Don’t they look like an exotic tropical flower or some such fabulous thing? They are favas. Friday they were getting ready to bloom, today they are blooming.
The pea vines are also blooming, the pods are ripening slowly but surely. Harvesting peas these days means being content with barely a handful of peas at a time. How far from the fast and furious pace of pea vines in the spring! Still, this is pretty good. Usually by now my vines have succumbed to mildew. I’d rather have just a little handful of peas.
Kale and chard are taking their time unfolding new leaves. All sorts of seedlings are more or less sitting there, doing not much, waiting. I too am waiting. Waiting for them to get going again, to pick up their pace and start growing. That’s what they are supposed to do, isn’t it? Not now, not in midwinter.
For years I was focused on temperature as the limiting factor of plant growth in winter. Since it doesn’t really get cold here — except for the very occasional frost — I happily kept my planting rhythm throughout the year, no modifications, no allowances for winter. I was mystified about the fact that my February plantings quickly caught up with plants from January or December. It didn’t seem to be any point in planting anything between Thanksgiving and late January. And what’s worse, there never were enough greens, I needed to plant lots and lots more than in summer. What’s going on in here?
Eliot Coleman’s excellent Four-Season Harvest solved the mystery for me: day length. There simply are not enough daylight hours in midwinter for optimal plant growth. At this latitude, 18 days before and after the winter solstice we have fewer than 10 hours of daylight. Not enough. What is a gardener to do with those deceivingly warm and sunny winter days? Plant lots in the fall and then take a break. Time for a vacation: enjoy the sunshine, harvest, cook, and, above all, do not dig.
This is the first winter I have favas mature enough to bloom. They don’t seem to have slowed down so far, and I doubt they will. From now on the days are getting longer. Right now I am enjoying their flowers, their striped and spotted glorious flowers. I am celebrating midwinter with favas in bloom.