Culinary rhizomes: Ginger and turmeric

We’re all familiar with ginger root (from the grocery store or dried whole or powdered) and turmeric (commonly found in curry powder–the bright yellow-orange stuff), and galangal in Southeast Asian cooking, but you can add those to the things you can grow in your kitchen garden–even if it is a container garden.

The ginger family of plants (Zingiberaceae) provides us with a number of “spices” that we use frequently:  ginger (Zingiber officinale), turmeric(Curcuma longa), and galangal (Alpinia officinarum or “lesser galangal), and cardamom seeds (genera Elettaria–green cardamom-and Amomum–black cardamom).

Ginger, turmeric, and galangal are perennial herbaceous plants with specialized horizontal stems (rhizomes) that lie underground, but close to the surface.  While we are most likely to encounter these in the dried form or find the ginger rhizomes in the produce section of the grocery store, you can add the fresh forms of some of these to your culinary repertoire.

All these plants mentioned above have similar requirements for growing: even moisture, well-drained soil, partial to dappled shade, warm temperatures, and high humidity, and protection from cold.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

You can start your ginger by getting the “root stock” (an official technical term here) from the grocery store.   You want rhizomes that are plump, and fresh looking, and that have knobs or nubs growing off the main part of the root.  It’s likely that the ginger root you find in the grocery store will have been treated with something to retard growth/sprouting, so rinse it thoroughly before you plant it.

Bury it about one inch deep in well-drained soil and keep evenly moist.  If you’re planting it in a pot, you should use one that is of 12- to14-inch diameter and about same in depth, but does not need the full depth of most 14 inch pots.

It may take a few weeks before you see shoots appear.  You’ll not want to harvest your ginger heavily the first season, but you can harvest some after about 4 months.  Ginger will not need (or like) full sun–it would prefer part (dappled) shade.  In areas where you get hard freezes, you’ll need to overwinter indoors.  In areas where the winter is mild, it may die back to the ground with the onset of cool weather but should come up again in the spring.  (I’m partial to growing it in large pots).  During the summer it can be put outdoors and moved to shelter to prevent freezing in winter.  It should be fertilized with an all-purpose fertilizer about twice during the growing season.

You harvest by very gently uncovering part of the rhizome, or where it’s seen above the surface towards the edge of the pot–leaving the center portion undisturbed.

The ginger you harvest from your plant will be much less fibrous and less “hot” when compared to the large rhizomes that you purchase in the grocery store.  The leaves/stalks can also be used to brew tea (steep leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes) and you can add to stir-fries or other dishes if you slice the stalks/leaves thinly–it has a mild ginger flavor and maybe a hint of lemon or citrus.

Turmeric ( Curcuma domestica syn Curcuma longa)

Turmeric is touted as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant–I’m not touching on those properties here, but rather the culinary uses.  It has been called “poor man’s saffron” and that’s one of my favorite things: add fresh turmeric to rice.  It’s very earthy and warm.  It’s not saffron, but it’s good.

To grow your own, you’ll need the fresh rhizomes–found in Asian, Indian or Latina groceries–probably located close to the ginger, (and maybe the galangal).  You’ll treat it almost as you would ginger:  plant about one to two inches deep in a 12- to 14-inch pot (about 12 inches in depth as well), keep evenly moist but well-drained, and give it part shade to dappled shade.  This is also a tropical perennial so it will need winter protection.  In cool weather, the leaves will die back, but if not frozen the rhizomes should sprout again in the spring.  (I tried keeping some, with the ginger, in the house to overwinter, but neither turmeric nor ginger survived as a plant; the rhizomes did put up shoots again in the spring.)

You can harvest as you would ginger–by carefully cutting off small pieces toward the edges of the pot.  You need to handle with care as it will stain hands and probably counters–it’s used as a dye, too.   Left undisturbed (except for harvesting from the edges) you may see blooms in the second year.

Turmeric is currently appearing in chocolate bars, and being touted as a “superfood”. I just like the earthy flavor, in many things where I would use saffron (but am too cheap to do that).

I hope to add galangal if I can find the fresh rhizome–there is an Asian food store that I keep watching. I suspect I’ll find it there sooner or later.

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Perennial alliums

The “lilies of the kitchen”–yes, I borrowed the title from a book by Barbara Batcheller (See Bibliography–Vegetable Cookbooks)” are onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, and scallions!  They are often hidden away in the sofrito/soffrito or the mirepoix, but they can make fantastic dishes on their own.  I can’t imagine a kitchen without these “lilies”.  In my kitchen, being without onions and garlic is just about as big a catastrophe as being out of chocolate or coffee!

