Early spring at the farmer’s market will be a tricky business. The things we will have for sale, when the weekly market starts in about a month, will likely not be the things people will be looking to buy. They certainly won’t be the things I would want to buy. Early May, with the days getting longer and the temperatures getting hotter, it’s easy to forget the season. Who wants yet more brazing greens or root veggies with summer on the horizon and everything in bloom? I know I”ll be craving soft greens, tomatoes, peppers and corn. Unfortunately, we’ll arrive at market offering kale (three kinds), chard, spinach, bunch onion, some head lettuce and a whole lot of not yet edible plants for peoples home gardens. It’s hard work to keep our early spring farmer’s markets from being a letdown to our customers. But there’s not much we can do. We are servile to nature. We are slaves to the season. There’s no getting around that.
In preparation for those first few market weeks, we’ve finished our first, large transplanting session of the year. Brazing greens, hardy spinach, cold tolerant lettuce, rapini and scallion have all migrated from our basement grow room to the field. Everything was transplanted in our standard two inch soil block and buried up to their first sprout leaves.
We don’t do anything to harden our plants prior to putting them out. Instead, everything is planted under some sort of protection and hardens in the ground. This time of year we have a lot field hoops up so all the transplants go in under 6-mil greenhouse plastic. The plastic protects against cold and does a great job tempering the sunlight. In the hot months, transplants go in under row cover material suspended from bent wire pickets. After a week or so, once the plants have adjusted to their new natural but tempered light environment, we peel back the cover during the day and expose them to direct sunlight. After a few days of this we find they are well adapted and can handle anything. So far we have not had any “hardening” issues or losses using this system.
While I’m very ready for spring and more spring like eating, I take heart knowing that brazing greens don’t always need to be brazed. With that in mind, I’m huge fan of Kale Soup. The following recipe describes my favorite Portuguese style soup which is very similar to a soup served in the Azores. The biggest difference being that while this Portuguese style soup is potato thickened it remains a chunky soup. In the Azores, the kale soup is often pureed smooth. Either way it’s an easy preparation and undoubtedly one of my favorite applications for late season winter greens.
Portuguese Kale Soup
- 2 lbs. fresh kale (Lacinato preferred)
- 1 ea large white onion
- 3 clove garlic
- 3 lbs. Russet potato – peeled and diced
- 3 lbs. Yukon Gold potato – diced but unpeeled
- 1 lbs. pork sausage (fresh brats work. Spanish or Portugese chorizo is better. Look for La Quercia Salamento Picante. It’s fantastic.)
- 12c chicken stock
In a large pot, sweat the onion and garlic, taking care to not burn the garlic. Add the stock and the diced Russet potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are almost done, about 20 minutes. Half puree with a stick mixer, food processor or blender. The Russets will creamy everything up and provide a smooth texture. If you don’t have a mixer, the potatoes can be broken down with a heavy whisk and some vigorous beating. In a separate pan, cook the sausage if necessary and dice it into 1/2-inch pieces. A dry chorizo is usualy my choice. It adds a nice, smokey, paprika flavor. Add the Yukon Golds and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the kale and the sausage to the soup. Cook it all for another 15 minutes. No garnish or fancy croutons needed here, just some bread on the side, the heartier the better.