Thanksgiving is an especially exciting holiday for farmers because it centers around the harvest!
To be able to enjoy a local bounty all winter requires growing throughout the summer. Here’s a chronicle of the summer 2021 season through the eyes of the winter vegetables that are in your Thanksgiving share today.
The first of the winter vegetables to be planted are potatoes in early May, around the same time the dandelions bloom. As seen in the photos below we plant seed potatoes, or pieces of potatoes that have sprouts (known as ‘eyes’). The potato plants grow, flower, and then die back throughout the whole summer. When the leaves die back they are ready to be harvested in August and are stored throughout the winter.
In Mid-May, we planted our celeriac. Because it is in the Umbel family (carrots and celery), it grows very slowly. It requires a lot of water throughout the season to ensure it bulbs appropriately, and doesn’t get fussy in the summer heat. It gets harvested in mid October.
The next to get planted are the sweet potatoes. Our sweet potatoes are planted late May, and our starts come from North Carolina. The “slips” are essentially little sticks that root and leaf out to produce the orange delicacies we know and love. They are dug by hand in early October. Sweet potatoes require curing to concentrate the sugars, and therefore after harvest are placed in our large hoophouse to cure in the warmth before being stored for the winter. They do NOT like to be refrigerated so the best place to store them is your counter.
Right after sweet potatoes, we move on to planting butternuts. Taking at least 120 days (4 months) to reach maturity, they are planted June 1st. This year, we had a heat wave the week we were supposed to plant them. To avoid the heat of the day we planted the delicate seedlings during the evenings around the Summer Solstice. These grow and mature throughout the season and are harvested in late August, early September. After curing for 10-12 days, they go into storage. Like sweet potatoes, they actually get sweeter over time!
The root crops like carrots and beets are some of the last things we seed directly in the ground for the year in late July/early August. At this time of year days are already growing shorter and plants take longer to mature. Planting them on time is crucial in order that they have enough time and sunlight to grow fully before the winter. This year our first round of winter carrots was flooded by rains so we planted another batch later than ever before on August 15. Thankfully they turned out well and will be in the share many weeks throughout the winter. They were all harvested in early November.
The winter greens are planted in early September. The kale and spinach in your share comes from plants that will grow outside all winter under low plastic tunnels. The tatsoi is from a field planting, but we will have more from the unheated high tunnel throughout the winter. The head lettuce is growing outside under two layers of cloth row cover.
Happy Thanksgiving, we hope you enjoy these veggies that have captured the rays of summer and fall in a delicious autumn feast!