TITLE: After the Storm
DATE: 3/19/2010 05:28:00 AM
Normally, Farmer Brett grows field greens throughout the relatively mild DC winters. He has cultivated his seeds for kales, mustard greens and other brassicas to withstand bouts of cold and snow. Temperatures rarely fall below freezing for longer than 72 hours, allowing most of the greens to quickly spring back after the brief shock. And a light blanket of snow is no match for his winter hardy brassicas.
This year, winter was different: The DC area was pummeled with several feet of snow – they had more snow in one storm than Boston had all season.
Brett depends on the greens (salad and cooking) to create diversity for the winter CSA subscribers. In addition, he offers free-range eggs, sweet potatoes that were harvested in the fall, and other summer crops that were preserved for winter: seasoned salts, sundried tomatoes and jams. Because he is at the mercy of the weather, the best crop insurance is a diversity of crops. If one fails, there are back-ups.
Thankfully, he also has a greenhouse. Despite brutal weather, the greenhouse is warm, bright and filled with hardy lettuces: romaine, tat-soi, Chinese thick stem mustard, and an assortment of fresh herbs. It’s true – the greenhouse lettuces are not as flavorful and textured as their field counterparts. The winds and natural rainwater give the field lettuces their robust flavor. Nonetheless, the greenhouse produce is still more vibrant than any California green available at the market in the dead of winter. And until the weather cooperates, this will suffice.
After several days of 60F temps and substantial rain the fields have defrosted. And the mustard greens and kales are slowly rejuvenating. Alas, the fall planting of radishes did not fare as well: they were too small for harvest at the onslaught of snow. After the thaw, they are woody and dry.
And in a corner of the greenhouse, seeds are sprouting summer hopefuls. In early June, these teeny tomato sprouts will be transformed into robust plants bestowing sweet juicy tomatoes.