Cultivating a Future Farmer at Local Farmers Markets

My Guest Booth at the EW Farmers Market

My Guest Booth at the EW Farmers Market

It happened to be a coincidence that I had my niece along with me on two recent trips to farmers markets.  She seems to enjoy the scene, taking photos, and taste-testing the treats as much as the rest of us.

Could we be cultivating a “future farmer” by way of taking kids along on our market journeys?  I certainly hope so.

We not only introduce them to information on how to grow plants, or make handcrafted products, we share good, healthy, non-GMO types of food at the same time, and may even enjoy dancing, as we did yesterday, to the Backtrax Band performing at the East Windsor Farmers Market.

Going to markets is fresh, fun, and festive.  From the fresh squeezed lemonades to the hand-made soaps, you get to enjoy locally made items and socialize with friends and family.

So the first market we hit up was the Wethersfield Farmers Market last Thursday. After babysitting a few hours, my sister asked if I wanted to go to the market with her – and of course, the answer was yes!  My niece was excited I was tagging along and jumped to get her favorite hat as we left the house.

The second market we attended was the new East Windsor Farmers Market, on their opening day, June 30, Sunday.  I was an invited as a guest vendor and volunteered to answer plant related questions.  Many people visited to ask various questions, and my niece listened intently to the answers.  I bet she could answer some herself – because she gardens along side her mom at home often, and has learned some horticultural related topics in school.

Wethersfield, CT Farmers Market

This market is held on Thursdays, 3 pm to 6 pm, which is a nice time slot for those unable to make a weekend market and convenient for getting fresh produce on the way home from work.  This market started on May 16th and runs through October 31st. You can find it on a nice lawn area called, “Solomon Welles House” lawn at 220 Hartford Avenue, Wethersfield, CT.  My sister told me it was a fairly small market, yet it was big on offerings.  There were fresh veggies at several vendors booths, tasty teas, knits, soaps, baked goods, and jewelry.


My favorite find was these big mason jars by Mamalicious with hand blown glass straws and a mushroom tea sample included to try later.  I could just picture an icy cold lemonade in them, and with a lid, there is a ‘no spill’ factor.  So I got two along with other items, such as purple radishes, from Bright Yellow Farm.

My niece was enjoying taking photos on her camera; I guess she likes seeing her Aunt do the same.  We both were clicking away and stocking up for the upcoming weekend with fresh goodies. She was the lucky recipient of beautiful gloves made with Alpaca yarn, to be stored until winter arrives, by Round Hill Alpacas, from Coventry, CT. The ladies at Round Hill said they would be at South Windsor’s market on Saturday, June 29th, but I didn’t get to that one (yet). Market vendors are making their rounds to several locations, which is great for us, if we can’t travel to one place, you are bound to find them at another or right in your home town.



The parking for this market is along the streets, and Old Wethersfield is nearby where you can visit Comstock Ferry & Co.  Click HERE for more about the seeds at Comstock.

Wethersfield Farmers Mkt.

Wethersfield Farmers Mkt.

Taking photos

Taking photos

East Windsor, CT Farmers Market

Then, only two days later, I spent the day at the East Windsor Farmers Market from 10 am to 1 pm on their opening day, June 30th. My mission was to not only support the markets grand opening day (since I live in East Windsor), but to help answer general plant questions as a guest vendor.

June is a time when we encounter plant problems, whether from bugs or due to the heat and heavy humidity we are experiencing this week.  There may be mold or fungus growing on your mulch, or the June bugs and Japanese beetles are most likely munching on some foliage of your favorite plants right now.

But the questions were not coming in on those specific subjects; instead I heard questions like:

  • How do I take care of my Mother-in-Law plant?  It stinks so bad and its smelling up my house!
  • Why did the trees blooms so strongly this year, and are we getting more maple seeds (samaras) than usual?  My mulch is covered with them.
  • Why are my tomato plants doing so badly?  They are barely growing.
  • What would cause leaf curl on my tomato plants?  My son noticed it and said something is wrong with my plants.

