A truly glorious day on the farm today. And my first day in the fields.
Planting celeriac and peas.
Celeriac is tough to like at first glace: it’s a pale, knotty, knobby root vegetable with a squid-like mass of tangled root structure hanging from its bottom end. But in a vigilant effort to prevent any misinformed opinion from taking shape, Petra is quick to sing the praises of celeriac as she unpacks each one from its Winter storage in layers of hay. You can roast it, peel it and use the peels as soup stock, or – rumor has it – you can mash it just like potatoes with butter and garlic. Even a raw slice in the middle of the field tastes good: celeriac’s smooth, white meat has a creamy texture and tastes a bit like celery.
This is the first time we’ll be planting celeriac for seed. It’s a biennial and needs two years to reproduce. These bulbs have been in cold storage for a year and, before putting them into the ground, we make a final selection for highest quality.
Preferred celeriac are large like a softball, heavy and solid in your hand, have a healthy stem growing from the tip, have a large tangle of root structure hanging from the bottom, and have no open wounds or mold penetrating the skin. It’s quite a process looking over each one.
It’s also quite a process to get each bulb in the ground. You need to get the roots aimed down into the hole, or they grow upwards and pinch themselves off. You need to get soil around the root structure after the bulb is settled, or they’ll die out and sap energy from the plant as they regrow. You need to sit the bulb deep enough so the tip with the stem is just poking above the ground, and don’t break off the stem as you move to the next one.
Of course, Matthew has a clever trick for getting the bulbs in the ground with greater ease: a gas-powered auger that bores softball-sized holes six inches deep into the beds.
That’s how we roll.
In contrast, planting peas is easy. It’s just a matter of pushing them into the ground with a finger, one inch deep and two inches apart.
However, the labor compounds: 600 peas to push in over fifty feet of bed.
Then there’s the rocky soil, which frequently puts bits of stone right where a pea should go. Will the stones block or impede growth of the peas?
“Don’t worry about it, just shove ‘em in there,” said Matthew. “Seeds are smart. They’ll figure it out.”
And if they don’t, they’re not the seeds we want anyway.