Possibilities, Uncertainties, and That Time We Made a Fart Joke

It's fun to look back over the recipes we've published here in the past. We always try to review the recipes before we re-publish them, as a few mistakes or omissions have popped into our notice with the passage of years. The journal that this recipe came from was a particular favorite, calling to mind one of the longest, wildest storms we've seen in this area for a while. It was way a ways back in February of 2019, which seems like another era, now. Pre-pandemic, and there were rainstorms in February! What a world it was. But even then it was changing.

It may also be the only journal where we made jokes about farts...except for this one, now. But it was an entire issue devoted to cabbage recipes, and it seemed appropriate, in a kind of gently inappropriate way, at the time. The recipes from that journal were all so good, too! So if you find yourself in possession of more than one head of cabbage, check out that old friend from the archives. (The Miracle of the Four Cabbages) It calls to mind a bygone era, in more ways than one. Check it out, toot sweet.

It's still officially winter, but we don't exactly believe it, these days. Or rather, we are learning that what used to be winter can no longer to be taken for granted. The changes that are happening to our global weather patterns are new to all of us, and there will absolutely be some uncomfortable shifts ahead of us. But there may also be months like this, where the weather is mild and warm, and spring seems to come early. We miss the rain as much as anyone, and we miss it on behalf of our water table, our small rivers, frogs, and fish, especially. But we would do well to take in the good along with the bad; this lovely weather is perfect for getting things done in the garden, and it's a great time to slack off and enjoy nature in other ways as well; tide pool exploring, say, or an afternoon picnic on a perfect, balmy day. (The hand pies from the Four Miracles journal would be a good fit for such a picnic, just sayin'...)

Looking back at the weather in last month, the changes are noticeable. It was the driest January on record across much of the state (since at least 1895, according to weatherwest.com). Temperatures were, on average, warmer than usual, although with a wide dirunal spread, which means that although the overnight minimum temperatures were slightly colder than usual, the daytime high temperatures were significantly above average, thereby making the average temperature for January warmer overall. This makes for some interesting gardening, to be sure; it will require a bit of trial and error, and an even larger tolerance for risk and luck than the home gardener (or the farmer, for that matter) usually faces. Many cool-season crops, like the beloved brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts) and the chenopods (chard, beets) are planted in relation to the last expected frost dates, to say nothing of the even more sensitive summer solanums (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant). But what can we expect, these days? We are all learning, over and over, to expect the unexpected, to adapt to changing situations, to do the best we can, and to take notes in order to watch the new patterns even as they form.

So it's a good time to try some things. The cabbage family, particularly, is quite tolerant of frost and cold weather, being sweetened by the effect of frost on semi-mature plants. (Too much cold when the seedlings are still very small can stunt their growth or make them bolt when the weather finally warms up). It's a good time to plant cabbage, which generally takes between 60-100 days to mature, depending on the weather and the variety. That means that it's a good time to plant seedlings out, with a little asterisk floating like a snowflake above this advice; if it gets too cold, cover them up with a frost blanket at night, until the weather warms). This should put you on track to harvest your cabbages right about the time for getting the summer crops in the ground. Ditto broccoli, and cauliflower. Kale is even easier, since it does not need to form a perfect head in order to be harvested. It's a good time for beets and chard, for peas of all kinds.(The beets and peas we like to direct seed, but chard is sometimes easier to plant from seedlings). It's a good time for lettuce, and herbs like parsley and cilantro. Direct-seeded root crops like parsnips, and carrots, and turnips are also a wise thing to plant right now. If you have the space and the energy for it, this can actually be a very productive time in the garden, full of tender green possibilities. Warm days and cool nights, and nothing taken for granted. We are making the most of these changing times, leaning into spring, sowing seeds amidst the uncertainty.
By Jessica Tunis