I think the most interesting was the “Mother-in-Law (Sanseveria trifoliate) plant with an awful, stinky smell.”  Hmm, I had to look that one up on my iPhone, and it turns out this plant does not like to be over-watered and will stink if done so from root rot.  She admitted she had over-watered her plant.  So I suggested she move it outside into shade under a patio umbrella, let the soil dry out, and don’t water it so much.  We also discussed how you can keep many houseplants outdoors during the summer, just be sure to transition them to shade first so you don’t burn the leaves as it is exposed to strong sunlight.  Just like people, it needs protection first.

On the questions regarding prolific tree blooms this season, and the maple samaras (technically a simple dry fruit) falling everywhere, my guess is the “mild” cool temperatures we experienced early in the season gave most of our flowering trees lots of additional time to plump up their buds, laying silently in the branches until the temps were warm enough to expand open.  It delayed the blossoms as well.  As soon as that warmth hit – BANG!  They exploded, and the flowers have been just spectacular this season. The dogwood trees, I’ve noticed, are so full around our neighborhoods right now.  So perhaps the early cool temps is the reason why we have a lot of samaras this year too, or at least that is my guess. Prior season’s weather and winter temperature affect the timing and patterns of growth too.

Cornus kousa

Cornus kousa

On the question regarding tomato plants not doing well…, the soil is remaining wet somewhat because, in addition to the heat and humidity, we are getting bouts of rainstorms, heavy rain, and the heat came, so it is possible the growth is being challenged by both of these factors.   She also could be lacking some nutrients in the soil, if the bottom leaves are turning light green to pale yellow, or if the fruit is small, this is a potential sign of lack of nitrogen.  During mid summer, veggies will grow faster and start to mature, so they need nitrogen in the soil.  A quick boost of fertilizer may help, which she actually suspected, and said would try to apply some and see how it goes.

On the leaf curl on a tomato plant (this one was in a container garden pot), this can be a sign of an insect setting in, or perhaps too much watering (from our rainfalls).  I referred to my book called, “What’s Wrong with My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?)” by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth.  It offers a “visual guide to easy diagnosis and organic remedies,” however, I don’t always find plant problems ‘easy’ to diagnose, when it comes to the wide variety of problems.  Lots of things can damage a plant, but the book helps you to narrow down the signs on the plant.  If a leaf is distorted, bubbled, curled, or twisted, the books leads you to pages to further define the problem and finding the possible causes.  Sometimes for puckered or twisted leaves, the underside or inner of the leaf could have an insect feeding.  Or it could be caused by a virus.  And it can also be caused by “cool, wet rains,” which we have experienced earlier in the season. But to really diagnose plant problems well, you have to see the actual plant to inspect the signs and symptoms, and look at the owner’s habits too. I also brought along a reference book by Ortho, which I don’t use for the remedy recommendations, but to identify the plants’ problems.  It has excellent photos and descriptions, and I got mine via a used book search several years ago.  I find it handy.  Another method to determine a plant’s problem is to bring a sample to your local county extension center.  We have one located in Tolland, CT.  Master Gardeners will examine the plant and give you a report- and its FREE.



And another benefit of the East Windsor Farmers Market was enjoying the BACKTRAX BAND, special to me because my brother, Jimmy, is a member of the band along with TJ, Big Tom, Sammy, and on this day, a guest drummer, Smitty.  They will be playing for the market again in the future.  Having the background music playing while shopping the vendors and visiting with friends and family really makes it special and enjoyable.  Almost all markets have some type of music, it is great – you get a free intro to the band’s music and enjoy listening while you are chatting with friends, family, and new faces in town.  Bring a lawn chair, sit a while, and grab a bite to eat while you spend the day at the market.  The band members enjoy it – so you should too!

