Farming would be so much easier if we planted just one thing, like corn or tomatoes. Prep the soil in the spring. Wait for the right day during the planting window to put things in the ground. Plant. Weed. Harvest. The end.
Since we supply our restaurants with most of the food that we serve, we do not have the luxury of focusing on a single crop (“Welcome to Black Cat Bistro. Tonight we have corn salad, corn fritters, corn soup, corn gratin and corn ice cream” is not a winning server introduction). Instead, at Black Cat Farm we grow 250 varieties of vegetables, herbs, legumes and grains. Which means we plant, and harvest, throughout the year.
May is an especially busy month for planting. Lots of vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, need to go into the ground after the threat of frost, but as soon as possible after that threat, because both need lots of sun, heat and long days to bear ripe fruit. We also seed melons, cucumbers and a range of other plants immediately after the threat of frost has passed.
Rain complicates planting. Fields need moisture to support vegetable life, but when rain turns soil into mud, we cannot plant. Among other things, just working muddy fields turns them into adobe once they dry out — mud + compaction = adobe. Plants do not exactly thrive in adobe.
This May’s on-again, off-again rains have been splendid (for the most part) for plants already established in the fields. But it has challenged our planting schedule.
Just this week, we finished the most intense two-week period of planting of the year. We still have plenty more seeds to put in the ground during 2017, as we plant for harvests well into the winter. But May’s planting blitz is over (whew).
And so now we harvest, harvest, harvest. And weed, weed, weed.
On Friday alone, we harvested arugula.
We harvested gai lam (also known as Chinese broccoli; do eat the stems, for they are sweet and scrumptious).
We harvested lettuce.
We harvested mizuna.
And so much more.
The farmers’ market list is a big one! This week at the market (and as always in the restaurants):
- Swiss chard
- Chrysanthemum greens (they taste like celery, and are wonderful in soups and things like chicken salad)
- Lettuce mix
- Tom Thumb
- Tat soi
- Purple tat soi
- Osaka purple
- Fava bean tops (gorgeous bean flavor, but from leaves)
- Pea tops (see fava bean tops)
- Yellow mustard
- Chinese broccoli (gai lam)
- Arugula flowers (explosive arugula flavor, in a blossom)
- Mustard flowers (explosive mustard flavor, in a blossom)
- Radish flowers (explosive radish flavor, in a blossom)
- Cardoon (tastes like artichoke, and from the same family)
- Red onions
- White onions
- Chive bunches
- Cherry Belle radish
- Hakurei turnips
- Magenta turnips
- Leek scapes (!)
- Whole wheat flour
- Breakfast sausage
- Pale ale and lovage sausage
- Pork and beef chili
- Cuts of pork