What do farmers do when the heat index is 119 degrees? Harvest vegetables. We don’t get a day off because it’s the Fourth of July and we don’t get a day off because it’s hot . If anything we are doing more harvesting because the vegetables are experiencing tremendous growth in all of this heat. We drink a lot of water and take supplemental electrolyte tablets. We sweat out gallons of water and work as fast as possible to get the vegetables out of the field and into the coolers. Not only is this week special because of the record heat wave. This week marks the transition between early season vegetables and summer vegetables. As you know, the season began with a lot of greens (lettuce heads, salad mix, spinach, chard) and other early season vegetables (radishes, salad turnips, rhubarb, scallions, pearl onions, snap peas). All of those early season vegetables like cool weather. As the weather gets warmer those vegetables begin to show signs of stress. The loose greens will bolt, which means they elongate and produce flowers and then seeds. Radishes become very hot and woody and then bolt. Many of those vegetable seeds won’t even germinate in soil that is too warm; those seeds were planted in April and May. In May we also plant vegetables that take longer to mature than do the greens: zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, and eggplant. We tend to these vegetables for months; we mulch, weed, irrigate and trellis, put row cover fabric on them to keep insects off and remove row cover so the blossoms can be pollinated. And then the week comes when we can begin to harvest them.
This week we began big harvests of cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes and green beans. We harvest zucchini five days each week (we skip Thursday and one of the weekend days). If we are not out there nearly every day the size of an individual zuc can double or triple. That vegetable keeps us on our toes, or more accurately, keeps us in the zucchini patch. As soon as cucumbers start to size up we keep a close eye on them, because all of a sudden they are ready. We harvest cucumbers and tomatoes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The tomatoes that we are harvesting now are growing in our hoophouse, a large greenhouse structure where we plant directly into the ground. We do this so we can have a crop earlier than we could outside. The outside tomatoes are beautiful, but it will be several weeks before we will begin to harvest them. This week was the first of eight green bean harvests. I think we will harvest the first eggplants next week. Of course there are lots more summer vegetables on their way, I chose to highlight the ones that define the coming of the summer season.
You may have noticed a slightly smaller quantity of vegetables last week. This seems to happen when the early season is winding down and the summer season is beginning. Plan as we may, Mother Nature always has the final say.