Whole Harmony

Whole Harmony


Before people began to arrive to the East Windsor Farmers Market, I visited each vendor myself.  Very impressed with the teas by Stacey Wood of Whole Harmony, and the fresh sprouts, lettuce, and other healthy products by Tara Tranguch of Serafina Says Farm, and of course sampled many others products.   Serafina’s sprouts are going to be amazing on my salad today! Stacey of Whole Harmony told me she is growing their herbs right here locally in the new East Windsor Community Garden located by the dog park and skateboard park on Reservoir Avenue.  So they are grown right here – that’s FRESH.  Love that connection.  It is so important to support these growers, so make sure you visit this market and others during prime time – now!

East Windsor Farmers Mkt.

East Windsor Farmers Mkt.

And don’t miss the freshly grown Shiitake Mushrooms by Donna Yurgel of New England Green Mushrooms.  She sells at other markets as well, such as the popular Ellington, CT farmers market.  I buy a box of these every time and find new ways to add them to my recipes.  She is now offering some of her favorite recipes for people new to using Shiitakes.  They are easy to cook.

Members of the band

Members of the band

Wethersfield Market is Closed for the 4th of July weekend, but East Windsors remains open.

By the way, the Wethersfield market is closed during the 4th holiday weekend, but this is not the case the East Windsor market.  The East Windsor market has relocated from their Opening Day location on Rt 140, 149 North Road, in-front of Joe’s Fine Wine and Spirits and the Golden Gavel Auction, to the Trolley Museum at 58 North Road (also Rt 140).  The Trolley Museum has picnic tables, facilities, and antique trolleys of historical value inside and out of their buildings.  Take the kids along, enjoy a ride on the trolley, and get in some farmers markets action.  Click HERE to read more about the new location.  There’s plenty of parking available, and it is right off 91 North and South, take Exit 45 (Bridge Street) to Rt 140.

East Windsor Market Master:  

For questions, you may contact Janice Warren, the Market Master, at or at 860-292-1796.  It will be held up through October 6th, 2013.  Every Sunday, 10 am to 1 pm, and will grow just like the plants do.  They currently do not have a website, but can be found on Facebook and Patch.

East Windsor’s Farmers Market Vendors:

  • Broad Brook Brewing Company (New in town).  Check out their “Pink Dragon Wit,” a Belgium White Ale for Summer.
  • New England Green Mushrooms, Shiitake Mushrooms, Donna Yurgel
  • Sarafina Says Farms, Tara Tranguch, Farmer and Health Coach, Sprouts, Salads, etc.
  • Whole Harmony, Whole Being Heal Tea Company, Stacey Wood, Certified Herbal Practitioner
  • Shadow Valley Farms, Local Farm Fresh Milk and other dairy products
  • Sunshine & Flowers by Goldie, Dish Gardens
  • Naturally Clean, soap products, by Teresa Carey
  • Cathy T’s Landscape Designs, Cathy Testa, Container Gardens, Garden and Landscape Designs, Classes
  • BACKTRAX Band, Jimmy Fauteux and Members, Playing all kinds of events
  • Yummy CT, Distributor of CT Products

If interested in becoming a vendor, contact Janice Warren, Market Master, at or at 860-292-1796.

Here’s some more markets I saw listed in a garden magazine recently:

  • Farmington, Hill-Stead Museum,
  • Glastonbury, Hubbard Green,
  • Hartford, 156 Capitol Avenue, 2 Saturdays a month
  • Manchester, Manchester Community College, Wednesdays, 1-5 pm
  • South Windsor, 100 Market Square, Saturdays, 10 am – 1 pm
  • West Hartford, LaSalle Road public parking lot, Tuesdays & Saturdays
  • Coventry, Nathan Hale Homestead,
  • Ellington, Arbor Park,

…and you can find them in Fairfield Country, Middlesex Country, New Haven, New London, and maybe just drive around and spot the tents – Stop in if you see them.  Help those helping you get the CT products we enjoy fresh.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy Cathy T

New England Green Mushrooms

New England Green Mushrooms

‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ is the UFO of Ornamental Peppers

Purple Flower to Purple Pepper

Purple Flower to Purple Pepper

Ornamental peppers add many wonderful attributes to design compositions in container gardens.  They come in various colors, very rarely get attacked by pesty insects, and have interesting shapes. Additionally, the color of the fruit changes as it matures.

