Whoa, this winter is persistent. Whenever I bump into friends they ask the inevitable question, “How’s the weather going to affect the garden?” I kind of shrug and let them know that winter weather that is typical for winter won’t hurt things, rather if we have winter when we are expecting spring or summer things will be negatively impacted! Like most people, should spring arrive near its typical time, I’ll be ready for a celebration and to put time in the field. Should winter dally, and extend its stay, we’ll have to make the best of whatever scenario and adapt.
Each season I do a select set of Demo’s on new varieties or crops. This year it is largely inspired by the increased involvement of an Intern at Tillers. Nelson brought a love of cooking and for this season has set up an expanded food preparation scheme that will utilize produce from our production. His wish list includes Asian vegetables that I’m excited to experiment with. Many are already standards for CSA and Market but having a dedicated and experienced cook have input and interest in additional varieties is nice. So the list of Demo’s includes daikon, senposai, Chinese broccoli, additional turnip varieties and more.
In the past a lot of the demos were inspired by something I saw at market, read about online, in catalogs, or curiosity. I remember demoing agretti. The seed went in the ground, the herb was harvested and cooked as suggested and the family was quick to comment that it was like eating a pine tree. The flavor was not part of our historical food flavors so it wasn’t at all satisfying. That demo was not repeated. Collards on the other hand were a huge success. We eat a lot of greens to begin with and the texture and flavor was a welcome one. I still haven’t found much of a market for collards, they have a soul food/poor south image issue, but they sure are a favorite at our table. Maybe we could get a celebrity chef to inspire some curiosity about collards…
I also like to demo heirloom crops. The last few years I tried a few corn varieties. The dent corn, Earth Tones, is a favorite, and last season I began with a bit of popcorn. Both of these are successful. They will become a regular planting. The proliferation of tomato varieties is amazing. For several years I would demo a few each season. This past season saw the second year of the Bobcat hybrid tomato demo. For the second year in a row this was the first tomato to succumb to disease, and produce the fruit with the blandest flavor. No more! The pineapple heirloom will also not be continued. With our soil and conditions it was a big gorgeous fruit but intensely unappealing in texture and flavor. Others report decent success. By the middle of September the fruit was left on the vine. No one wanted anything to do with the pineapple. So when the season turns to spring or maybe suddenly to summer, I’m excited to have some new crops to grow and have some fun with.