Friday, March 12, 2010

Full Field Tour-Fall Planted Crops

It is getting more difficult for me to wander out far into the field as I have been tied down to the farm stand in order to facilitate the trade of cash for vegetables. I finally squeezed in an afternoon of farm field observation yesterday. Because I saw so much, I will have to report my findings in two segments. The first is relating to those crops that were planted for Fall/Winter/Spring and how they are cooperating with the environment and season.

Let's start with the celeriac, or celery roots. They are still out there, but getting sparse and large. I have always enjoyed the way these look both in the ground and post harvest. It is a fascinating vegetable all around. A few celery and celeriac will continue to harvest for the next weeks in March, but when the spring fever hits, I imagine these plants will go over the hill if not harvested first. The new round of these are likely up and living in the green house, a long, long way to harvest. They can take weeks just for the seed to poke up from under the soil.

The leeks are still abundant. That is important because the onions have since deceased for the season and the leeks are providing that spicy onion infusion to all the cooking these days. Continue to enjoy them in with many of these fall planted crops, the challenge is to get through them before the season changes too much. If spring hits the leek will then set up a flower shoot and try to reproduce thereby ruining the tender and edible quality of the plant. I have no doubt we will enjoy every last bit of these leeks though...between the winter CSA, the Ferry Plaza and the faithful farm stand Tierra has plenty of hungry mouths to feed.

Whatever became of all the dino/lacintao kale? Just as I described above, the spring fever flowering syndrome kicked in for many kales, broccolis and mustards about the time the yellow field mustards started blooming. When it was warmer a few weeks back, many of these shorter season winter varieties hit the end of their life cycle causing the crew to turn to other more long lasting varieties for the harvest. Swiss chard takes the spring weather much more gradually and puts out beautiful new growth this time of the year. Time to enjoy the chard and wait it out for the new crop of kale later this spring.

This is the leafy, pretty speckled Castelfranco radiccho. Heartily carrying us through the winter a a lettuce substitute, these greens are slightly bitter, but make a perfectly beautiful and tasty salad serving. They can also be cooked if you like your greens a little more wilted before eating. There are a few of these still out in the field in addition to a few more well known radicchio varieties. Not a lot though! The puntarella, a similar bitter Italian green, is over the hill and done for the season. It is the last chance for this stuff and will be ifffy to see if any of it actually makes it up to the farm stand out of the field....some times it just isn't worth while.

There is some nice looking fennel....this is something to enjoy NOW! Fennel is a nice little crop, almost weed like, as it grows most of the year round and seems to endure many conditions that the seasons present. Note the wild fennels that invade our local road sides. Leave it to mother nature sometimes to remind us what we ought to be growing.

Broccoli or cauliflower, that is the question. Who knows for sure? Perhaps Lee who chose the seed, but even she loses track as the plants more to the field and time passes by. If you ask Wayne or myself, we might give you opposing answers. This
one looks cauliflower, if you ask me. The plant on the left is characteristic of a cauliflower, in addition to a more cauliflower-like "flower" texture. Many of our broccoli and cauliflowers are interchangeable as they are all these fancy Italian heirlooms that look beautiful and are hard to distinguish from one another. The image on the right is likely a purple broccoli which is again confusing to folks. No one expects their broccoli to be colors other than green. Don't worry too much whether it is actually a cauliflower or a broccoli...they are really all the same thing if you ask me.

Our final image for the fall crop field tour includes a characteristic, perfect cabbage by Tierra Vegetables. Are these for your fresh eating pleasure or Lee's last batch of sauerkraut, I do not know. Likely both. When getting caught up looking around for lettuces that are not to be found, be flexible and switch your perspective on over to opportunities like fresh cabbage salads and all that other seasonal, local food that has been more hearty and made it through our chilly, wet Sonoma County winter.

Spring crops to come!

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