These attributes are something I’ve written about in previous posts.  One post was when my sister purchased a pepper producing purple fruit from me, and another post was when I gave a black fruiting pepper plant to my vet as a thank you for the nose surgery he did on Hunter, my cat.

I really like the look of colored peppers in container gardens.  Some end up in deep, dark colors, and others evolve into bright hot colors. You can include companion plants in the container combination to capitalize on this by thinking about when the other plant’s flowers will bloom and selecting bloom colors to match, echo, or contrast the colors of the peppers for seasonal interest.

The shape of ornamental peppers is interesting too.  Some are pointy and long, facing upwards on stems, others are round and chunky, and some are perfectly round pearl shapes.  Before the trend of incorporating veggies into perennial gardens, people would be surprised when they saw I had a pepper plant in my container gardens with other types of plants.  Now I have a new candidate to suggest using, one by the cultivar name of, ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’.  It has the most unusual shape.

Shaped like a UFO

Shaped like a UFO

Shaped like a Flying Saucer

‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ is a Brazilian pepper plant with fruit resembling a UFO.  It has a wide to squat body shape with edges around it extending outwards a bit.

Dianne, one of my good friends, noticed mine in a container on my deck last summer, as shown in this photo to the left.

She asked, “What is that?”

When I told her the name of the plant and explained how I think it looks like a flying saucer, she replied with, “Only you, Cathy T, only you.”

Dianne is always super enthusiastic about my plant endeavors.  She attends my classes regularly and always gives me words of encouragement and praise.  I’m lucky to have her, and many other good friends, support my plant passions.  She was really impressed with the unique shape of Ubatuba and said she had never seen one before either.

I asked Dianne, “Doesn’t the fruit also look like a body with arms hugging its belly?”

We both started laughing as she agreed.  The fruit’s shape provides conversation opportunities to any admirer taking notice. But the shape alone is not its only talking point.  There are some interesting facts about the plant’s name.

Named after a place, and from its shape

Ubatuba is a lovely beach town in Sao Paulo, and Cambuci is a municipality located in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro.  So, the plant is named after these two places.  I also read that a river in eastern Brazil is called the Ubatuba River, and that Cambuci is a fruit tree apparently on the verge of extinction (and this tree’s fruit has a similar shape of this pepper!), and get this…Uba Tuba granite is quarried in Brazil for use in making kitchen counters.  So there you have it – a plant named after a place and a shape.

Sometimes I think the name selections are off for plants – this one would be so easily called ‘Alien Nation’ and you would get it right off.  But honestly, I haven’t visited Brazil, so I did not recognize the name as being from a place, but surely it is a tropical treat there, just like this pepper plant.

The first part of the plant’s cultivar name has ‘tuba’ at the end, and it is pronounced just like the brass instrument, so just add an OOH-BAH in front of that. The second part I wasn’t so sure how that goes, something like CAM…going into a BOO, and then the common e-e or ei sound at the end.  Heck, you can just nickname it “Uba” for short, but there is a certain ring to saying Ubatuba – Ubatuba.  This attribute, its name, is entertaining, at least to me.

Color Changes from Yellow to Orange, to Red

‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ starts off yellow, transitions to orange, and finishes to a bright attractive red. The fruit grows to about a three inch size.  A little bit larger than the perfect bite size.  The plant itself has a bushy habit and grows up to three feet tall. Its dark green foliage has good sized leaves and the stems are sturdy and strong.  Fruit tends to stay stable on the plant because of this, and staking is usually not required, if only, towards the end of the season.

The added benefit of the pepper’s color changes is it can help you in the selection of your companion plants in your container garden design. If you think it through by period of bloom, matching the yellow stage of the pepper’s color to an early yellow bloomer of another plant, and the red color stage of the pepper to a flower blooming in late summer in the same container garden, you create seasonal interest.

