There is no doubt that spring has arrived in the Yampa Valley. The angle of the sun has changed, and melting of the snow has begun in earnest. We have started to usher in the growing season in many ways. Of course, there are the ways you might first think of, like putting seeds in the ground. We spent weeks preparing our soil and the planting beds to receive seeds. Some seeds are directly sown into the soil in our protected hoop houses, and some are started in our 'seed house' in containers to be transplanted when the weather is warmer. Yet another round of seeding will take place when the outdoor beds are warm enough to receive seeds after the last danger of frost.
Sowing seeds in soil is part of the process for our annual plants, but the perennial trees in the greenhouse require a different level of care. At the moment, our citrus trees are blossoming! The smell is amazing and the clusters of citrus flowers are beautiful. Normally a citrus tree will self-pollinate, but in our greenhouse that process is aided by pollinators like bees. Unfortunately, this year our beehive was eaten by a bear (!) and so at this time of year there are no bees flying around the greenhouse. For that reason we have returned to hand-pollination of the citrus flowers. This process involves using the tip of a paintbrush to collect pollen from male flowers and then to pollinate the stigma of the female flowers to eventually promote fertilization and the growth of fruit.
This level of depth informs and influences us in the kitchen - a lemon tart has more resonance when you hand pollinated the tree that made the lemons that made the tart. This is slow food in its purest incarnation. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to participate in the entire process of raising the products we use, especially when our kitchen is out of commission! Currently there are a few key pieces of equipment in our kitchen that are down for repair, so it gives us the opportunity to participate on the horticulture side. It's amazing to participate in the production of these things, and we as chefs are grateful to do so. Soon we will be deep in the swing of summer dinners, but we won't forget the things we did in the snow to make it all possible.