Hello! Ada here. When I began to actually work on farms, leaving the office with a tote of the day's harvest (perks!), I became more intimately aware of what can grow, when, in Central Texas specifically. Our Central Texas seasonality is slightly different from the Louisiana growing seasons I grew up with, and is very different from seasonality in the northeastern United States which often dominates any nationally published “Seasonal Veggie Guides” or the like. If you’re a CSA member, I would imagine you’re having a similar experience. But the one piece that CSA Members sometimes miss, at no fault of their own, are some of the behind the scenes information of both why we have certain crops right now, as well as why we don’t have others. Maybe Texas onions are somewhat fussy(keep reading), or maybe a troop of hogs wiped out a quarter acre of a particular crop (nightmare, hypothetical example here.. don’t worry). Whatever it is, we hope that an occasional farm update on what’s actually happening at our farm in Bastrop will help you know your food beyond just the flavors it provides a meal.
Like a new line of jeans (at Old Navy.. their holiday marketing has a grip on me, obviously), we’re stoked when our planning and planting finally come to fruition and we have a new crop to offer you. There’s LOTS of that happening right now.
Carrots are just about to be ready, and once they start coming in, you’ll see them for the next few months. Carrots are one of our favorite crops to grow (they do so well in our sandy soil!) and so we plant successions of different varieties of carrots all winter long. Just after the carrots roll in, we’ll have broccoli and cauliflower, followed quickly by lots of cabbage varieties: Chinese cabbage, red cabbage, and green cabbage. We seeded this cabbage in August, transplanted it in September, and it’s been steadily growing in the field since then. By December, about 3 months after we started this long-game, you’ve got coleslaw. I’ve got a blog post in my head titled something like “Why Cabbage is the Best”, and I can’t wait to convince you of all its wonders… if you need convincing, that is.
And then of course, there are the greens. There are so many gorgeous greens coming off the farm right now including stunning salanova lettuce heads as well as mixed bag lettuce. Another post just on lettuce and how we like to eat it, soon. Spinach is coming in including the regular Popeye variety, as well as this red veined variety that is just what it sounds like: beautiful red veins coursing through dark, nutrient rich greens. We grow each and every one of these crops FOR YOU! and you can expect to see them color your CSA shares soon.
Okra and peppers are officially done for the season. Did we just hear you breathe a sigh of relief? Other summer crops like zucchini and cucumbers are definitely petering out, and their existence at this point is really just a little farm-bonus, and not something anyone should count on.
And now, onions.
Lots of people often wonder why there aren’t onions available all the time in Texas, and the simple answer is: short day onions. We planted most of our onions this past October, putting thousands of tiny seeds, which look kind of like a flatter, black sesame seed, into the ground. But here’s the kicker: despite planting these seeds this past October, you won’t actually see these onions in full bulb-form until June 2022.
There are two main types of onions you can grow: short day onions, which require about 12 hours of sunlight to kickstart bulb growth, and long day onions, which require about 16 hours. Here in Texas, because we’re at more southern latitude (with HOT summers), we need to kickstart onion growth as early as possible so that they get big and bulbous before it gets too hot and dry. Short day onions fit this bill because we can start them now, when the days are shorter. This early season growth allows us to get full size onions out of the ground before the heat can, well, kill ‘em.
You may still be wondering why you can’t have Texas onions (which you see in the grocery store year-round) all the time. Well, it just so happens that short day onions, while delicious and well suited for growing in southern latitudes, have a measly shelf life compared to their long-day kin. If properly cured and stored, most short day onions will last for 2-3 months after harvest, which is why you can only get locally grown onions June through September, max.
How We Onion
The onions that we put in the ground just a few weeks ago were planted in a very tight spacing along two long beds. The tiny seeds are nearly on top of each other, and soon will germinate and make tiny neat lines of what looks like vibrant green grass. This is step 1 of onion growth, but by the end of January/early February, when the greens are about the width of a pinky finger, we’ll actually dig up all of these tiny grass pinkies and replant them, but with a much more generous spacing - giving the onions room to actually bulb out come June.
We grow lots of onions, enough in fact to give you plenty of teaser spring onions come April and May. Yellow, white, and red… we plant them all, and while it may seem odd that we’re talking about a June crop at the end of November, we promised we’d welcome you into our farmer brains which are thinking full season, all season. You’re welcome!