Santee and the Winter Sun

Fog on the bridge to Sonoma

Over the past few winters, I’ve headed up to Sonoma to escape the city fog and to see my gardens covered with weeds enjoying the hot North Bay sun!  My only plan this past Sunday was to measure the dimension of the fields, so that I could start my crop plan for the spring.  When I arrived in Sonoma, I was fortunate to get some time in the fields with Sam, Bi-Rite’s owner and most passionate farmer. Sam loves to eat veggies at all stages of growth–he’ll take a bite from the time baby lettuce is sweet and tender, to the hot days of the summer when it turns bitter. Sam always finds pleasure in the different flavors that come throughout the grow season.

This is our second season growing asparagus and we’ve yet to harvest one spear!  However, these 3 yr old crowns from Maine finally shot up a few spears this weekend.  With this spring-like winter, most the crops in the Bay Area are ready to grow and local asparagus will probably be on our tables very soon.   Asparagus spears just shoot out of the ground in about a day’s time, and there is nothing as sweet and tender as homegrown asparagus freshly harvested. We have only a few beds of asparagus on our  Sonoma plot, so it will probably never make it to the shevles of Bi-Rite; rest assured each spear cut will be enjoyed to the fullest!

By far the most amazing part of this beautiful day was when Sam and I headed over to our new one acre farm plot to take some measurements. Half of the the acre is coverd in a soil-building cover crop and the other half has a bunch of overgrown beets, flowering brassica plants and over-weeded green garlic. To my surprise a couple rows of Santee purple sprouting broccoli that i had planted back in late August was now starting to produce florets. I couldn’t believe it– I had given up on this crop and thought I planted it too late in the season! Luckily, the warm weather of January and February got the plants back on track.  First thing that came out of Sam’s mouth was, “Eddy can use it!” Eddy is Bi-Rite’s head chef, who loves surprise 75 lb harvests of purple sprouting broccoli randomly dropped in his walk-in cooler. Please come by the market one of the next few nights and see how the Bi-Rite cooks whip up the Santee and serve it in the deli.

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