One very special phenomenon of the Sierra is our summer and fall thundershowers. It’s a great spectacle that you can see building hours before they happen. What an early June we’ve had with thundershowers!
Thundershowers are a direct result of atmospheric heating and increased air convection. Sierra thunderstorms are a primary cooling mechanism for our region. Thunderstorms provide water for vegetation, lakes and reservoirs. Thunderstorms also create their own climate conditions of wind and humidity. Storm winds distribute seeds, pollen and help remove old dead and weak vegetation. In addition to thunder are lightning strikes. Lightning strikes create nitrates, which fertilize the soil and plant life. Lightning produces about 20 percent nitrogen to the soil per year.
Sierra thunderstorms are very dramatic and isolated. They are fast and furious and should not be taken lightly. Lightning is one of the most unpredictable forces in nature and can hit a target 20 miles away from the parent cloud. Basically, when ice and water particles collide in a cloud, they are charged. Because a lightning bolt is so hot it superheats the air around it. The air rapidly expands and contracts, creating thunder. The distance between lightning and thunder is calculated by counting the seconds between a lightning strike and the sound of thunder. If you count to five between a strike and a thunderclap, the storm is a mile away. Add a mile for every five seconds after that. To stay safe, the best advice is don’t be the tallest object in an open field, while buildings or cars are your best protection.
Strawberries: Over the years strawberries have been associated with love. Yes, love! Some consider strawberries as the Goddess of Love. In the olden days, newlyweds were served strawberries. A recent survey showed that people who love strawberries have a fun-loving nature, and those who don’t are weird morons. I love strawberries!
Back to the facts. It is believed that strawberries got its name 1,000 years ago from the word ‘strew,’ which means ‘spread,’ referring to the runners that take off from the strawberry plants.
There are two types of strawberries: Ever-bearing and June-bearing. Ever-bearing are planted in our cooler climates and produce from one to four years, whereas June-bearing are grown as annuals and planted every year. Strawberries are the only berry that has seeds on the outside of the fruit. In fact, a single strawberry has over 200 seeds attached to its external surface! Strawberries are the first berry to ripen in the spring. They are rich in vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium.
Today, most strawberries are June-bearing and planted in mass quantities on raised beds under plastic to reduce weed problems. In California, most strawberries are grown in Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Diego counties. Conventional strawberries are one of the most sprayed fruits because of their botrytis (gray mold) problems. Because they are grown on the coast, humidity, fog and rain causes a rot to develop rapidly on the fruit. Therefore, fungicides are use repeatedly to prevent rotting. Because of this problem it is very hard to find organic strawberries. Be aware that conventional strawberries are one of the most sprayed fruit.
Because strawberries are very perishable, the best way to keep them is to rinse them, damp dry, wrap them in a paper towel and place them in the fridge. Most strawberries last from three to five days.
What You Will See Coming to the Truckee/Tahoe Area
Vegetables and Fruits: The farmers markets! Tahoe City’s market runs every Thurs., from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Truckee and Kings Beach markets are Tuesdays, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Well, the summer fruits are starting. Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, apricots and the early peaches. June should bring in the plums and pluots, along with foothill blueberries and blackberries. Cherry tomatoes are starting, and as the valley and foothill greens disappear with the heat, Sierra Valley begins with spring mix, spinach, arugula, radishes, kale and rapini. Basil and other herbs should abound. Early squash and zucchini should show as the valley temps rise, but don’t expect a ‘big fat tomato’ until mid-July.
Sierra Valley Farms: Our Farmers Market is on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., through Sept. 11. Free chef cooking demos from noon to 1 p.m., with a special local artisan’s market once a month. Look for our ‘Dinner in the Barn’ summer series with Moody’s, a catered masterpiece here on the farm monthly! You can find us at the farmers markets in Tahoe City, Truckee, Reno and Quincy. If you want to help out at the farm, sign up at New Moon Natural Foods; we have a weekly crew coming out to the farm. Contact me at 530-832-0114 or email@example.com.
Greenhouse/Cold frames in Truckee/Tahoe: Remember to direct seed lettuces, spinach, kale, arugula, radishes beets, carrots and onions all outside. You can direct seed anytime until September. If you like to buy starts, transplant broccoli, cabbage, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs. For you tomato lovers, you will have to grow them in a greenhouse or cold frame…heirlooms take even longer. Stick to Early Girl. Remember, you do live in Tahoe!
Let me leave you with this thought for June: ‘A penny in a poor man’s pocket is better than two pennies in a rich man’s pocket.’
~ Irish proverb
~ Gary Romano owns Sierra Valley Farms, which sits on some of his family’s original 3,600-acre ranch in Beckwourth. sierravalleyfarms.com.