Wacky weather woes

(CSA Newsletter: Week 17)

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Spinach — This week’s spinach is tender enough to be eaten as a salad but you may also enjoy cooking it (how about green eggs and ham?).
  • “Winter Density” Lettuce — “Winter Density” is a butter and romaine cross, which means that it has the structure and color of a romaine but the tender yellow heart of a butter lettuce.
  • “Carmona” Red Butter Lettuce — This is a butter lettuce with a red twist. You can chop it and serve as you would any normal lettuce … or, for fun, try making it the main star of a meal: cut your head in half (or quarters) and clean well; put each half on a dinner plate cut-edge up; drizzle the cut edge with your favorite dressing and sprinkle with savory toppings; eat with a fork and a knife!
  • Dinosaur Kale — After so many months of eating over-wintered kale, we’re finally eating spring kale! We love this variety kale and enjoy it’s many (many!) different names … in addition to being called ‘dinosaur’ kale, this kale is also known as: Cavolo Nero (“black cabbage”), Black Palm, Black Kale, Italian, and Lacinato. (Can you think of a new one to add to the list?)
  • Kohlrabi — If you’re new to kohlrabi (or have tried it before without success), heed this strong advice: EAT IT RAW! Seriously! Unfortunately, you’ll find kohlrabi “recipes” in any cookbook, which serves as a red herring. Kohlrabi bulbs are incredibly sweet and crisp when eaten raw. (When cooked, they’re pretty bland and mushy — yuck!) So, peel the outside off with a paring knife; slice; and enjoy. Chop and put on a salad; make sticks and eat with ranch dressing; etc. And, yes, you can eat the leaves! Prepare them as you might kale. We hear they’re especially delicious chopped and added to broth soups.
  • Green Garlic — We’ve been getting questions about green garlic lately — “What exactly is it?” Well, folks, green garlic is … garlic! Seriously! The plants we’ve been harvesting for you are the very same plants that will form bulbs and cloves and then dry down for winter storage (you can see the bulbs beginning to form in this week’s stalks). Before it starts to dry down, garlic can be chopped without peeling and added to any number of dishes for a fresh spring garlic flavor (in our experience it’s strong but not hot).
  • The other day, I had a total brain fart: I was making plans with a friend and temporarily thought it was the end of April rather than May. Even though I was fully a month off in my head, my mistake is not that surprising given the weather we’ve been having lately.

    May was cold. And wet. Very.

    We have had so many rainy spells that I’ve lost count. All I know is that by now, we’re usually well into irrigation season and have had at least one or two heat waves (with temperatures over 90°). This year, we’ve irrigated twice and high temps haven’t hit 80°. Big difference.

    We can see the difference in the fields too. On one hand, the rain has been great for all the trees we planted this year (another fruit orchard, willows in our hedgerow, and a few ornamental trees around our house). But, the cool weather has dramatically slowed the spring growth. Crops that can handle cooler temperatures (such as sugar snap peas) are doing pretty well, but others are just creeping along rather than thriving and growing as quickly as we expect.

    The weather has also made it difficult to continue our important spring planting. After rushing to get many crops out a few weeks ago, we were essentially shut down again until this weekend. Finally, Casey was able to plant more of the warmer season crops — winter squash, sweet corn, peppers and eggplants — but many days later than the latest we’ve ever planted them before. Since it was so cool prior to planting, we weren’t too sad to not have planted — they probably wouldn’t have done much in the fields anyway. But we do hope that we receive enough heat from here on out to help these crops catch up and produce before the end of summer.

    Right now (Monday afternoon), you’d hardly know any of this. After another rainy morning, the clouds parted and we’re currently awash in warm golden sunlight. I’m sure the plants will respond happily. But the weather pages are predicting another wet week (hopefully followed by a warmer drier week next week).

    Most likely, in a few weeks, we’ll have forgotten all about this cool weather as we sweat the days away. Or, maybe this will be a cool year. That happens sometimes — years where the Northwest essentially skips summer and goes straight from spring to fall. It is rare but not completely unprecedented. We’ve been wondering how we’ll fare if that happens again this year … and fortunately we have enough range in our crop diversity that we’ll probably be fine. Maybe there won’t be as many peppers, but we can make up for it with more potatoes. Hopefully that isn’t the case, but every season manages to surprise us.

    You may notice this cool, wet spring in this week’s share too. On one hand, the cool weather has been great for our spinach, and this week we’re giving out the most spinach in the history of our CSA. However, many of our spring crops are still a few weeks out. Rather than picking things too young and small, we’ve opted this week to simply go lighter on the size of the share and let things catch up in the fields. For example, we’d hate to harvest small spring onions now when waiting will make them go much farther in the CSA and in your cooking. (As one of our professors in college advised: “Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul!”)

    So, while it may be just slightly smaller than what we prefer, your share is nicely balanced, and everything is high quality and delicious — enjoy this week’s vegetables!

    Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

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