Friday, May 25, 2012

Greens

The spring avalanche takes me by surprise, year after year.  Only yesterday I was putting sheets over the apple trees, to protect them from frost.  Now they are covered with little offspring, as is everything else around here.

Today I saw that the spinach was developing those pointy leaves that, like a teenager's discontent, portend its imminent bolting.  This evening, as soon as the air cooled down a bit, I took defensive action, harvesting four big bags of spinach and mustard greens.  But you know how greens are.  By the time I got through rinsing and blanching and cooling and draining, the original six pounds had dwindled to five.

When I freeze vegetables, I always wish I had four, or even six, sinks instead of only two.  While one batch is blanching on the stove, another is being put through its two rinses of cool well water;  another is draining in a colander and dripping all over the counter;  the one that's just been blanched is cooling in a bowl filled with ice water;  and yet another is waiting impatiently, in yet another colander, to be put into freezer bags.

This year, I'm recycling freezer bags.  All winter long, as I used the veggies from our freezer, I rinsed out, dried and stored away the bags.  Now I am refilling them with this spring's harvest, relabeling them, and putting them in the freezer for next winter.  As I crossed out last year's dates, I noticed that this spring's avalanche isn't unique.  One year ago I was doing exactly what I am doing now--freezing spinach, mustard, and the first heads of broccoli--and feeling as rushed and harassed as I am now.

Besides recycling bags, I'm doing another weird "green" thing this year:  instead of yanking out the lamb's quarters that sprout in the vegetable beds, I'm letting them grow among the lettuce, spinach and mustard.  I'm snipping off those tender, buttery little leaves and putting them in salads, and even freezing them along with the greens.  I remember noticing in the past that when I threw a bunch of weeds into the chicken yard, the hens would go right for the lamb's quarters.  They knew what they were about.

(If you decide to try this, do not confuse lamb's quarters, which have roughly triangular small leaves growing along an upright stem, with lamb's ears, the low-to-the-ground, fuzzy gray ornamental.  I have no idea what lamb's ears taste like, but lamb's quarters are terrific.)

Memorial Day is around the corner, a date made especially significant in these latitudes because it is the time to finally put in the hot weather crops:  tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, pumpkins and squash.  I'm going to get those transplants tomorrow, and the day after that, whether the spinach has bolted or not, they're going into the spinach beds.

7 comments :

  1. "Today I saw that the spinach was developing those pointy leaves that, like a teenager's discontent, portend its imminent bolting." Brilliant line!

    Though "yanking out the lamb's quarters" sounded violent to me. Spring = lambs (real, live lambs) in my world.

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  2. Mali, I imagine you see a lot of lambs in the spring in NZ.

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    1. Especially when you grow up on a sheep farm like I did.

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  3. i know you'll be happy next winter when you eat these fresh frozen greens,but this sounds like SO much work.

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  4. Laurie, it is a lot of work, especially the blanching and freezing, which I enjoy less than the gardening. But it does save me a lot of trips to the supermarket, and I do get satisfaction knowing where my food comes from. Also, the nine 4'x4' beds produce way more than we can use, so the rest I give to the local food bank, as my easy version of community service.

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  5. I know, it's my favorite. But no matter how much I plant, I never get enough.

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