OK, I know what you’re thinking . . . aren’t the holidays the most wonderful time of the year? Well, for some maybe, but for most chefs, we work virtually nonstop from Labor Day until the end of December. If we are lucky, maybe there is a vacation or just a few days off to refresh, and then it's back to the daily grind. I am back to that grind, feeling the bite of this sub-zero weather and needing some sun, when suddenly, on the coldest day of the year, summer sunshine floods my mailbox . . . seed catalogs!
This year I had forgotten to get excited about seed catalogs and farm planning. With the trip to Spain, prenatal preparations, and an unusually busy private dining month, it slipped my mind. Being a fledgling farmer with thirty-five acres in sandy-soiled Wadena, farming is a passion of mine that I am forced to forget about during the busy holiday/entertaining season. The farmer in me leaves around the first week in November and returns in late January (when the catalogs show up).
The first of the catalog procession is Johnny’s Seeds, a day later is Burpee, then Gurney’s, Territorial Seed, a myriad of others, and lastly my favorite of all--Seed Savers Exchange. Seed Savers showed up Monday with all the pictures and the possibilities of a perfect growing season. My farmer is back, and my gardener juices are flowing. What is the newly reclaimed heirloom vegetable we’ll try this year? Where are my notes from last year’s harvest? Can I remember what variety of Brussels we liked best (we planted three types)? If my notes stayed at the farm, should I drive up to that now-frozen tundra just to get a peek at the land and all the possibilities?
I am so excited to eat a vegetable I reared from seed, to taste the sunshine on a tomato, or just pull weeds! For now, I will start my "gotta have" seed list, then whittle that down to a manageable number, and then plot the garden. This year we will plant approximately three-quarters of an acre of vegetables, which is approximately 33,000 square feet of potential sweat and reward or heartbreak. Some of the new veggies on this year’s list: red sweet corn, Desiree potatoes, strawberry popcorn, and oxheart carrots. I guess, for now, I will just daydream about getting dirty, the good kind of dirty when you’re exhausted at five o’clock in the afternoon; as you reach for that beer, you know you have earned it . . . plus one more.