Saturday, September 14, 2013

Getting More Harvest From Less Space.

One of the tricks we learned during our year-long CSA experiment was to seed direct-sown vegetables like beets, turnips, and spinach pretty densely.  When It comes time to thin them, the thinnings make a fine harvest all their own that could be ready only a month after sowing!  We think of it as getting two crops out of one bed-- first the baby greens which are ready in almost no time, followed later by the roots (or in the case of spinach, the larger and more mature leaves).  Here are some photos we took to illustrate how it works.

First, here's a portion of one of our beet beds, sown August 25th.  That's not quite three weeks ago, and these greens are already in need of thinning (and weeding).  Baby greens can be a bit labor-intensive to harvest, but they are the way to go if you want a crop that could be ready to eat in under a month.

Here's what one of our beet beds looks like after the thinning.  We thinned this bed, sown August 17th, over the course of about two weeks, reducing the plants to 3"-4" spacing.  That's a lot of baby beet greens.  And now that these plants have the space they need, we hope to get a good harvest out of them starting around the first weekend in October.  Whatever we don't want to eat right away should hold in the ground as the weather turns cold.  In other words, you're looking at our winter beets!

Here's today's harvest from that August 17th sowing, from only about as much space as is shown in the first photo.  They're piled high in a colander 11" across and 5" deep!

This crop isn't just good for salad, though they're tender enough to be eaten raw.  We like to cook them in a frittata, or to make them the star of a greens gratin or vegetable tart.  The flavor is like a cross between beets and spinach, and at this stage, is pretty mild.  Good stuff!

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