Can you really cook without all the Allium family? Caramelized onions, roasted garlic, scallions or green onions to add to salads and chives to top the baked potato.  Then there are leeks…another under-used, and perhaps, under-appreciated vegetable as an ingredient as a vegetable on their own.

While most of this family are now readily available in the supermarket, there are some that it’s worthwhile growing in your own garden.  Others, unless you have a huge garden and want to be self-sufficient, it’s much easier to buy.  The regular “yellow” or storage onions that we cook with–they’re inexpensive.  Most of us don’t have space or the humidity/temperatures required to store the quantity that we use in a season so buying those makes good sense.

Others like leeks, shallots, and garlic I use in such quantities that I don’t have space or time to tend. Since they are also readily available from the supermarket or the farmer’s market I’ll opt to buy as well. Some that we use “green”–like scallions might be worth growing but still demand space and time.

When we speak of “fresh” onions, we often use the terms green onion, scallion, and spring onion interchangeably but there really are some differences. The green onion and scallion differences are mostly marketing semantics. Spring onions are just regular onions (that would eventually form a bulb) harvested while immature–as when you have to thin the onion you planted too close together. Scallions, on the other hand, are species of allium that do not form a fully developed bulb. If you’re a huge fan of alliums of all sorts there are some perennial perennials that can be good substitutes for those fresh ones that we normally buy, and they can be grown in small spaces–or even large containers.

batun

A. fistulosum

Allium fistulosumor bunching onion is a possible stand-in for those green onions from the grocery store if you want to grow your own. While the “Welsh” is a misnomer since these came from China originally, the taste is still “green onion”, sometimes grown as an ornamental. You can find bunching onions from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

 

 

 

The Egyptian (this may also be a misnomer) –my favorite–is just plain fun with its unusual appearance that will definitely be a topic of conversation.

allium_fistulosum_bulbifera0

A. cepa x proliferu

Other common names include tree onion, top onion, walking onion, Canada onion, and Catawissa onion which may all refer to various cultivars. The Egyptian Walking Onion,  Egyption Onions , Biodiverseed and Mother Earth News websites provide some glimpses into the rather mysterious history of these (and other) onions.

Genetically it has been shown to be a cross between the common allium (Allium cepa) and the “Welsh” onion (above). Botanically speaking, it is Allium cepa x proliferum. These form bulbs, but also have top-sets which can be shared with friends. These plants multiply from the bulb in the ground as well as by producing top-sets, and sometimes topsets on topsets, rather than seeds. These onions are most often found from growers or seed catalogs specializing in heirloom vegetables such as Territorial Seeds, although a Google search shows them available from eBay and Amazon.

Potato onions (multiplier onions, shallots)  or Allium cepa var. aggregatum are also perennial alliums. These do not produce topsets, but rather “multiply” from bulbs left in the ground over the winter.

Multiplier (Allium porrum), perennial, multiplying or “Musselburgh” leeks (Allium ampeloprasum), though smaller than annuals,  can provide the taste of leeks without the amount of effort involved with annual leeks. These are also called garden leeks.

More information on sites like Edible Gardening, Hope Seeds, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, FoodForestFarm.com , inhabitat.com, and icultivate.net.  Grow some “lilies of the kitchen” and don’t ignore others like chives. Then there’s garlic: for a method of growing without yearly planting check out The One Straw Revolution.

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Holiday gift shopping…2016

That time of year again! I’ve sworn off malls, and almost any shopping until after the holidays. I find I have zero tolerance for the chaos of parking lots and stores. Somehow those places really dampen any holiday excitement that I do manage to have: folks that can’t manage to allow two-lane traffic in a wide lane, bumps in the butt with shopping carts, and the like. Not to mention the choice of music in so many stores. But if you still need to do some holiday shopping….

