Friday, April 26, 2013

Spinach Then and Now

On Saturday, May 7, 1988 the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market opened for the first market of the season. This was our second season, having attended sporadically the year before.

 Andrea, always the early riser, literally leapt out bed when I went to get her up. She was "on a mission" to get there, plying me with questions all the way.

We got our one tiny table set up at about 7:30. In addition to some tomato plants, we also had about 20 large bunches of fresh spinach. We'd had a fresh spinach salad the night before that Andrea really liked. Everyone that stopped by got her sales pitch for spinach. She explained how yummy it was and that it had her personal endorsement, which often culminated in a twirling leap into the air (this girl was high energy). She then closed the deal by firmly offering to put a bunch in a bag for them. We were sold out by 9:00. By the time Andrea sold the last of the spinach all the vendors around us were asking if she would take a commission to sell their stuff. I told them that Andrea was in charge of our marketing strategy. This weeks technique was the spinach twirl!

The children loved this spinach and would perfer spinach and ranch dressing to any other treat before bed, even better than a cookie. Now that they are teenagers, they also love Candy Carrots, but spinach is still high on the list of coveted treats.

The reason we were able to have spinach at the very first market was we had some spinach from the previous fall that over wintered and it was one of the first things to come out of dormancy in the spring. I did not realize that the spinach would do that so this was a little bit of serendipity.

When we started at the market we grew Melody spinach and let it get big enough to bunch. So Friday night Andrea and I would wash the plants thoroughly, pick off all the yellow leaves, and group several plants together with a rubber band to form a bunch. We could get about 20 bunches in a large rubber maid tub and would typically take 1-2 tubs per market. We would get $2 per bunch.

Today we grow Tyee baby spinach and cut everything when it is just an inch tall. Andrea and Jenna are still the greens experts and do all the harvesting. I prefer to harvest with a knife, but they still like to use a scissors, which harkens back to when they were little. They can harvest about 20 lbs in 15-20 minutes. We typically get $5 for a a half pound bag. So we are able to pay our help a little better than when we started. That is important as both our children and our other workers are building their college funds.

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