Just in the nick of time, as the freezer stands empty except for a few jars of tomato sauce from two years ago and I am faced with the prospect of buying veggies at the store,the spinach is big enough to pick.
Mid-May is early for anything except dandelions in Vermont. But we have spinach because our vegetable garden is against a south-facing wall of the house, and thus in zone 5 as opposed to 4. And we have spinach because I followed the advice I heard somewhere long ago to plant spinach in the snow. Well, not exactly, because the snow on the garden unexpectedly melted overnight, but I went out with my planting stick and poked holes in the frozen mud and dropped in the spinach seeds.
The compost was still frozen solid inside the bins, so I wasn't able to fertilize the spinach beds. A couple of weeks later the compost had defrosted enough that I could put it on the garden, which I did. When I came to the spinach beds, I hated to pass them by. But if I covered the about-to-sprout seeds with a layer of heavy hay and chicken poop, they might never surface. On the other hand, those about-to-sprout seeds would surely appreciate a little food after those cold weeks in the ground.
Figuring that the experiment was probably a failure anyway—the spinach should have sprouted days earlier—I threw down some compost so that at least the ground would be ready when I decided to give up on the spinach and try another crop.
Before I could do that, however, the first thread-like cotyledons (the predecessors of the true leaves) emerged. At first there were only a couple, and I had to practically use a magnifying glass to see them. But then more came up, in all three beds, and pretty soon the real leaves emerged, and now, right in the middle of May, we have spinach!
We have it in, and on, everything. In omelettes and soups and salads and stews. On tortilla pizzas and pasta and open-faced sandwiches. It is young and innocent and melts in your mouth—it is spinach veal, as a friend used to call it.
“Isn't it wonderful to have spinach so early?” I ask the Conservative Eater who shares my table. He nods. “Don't you love how fresh and tender it is?” Another nod. “Aren't you glad we don't have to buy spinach in those plastic bags and get salmonella?” He nods for the third time.
And because the third time's a charm I decide to let matters rest, and to rejoice quietly in my heart that I went out in March and stuck seeds into the frozen mud, and watered and kept a watchful eye over them, and now can eat spinach until I burst.