  • For the cookbook lover who has an incredible library but is constantly cursing about not being able to find a recipe, a membership to Eat Your Books will let them search those books, as well as magazines, and blogs for recipes. (Membership information here.) It is definitely worth the bit of effort it takes to get you books on you searchable bookshelf.
  • Bull City Olive Oil specializes in fine olive oils, vinegars, and other provisions (shipping is available). If you are local (Durham NC) you can taste before buying. I’d not been a particular fan of infused oils until I tasted some there. The combination of herbes de Provence infused oil and lavender infused balsamic vinegar makes an awesome vinaigrette!
  • Cooks always love herbs and spices–if you don’t want to make the decision on what to give Penzeys will provide a great selection from which to choose. Personally  I love the small jars, especially for things you want to try, but may not use in huge quantities. Although I don’t keep many mixes on hand I wouldn’t  want to be without the herbes de Provence–it’s the jar that I reach for when I am rushed or just can’t decide what to use.
  • Spirits are always welcome gifts. My latest “booze” discovery is from The Brothers Vilgalys Spirits. They produce Krupnikas, Jabberwock, Zapod, Beatnik, and Beebop. I know I’ve mentioned these before, but I think they still make an excellent gift.
  • For someone who wants to learn more about cooking, The Science of Good Cooking presents techniques used in the kitchen with some good recipes; eat well while you learn to understand what goes on in the kitchen. In the same understand-what-you’re-doing vein there’s  Cook’s Science Cook’s Illustrated .com, Cook’s Country.com or a subscription to  America’s Test Kitchen membership that can give access to these last three sites.
  • For someone who wants to butter their toast without using cold, hard to spread butter, the Butter Bell crock, or the Emile Henry butter pot, or a plethora of others which work on the principle of using a water seal to keep the butter from air exposure. Caveat: you do have to remember to change the water every couple of days, but it’s a pretty small effort for soft butter. (Unfortunately, I’ll have to mention a solution that doesn’t work although it seems like a nice idea: the Cook’s Innovations Butter Mill. According to reviews some do work–mine didn’t–the fine threads just didn’t catch so the butter moved down to the “grating” surface.)
  • Your toast eater might also appreciate some topping for that buttered toast: varietal honeys from Old Blue Raw Honey–an impressive selection–including poison ivy honey.
  • For the cook who wants to explore using fresh herbs there are seed collections of basic culinary herbs: seed disc collections (complete with pots) from Johnny’s Select Seeds,  or just collections of herb seeds.
  • The potato of the month club from Wood Prairie Family Farm might suit for a “meat and potatoes” person. The variety of potatoes is absolutely amazing–and yes, they do taste different from what we’re used to in the supermarket.
  • For excellent citrus fruits Mixon Fruit Farms can provide luscious fruit shipped right to the door–grapefruit, oranges, lemons, or other. Even the white grapefruit will surprise you.
  • There is always a gift certificate for Kindle books  (or other e-readers) and a Lékué popcorn popper to provide a cozy, relaxing evening. Of all the microwave popcorn poppers I’ve tried this is a hands-down winner.
  • For some exotics like truffle butter, game, kits for making cassoulet, or charcuterie (which you might be invited to share) D’Artagnan can likely provide what you want.
  • Finally, another option for relaxation to go with the book or the Kindle gift certificate, a good cup of tea would add a final touch. Check out what’s available from Harney & Sons provides an incredible variety. One of the things I like so much about getting my tea from them is that for a small charge you can get samples of the teas–enough to brew a pot to really taste the tea. Frankly, I love trying different ones, so I’d be happy with a selection of samples as a gift!

Some other gift suggestions here, here, and here–there may be some redundancy, but some thing appreciated by cooks never change. My redundancy will probably give you an idea of what I’ve had to replace during the year–e.g. Krupnikas!

Disclaimer:  I have neither affiliate connection nor do I receive any consideration from any of the sources suggested above–they’re simply my personal preferences, so you decide. I’m sure that some of the things are available from other sources as well, perhaps less expensively.

Spring at the hive

Glechoma hederacea

Glechoma hederacea

I’ve just been out to check on the girls. Finally there are more flowers blooming as we have a few warm days. Becoming a beekeeper has changed my perspective on what I look for as a harbinger of spring. I’ve always loved dandelions and now I know bees love dandelions too. Other early spring things that bees love include some very unobtrusive plants (for some these will be weeds) such as ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea). Unfortunately many plants (ornamental) preferred by us aren’t beneficial to bees–they don’t produce enough pollen or nectar. One of the “harbingers” here seems to be the Bradford Pear–they are everywhere–and not for the bees. Fortunately, there are some plants/flowers that are good for both the bees and us though they may not be what we consider most glamorous or desirable–for many ornamental flowers we’ve bred out pollen and nectar production which bees need.

With my new perspective on blossoms, I’m noticing things that are likely to be considered weeds by many–especially those who want a lawn that looks like AstroTurf! Not my cup of tea at all, and not for the bees.

