Wow — this weekend. Wow — this week. Wow — this spring!!!
Warm. That is the word of the day, week, season. And dry. Oh, how the island buzzed with activity all weekend long — tractors running all hours because the soil was ready, and it is time. In some cases, it is past time, and people have long ago planted and are now weeding or irrigating. Our neighbors across the street pulled out their big reel irrigation gun this weekend, much to the kids’ delight (there is something hypnotic and lovely about the slow rhythm of those big sprinklers: sploosh … sploosh … sploosh … ).
Casey began irrigating our own fields over a week ago now. He gave himself plenty of time to get it all set up the first time, because this is one of those moments when we could find out that something has gone awry over the winter of rest with any of the pieces — the pipes, sprinklers, pump, panel … fortunately, it went well, with just the usual (and quite fixable) start-of-the-season clogs. Irrigating has continued since then, as the weather has continued to be dry.
This weekend, it was not just dry, but windy. We were visited by a very unseasonal north wind, usually reserved for mid-winter (when it brings the coldest temperatures of the year) or mid-summer (when it brings the hottest temps). These north winds can be very drying and damaging, so we were glad to already be in the irrigating routine. All our newly planted starts are still so small and young that a few hours of hot wind without soil moisture could be the end of them! A good thing to avoid!
We keep talking about the weather (because how can we not?) and wondering how the season will play out. It felt so much like summer this weekend, and yet we are still at the beginning of May. We find it challenging sometimes to keep perspective about what is “normal,” when the previous season(s) still loom so large in our memories. The last two years brought record-setting wetness, making this year seem highly anomalous in a different direction. But then we reach back further in our memory and recall planting tomatoes on the weekend of Alien Daze (not quite the end of May) in 2008 — and then regretting it because it was too hot (over 100° I believe!). So, May has been warm in the our farm’s past too, but maybe not so consistently so quite this early? Hard to tell.
And, what does this weather now say about the summer itself? We wonder, what will it be like in August? There do seem to be over-arching trends to seasons (2006 was a scorcher from start to finish; 2012 was cold and wet). In which case, we are planning to stay ahead of the game on irrigation, because we may need it more than ever. Often we receive some significant rainfall in May (and sometimes even in June), giving us a cushion for the start of the summer. But if it just stays more or less dry from now on out, then it is on, and we will be working almost daily to keep our vegetable and fruit crops irrigated.
Casey and I were also talking this weekend about adjusting parts of our planting schedule. We’ve already been picking peas as a family for over a week now, and the first real picking for the CSA is right around the corner — over a month earlier than many other years. Everything is getting shifted, which takes some pressure off in some places, but we also don’t want certain crops ready too early. We’ve found that there’s really a “sweet spot” for things like winter squash and other fall harvest crops — done too early and they have to be in storage too long (and sometimes get “over” ripe before we pick them, which seems to cause premature spoilage too). We’re keeping on eye on the weather trends as we move forward into the really hot and heavy period of May work.
We also celebrated May Day last week, the midpoint between the start of spring and the start of summer. We are now in the half of the year with the maximum photosynthetic potential! Otherwise known as The Main Growing Season! The world is awake and working hard to “make hay” before the fall rains and darkness return (on some farms, literally make hay — we saw a baler in action this Saturday!). Robins are doing their mating dance; trees are leafing out in earnest; grass is growing; and us people are busy as ever. The next two months are some of our fullest on the farm — planting, irrigating, mowing, harvesting, weeding, etc. It seems to all happen at once in this season, and so we are preparing our minds and bodies to jump into it with great eagerness and joy. Here we go!
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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We are still taking new members for our “Main Season” vegetable CSA! We’re looking to add more new CSA members, beginning later this month (May 28). If you know of anyone who is interested (or have just been dragging your own feet), now is the time to send in the form! You can find it here.
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Meet this week’s vegetables:
- Fennel bulb — For some reason, fennel is one of the most mysterious of all vegetables to folks. I guess it doesn’t seem to fall into any existing culinary category (root, fresh eating green, cooking green), but really it’s quite wonderfully easy once you get to know it. The aim here is to eat the bulb itself, which has a texture similar to celery when raw and a flavor reminiscent of anise. Some people enjoy grating it raw and adding it to a slaw (perhaps with some of this week’s cabbage?). Or, you can chop into large chunks and roast with other vegetables (it will caramelize slightly like onions). Our favorite method though is to chop into small pieces and saute in butter or oil as the start of a dish — we might then cook greens in the pan, or add tomatoes and make a sauce to serve over meat, or any other number of directions. We find the flavor to be mild and love it in the background with other vegetables.
- Radishes & salad turnips
- Lettuce — What is this tender beautiful green? Oh my, it’s lettuce! As you know, we keep making what we call “salad mix” all year, but in the winter we shift it to include fields greens that appear to be a learned preference. Honestly, we love these winter greens, but when spring brings the first lettuce, it is quite a treat. We made Big Green Salads for lunch this weekend, topped with egg salad and salmon. It was a wonderful way to eat on a hot day when we didn’t want to turn on the stove! Hoorah for a shift in seasonal eating!
- Collard greens — We have been eating tons of collard greens lately (I think we ate them three times in one day last week!), and I thought I’d share a tip (to add to my “how to eat heaps of greens” description) — the stems of collards are sweet but take a very long time to cook to softness. I tend to strip the leaves from the ribs/stems for quicker cooking. Collards still take the longest to cook of any green (mustards and chard seem to be the fastest, followed by kale, then collards), so give yourself a little extra time regardless of cooking method or “doneness” preference.
- Chard — On the hand, I love chard stems and ribs — they are so sweet right now! For chard I just trim the bottom couple of inches, depending on how long they have been in storage (this part can dry out and be less tender). Then I chop the rest and put it into pan just ahead of the leaves (the stem takes slightly longer to cook). I especially love how the chopped chard stems look in soups.