“Green garlic, rain or shine,” says Joe Aiello of Mangia Bene Farm in Glasco. “We’ll pull plenty of green garlic for the Farmers Market on Saturday. If the sun comes out, we’ll have nice heads of lettuce, red leaf and romaine, and other greens. What we all need is a little more sunshine.”
Area farmers agree: cool temperatures are slowing things down, delaying them from transplanting seedlings into the ground and slowing down growth in the crops they plant directly. “It’s a little rough,” said Doug Davenport. “We need drier ground to get everything going, but asparagus is ready, and a little spinach, plus annual and perennial bedding plants.”
Diane Carlson of Greene Earth Farm said the cloudy skies have been an issue, too. “I don’t mind the rain, but no sun is a problem,” she said. “Even the greenhouse plants can’t get warm. We have plenty of eggs, raspberry and strawberry plants, and a few early veggies like rhubarb and radishes.”
Jacob Diaz of Slow Roots Farm will tote good-sized tomato seedlings to market; that is, any that don’t get transplanted into his own fields this week. “We’ve been hammered with rain, and it will be a while before the fields dry out. My kale and Swiss chard are good, and we’ll see about lettuce. Garlic is growing, but it’s too early yet this season for scapes.”
Which brings us back to green garlic from Glasco. Like other farmers, Joe and Laura Aiello planted their garlic last fall, covering with mulch and straw. Last winter’s heavy snows provided extra protection from frost and the crop has grown in thick rows. “Most of our garlic will mature into bulbs and be harvested in late summer,” explains Aiello. “The more delicately flavored green garlic is picked now, as we thin the rows.” Laura adds, “Green garlic makes delicious spring pesto. It’s immature but still garlicky.” This spring specialty is hard to find except in farmers markets, unless you grow your own.
Laura and Joe Aiello moved to Glasco 32 years ago and planted a small garden with eggplant that first summer. Their neighbor said eggplant would never grow, that he’d been trying for years. Joe decided a little research was in order, so he purchased a soil kit and learned that bone meal could make a difference to the garden soil, adding phosphorous. With bone meal, the eggplants did grow, and so did Joe’s reputation as a savvy gardener.
Most of their property is filled with raised beds of salad greens and Italian specialties like agretti and fava beans. There are rows of peppers: red bell, ivory white, early varieties like jupiter, plus Portugal hots, jalepenas, poblanos, even chocolate, a deep brown variety. Squashes and golden yellow squash blossoms, an Aiello market favorite should be ready by July.
A greenhouse was added last season with the assistance of their son Roberto, who also tends the new leghorn and Rhode Island red laying chickens and a growing supply of eggs. The Aiellos have raised rabbits for years, for their own meat supply and now sell to others, though not in the farmers market.
“It’s a mindset,” said Aiello, “based on generations-old methods of self sufficiency. The rabbits are key to the economy of my gardening, as they provide the fertilizer. For most of the year, my rabbits feed off garden scraps and need minimal grain. I recommend starting with a homestead trio of rabbits, two does and a buck. Two litters a year, a conservative number, can provide cost-effective, lean protein for a family.”
The Aiellos recall a time when gardens were more numerous in Glasco. “Twenty years ago, you could walk anywhere in the evening and see families working a garden in their yard,” remembers Joe.
Expanding beyond their own backyard, the Aiellos have developed a working relationship with Mike and Judy Della Chiesa, down the street. Garlic now grows there. In addition, Joe is researching raising pigs. This season he started with a trio of heritage Tamworth Old Spots. These affectionate animals are hardy for winter and love to romp in the snow. Out of their pens, they are like a tractor, turning over the soil as they root. A good breed for the Aiellos’ network of mostly Italian customers, these Old Spots have darker meat which makes flavorful sausage and proscuitto.
“It fits together,” says Joe. “Old time farming is a system where the animals provide for the garden, and the garden provides for all.”
Ribbon-cutting will kick off the 10th season of the Saugerties Farmers Market at 10 a.m. at 115 Main Street. Listen to live country-style music by David Kraai & Amy Laber, who play banjo, mandolin, guitar, and harmonica. The market will be open from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Local ingredients (fresh eggs, mushrooms, green garlic and goat cheese) will be served up for free tasting in fritatas by Joe and Amanda Moseley of The Villa at Saugerties. Stay for brunch under the market umbrellas, with selections from Heather Ridge and Reggae Boy Jamaican cuisine.
For further information, check SaugertiesFarmersMarket.com.