I love late spring in Tasmania – because the winter growing season lasts such a long time, it’s genuinely exciting when the new season spring crops start coming in. With the exception of globe artichokes – which sadly we can never seem to find anyone who wants to grow – all my favourites are represented in this week’s box: asparagus, garlic and new potatoes.
Apart from being delicious, garlic just keeps giving – it can be harvested before the bulb is fully formed, when the size of spring onions or leeks (as in $40 boxes this week); the central flower head and stalk (called a “scape”) is also delicious (in $30 boxes this week); and of course once the bulbs form, the heads of garlic can either be eaten fresh straight away, or left to dry out so it can be enjoyed during the autumn. During winter dry garlic will tend to sprout – it can still be eaten as long as it hasn’t started to rot, but it can also be planted at this point, giving you garlic next year too!
Potatoes, like garlic, are a generous vegetable – what you don’t eat you can easily plant and with relatively little attention you’ll get fresh potatoes from tired old potatoes. But, like garlic, potatoes know what growing conditions they like, which is why potatoes which have stored perfectly well during the winter will suddenly start sending out shoots like mad in your drawer as the temperature starts to rise in spring. (Storing them in the fridge will stop them shooting, but it will also turn the starches into sugars, resulting in strangely sweet potatoes that will go black if you fry them.)
Potatoes generally prefer to crop through summer and autumn; convincing them to produce their starchy little tubers during the winter is a bit more of a challenge. Spring, or “new” potatoes (of which pink eyes are the variety we favour in Southern Tasmania) tend to be fairly small, which is definitely a positive in some ways (they cook quickly and they’re a good size for eating) but it also results in poorer yields for a planting, which is part of the reason they are considerably more expensive than summer potatoes. Our grower John plants his pink eyes right up the top of a hill where there’s plenty of sun and drainage, although they’re almost always a bit later than the pink eyes from South Arm, because the Huon Valley’s seasons always change later than those in Hobart.