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. 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 have wintered over. I had planned to serve them at Thanksgiving with a “Not only are these local, but I harvested them myself a few hours ago!” It was not to be. The ground was cement; and there was snow on top. One of the beauties of snow however: it 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 snow cover that protected the leeks 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 a leek 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, fresh chicken eggs from my friend Bay’s chickens, and a little light cream from a nearby dairy.
Is this the final harvest of 2010, or the first harvest of 2011?
My friend Ilaria who writes about her childhood in Italy and the relationship she and her family had/have with food, tells me that “what is going on right outside of the doorstep is always related to what’s on the table….and this is one more reason why I love Vermont, because here, too, the seasons come straight to the table.” She thinks my leeks are the final harvest of 2010.
But I am thinking that they are the first harvest of 2011 because today, for the first time, I feel spring. I am going to put away my cross country skis. In fact, I’ll take the ski rack off the car. And then I am going to get my hands dirty.