Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nature and the Farmer doing the Lettuce Dance

We try to harvest lettuce every week of the CSA distribution.
In fact we start a new set of seedlings every week, starting in early spring, and ending about 50 days before the last distribution.

When lettuce doesn't show up in the harvest, usually something went wrong... This has been a hot summer, and a few of our plantings have gone from small immature heads, to small over-mature heads.
Last week's lettuce was a somewhat bitter which is what happens when lettuce gets too old. Then it starts to shoot up into a stalk,
 and then it flowers.
This process is called "bolting."
Getting it just right is never simple. Nature is our dance partner throughout the season, and she doesn't always tell us what tune she's listening to. If things heat up, the lettuce goes faster. If things cool off, the lettuce slows down. A big rainstorm will stall it out. A heat wave will make it bitter and bolt even if its still small.

The length of daylight is a factor we still bet on-- global warming won't change that. And lettuce speeds up with more of it, and slows down with less of it.

We assume that October will be cool, and we know the light will be less, so we'll have to start our last several successions now, and there will be three or four mature generations in the field that month, just sitting there waiting to get harvested. The unharvested plants might sit there for a month later, until a hard freeze turns it into the only iceberg lettuce we grow.
Even with the knowledge of how to dance with nature, farming is such a challenge. When a farmer (or a culture) has an intimate reliance on raising their food I imagine this knowledge takes on an intuitive quality, and their relationship with natural forces would be a beauty to behold. And even so, the successful farmers hedge their bets and half expect to be dumped.
No lettuce this week, but tomatoes and basil make a fine salad.

The Harvest:
New Potatoes
Tomatoes- Cherry, Slicers, and some Roma
Summer Onions
There is plenty of eggplant should you choose to take some home. No pressure, but Baba Ganoush on toasted pita bread is very easy and a crowd-pleaser.

ps Thanks to Amanda for posting about Stacy's flower obsessions last week! Your photos outshine all others.

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