I spent Thursday working the University of Illinois Extension Plant Clinic booth at the Eli's-Wright College Farmers Market.
From what I hear about the main Plant Clinic at the Ag School it's quite busy, with lots of people calling with questions, but I've only done the off-site clinics, at Garfield Park Conservatory and this one at this small near-suburban weekday farmers market.
We had several questions, including "I haven't planted my garden yet. Will the weather stay warm into October so that I have time for tomatoes?" She seriously seemed to want us to research this. We were also a captive audience for the several salespeople who took advantage of the fact that we were stuck in a booth and too polite to tell them to get lost.
I think these remote clinics could be more interesting--lots of people walked by, but didn't approach because first it's hard to tell what's going on, and second, there's nothing to look at. I bought some unusual vegetables from one of the vendors to use as paperweights, which brought a few people over, but I think there would be more traffic if we had a mini-insect petting zoo, and maybe a plant-a-seed demo for children (or adults for that matter). I'm doing another one in August and I'm extremely tempted to plant some tiny pots of parsley to give away.
My paperweights turned into a wonderful grilled salad.
Grilled summer vegetables with red currant vinaigrette
Raw peas, chilled
1 pint red currants
2 T sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2+ cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Slice the vegetables very thin (1/4 inch), dredge with olive oil and salt, and grill until al dente (about 10-15 minutes). Serve the peas raw and cold as a contrast. For the vinaigrette, simmer the currants with the sugar until the fruit loses its shape; strain through a food mill to remove stems and seeds. Whip with the vinegar and oil.
Drizzle over the hot vegetables. We ate this as dinner, but it's a lovely side dish as well.
4 hours ago