It was certainly refreshing, nearly disorienting, to wake up to sunshine this morning. Many of our summer plants in fact wilted flat down onto the ground having grown so unaccustomed to direct sunlight. All told, we actually only got about 4-and-a-half inches from this most recent system, but we had another 2-plus from the succession of thunderstorms last weekend and Tuesday evening. In any case, I'm sure farmers around the region will remember the great "tropical moisture" of 2018 for years to come. Or maybe, as some predict, this is an extreme taste of the new normal for mid-Atlantic springs.
But for us, right now we're only thinking about making up for lost time. We are on an especially tight schedule with the bulk of our largest plantings (a half acre more of the usual summer crops, 1 acre each of sweet potatoes, winter squash, and watermelon, plus 3 acres of dry beans) all still in front of us. We aren't behind yet, but another storm or two could sure put us there. One things for sure though, we are definitely glad we decided to take a week off CSA deliveries...
Speaking of which, Reminder: we will not be doing a CSA delivery next week. Our availability has reached its spring ebb, and we look forward to coming back strong June 6th with all the usual suspects plus NEW greens, NEW strawberries, NEW snap peas, with cukes, squash, and green beans close on their heels. In the meantime, if you'd like to stock up on some Good Dog produce, might I recommend our radishes, garlic scallions, and bok choi, all of which compliment each other very nicely and will easily last the break in the fridge.
What's in a name?
Have you ever wondered about which words to use to describe the perfect, adorable, fresh and flavorful green vegetable so often found in delicious pickles or on top miso soups? Botanically, it falls within the species brassica rapa, the non-waxy brassicas, along with other subspecies turnips, Napa cabbage, and rapini--as contrasted with b. olaracea (cabbage and kale), b. juncea (mustard greens and mizuna), and raphanus raphanistrum (the radish).
Throughout sinophone Asia it is most commonly referred to as 青菜 (Mandarin: qing cai) or "dark-green vegetable." In Cantonese, this is pronounced cing choi. So whence "bok choi," "pak choy," and the other variants? These are in fact romanizations of the Cantonese pronunciation of the characters of another b. rapa vegetable, 白菜. Directly translated as "white vegetable," this word can refer to 大白菜 ("big white cabbage," aka Napa cabbage) or 小白菜 ("small white cabbage," aka white-stem bok choi). As these hardier, longer growing varieties hail from northern China and Manchuria, they are sometimes contrasted with 上海白菜 (Shanghai bok choi), aka the lovely, tender "dark-green vegetable" available to you this week, which originated farther south in the Yangtze River region.
As the above adventure in transliteration might hint, there are a dizzying number of Chinese names for vegetables that we might broadly lump into a few categories of Chinese cabbage, bok choi, and Asian greens. This diversity of names betrays a vast culinary wealth of vegetables ranging from those best enjoyed raw or lightly poached (like today's Shanghai Bok Choi), to those that need a few months smashed into a clay crock to be enjoyed. Americans are becoming more aware of this rich diversity each year, and we will be growing a wide variety of some of our favorites throughout the season, especially some that are remarkably well adapted to our climate. We'll also be providing culinary suggestions for many of them. So for starters, here is a great primer for three basic techniques on how to best enjoy the mosty tender and overcook-able greens. I recommend you try them all!
Happy eating and see you in two weeks!
Bryan and Joanna