Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spinach: An Endangered Species

Here's why I think that we may not be eating spinach many more seasons, if things continue the way they are:
 
Spinach seeds have to be planted directly outdoors instead of starting them indoors and then transplanting. That's one of the cardinal rules of gardening.  So every year, while there is still snow on the ground, and often in the middle of a blizzard, I go out and sow spinach seeds in the garden. 

The seeds take a long time to sprout, and the seedlings take forever to grow to harvest size.  I planted spinach at the end of March, and it seems like we only started eating it a couple of weeks ago.  But since then we've had a string of sultry August-like days, and today I had to pick all the spinach and freeze it, because almost every plant had started to bolt.  Spinach is a cool season crop, and goes to seed and becomes inedible when the weather turns hot.  So if you want lots of spinach for fabulous cream soups and yummy quiches in January, you need a nice, long, coolish spring.

The kind of spring I came to Vermont for.  The kind of spring we used to have in Maryland before that state's weather patterns became part of the Deep South..  The kind of spring we seem to be running out of, everywhere.

I expect the lettuce will bolt soon, as well as the mustard greens.  I picked the first head of broccoli to have for dinner tonight, and this too seems premature.  When I lived in Maryland, I used to have to pull up the broccoli plants in June, because the weather was too hot, and the cabbage caterpillars were all over the plants.  But in Vermont, the broccoli kept producing all summer long.  At the rate it's going now, that may not happen this year.

Vermont, I'm afraid, is turning semi-tropical, and this brings me to the topic of bugs, which are growing to semi-tropical size.  Yesterday I saw something large and orange flit by, and I thought it was a Baltimore oriole.  It flitted back, and I realized it was a bird-sized butterfly.  In the garage last night I met a wolf spider that, with its legs extended, was a full three inches in diameter.  As a result, I'm now storing my barn shoes up on a shelf instead of leaving them on the ground.

When the dreaded cave crickets arrive from the South, I'm moving to Alaska.  I hear you can still grow spinach there.

7 comments :

  1. can't spiders climb? I have heard they can...

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  2. Oh, lord! I'm sure some can. I thought wolf spiders were sort of hole-dwellers and stayed near the ground...must look this up.

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  3. Move to NZ. Our entire summer was a long cool spring!

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  4. Mali, you don't know how tempting this sounds!

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  5. I have been surveying my own garden and its early production of vegetables (Okra is beginning to come in). But this "short" on the Scientific American web site caught my eye. You and your readers might find it interesting.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-worlds-weather-could-quickly-run-amok&WT.mc_id=SA_CAT_SP_20120528

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  6. John, thanks for the link. It's one of the scariest things I've read in a long time. To add to the article's list of ill omens, the first broccoli of the season, which I harvested yesterday, already had several cabbage worms. The bugs are on the march.

    In the meantime, carpe okra!

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  7. I planted 30 tomato plants this year and good that I did because I've lost 1 a day for 5 days in a row. Just up and died, crispy brown wilted sadness. The ones in pots are going fine. I think my dirt is sick. But only for tomatoes. The strawberries, basil, peppers (same family!!), lettuce, peas, etc., did/do fine.

    My spinach bolted in May. The leaves were as big as my thumbs and it was done. But the okra and sweet potatoes look promising.

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