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Acer spp

Acer spp

Even though things are starting to bloom, we still have cool days or periods of rain (when the bees cannot forage). This is a time of population explosion in the hive as the bees get ready for nectar flow–maximize the workforce. Rearing brood and drawing comb is energy intensive and though there is honey still in the hive, I’ve added some “feed”–aka granulated sugar–to help them over periods when foraging is impossible. The maple trees are breaking into bloom and the bees bring pollen from them back to the hive, but they are not a major nectar source. Bees are not like the postal service–some things do prevent going out to forage, hence the sugar that I put into the hive this morning. If the bees are getting plenty of nectar and pollen, they will ignore that stack of sugar and go out and bring back the good stuff.

 

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Consider the dandelion

It seems that spring may finally be here. Looking out my kitchen window I see that the maple (which I think is Acer saccharum) is budding. The honey bees are bringing different colors of pollens to the hive. I thought I had always been oriented to seasons–but it seems my observations were mostly related to what to eat that was in season. In other words, what to feed me. Now that I have honey bees I find that my awareness of seasons has broadened to include what is blooming that is providing food for my bees. We beekeepers have an orientation to flowering plants that is a bit different from the person interested in that velvet expanse of lawn, or the picture perfect flower garden: plants that are weeds to some are nectar and pollen for our bees.

IMG_0875Consider the dandelion. It is the bane of many lawns–and people go to great lengths to get rid of it. From having grown up on a farm where part of our food was obtained from foraging (wild asparagus, lambs quarter, et cetera), I already had an appreciation of the dandelion. The brilliant yellow flowers and green leaves that appear early in the spring (or even when it warms up just briefly in late winter) signaled fresh greens on the table–a reprieve from canned food. While “harvesting” those precious greens we would find the bees sharing our interest–busily mining those bright yellow flowers for nectar and pollen.

There are many plants that are weeds if they appear in the lawn, or in the flower bed; that should be more attention as food plants, for us and the bees. Some plants found in the flower beds can also be eaten. Dandelions have become “gourmet” now. They’ve appeared in the produce case, the farmers’ market, and should you want to grow your own you can buy the seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Young leaves can be used as salad greens, perhaps with a hot bacon dressing. Older leaves can be braised as you would other hearty greens. Older greens do have a bitter flavor, which I don’t find objectionable; however, some people have a genetically determined distaste for bitterness. These are for everyone, but if you like arugula, escarole, or frisée you might want to try some dandelion greens.  Even if you don’t want to eat them, the honey bees find the flowers a source of nectar and pollen in the early spring. Please don’t kill the dandelions!

 

Baked Feta Cheese with whatever you are growing in your veggie patch

I love feta cheese–I’d never thought to do something so simple and easy for a summer lunch or supper.

Promenade Plantings

The allotment sorely needs my attention right now, it will be planting time soon and a) I haven’t done any preparation and b) and even more pressing is that until today I haven’t sown any seeds.

I have a To Do List in my head – clearing the winter debris, tidying jobs abound, a new path to be cleared between the greenhouse and shed and talking of the greenhouse it’s on my to do list too!  But I’m not going to dwell on the To Do List as there’s a tendency for it to all start feeling a bit overwhelming. I remind myself this is a hobby, a pleasure and an escape from TO DO lists. Instead I accept that a busy life means it’s a case of do what and when I can and while I’m there pick a few leaves of winter greens like Chard and Kale, dig…

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New potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes still with soil on them

newly dug

There are lots of benefits from growing your own food!  You know how it was grown, when it was harvested, and that it’s going to taste better than supermarket produce.  Aside from these obvious benefits, there  is the very sensual, and sensuous, experience of harvesting your own food–tactile, olfactory as well as the anticipated gustatory experience.

I harvested my first  potatoes today.  The smell of  the earth as you dig them–newly turned, feeling cool to the touch, and the smell of  the potatoes (yes, you can smell them), and anticipation of the taste are things you’re not going to experience when you buy them in the grocery store–not to mention that you can’t get new potatoes unless you go to the farmers’ market.  The other advantage of growing potatoes is that you can skulk out to the potato patch and gently unearth some of the marble-sized ones whenever you want–you can do that without uprooting the entire plant and treat yourself to something that you’re not even likely to find at the farmers’ market.

Now, I’m not advocating that you should try to grow enough potatoes–or any other vegetables–to meet all your needs since that’s not feasible for most of us urban gardeners; however, it’s worth growing a few just for the total experience of having new potatoes.  I’m certainly not going to grow things that are readily available at the farmers’ market inexpensively–like summer squash, eggplants, or other basics.  I’m going to reserve my gardening efforts for the special treats–like a hill of potatoes, or radishes, or haricots verts.

