Tuesday was a rainy January day here in Wisconsin. The highs were in the upper 50° f range! I took advantage of the warmer day and worked in our hoop house for most of the day. All of the rows of plants have been tucked under a double layer of row cover since December and clearly appreciated the 2 days of free air circulation and increased light, even if it was cloud filtered light. When I removed the row cover, I was happily surprised at how well everything was over-wintering in spite of temps that dipped below 0° for several days. I was also impressed at how much their vigor was restored in the 2 days of exposure to moderate temperatures!
A clear reminder to remove even intentional plantings from their beds before they flower and go to seed, the cold-hardy claytonia had taken hold in the carrots and cilantro and appears to be working out a plan to overtake the remaining beds. I think I thwarted its plans somewhat that day, although claytonia is not the worst as far as invasive weeds go; It makes a nice living mulch and it is delicious! My wire weeder makes quick work of any unwanted plantlets between the rows, but there is still a good deal of hand weeding. For the record, claytonia and cilantro feel almost exactly the same at their crowns, at least at first. If you are used to weeding by feel, this is useful information if you are trying to reduce the loss of your crop. I think I had the skills more honed by the time I got to the second row. The ‘cilantro bed’ can now be called exactly that.
As for the cilantro’s first row losses of leaves and a few plants, as often happens when I am weeding a particular plant, I think about how I’d like to eat it! Weeding inside with the gentle rain on the plastic roof, I started to run the inventory of available food items in storage and in our house. I salvaged and bagged more cilantro than I’d like to admit and gave most of the vitamin C-rich claytonia that I pulled out to the chickens who then devoured the succulent greens in a feeding frenzy.
As the light faded, I tucked all of the plants back in to their beds, freshly covered for the predicted weather change that evening, and change it has! On Monday and Tuesday, we received over an inch of rain. Overnight and into Wednesday, the rain turned to snow; lots of it. Beautiful, perfect snow and fairly warm day (for winter) with mud below the snow and standing water puddled in random places to slip on after it freezes. I am not looking forward dealing with the ice that is being formed as the temps are dropping to below 0 again. By tomorrow morning, the weather people are warning of -30° f wind-chills. I am happy that most of the heavy snow slid off of the roof of our hoop house and there is a nice, thin layer of lighter snow that fell onto it later, adding more insulation to protect my plants. (Although “wind-chill” probably means that it will all blow off.)
As I finished my chores, the temperature started dropping drastically and I started thinking of the huge sweet potatoes that I had set aside for winter; the ones that were too big to add to anyone’s CSA share box. (*Note: add sweet potato to heat-loving, drought-resistant plant list!) With the leftover coconut milk in the fridge and the bag of cilantro in my hand, plus a mix of claytonia, spinach, mustard and lettuce that I had cut for salad, a dinner was born; Sweet Potato with Coconut-Ginger cream sauce with delicious little bits of ginger, onion and garlic in the gravy.
Having used only half of the 2.5 lb. sweet potato, more of it was used for sweet potato pancakes for dinner last night. Now that was really tasty! We ate them topped with delicious, dark and thick maple syrup that was tapped and cooked down by a friend of ours last spring; truly the best I’ve ever had.
I do still have 2 good sized pieces of sweet potato left. I think I may just steam them and gratefully eat them plain for lunch, happy that they grow and store well for us!