Black foliage and purple peppers

Black foliage and purple peppers

Plant Companions to use with Ornamental Peppers

As shown in the photo to the left, the annual, Coleus ‘Gay’s Delight’ was used as a filler because of the purple veins in its bright chartreuse leaves.  It highlighted the purple flowers and fruit of the pepper plant in this container.  In this case, the pepper plant’s foliage was also a dark purple to black color.

Consider perennials; examples are Monarda didyma ‘Petite Delight’ with pink flower, Nepeta x faassenii ‘Dropmore’ with lavender flowers, and Verbena bonariensis; these would look stunning with purple peppers.  This would create a mix of purple tones to show up against the dark foliage of the pepper plant as shown here for a softer combination of monochromatic colors.

If the pepper of your choice has a full, bushy habit, put a taller center plant to elevate above it, as in the example of tall Canna plants.  Or combine your pepper plants with edibles to create quick dinner snipping sources. Include cherry tomato, basil, chive, and oregano.

Because many herbs are green foliage plants, select those with variegated leaves to make them stand out against the foliage of the pepper. Ocimum citriodorum ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ has a creamy white coloring on the leaves’ edges, or Ocimum basilicum ‘Amethyst Improved’, showing off a deep dark shiny black color.  Golden thyme plants work well, try Thymus citriodorus ‘Archer’s Gold’.  For a spiller, nasturtiums are perfect and easy to grow, and are edible, look for Tropaeolum majus ‘Wine’ for the yellow and orange flower color.

For a hot red combination, plant Verbena x “Taylortown Red’, and add a Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ as a spiky accent with the ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ plant.  I assure you, if you add an ornamental pepper, your friends will take notice, and you can have them taste test the fruit.  Ask them if it is sweet or hot?

Plants with Flavors

Plants with Flavors

It is Sweet, no wait.  It is Hot.

When I include peppers in my container gardens, the matured fruit does not last long because of a number one predator in my home, Steve, my husband.

Last summer, he walked up the back deck stairs, rather than entering through the front door when arriving home from work so he could partake in the daily offerings of my ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ fruit.

So I asked him when he took his first tasting, “”Is it sweet or is it hot?”

He responded, “It is sweet, no wait. It is hot.”

This pepper is listed as “mild-hot” in the catalog, but the plant’s label indicates “sweet.”  There seems to be a little bit of both, starting off mild and transitioning to hot as you munch on it.

Adding tasty treats to your container gardens is a lot of fun, and of course, they can be used in cooking or dried later in the season to use in your recipes during the winter.

I can’t tell you how many people noticed my Stevia plants (Sweetleaf) offered for sale at a farmer’s market one season.  It is a substitute for sugar, and when you bite into a leaf, it truly tastes like sugar…And that plant – one to blog about later – really grew well in my container gardens.  But more on that later.

Culture and Container Size

For the container size, go large, at least 22-25″ diameter pot, especially if you combine “Uba” up with two or three more plants.  ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ appreciates moist, well drained and organic soil and the space to grow.  Be prepared to water this plant in a container garden more often because it draws a good amount of moisture from the soil during hot summer months.  I watered my plant daily toward mid to late summer.  And of course, it needs full-sun to produce the best flowers and fruit.  Remember to check your companion plants for the same conditions.

By the way, I actually had difficulty finding the Genus and species name for ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’.  It is not noted on the plant’s label, nor was it in the grower’s catalog.  I’ve read it is bred from a species Capsicum baccatum or Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum.  Cultivars are typically distinguishable from the species by one or more characteristic.  The most obvious characteristic being, in this case, its unique “flying saucer” shape.  It is one you won’t forget after the first time you see it – just like when you spot your first UFO.

Container Crazy Cathy T

Please feel free to click on the ‘red stamp icon’ at the top of this blog to leave your comments, especially if you have grown this pepper, I’d love to hear from those of you visiting.