In the cold garden

Nero di Toscana strap kale

The star by far of the last planting of brassicas, that mostly didn’t size up in time for market or CSA, is without at doubt this unusual Nero Di Toscana strap kale. This Italian heirloom, apparently from Tuscany, is hardly better looking than the cold-beaten rest of the motley-looking crew: tiny cauliflower, mini savoy cabbage, some collards and this kale. But it’s growing back—been picked twice since October—and it’s amazingly, distinctively tasty. In the post-freeze veggie garden, looks aren’t everything! I’ve had the seed for a while, but grew it for the first time this season. It’ll definitely be back.

Last of the brassica in late November

Tiny fall cauliflower tastes good

Tiny cauliflower

Harvested a few tiny (tennis ball to softball-sized, like, orange to grapefruit…little ones!) cauliflower from the last-planted section of brassicas that also has kale and broccoli. It’s still producing in home-consumption quantities, but with the exception of some strap kale, they entirely missed sizing up in time for CSA or the farmers’ market at the end of October. This is the normal. I usually take a chance on a final, extra-late planting—sometimes they make it, sometimes they don’t. Now, growth is so slow, the field is really just convenient live storage.

Not ideal storage, though. These plants are hardy, but the cold—many sub-zero nights—does take its toll on the parts you want to eat. Kale fares the best, broccoli is quickly savaged, and exposed heads of cauliflower get cold-burned to an unappetizing, mushy in spots, brown. BUT, with self-blanching varieties (this one is Minuteman), the leaves curl close to cover the heads, protecting them from sun discoloration (so our white cauliflower can be…snowy white), and this works fine against cold as well.

Then there’s the eating. The summer’s abundance of fresh-picked veggies has been over for a while, and every little taste of what remains becomes more of a treat as winter approaches, supplies dwindle, memories fade. The wheel keeps on turning…! :)

Spinach finale

Last spinach harvest of the year

So this is it for the season’s spinach, a last 18lbs (8kg) of Spargo, unfazed by many subzero nights and all sorts of up-and-down weather antics. Spinach is one of the great ones for cold-climate tiny farming, easy-going once it gets started, tough under freezing conditions, and always in demand… The deer that’ve been lurking and circling the field all year have started to come in for an exploratory nibble here and there, working their way in from the edges. At this point, it’s slim pickings! They discovered one edge of this final, late-planted, slowly-growing spinach patch a couple of days ago, so we (Lynn, Steve, and I) grabbed the rest this morning.  Between us and them (mostly us!), the spinach is done!

First snow, 2009

First snow to stick for winter 2009

Here it is, in the dim, chilly, gray 7:30 am light: the first snow to stick this fall. Familiar—we really do have such a short growing season, time flies—and of course not welcome, because there’s still fieldwork to do. And I’ll take warmth and greenery any day. But this first round will be gone by mid-morning, and if the 15-day forecast holds anywhere near mildly accurate, we won’t be in for snow that stays for at least another couple of weeks. The last two years in this region, winter came kinda early, freezing weather and long-term snow arrived by the end of November. But the couple of seasons before that, far as I remember, we were actually WATCHING for winter well into January. So, who knows?!