Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Winter Hoops and Winter Veggies


Just because the fall is here and the cold winter weather is preparing to take over, doesn't mean the fun stops, the gates are locked and everyone at the farm runs for the greenhouse.  There's still plenty to grow outside and not just anything, but delicious vegetables whose nutritional content and flavor change significantly for the better.  This week, The Captain taught a class on how to...

protect crops from the harsh winter and keep harvesting through the coldest months of the year.

As we walked the paths to the fields, some summer friends peaked their heads out for one last bite, just to make sure they don't get forgotten next season.

The Captain took a moment to explain that the winter is a time of slowing down, therefore, the plants grown are much less labor intensive and require less frequent watering because the ground begins to hold more moisture.  Another added bonus of some winter vegetables such as parsnips, carrots and spinach is that they begin converting their stored starches, created during photosynthesis, into sugars to protect themselves while there is less sunlight.  This not only makes these veggies sweeter, the added sugar also makes them more nutritious for animals such as ourselves.  This change makes cold climate farms more uniquely flavored than some of their west coast counterparts where the weather never gets cold enough for this to take full effect (sorry California, I guess the tides have turned).

Using freshly amended and seeded 125 foot beds, The Captain bent some PVC pipe to create hoops that help keep these beds covered without inhibiting plant growth, similar to a greenhouse.

While the ground is cold, the covered hoops still allow for the beds to remain warm enough for the plants to grow to their full potential.  As a group, the class spread blankets of Reemay over the hoops.  Once pulled on tightly, sandbags were used to hold each blanket in place.

Finally, rope was tied to wood stakes placed at the ends of each bed preventing the blankets from involuntarily moving.  Eventually, some plastic will go over the Reemay for added insulation and that is it...easy to make, handmade winter hoops.  There is a method to this madness and from the business perspective, The Captain explained that each foot of land always needs to be accounted for and used most efficiently.  While many farmers may take the winter off to let the harsh winter pass, Stone Barns will continue to use the land profitably.  Growing crops that not only require little labor, but offer high yields as well.  This increases efficiency and profitability.

Around December and January these beds, mostly containing different kinds of spinach, will be harvested.  Here's a look at last year's spinach hoop harvest extravaganza.  

Yes, even a 6' 3'' guy can climb in there for the love of spinach.

I get by with a little help from my friends

And there it is...beautiful and tasty spinach harvested in December '09, protected from the cold and sooo good, but don't forget to cook your spinach just a little bit to get rid of the oxalic acid, which blocks the calcium hidden inside the spinach leaves.  The winter's tough and our bodies can use every natural nutrient they can get.

We'll be back later this winter with some 2010 spinach updates.


Post a Comment