My First Harvest of the Year
Yesterday morning I had the privilege of going out to my garden and picking the first crops of the season from the perpetual food storage garden I worked on all last summer: spinach, asparagus and walking onions. None of which I planted this year. I only got to pick 3 spears of asparagus because it’s just starting to come up, but more and more is coming along behind it. I planted 50 asparagus bare roots last spring, although I’m starting to think I’ll need MORE.
Tradition states that you have to wait 3 YEARS to harvest for the first time so that you give the roots time to get strong enough. So why am I eating it this year? I have two reasons. The first is I bought older crowns at asparagusgardener.com (the website is super ghetto and confusing and the color scheme makes my eyes bleed, but I’m very happy with the roots I got). The roots are more mature and you can enjoy your produce sooner. The second is that according to Ohio State University Extension, “The year after planting, asparagus can be harvested several times throughout a three-week period, depending on air temperatures. Research shows there is no need to wait two years after planting before harvesting. In fact, harvesting the year after planting will stimulate more bud production on the crown and provide greater yields in future years, as compared with waiting two years before harvesting…The second year after planting, the length of harvest can increase to about 4 to 6 weeks. The third year after planting and thereafter, harvesting can continue for 6 to 8 weeks.” You can read more about planting and harvesting asparagus here. Waiting that whole year was hard, but super worth it. You may as well plant some this year because that time is going to pass anyway.
So now I’m on the 3-week asparagus plan starting today, and it is oh. so. good. I already really liked asparagus, but the asparagus I ate from my garden the last two mornings (today I got 6 spears!) was the tenderest, sweetest, most delicious asparagus I’ve ever had. If you think you don’t like asparagus, it’s because you’ve only had the imports that have traveled long distances. As soon as asparagus is cut, the sugars start to becomes starches, and the stalks get tougher, even on a refrigerated truck. If you think you like asparagus, you are going to LOVE the real thing.
When I came in the house with my three precious spears, my kids were all over me. I don’t even know if they’ve ever had asparagus. I only buy it in the spring when it’s in season, and it’s so expensive I don’t remember ever sharing with them. I knew I would be lucky if I got any of it today, so I told my kids they could have ONE BITE EACH (yah right) and the rest was all for me. First child gets one taste, snatches the rest of the spear and takes off to polish it off (I should have known he’d do that). The next spear I was smarter and snapped it in thirds for them to share. They begged for more, but I kept one whole spear for myself. I know, that is so selfish. I actually ate it raw, and it was heavenly. I had considered adding it to my omelet, but decided to enjoy it all on its own. I have recipes for asparagus goodness lined up for the next three weeks. In a quiche, roasted, wrapped in bacon, with eggs benedict, topped with hollandaise sauce, the options are endless, though we’ll see how much of it makes it past the raw state before going in my belly. Then all too soon it will be over, and I’ll wait another year until it’s back.
Last fall I planted a small fall garden that included spinach, but then I got pregnant and my life as I know it ended for the next 9 months (less than two months to go!). I couldn’t even bring myself to go out to see if anything came up. I could barely bring myself to get off the couch. Then it got so cold, snowed, the usual arctic tundra weather they have here, and I figured my efforts and seeds were wasted. This spring when I hobbled out to check a few things, imagine my surprise to see bunches of beautiful Bloomsdale spinach ready to pick! This is my first spinach crop, and it’s gorgeous. Once my kids devoured my asparagus, they turned their attentions to the spinach. They ate theirs raw. I gave mine a quick saute for my omelet. It’s even better than the baby spinach I buy at Costco. I just need to plant more of it this spring and continue to stagger plant all season so I have MORE. I even plan to have it as part of my winter garden next year (it was on the docket for this winter, but… that idea went the way of the chickens). It can be had fresh from the garden year round in many places. I put two huge handfuls in my smoothie/juice each morning. And then there are the salads, and sauteing it, adding it to soups and pasta dishes, and so much more! We eat a lot of spinach in this house.
That looks like a salad bowl waiting to come to the table. I only harvest the largest leaves on each plant so they continue to grow more. Bloomsdale spinach is an heirloom variety that is much more heat tolerant than other varieties and slower to bolt (go to seed and get bitter when the temps get warmer). If you want to keep eating through the summer, stagger plant every 2 weeks or so, and for summer plantings, put it in a spot that gets some morning sun but shade during the warmest part of the day. You can also put up a shade cloth if you don’t have a spot like that. You can do the same for lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower. For those who don’t like the gritty texture of spinach that is often found in the store, this has a texture that is more like lettuce. Smooth with no grit.
The walking onions were shared with me by Amy (who guest posted for me about maximizing her small yard). They came to her from her dad’s yard in Las Vegas (only slightly different climate ). They are super easy to share, and grow well in most zones (find your USDA hardiness zone here). In fact, if any of you who are local want some, I’d be happy to share. In your own area you can ask on freecycle.org. Here is a website that describes exactly what walking onions are. I mostly cut off the tops and use them as green onions. The entire plant is edible, including the bulblets that grow at the top, and the bulbs in the ground, though they don’t get very big. Eating the whole plant is a great way to control the spreading as well if you end up with too many. Overrun with onions? Make a few meals from the entire plant and they are under control, or offer them to neighbors and friends for their gardens.
Look at how huge these are already! That is mostly one plant. It has grown so much in a year. The brown tops are where I cut the tops off all last summer. I just cut from a different plant each time. As they get taller the flavor in the greens gets more pronounced. We eat a lot of green onions, and these are much easier to grow than other varieties. They are great on tacos, chili, soups, stir fry, omelets, loaded potato soup, salads, chicken salad sandwiches, all kinds of things. You won’t have trouble using them up.
So this morning’s breakfast all came from my back yard: eggs (moment of honesty, I gave away our chickens because I could barely meet my kids’ needs while pregnant. I wasn’t being fair to the hens so I sent them to a better home. I’ll get more after baby girl is born and life is a little more normal. Maybe this fall. But these eggs did come from my neighbor and WOULD HAVE come from my yard normally), spinach, onions, sweet peppers (I grew these last year and sliced and froze them). I intended to put in the asparagus, but enjoyed it raw instead. I could have added some cilantro that I grew and froze last fall, but I don’t like it when I’m pregnant. My husband added the salsa I canned last fall to his omelet and wrapped it in a tortilla. How yummy was it? So. Delicious. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of my breakfast. I was hungry. Too hungry to get the camera. But I thought the pictures of the ingredients would be enticing enough.
I’ve got two trays of broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce seedlings growing in my basement that need to be planted outside. I need to plant more spinach from seed and some watermelon radishes. I’m just not allowed to do it so I have to wait for help. I’m also putting out three tomato plants in Walls O Water to see if I can’t get some June tomatoes. Tomorrow I’m going to start my other tomato plants, cucumbers, basil and peppers. In a few weeks I’ll start the squash and zucchini. This year’s garden is going to be a lot smaller because I seriously doubt I’ll be doing much canning with a 3-month old this fall. I’m planting just what we can eat. And maybe enough to share with some neighbors. So I won’t be buying produce at all this season. It will come from our garden/perpetual food storage. I can’t wait!