The Windows of Spring

Foraging, Planting, Harvesting, Preparing

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Clarence & Co. are invaluable garden helpers

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Peppers on the garden patio at the restaurant
Photo by Heidi Janke

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Garlic, shallots, borage, tomatoes & parsley in the garden at home
Photo by Heidi Janke

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Chives, pansies & lettuces on the garden patio at the restaurant
Photo by Heidi Janke

 

There’s a lot going on right now, and it’s all happening very quickly.  Spring is a time of long-anticipated wild shoots and leaves that can easily get eaten by slugs or become bitter as they bolt in the sun.  These foods are precious and their window as edibles is small.  We revised our menu to exchange items like fiddleheads and miner’s lettuce for asparagus and snow peas.  The strawberries are finally ready for the plucking, and cucumbers are finally ready to make their debut.

It’s also a time to play the annual guessing game of, “When to plant what.”  Is the warm weather really here to stay?  Is it too late for broccoli?  Too early for peppers?  But the farmers, foragers and general food-lovers of the Pacific Northwest are up for the challenge, year after year.

Gardening for a restaurant adds another level of hope to the early- to mid-spring planting.  Getting a jump-start feels like we are getting that much closer a fresher product for a much lower price.  Sometimes the rain has its way with the little starts and it’s money down the drain, but most of the time the sun comes out soon enough for the starts to make their long summer journey to the finish line.  Along the way, we pluck and prune to get the best yields and strive to let as little food reach the ground as possible.

We’ve been gardening for our guests for years, with a greater harvest each year.  When we opened The Brooklyn House, we planted what we thought was adequate.  It became almost immediately apparent that we had severely under-planted and our efforts would need to more than double in 2014.  The weather was particularly hot this past May, making it impossible to resist putting sun-lovers in the ground to soak up the rays and set down their roots.

We get our starts from Tony’s Garden Store on SE Holgate & 103rd because they grow all of their own veggie starts themselves, then pass the savings to the customer.  We bought flats upon flats of annuals, plopped them in the plots and plucked off all their little flowers.  They got several days of hot, hot sun (with early morning waterings, of course), some mild warm days, and now the rain is pummeling them with a great force they have never known.   The climbing cucumbers are having none of it, but the bush cucumbers are holding their own just fine.  The snow peas are having a field day, and the night-shades are standing proud, promising to weather the storm and grow stronger in the face of adversity.  My partner (in life and in gardening) reminds me that a 100% transplant success rate is rare, and I should be happy with our 80%.  We will replant!

While we wait patiently through spring for our own plants to produce, we rejoice in what our farmers are bringing to market.   Our new relationship with the folks at Rick Steffen Farm is proving to be a glorious one.   We pick up our orders at their stand at the PSU Farmer’s Market and proceed to delight our guests with the colorful spread: purple and orange cauliflower, green and purple broccoli, tender asparagus, curly purple kale, bright green cabbage and tasty little snow peas.  Oregon has a lot to offer, and our passion lies in serving it to you.

As time marches on, the warm rainy spring will be replaced with a dry hot summer, and some windows will close while others open.  We are on the edge of our seats waiting for nightshade veggies and the stampede of cherries and berries.  But for now, we are delighted with the bounty of spring in Oregon, and all the little windows of time that keep us on our toes.