On April 8, we ate our first salad of baby arugula from the greenhouse. I was planning on keeping it growing until Easter, but you have to cut it when it’s ready– arugula especially will get sharp. With some luck (we’re getting cold weather now but it’s going to warm up for the rest of the week) there will be more for Easter.
I guess next year I will plant earlier. It took this arugula three weeks to grow. The radishes, which usually take three weeks to bulb, are probably going to develop fruit this week, one month out. Which suggests to me that planting earlier wouldn’t have made a difference. I waited until we set the heater on, meaning it would stay above 35 degrees at night. It never hurts to plant seed– it seems to know from the soil temperature when to grow. It’s been the same story in the cold frame, growing even more slowly because it’s colder out there.
I also harvested a full tray of tiny collards/tatsoi/mustard greens. These aren’t like the baby arugula– they are bonafide microgreens. Microgreens seem a bit precious, more like sprouts than salad, but I was given a large quantity of these seeds and really, they’re quite good mixed in with baby greens. I have another tray going inside on a heat mat under grow lights that I can use for the Easter salad, which will also include quinoa, red onion, dried apricot, and maybe some adzuki beans with a vinaigrette.
I’m always surprised how long it takes for spinach to germinate. Other greens pop up as soon as possible, but not spinach. And when it emerges, it looks like a fancy grass, with two prongs of thin, straight leaves. The round leaves develop afterward.
But spinach is nothing like carrots, which seem to take forever to germinate when I plant them outside. The greenhouse has made a huge difference for them. I’ve never had carrots sprout this early, and so many! I didn’t get any carrots last year, what with the rabbits and lack of attention to the beds. They didn’t grow themselves like I’d hoped! This year will be a different story. I’m leaving them a bit thick so I can get carrot tops. Same with the beets, which are just coming in the greenhouse bed and will contribute to greens.
April is the time of precious overlap. There is praise for the last of the storage vegetables, in my case some potatoes that I had stashed in the fridge. We ate the last quart of frozen tomatoes last week– and made a discovery there.
They were late season cherry tomatoes, blended in the food processor, cooked down a bit and frozen. In the freezer, the liquid separates more from the pulp, so on the stove the liquid boils off very quickly. I had made a little stew of chicken, beans, olives, kale, and the tomato puree. The tomatoes were so sweet and the sauce so thick, it was like tomato paste. I am planning on using that technique this year to make tomato paste in a two-part process: cook down, freeze, cook down again and can. Or freeze again. I have big plans for this year, so we’ll see.
I’m taking out my garden-to-table cookbooks and putting away the ethnic ones I use in winter. I’m reading the spring cooking magazines. I’m going out every few days to see if the asparagus is starting up and today I’ll also put some onions in the outdoor beds for spring onions. The fresh eating season has begun!