In your box:
–Garlic, “Krasnodar Red”
–Head Lettuce, “New Red Fire”
So…. what exactly happened to summer?
After a great first half of the summer growing season, we’ve somehow been transported to Seattle. It’s usually a nice refreshing change to get a cool, cloudy day in August to relax after the heat of July, but it gets a little old when we don’t see the sun for days at a time! The cool weather and lack of sunshine the past few weeks have really put the gardens on hold, as tomatoes continue to trickle in right when we should be swimming in them. Cucumbers and squash also need a lot of heat to stay happy, and we’ve had a drop-off in their production as well.
The only things happy with this weather are the head lettuce, which is usually stressed and hard to come by in August with typical late summer heat, and our boys—with all of the rain we’ve had lately, there is no shortage of puddles to play in! Entering our driveway is about as fun as driving through a mine field: the whole muddy path is littered with diggers, dumpers, and Lego men swimming in the potholes.
Carrots don’t mind the weather much, as long as they have good moisture to germinate and a long stretch to keep growing. I’m so pleased to finally offer these in your box for the first time this summer. We have a couple strong plantings of carrots this year so we should have many more to come this year. I am a little worried about rot, though, after all the rain we’ve had lately. Carrots stretch so deep into the soil that they often end up sitting in the water table. If they spend too much time swimming they start to rot, and the result is a beautiful half-carrot that turns to disgusting orange goo lower in the soil profile. So far I’m not seeing much of this, so we’ll hope for the best as we continue their harvest through the end of the year.
This week we also welcome our first true garlic of the season. Garlic is the only crop we plant in fall to over-winter in the fields and come up in the spring. In warmer climates garlic can be planted as early as January or February, but with our long winters the garlic here needs a few weeks to sprout and take root in the soil before the ground freezes up. So around the 20th of October I will start breaking up my remaining garlic heads to plant the cloves out in the field. They stay beneath the surface of the soil through the winter, covered with straw to keep the ground from heaving with frosts and thaws, and poke through as early as the first week of March. Garlic grows steadily all through the spring, and by July 1st it starts to expand its root bulb. Within a couple weeks of that it is ready for harvest. So in late July I pull all of the plants out of the ground, set them in the greenhouse under circulation fans so they can dry out for storage, and start cleaning off any residual dirt and broken skins.
Home-grown garlic is infinitely tastier than the bland nonsense they offer in grocery stores. The “garlic” there is usually grown in California from two varieties that have a stable shelf-life at the expense of taste. There are hundreds and hundreds of varieties of garlic, boasting different clove patterns, coloring, taste, and storage life. I grow seven in our fields, and you’ll have a chance to try them all over the rest of the season. Garlic will be in your box every other week for the rest of the year. It does not like being in the fridge, so keep it on the kitchen counter to keep it happy. Our garlic all has a good shelf life through the winter, so there’s no need to rush to use it all up.
Expected next week: Dill, head lettuce, cucumber, squash, potatoes, chard, sweet onion, beans and tomatoes.