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Warmer temperatures can cause bitter tasting winter vegetables

From the nice ripe tomatoes enjoyed on hamburgers, to the crunch of fresh vegetables, many thanks go out to the farmers who grow on the estimated two million farms in the country. After a fairly decent crop output from the recent summer, many Missouri farmers are dealing with abnormally warm fall temperatures that are affecting the quality of winter vegetables.

Carrie Hargrove who is the director of urban farming for the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture says this recent warmth in Mid-Missouri is leading to an extended harvest for summer crops, which aren’t the premium crop anymore due to the cooler evening temperatures. With the abnormally warm afternoons, she says it’s leaving many vegetable farmers in limbo.

“All vegetable farmers are more or less in the same predicament, Hargrove says. “We’re all talking about how tough it’s been to start the winter vegetables.”

While the winter vegetables can be planted now, it’s the warm afternoons that will have a noticeable affect on the crops.

“When you grow cool temperature-loving plants and it’s hot out, they taste different,” Hargrove says.

That taste is described as very bitter for many vegetables and occurs because the plants undergo bolting. It’s a survival process that flips a switch in the plant to produce flowers and seeds very rapidly, which causing them to abandon leaf growth. This switch leaves many farmers with a lower quality produce.

Due to this, many farmers are still harvesting summer plants while waiting for Mother Nature to cool down.

“We just have to kinda keep paying attention to the weather, to see when the right temperature frame for the weather is for some of these later fall crops,” Hargrove says.

For the month of October, Mid-Missouri’s average temperature is about seven degrees above average. It’s this warm temperature trend that has dealt a blow to winter crops, but optimal weather conditions look to arrive in Mid-Missouri through the middle of next week.

Stay with ABC 17 Stormtrack as we continue to monitor the cooler weather returning to Mid-Missouri and follow us on Twitter @ABC17Stormtrack.

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