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My First Harvest?

By Kate Gridley, April 2, 2011 - 4:12pm

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April 2: Finally a saturday with some warmth!

Yesterday's nor'easter did not materialize, so we're proceeding with mending the raised beds, and the hoopla of putting in our first tunnel (the bok choi under the grow lights screams "Let me out, it's too hot in here."). I may also sow a few early seeds: spinach is on my mind.

The garlic is just up. And the sorrel over in the herb garden is showing it's first growth of pale green leaves tinged with ruby.

Imagine my delight when I discover that the rows of leeks that were solidly frozen into the ground at Thanksgiving (preventing me from serving them to the New York relatives with a "and these are not only local, I harvested them myself this morning!") havewintered over. The snow cover was so deep and consistent this year, the leeks are still edible.

Partly this is because I grow leeks in trenches. Over the summer, between rains, weeding and my own brushing of earth towards the leeks, soil washes from the sides of the trenches onto the leeks. The part of the leek that is covered with soil stays white and tender, shaded from the sun. Last fall, after the ground froze, we had early deep snow cover that protected the leeks down inside the trenches.

In fact leeks are sweeter after a frost has nipped them. That's why I usually leave them in the ground until Thanksgiving. Sometimes even later.

Leeks are a member of the onion family, but unlike many varieties of onion, they do not form bulbs. Folks either grow them in trenches, or they build up hills around them to maximize the amount of white. When leeks are cooked (all of it is edible, though the green parts have less flavor), they are slippery in texture. We eat them in soups, in tarts, sometimes layered on a flatbread, and occasionally braised in lemon and chicken broth to go along side a winter roast.

While John fixed the corners of the raised beds this morning, and prepared to place a tunnel over the bed nearest the house, I harvested the leeks, cleaned and sliced them, and sauted them slowly in olive oil. We're going to have a tart tonight with winter-sweetened leeks, and my friend Bay's fresh chicken eggs.

Is this the final harvest of 2010, or the first harvest of 2011?

It feels like first. I think spring just sprang.

TAGS: Kate Gridley, Gardening

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