasting tomato, tender cucumbers or a better variety of green beans. They also will learn how to harvest their own popcorn, watermelon and cauliflower.

“This is a great opportunity to sample different varieties of locally grown vegetables and fruits,” Hanrahan said. “You may find a new variety of cucumber, beans or tomato to try next year, along with ways to use your harvested vegetables and herbs.”

Master Gardeners already are thinking about what they’re going to bring.

John Bodensteiner has several ideas, including ground cherries — also known as husk cherry or husk tomato. The tiny fruit, which is encased in a husk, grows on vines. After removed from the husk, they can be eaten raw or cooked into a sauce.

Bodensteiner remembers his father growing the plants when John was a child.

He likes to cook the fruit into a sauce and pour it over ice cream or pancakes.

He also has some pickled yellow beans to bring, and will find other produce from his plentiful gardens.

As for Garden to Table, Bodensteiner said, “It’s fantastic. They’re going to taste some good food and different things.”

Pat Sollars said she knows people who say they don’t like yellow tomatoes, for example. “Have you tried them?” she asks. When they say no, then she challenges them to taste one before dismissing it.

She has a lot of produce to choose from at her gardens, including reddish-black carbon tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, and she plans to bring relish.

Sollars, who has participated in Garden to Table in the past, said, “It’s wonderful. It’s good for any gardener who wants to try new varieties.”

Jan Hetherington said, “It’s fun to see what everyone grew and the different varieties. You get to taste some things you haven’t tasted before.”

She plans to bring lemon cucumbers, which have the same flavor but a different color and shape from regular cucumbers.

Jerry Trosper also has huge gardens on his 2-acre site, and he plans to bring paw paws, and other items.

He and the other gardeners like to plant new crops every year, although each person has his or her favorites, he said.

He also likes to grow plants that experts say can’t be grown around here, such as peanuts and cotton.

Marjorie Loggins, a Master Gardener since 2014, probably will bring pickled beets. She has already canned eight quarts, and expects to can 30-40 quarts this season.

Recipes also will be available at the program.

FYI

There is no charge to attend Garden to Table. However, people are asked to register so there are adequate handouts, seating and samples.

Register online at the University of Illinois Extension website at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/registration/?RegistrationID=20664 or by calling 442-8615.