Spring Growth

Spring Growth

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Unexpected Winter Celery

Ahh, a January thaw is a wonderful thing. I can see the farm! The cover crops are all smooshed down, but very green. The chickens are acting like spring chickens, and suddenly Paul and I remember the crazed state that warm weather puts us in. Thankfully a January thaw is just a little taste and soon we'll be able to hunker down to seed orders and planning and not feel the pull toward outside. We need wintertime to be able to think.

I'm putting the Carrot Tutorial Part II on hold for now and thought I'd talk about celery. Winter celery is a new one for us. Last year we decided to try to always have celery available as part of the mix and match. Celery takes a while to grow, but once we started harvesting it around mid August we did have it for the rest of the season. At the end of the summer CSA there was still quite a bit left out in the field.

Paul's grandfather was a farmer down in Lancaster PA, and Paul's mother had told us how he used to dig a pit around November 1st, fill it with celery plants that still had a good chunk of roots left on them, cover the whole thing with soil and then straw, and would be able to have celery at Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas. Last fall was so mild that we didn't even consider harvesting the celery until around December 1st. At that time our walk in cooler was busting at the seams, but Regional Access has a big cooler with pallet spaces for rent. So, the first Monday after all of our employees had left for the season we headed out to the field with a big pallet bin, some plastic liners, and a couple shovels. Glorious! It was a crisp clear day and the celery was so green and the soil so black and crumbly. We did some calculations and decided to harvest about 4 bins of celery. Each bin holds about 125 celery plants. With shovels we dug up whole plants, leaving a good hunk of roots and lots of dirt attached to each plant. Then we packed the celerys into the plastic lined bins, dirt and all. The plastic liner was pulled up and over the top of the plants. Celery likes to store very cold - close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and likes to be really moist - around 95 percent humidity. The dirt on the roots keeps them hydrated, and provides some hydration to the stalks and leaves as well. The plants were left whole, that is, we didn't cut off any of the leaves before they were stored. It may not be obvious if you aren't a gardener or a regular study of where food comes from in the winter, but celery is never locally available around here in the winter. This is a new thing! And the kind of thing that gets Paul and I going. Farm nerds. The question was - will it work??

Jump forward about 2 weeks to December 14th (for those of you who are really paying attention the first winter CSA celery came straight out of the field). It's time to wash celery for the second winter CSA distribution. Paul heads over to regional and loads up a pallet bin of celery on the pickup and drives home. We look in.... it looks fantastic!! And It's December! We wash the celery by cutting off the soil-filled roots, and lopping off the top of the leaves. We also pick off blemished stalks. Then the whole plant is sprayed off and packed into a box. Now, as you know, these celery plants are not perfect LOOKING specimens, but I personally feel that they are some kind of good tastin' - and - if you know about seasonal availability - surprising! With all of that being said, the celery is now kaput. So this ode to celery is more of a memorial. We now know that celery, if picked around December 1st, will last until about January 20th. Not bad. i hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. Actually, if you have any feed back about the celery, send me an email and let me know your thoughts.

We are now taking 2010 Summer Memberships. Think strawberries and peas. We are keeping the price the same as last year - $500 for the summer share and $275 for next winter's share. Please read the FAQs page of the website before you sign up. I'll be sending out another announcement soon - all of you winter CSA members get to hear this first. We will have sign up forms at the distribution, and there is a sign up form on the website as well. $125 down payment secures your spot.

Please note: Jonah and Christina from the Hazelnut Kitchen are away this week. There will not be a to-go menu this week.

Here's the list for this week. A "/" indicates a choice. As you will see, we are lumping most of the items together into one big mix and match weight. We are doing this in an effort to provide you with even more choice in what you take home. When you are at distribution it would be helpful if everyone weighed out their vegetables in increments of 4 pounds or so. Hopefully this will prevent too much backing up at the scales.

Asian greens

potatoes/beets/carrots/parsnips/purple top turnips/gold ball turnips/
rutabagas/daikon/watermelon radishes/celeriac/cabbage

(The share will include 12lbs of the above group. Please take some time before you come to decide what amounts of each you may want. That will help speed up the process. If you weigh in roughly four pound increments it will help keep the scales free and keep people from moving back and forth through the line. Thanks.)


Alright, see you soon!


1 comment:

wren said...

Love the technical insight . . . keep it coming!