Increased sunshine and warmer days have Gina Dahlstrom Osburn and her mother, Marge Elsinger, thinking about the upcoming growing season and the Guttenberg Farmers Market. “I pore over seed catalogs to find what I know has grown well in the past and am always searching for an interesting and tasty heirloom I can introduce our customers to,” said Osburn.
Uncommon but tasty hard squash, heirloom tomatoes, along with a crop of cherries, raspberries, gooseberries, plums, pears, and apples are on the horizon. Osburn will soon be sowing radishes and spinach and hopes to have them available by early May. Greens are a high priority for the mother-daughter growing duo. Osburn enjoys mixing greens into unusual blends, including mustard greens and Asian greens like bok choy.
The rhubarb patch is the source of many wonderful pies, preserves, and of course, Elsinger’s rhubarb bread. “I am anxiously waiting for that first batch as much as any of Mom's customers!” chuckles Osburn.
She learned to make preserves from her mother and cemented that knowledge while working on a heritage farm. There, she processed immense batches of apple butter and preserves – but it didn’t cramp her creative style. “They gave me free reign, and that’s where I came up with the jalapeño-peach blend. It’s still being used by a restaurant on a turkey and brie Panini,” Osburn told The Press. Here on the family farm, she uses black raspberries with jalepeños for a new twist on her southern favorite; mixes cherries, strawberries and raspberries for her triple crown preserves; and has created a unique blend of blueberry and lavender preserves. She also makes a ‘one bucket blend,’ which, she says, is whatever gets thrown into the bucket – namely gooseberries, mulberries and black raspberries.
The Elsinger farm was once known as Miller’s Orchard. Irene Miller Elsinger was raised there and purchased the farm with her husband, Andy Elsinger, Sr. Andy Jr., Marge’s late husband, in turn, purchased the farm from his father.
Osburn and Elsinger are working hard to maintain the butternut, wild cherry, and plum trees on their land, and are participating in the Arbor Day Foundation’s hazelnut project. “Hazelnut shrubs provide a lot of food for turkey, rabbits and other wildlife, so they’re trying to get them reestablished,” Osburn explained. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, woody plants like the 10-foot hazelnut are three times more effective at capturing solar energy than annual plants. This “photosynthetic efficiency” means woody plants used on a large scale could reverse increases in carbon dioxide and even climate change itself.
For Osburn and Elsinger, contributing to a healthier environment is key. They grow their produce as naturally as possible, without the use of chemicals, and promote birds, bees, and wildlife. Bees from nearby apiaries pollinate their produce. “We work hard to provide a nontoxic bee and bird sanctuary here at the family farm and occasionally bring bouquets to the farmers market. Unlike commercially grown flowers, ours have no toxins to worry about,” said Osburn, who has also spent time working on a bee farm. She and her mother are considering options for setting aside part of their land as a sanctuary for birds like bobwhites and pheasants.
The pair also have a crafty side, Marge making quilts and Gina selling beaded jewelry. Readers will find Elsinger and Osburn’s produce, preserves, and baked goods at the Guttenberg Farmer’s Market May through October.
Photo courtesy of Shelia Tomkins.