Will winter ever end? Baby blossoms have just emerged yet we are pelted with yet another cold rain shower. California is often accused of having two seasons - wet and dry. In truth there is a huge grey scale when you survey all the microclimates of the state. As there is no balmy vegetable Shangri-La, California farmers generally stick to growing cool season veggies in winter and planting warm season ones in spring. The first day that tender seedlings can be planted is called the “first frost-free day," which in California that date is all over the map. The first day that seedlings can be safely planted ranges from Jan. 1 in Berkeley, to June 30 in Tahoe City. An average for the Costal Range, where most of our food grows, is April 1.
This makes March a bridge time for most farmers. They still have one foot in winter while seedlings in the greenhouse wait to get their roots into spring soil. Farmers are called to many weather-dependant tasks, and timing is everything. Cover crops are cresting into knee-high waves of chartreuse begging to be plowed under—if only the fields weren't so wet. Hoop houses that cover tender veggies are getting steamy in the warm sun, but left uncovered, well, it's like kids casting off sweaters in the glory of spring fever and coming home with chills.
During this “tween” season, FruitGuys buyer Rebecca North found celery root from Coke Farm in San Juan Bautista (San Bentito County), plus a fine catch of red potatoes from T & D Willey Farms in Madera (Madera County). The ultimate veggie that proves that "spring hopes eternal" is the asparagus from Cal O in San Joaquin Valley CA Asparagus is cultivated by heaping on layers of dirt blankets, and when the sprout gets the message the frost-free days are on the way, it pushes up and out into the sun. Hello Sunshine, here comes spring!
- Heidi Lewis