I recently purchased The food lover’s garden: amazing edibles you will love to grow and eat by Mark Diacono (See Bibliography).  It’s worth a trip to the library to check this one out and read it–especially if you’re contemplating a foray into gardening. It will make you think about what you really want to expend time and effort on for your garden.  The philosophy is that of a true food lover!  It’s full of information on somewhat esoteric veggies that you’re certainly NOT going to find in the supermarket, and may not even find at your local farmers’ market.  The philosophy is that you should grow the things that YOU really love to eat.  There are a lot of really wonderful vegetables and fruits that aren’t readily available–salsify, scorzonera, kohlrabi and the like, as well as some that are just much better harvested as you’re ready to use them (brussels sprouts, broccoli for example) that will make you feel like it’s a different vegetable than what you brought home from the supermarket! These are the ones that deserve space in a small garden, and the time and effort required to grow them.

newly dug Yukon Gold potatoes after washing the soil away.

washed and ready to cook

In my case that includes at least a hill or two of potatoes (you can grow the in a large container) so that I can have the total experience–from planting, sneaking a few very small potatoes early to go with the fresh garden (English) peas in a luscious cream sauce, or larger new potatoes in some other simple fashion.  That means that I’m going to continue buying my yellow storage/cooking onions from other people–though I do have my little clump of “walking” onions, and some tiny carrots to give me a special treat when I want carrots featured; but the carrots for sofrito or mirepoix will continue to come from other people’s efforts. The baking potatoes that I use will also come from somewhere other than my garden–they’re basic, inexpensive, and readily available at the farmers’ market or supermarket with the organic produce.  I will grow some that are unavailable commercially because they’re something I love to eat.

mashed new potatoes

mashed new potatoes

Something as unusual as new potatoes doesn’t need fancy preparation.  Steamed, boiled (in their skins), or even cooked in the microwave oven, need only a tiny bit of good butter (preferably unsalted, sweet butter) or fruity extra virgin olive oil, some sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper for a luscious meal.  Since these were quite variable in size, I cut them into chunks that would cook quickly and evenly, and nuked them, then added a pat of butter, and roughly mashed them with a fork, added sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper–there’s the main course.  (The potatoes were accompanied by a slice of garden-fresh, vine-ripened tomato, and some haricots verts–also from the garden.)

A son goût!  

GMO or not?

I’ve seen posts on Facebook saying that the PLU codes indicate whether produce is genetically modified or not–wanting more information I did a little searching, including reading some FB posts.  I thought I’d share this commentary on the PLU codes from Snopes.com and the Huffington Post.  It would be nice if it were as simple as looking the PLU code for reliable information!

Gardening and farming…..

Tomato plants in flats....I’ve obviously been doing something other than writing posts for this blog!  What I HAVE  been doing is getting plants ready for the farmers’ market–and now each Saturday morning begins at four a.m. as I try to put enough coffee into my system to get me ready to be at the farmers’ market to start setting up by 6 o’clock.

Today I took some time to work on my home garden.  I planted some seeds:  beans (French ones for haricots verts), and cucumbers; and planted some Yukon Gold potatoes.  We plant lots of potatoes for the farmers’ market (Purple Majesty, Red Thumbs, Russian Bananas)–but for my home use I decided to do a potato that is intermediate in starchso that I can use them for more things.

The potato patch

potato patch

Here is the potato patch–just planted and thoroughly watered.  It’s a bit later than I really should have planted them, but we’ll see what happens.  The ones on the farm that we planted about three weeks ago are showing nice small plants, so this feels a bit behind for me–but it’s really the first chance I’ve had to plant the home garden. I’ll be hoping to see green leaves popping up before long even with this late start.  One of the things I am anticipating is some truly “new” potatoes!  (See “Potato Basics.)

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Japanese Black Trifele tomato just planted

Japanese Black Trifele tomato

I’ve also planted the first tomatoes:  a Japanese Black Trifele and a Black Krim. These are from those tiny plants that were transplanted from the floats as soon as they had their first true leaves…so it feel good to be able to put these plants out in the garden now.  I’ve room for about four more plants, so I soon have to decide what those are going to be: most likely one Sungold cherry tomato since those are like summer candy for me, and a new one–a Cabernet–which is a grape tomato…and that will leave me room for one more that I want to try–an Indigo Rose–new this year.  I’ve some very tiny plants of Black Cherry that I want to add as well.  So it anticipation now!

