After another successful seeding party today (greenhouse is now over 2/3 full), I started explaining to a couple new friends that had come to volunteer where to harvest some food to take home. After some time of my detailed rambling about how to find the last of the Napa cabbage, I hesitated after mentioning collards. They're behind the greenhouses, hidden amongst a sea of overwintering (and very similar looking) cauliflower.
"Why don't you just come with us?"
Oh, yeah. There wasn't any rush to finish cleaning up for the day, and I was hoping to harvest a few things for myself anyway. Plus, I hadn't found time to work alongside them much at all during the day, so it was finally an opportunity to chat.
So, what's growing on a Willamette Valley farm in mid February?
Out in the fields, there's kale, leeks, mustards, flowering arugula, cilantro, and those collards. The overwintering cauliflower and cabbage will come along soon, and for now there's some broccoli sprigs that survived the freezes and are now starting to open their yellow flowers.
We harvested cilantro and those collards, broke off some broccoli stems, and headed into the greenhouses. Spinach, lettuces of all kinds, and my favorite, escarole. It's a bright green, furled, wavy-leafed head that looks deceptively like lettuce but tastes a bit more bitter. Sturdier than lettuce, too, so you can cook it lightly, but still delicate and tender.
Four beds of bok choy are mature now, too. It's probably the green I would choose last after all the kales and chards and spinaches of the world... but it'll do me in a pinch. With so much abundance on the farm, I usually pass it up unless I'm planning for a Chinese stir-fry style meal.
Traesti, my friend Trevor's new roommate and brand new to the farm today, asked if we had any flowers growing as we emerged from the last greenhouse. Some arugula, a few straggler bok choy in the field... nothing showy this time of year. He shrugged it off, but when we dipped into the last greenhouse, he lit up again: rainbow chard!
"I'll make a bouquet for my sweetie with CHARD!" As brilliant an idea as those dazzling neon-colored stems, so we grazed along until he'd collected the perfect rainbow of leaves.
I had collected some leaves for my salad at lunch earlier, and in the greenhouse that afternoon I remembered how beautiful and fun it is to throw extra plants in to spice it up: right here growing up from the soil, there's deep red, bitter radicchio, savory sweet chickweed, dainty but musty bittercress... Every harvest is different when you're scrounging for greens in February.