After a late (and hopefully final) rain, we set out to pick amaranth, sticking our necks out and peering at the ground like birds. The plants were hard to find. The field was still too young, and its doppelganger, a weed that looked incredibly similar, kept rearing its face. Amaranth is a salad green, with a burgundy sheen underneath it’s smooth edged leaves. The weed we were to avoid had a rougher edge to the leaf, and were brighter purple beneath. They frequently looked exactly the same to me. Finally Rico, who spoke mostly Spanish, sweetly led me away from a huge patch of weeds that I was so intent on harvesting, over to the amaranth, further afield. It seemed to grow in tufts, for in some places it was still quite young, while in other places, it rose up like miniature hills. I picked their crowns. We also picked purslane, another salad green. Four boxes of that.
After we got those back to the farmstand, we were sent back to Rico, who kept smiling as he taught us our next task. It turns out that underneath the thick carpet of purslane that we had just harvested, tiny little lettuces and cilantro were trying to establish themselves. He took his hoe, and deftly sheared away the purslane, revealing the tiny cotyledon beneath. He did it quickly, and neatly, as if he were cutting hair instead of hacking the purslane out so that the crop had some space to breathe.
It turns out not to be so easy. First I had to find the plant, which I couldn’t. I asked Katrina to help me. Once identified, I found it hard to reveal them with my hoe. Instead I had to keep dropping to the ground, to sift through the purslane with my fingers to find the next cilantro. And the purslane and dirt I had just clipped away often found itself laying onto other little sprouts. It took me ten minutes to do two square feet. Meanwhile the paid farm workers were working steadily away, while the interns shuffled about doing our best. Whoever thinks farming is unskilled labor has obviously not done it. In the distance, I can hear Ross telling the interns (the new summer interns, who are all amazing and as sweet as the last bunch) something about how this was a lesson in farm management – “if we had only got to this a week ago….”
Later, purslane found its way into my salad bowl, and I finally bit into its thick leaves, so tender and fresh. They give way so beautifully when you bite into it. Such a lovely green.