February is here, for us the last winter month, and the ground is frozen two inches deep. Beautiful clear sunny days, the morning and evening skies full of pearl like shades of pink and blue. The first real cold spell we have had all winter. Always in two minds about it of course. We love the quality that the frosts bring to our soil. However freezing temperatures can, if too prolonged, damage the plants. Painful memories of last years “big freeze” creeping into our minds. Any picking for this week has had to take place in the afternoon, to allow the warmth of the early afternoon sun to revive the drooping heads of the cold plants briefly before the temperature begins to fall again at about 3pm. How do plants survive the cold I ask myself, whilst I am layered up in thermals, and woolen jumpers, at least three pairs of socks, a thin layer first , thick wool the next and a top coat of looped cotton socks on top, and a pair of neoprene lined boots. Looking rather square and large, with a small head above my wide shoulders and a wooly hat to make myself look more ridiculous!
Yes, how do these cold-blooded plants survive over the winter, standing naked in exposed areas? I am no botanist, but from my observations and experience I see that they are very clever and resourceful. With the lower than usual amount of moisture in the soil, and that the frost is not deeply into the ground, the brain and life source of the plant (its roots) are not frozen or damaged. The heads and leaves of the plants are drooping and hanging low in a state of semi dormancy. I know that these plants have a natural source of lets call it anti freeze, and that they are protecting themselves so that the moisture in the leaves and stems does not freeze and kill off any life in the plant. Often the tips of the leaves and any new growth can get burnt by the cold. So although picking has been tricky and in some cases impossible this week, with the thaw forecasted next week, all should be well and the plants will be perky and upright again.
We are at the Arch on Saturday with a selection of Fern Verrow Winter produce, and two varieties of blood orange, lots of other beautiful citrus too. We have made a new bergamot lemon and lime marmalade to try, and also some preserved bergamot lemons. Sausages this week also, and Bacon next.
Just to let you know in advance that we will not be at the Arch on Saturday 18th February and Saturday 25th February. We are unable to leave the farm for two weeks, but we shall be back as usual on Saturday 3rd March.