Better late than never. That's how Long Island farmers greeted spring 2014.
"We're about 30 days behind," said Michael Massino, owner of Organics Today Farm in East Islip. He opened his farm stand on March 1, but his first produce pickups for members of his Community Supported Agriculture, usually scheduled for the first week in May, will have to wait until the end of the month.
We're all waiting. First, there was the polar vortex with its unceasing supply of snow. Once the snow melted, however, the warming seemed to grind to a halt just above freezing. When we could finally see the grass again, the question arose: Would we ever see another local vegetable?
Finally, Mother Nature's bad mood is beginning to thaw.
Massino has been harvesting a slew of exotic lettuces, and this week will reap three kinds of kale (curly, Tuscan and Chinese), along with Swiss chard, Napa and Italian cabbage, escarole, spinach and baby spinach, beets and spring onions.
True to the name of her East Moriches farm -- Early Girl -- Patty Gentry started planting in mid-March and now has lettuce, spinach, kale, radishes, broccoli raab and green garlic to show for it. "I had them under fabric row covers," she explained. "The seed catalogs say these plants are 'cold- tolerant.' Well, they tolerate the cold, but that doesn't mean they enjoy it. When the soil is cold, they can't take up the minerals. But now, finally, they're coming up."
As for traditional spring vegetables, such as English peas, sugar snaps, fava beans, she said, "it'll be mid-June -- if I'm lucky."
In addition to 80 acres of farmland, Sang Lee Farms in Peconic has about 20 greenhouses, and that allows the certified organic farm to get a jump on the season -- no matter the winter weather. "Right now," said co-owner Karen Lee, "we have mesclun, baby arugula, baby romaine, baby mustard greens and baby kale, baby bok choy, Asian greens like tatsoi and mizuna, plus radishes, scallions, rainbow chard and lacinato kale. And we're just starting asparagus."
Early Girl, Organics Today and Sang Lee are among the first Long Island farm stands to open, but more come online every week. Click here to see a complete list.