One of our main goals at Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce is to produce a top quality vegetable, and make it available over a long period of time. This means finding ways to extend the normal growing season. One avenue we have used the past year is high tunnel farming. This year we actually expanded by adding a second high tunnel. We also have several smaller cold frames and heat beds. Once our seeds have germinated, they are hardened off in either the cold frame, cool house (has some supplemental heat) or the hot bed. The hot bed is basically a cold frame with heated soil. We placed heat coils beneath the soil in the bottom of the cold frame to make a hot bed. Years ago, farmers used fresh manure beneath the soil in a hot bed to heat the soil as the manure composted. We are a little more tech savvy.
I am getting the hot bed ready to use in the next few days, as I will be planting leeks. Leeks are a member of the onion family. The edible part of the leek plant is a long cylinder of bundled leaf sheaths which is sometimes called a stem or stalk. As the leek grows in height, soil is pulled around the base of the plant, blanching the stem- making it white and tender. I will be starting the seed indoors in our seed room, and then when they are large enough, I will move them to the hotbed in the plug trays in which they were seeded. Once the field is ready and weather stabilized, I will move them to the field and transplant. Leeks are fairly hardy and can be planted several weeks prior to the last frost date, so I will move them out as soon as it is fit. The variety we are growing is Lancelot.
Here is a great recipe for Leeks:
Leeks Au Gratin
Makes 8 servings
2 lbs leeks
1/4 c butter, plus about 1 Tbsp
2 Tbsp flour
3/4 c milk
1 Tbsp white wine
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 c grated baby Swiss cheese
1/4 tsp Tabasco or similar hot sauce
1. Cut white and tender portion of green leek leaves lengthwise, and then into 1-inch pieces.
2. Boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain; place in buttered casserole.
3. In saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 c butter; stir in flour. Whisk in milk and wine. Stir and cook until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and Tabasco; pour over leeks. Sprinkle with cheese.
4. Bake at 400 degrees 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly. Dot with remaining butter, and brown under broiler, 3-5 minutes.