Each year, spring takes me a little by surprise. Sometime mid-winter, I just forget what is possible. I forget how green green can be. I forget about the rousing choruses of bird song at dawn. I forget the spicy savory smell of a bag filled with freshly picked nettles. I forget what it feels like to feel a warm soft breeze on the skin.
And, then, it all comes back so suddenly on those first warm days. This first week of spring has brought plenty of more-of-the-same-rainy-days, but we’ve had those moments that help me remember.
The children and I are slowly reading our way through Anne of Avonlea right now, and I love revisiting Anne Shirley’s philosophy of life and the way she models savoring the natural world every day — pausing at the garden gate to just watch the wonders of the world. We are each day offered such riches, right here at our gates (or doors). Of all the seasons, I think spring most naturally reminds me of this wealth of experience, offered for all of us to enjoy.
May this week bring you your own spring moments of pausing in wonder. Maybe you’ll find it on a forest trail or in your garden or on your daily walk or in your kitchen as you prepare your evening meal.
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Meet this week’s vegetables:
- Apples — Liberty apples this week. These are a relatively new variety of apple, bred specifically to be disease resistant in the orchard (and yummy in the mouth!). Even with our thinning efforts in the spring, each tree produces tons of apples each year. They are a favorite!
- Purple sprouting broccoli — Have you ever paused to wonder: “What is broccoli anyway?” Ok, maybe just farmers wonder about the familial lineage of different vegetables and how they “came about.” Vegetables are bred and selected just as much as apples (or more so!). Many of the vegetables we treat as “normal” parts of our diet are relatively new inventions! Or, at least, the version we know are a recent phenomenon. Many vegetables today are larger, more uniform and sweeter than they were through much of human history thanks to careful modern breeding programs, including hybridizing. Not to be confused with genetic modification, hybrid seed lines are created through normal plant sex — but very carefully controlled plant sex! Usually two lines of plants are set out next to each other in order to force cross-pollination. The resulting seed line will have traits of both the parent lines but with added vigor and consistency (“hybrid vigor,” they call it). We grow several hybrid varieties of vegetables, including cabbage and sweet corn (all of them organically grown seed). Modern broccoli is also a result of this process, which has allowed this family of cole crops to develop exceptionally large and tight flower buds in the first season of growth! Generally speaking, cole crops are “biennial” plants, which means that they only flower after “vernalization” (fancy language to refer to having gone through a winter and into spring — a combination of day length and temperature changes). But most cole crops and brassicas still need to over-winter before flowering — those flowers are what we call various kinds of “rapini,” which really does resemble its cousin, broccoli! And, somewhere in between rapini and modern broccoli you might find this week’s broccoli relative: purple sprouting broccoli. You could look at this crop in two ways: either its a super delicious, larger than normal kale-like rapini; or, it’s a slightly smaller, hardier, biennial version of broccoli. We sow the seeds in late fall, and they over-winter as small plants. In the late winter, when days start warming and growing longer, they put on a lot of growth and then produce prodigious quantities of florets (along with delicious leaves and stalks). We can pick these and come back again several times before each plant is finally done for the season. We love having that green broccoli flavor so early in the year! Perhaps this is way more plant/farm information than you needed today, but I love putting vegetables into context to help you understand how they fit into the farmscape as well as into your diet. You can prepare the sprouting broccoli in any way you might prepare kale, rapini, or broccoli. Our favorite is to lay it in a single layer in a baking pan and roast it with butter and salt until it is crispy on the leaves and the stalks are cooked through! You can eat it all!
- Marina di Chioggia winter squash — Before we left for Holden two weeks ago, Casey baked a truly massive Marina di Chioggia winter squash. We ate some of it before we left and put the rest in the fridge for later. I was amazed: we kept eating it and it kept being delicious and good in the fridge. Over the next week after we arrived back home, we ate it once a day until we finally ate the whole squash. I really didn’t think we’d make it through the whole thing, but we did. And every single bite was delicious. When I reheat the cooked slices, I like to do it so that one of the cut edges gets brown and crispy — I’ll do this either on a seasoned baking pan in the oven or on seasoned pan on the stovetop. Casey and I eat the skin and all. Casey and Dottie both love eating it with a big slice of butter on the side. I like to put butter on top of mine while it is still hot so that the butter melts into the flesh. And plenty of salt too.
- Salad mix