Last summer the deer just demolished my entire garden–including an Italian Tree tomato that was about six feet tall–I’m hoping for better luck this year.  I’m trying to find ways short of a huge fence to help keep out deer because I really do like my  tomatoes!

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fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Foeniculum vulgare

The very pleasant garden surprise that I had this spring was that the fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)  that the deer ate right to the ground last summer came back this spring.  Though it’s usually grown as an annual, I’m hoping that if I’m very careful when I cut the bulbs I can have a perennial fennel crop since it’s one of my favorite veggies to use for braising, or for salad/slaw type dishes. Those lovely green leaves can be used as an herb for adding to salads, or seasoning if you like the flavor of fennel.

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clump of walking onions

walking onions

One of the things that the deer did not eat was my  “walking” onion so now I have a lovely clump (they’ll soon be walking, too) of perennial onions in the garden.  Now that these are established and starting to produce bulblets, they should give a continuous source of “green” onions for me…I’ll continue to buy my “storage onions from the grocery store since use so many of those.  I’d need an incredibly large garden to grow my supply of those–and a lot of appropriate storage space, too; it’s just not practical–but I certainly like the concept of perennial vegetables close at hand–for a good part of the year.

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Small globe artichoke plant

artichoke plant

My last addition to the garden today was an artichoke.  Looks tiny now, but it will get bigger–and it will give “globe” artichokes–and, though it’s supposed to bear flowers this year, I know it may not give many until next year.  This is one of the plants that we started from seeds to sell at the farmers’ market.

I’m sure that there will be more impulsive additions as the season progresses!  Most likely more tomatoes since they are a summer favorite of mine and if the deer leave them alone, I’ll have many more than I can use because I just have to try different ones.

This doesn’t include the herbs that I’ve added this year.  More on those later–right now I’m just excited to have these veggies planted–and hoping that the deer and the rabbits will leave them alone.  Since a serious fence is not an option, I’m going to try the stakes and mono-filament approach–but then I may consider asking the hair-dresser for hair to sprinkle in the garden.

Anticipation of things to come

Beginning planting

the almost bare greenhouse

I have lived where seasons are not markedly different–and I much prefer life where there is a distinct  seasonal change.  It’s partly the anticipation of the new and different things that come with each season.  Anticipation adds a lot to my life.  Living where flowers were almost year-round left me taking them for granted. Winter for me is a period of rest, rejuvenation, regeneration–and anticipation.

Anticipation contributes to enjoying so many things–that special bottle of wine and good food, or just a new season. Planning a special meal to go with a special wine…or those winter dreams of fresh produce while you dwell on the pages of the seed catalogs, knowing that the time will come when you’ll have seeds in your hand, and that those seeds will give you food.  That’s anticipation. Winter is passing into spring….

Plug tray of tomato plants

plug tray of tomato plants

Today I worked with a friend, as I do every spring and summer, getting a start on the luscious things that come from the field and garden.   I got my hands into the dirt and transplanted about 300 tomato plants from the itty-bitty plug trays into the three-packs that we’ll use to sell them at the farmers’ market.

We started with an almost bare greenhouse–just a few things that needed some protection to winter over, but were hardy without needing to heat the greenhouse all winter.

Small tomato plants in flats

transplanted tomato plants

The tomato seeds were planted just about ten days ago–in the house, because it was really too soon to get the green house up and going.  We planted the seeds in “plug” trays–each tray has lots of little “wells” just a bit bigger than my thumb (288 of them, I think).  Once they have germinated and have the first set of true leaves (even though they are very tiny they really do look like leaves on a tomato plant) then it’s time to give them more room to grow.  That was today’s work.  Tedious, yes!

Sungold cherry tomatoes on the vine

anticipation of what is to come

But, oh, the anticipation of what is to come from those tiny plants.  These are Sungold cherry tomatoes from last season–they’re summer candy.  Those tiny plants will  grow and bear tomatoes during the summer.  Today I did transplant some Sungolds, but there were Fried Green, Cabernet, Big Boy, Better Boy, Italian Tree, and Abe Lincoln tomato plants too.  Some of these are new for us–we’re trying them out to see how they taste and, of course, how that fare in the North Caroling summers.  So we’re anticipating….we’ll have more varieties like John Baer, Valley Girl, Champion, Brandy Boy…and maybe others.  It partly depends on how well the seeds germinate.  There be more transplanting going on shortly.  Then we can anticipate the sore knees, aching backs that comes from planting in the fields.  But that will pass, and we’ll be anticipating the sun-warmed, juicy fruit than came from that tiny seed.