Spring – It Is About Time

daffodil fresh wiarton
Early bloomers brave the blustery spring weather.

Spring is here. No really. I think this time it’s going to stay.

Not like all those other times we had our hopes dashed. Don’t even talk to me about April when the most snow we saw all season fell. Of course, we had taken the snow blower off the tractor.

As the snow piled up, I watched all of my precious crop planning get backed up further and further. The temperatures stayed too cold to work in the unheated green house. And it continued to snow.

But , darn it, I kept up with my seeding schedule. The plants just kept growing. Then I ran out of space. Well, lights actually.

tomato seedlings fresh wiarton
Tomato seedlings growing in the hoop house, when weather permits.

We are off-grid, or we could have just slapped up a few more sets of lights, no problem. But when you are trying to balance power availability with power needs, things get a bit tricky. You have to be creative. And you have to adjust your planting schedule.

Thankfully now, only the tenderest of the seedlings are inside the house. The rest are thriving in the hoop house as I do the dance of daily (hourly) temperature moderation by rolling up, then rolling down the sides and throwing water at the driest soil as needed.

But the attention is paying off, I like to tell myself. Whether it’s due to my antics with ventilation and watering, or not, there are a few things thriving in the hoop house.

Claytonia

claytonia fresh produce wiarton
Claytonia is an unusual but tasty salad green for cold seasons.

Until last April, I had never eaten claytonia, although I had read about it in Eliot Coleman’s The Winter Harvest Handbook years ago. On a whim I threw some claytonia seed in the soil one autumn along with some spinach and miner’s lettuce. None of the claytonia grew, so I promptly forgot about my experiment.

The following spring weird spoon-shaped rosettes started happily growing. And growing. Then there were flowers! Yup, claytonia. I tried it and was pleased with the fresh green flavour. It looked kinda fancy on my plate, too.

Little did I know, the claytonia was setting a seed bank in my hoop house that I plan to reap the benefits of for seasons to come. We can harvest it quite ruthlessly and it keeps coming back. But, it does not like hot weather, so we are treating it like the seasonal specialty it is.

Orach

orach seedlings fresh produce wiarton
Seedlings of purple orach started themselves in the hoop house from last year’s plants.

These little beauties are such a welcome site after the bleak mid-winter. Rosy and slightly salty, orach adds a nice flavour profile to any salad. I talk more about it in my Seasonal Eating post from last year.

I think we need to have a contest to come up with a better name, though.

Seedlings

seedlings fresh produce wiarton
A selection of seedlings spend time outside before being planted in the garden.

Some of the cold tolerant seedlings are graduating to the great outdoors. They have to be introduced slowly to full sun, wind and cold night temperatures. More monitoring is required for these plants on their “field trip.” I am turning into quite the mother hen to these trays of vegetables and herbs.

This weekend I’ll plant out more kale and maybe some lettuce. Other seedlings are on their way to larger pots and homes with other gardeners.

The Wiarton Farmers’ Market is only two weeks away.  We’re grateful spring has decided to stick around!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Seasonal Eating – Spring

Close-up of pear tree blossoms
Pear tree blossoms are a welcome sign that spring is has arrived and lots of delicious seasonal flavours await.

 

I used our last homegrown carrots last weekend. They were purple carrots–a variety called Starburst–that I dug out of the garden in January. I put them into a curry that got slammed into the oven so I could get back to transplanting Swiss chard. Hours later, those carrots were still pretty tasty, as was the curry.

Starburst carrots dug in winter from the garden
Carrots dug from the garden January 22, 2017. Deliciously sweet!

 

Seasonal eating has been on trend for a while now. It’s something we are encouraged to explore to benefit our health, and the health of the planet. Growing most of our own vegetables here means we’ve really embraced seasonal eating. Maybe we are embracing it just a little too much, according to certain family members.

Continue reading “Seasonal Eating – Spring”

Greens on my plate

Spinach starting to come to life
Spinach starting to come to life after a long winter

There is a time in late February when a little switch in my head clicks over and I am no longer content with the cabbage slaws that have gotten me though the winter. I want greens: vibrant, lively greens, on my plate and they better be fresh.

Nothing in the local grocery can satisfy my craving. Occasionally, I try the hermetically sealed packs of salad greens and spinach from California. Green, yes. Lifeless, also yes.

Last week, the spinach that overwintered in our raised bed under cover finally was of a size that we could pick it. Also, five of last year’s red oak leaf lettuces were shooting new growth. I gingerly picked the largest leaves from both, thinning where I could. I brought the pickings into the house like the Holy Grail. A quick rinse and we had a proper salad featuring our own hard cooked eggs. It was heavenly.

There is nothing  that can compare with freshly picked salad greens given a quick rinse and tossed with your favourite dressing.  At some point though, I do look for another way to prepare spinach. One of my favourite ways is to lightly blanch it and toss with a sesame and soy sauce dressing. This is also a favourite of my daughter who has become my dressing chef. See the recipe here.

The spinach that survives the winter is ready to bolt as soon as the weather warms up, which could be any day now. It will be several weeks until the new spinach seedlings are of a size that we can start picking. We will enjoy this abundance while we have it.

A tasty picking from the garden over the weekend
A tasty picking of spinach from the garden over the weekend. Look at the size of those leaves!