It's April, and the air is humming here at Mountain Feed. Spring is always one of our busiest times, as the days begin to warm and lengthen, and the time for planting our summer gardens draws nearer, even as the bareroot season comes to an end. Spring seems to arrive early each year; the buds on our bareroot trees began to swell even by late February! The last of the bareroot trees have been potted up, their bare branches giving way in the edible nursery for a new infusion of green, tender plants. Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and basil are arriving every week, their young leaves only hinting at the wild profusion they may bring to fruit by mid-summer. Peppers and eggplants, beans and corn are due in a few weeks.
Before they can be planted into the ground, however, the garden needs tending. Whatever old vines may linger in corners, weeds that need pulling, cover crops ready to be tilled in, now is the time to tend the soils in our care. This might mean adding a layer of compost, or building a new raised bed, or stringing a new trellis for pole beans. It's a good time to take stock of last season--what worked, and what didn't? Which varieties did well? Plant more of those this year, or experiment further with whichever wild heirloom or new hybrid catches your fancy. Many of us choose to balance curiosity with known yields; choosing old standby varieties for the bulk of our crops, but leaving room for playful experimentation; orange tomatoes, purple carrots, white eggplant. After all, the beauty and the surprises a garden brings are a huge part of the process.
The ongoing drought in California can complicate things, but luckily there are a lot of beneficial practices that we can use to mitigate and reduce our water usage. Mulch your garden early enough to retain the moisture in the soil, and try to water more deeply, less often. This draws the young roots downward, anchoring them firmly and allowing them to access water beneath the surface of the soil. This is equally true for ornamental plants as well.
For many of us here at Mountain Feed, this is a time to draw a deep breath and sink our own roots a little deeper back into the soil. Some of you may know that we were asked to participate in the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, back in mid-March, teaching classes and staffing an educational booth space that was nearly 50 x 50 feet! We were busy as worker bees in a hive in the weeks before the show, building the displays from scratch out of salvaged and local material, gathering merchandise and expertise from every corner of the store. While the show was truly an inspirational event, drawing visitors from all over, we are glad to be back home in our own little corner of the Santa Cruz mountains, shifting our focus back onto the gardens and kitchens (and apiaries!) closest to our hearts.
We'll let you know just as soon as package bees arrive, but in the meantime we've been busy here, hosting classes with Karla and stocking up on beekeeping supplies in anticipation of a busy spring bee season. With weather in the mid-seventies, many flowers that we expect to see blooming in the summer are already in their full glory. It can be hard to keep up, sometimes, in these changing times. But nothing anchors us to the earth and our place on it like slowing down, paying attention, and digging in.
While the bounty of the summer harvest is still months away, there's still plenty to preserve in the garden. While nothing compares to the springtime freshness of asparagus--so fleeting! so delicious!--pickled asparagus is a joy in it's own right; tangy, rich and nutty, a perfect complement to a condiment platter or a bloody mary. We canned some up the other day, in gorgeous half-liter Weck jars made just for that purpose. The recipe called for the spears to be placed point down, so that in removing them from the jar to eat, the tender tips would not be damaged. We managed to follow the instructions for a few jars, but had to do a few jars with the tips facing upwards, too. Somehow the asparagus is such a vertically oriented plant, it seemed a shame to can it upside down. And the tips are so much more visible, and beautiful, crowning the top of the jar, than down on the bottom, sunk into the spices. We may sing a different tune when the time comes to open and eat them, but for now, we're not sorry that we let esthetics trump practicality, just for a moment. Here's the recipe we followed.
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It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you make delicious, sustainable, homemade food more often. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.