The edible spring garden ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

27 March 2012

The edible spring garden

lemon balm plant

It's officially spring! Now I can show you all my delicious plants that have suddenly started to heave themselves out of the ground, produce leaves, and suck up the copious rain we've been getting here in California.

The clear winner of the "who can grow biggest, fastest, and best" category is this guy: lemon balm. Yes, I know it looks like standard mint, but I can assure you that it is not at all minty and is instead super-lemony. Most of the leaves are already full-sized, which is to say two to three inches long. They are totally dwarfing everything else in the herb bed.

spearmint plants

Of course, they won't be dwarfing everything else for long, because the spearmint is also emerging.

Take note: you don't want to plant mint in the actual ground unless you want it to spread everywhere as quickly as possible. This mint was already planted when we moved in--which is why there's a gigantic carpet of it firmly entrenched and growing like wildfire. It's going to be tough to establish new plants in the front bed.

But then, this also means we have plenty of mint to harvest for tea, spring rolls, and Thai curries, so I obviously can't complain too much.

homegrown chive buds

Our chives have also reemerged within the last month or so, and are growing at an astonishing rate. They have flower buds already, and it's not even April!

Chives are by far the most versatile herb in the front bed, but they get some stiff competition from the parsley growing beside our garage.

homegrown parsley plantThis is the only herb I actually had to establish myself; everything else was already planted when we moved in. It's been in the ground for about six months, has weathered the winter (such as it is in California), and is clearly thriving. I'm excited to see what happens this summer--hopefully we'll establish a self-seeding cycle for delicious parsley with little to no maintenance required.

That takes care of the herbs--let's move around to the main bed.

potato plantsAbout a month ago, I discovered that half a bag of fingerling potatoes had sprouted in our kitchen cupboard and tendrils were beginning to fly in all directions. I promptly decided that I would plant them instead of throwing them out or composting them. Why not?

And lo, check it out: we now have a bunch of little potato plants emerging from the carpet of leaf mulch. Hooray! I'm especially excited to see how these do, since I've never grown potatoes before.

red chard plant

Since there is no winter to speak of in California--it's more like early spring for the duration--I left a handful of plants in the bed to overwinter.

The star of the bed is probably the red chard. It's a good foot and a half tall, though it doesn't look it in this picture. Huge, I tell you, HUGE! Check out the beet leaf in the upper left corner for scale.

The chard leaves are all super shiny and healthy and delicious, with sturdy bright pink stems. Now you know why chard is such a constant ingredient at our house.


Besides the chard, we have two ancient bolting radishes, a few tufts of carrot greens, one or two emerging sprouts of garlic, and a scattered handful of beets. Pretty soon I'll have to pull some of these for a batch of pickled beets and a stir-fry of beet greens. I should probably plant some spinach or other early greens as well--maybe when I pull the radishes. Of course, until then we have not only chard but also copious radish greens to eat.

Needless to say, I am very excited to see my plants thriving! What are you growing in your spring garden?


Veronica said...

Oh man, I guess I need to plant some chard... like last week. And hope that the "gardeners" don't mutilate it.

Eileen said...

Well, keep in mine that I planted mine in approximately July! You could probably plant chard practically any time in CA and it would still do fine.

Anna @ the shady pine said...

What a gorgeous bounty!! I would be very happy to have all these growing in my garden!

Dining Alone said...

I am so jealous of your green thumb, I cannot grow a thing. I guess it doesn't help I am in the desert :)

emmycooks said...

Gorgeous! I should go out with my camera and show you how my Seattle garden compares at this time of year. (Hint: not favorably.) It makes me miss California! But I'll enjoy it vicariously through you. :)

Louisa said...

Jealous! I can't do anything here in NY, it's too cold for garden plants, boo :(

The chard looks amazing! Chard is Eric's favorite, so we always have a bunch of it. It's such a beautiful plant :)

Caz said...

It sounds like you have a proper kitchen garden! I am so jealous. Most of my attempts fail, being British I like to blame the weather. I adore chard, it looks great.

Kat said...

I was reading about Swiss chard the other day - after seeing several bunches at Whole Foods (grown in CA!) I think they are related to beets which explains the gorgeous red and green of the leaves. Anyway, I love your beautiful garden, I'll look forward to the pickled beet recipe (my husband loves beets and pickles).

Jes said...

Love love love the garden!!! Lemon balm is one of the best--I used to make mojitos with it. Mmm. Now I'm craving one :)

noelle said...

I wish I was growing something! I should give it another go. My dad can always do damage control ;)

I hope to hear what happens to all the (mmm) mint! Tea is a good one - my favorite has mint + cocoa nibs in it.

goboroot said...

Your garden really looks springy:) I love the varieties of your plants!

Eileen said...

I'm excited to see what you guys come up with for your gardens--as as soon as it's actually the right temperature to plant things. :) I never thought of lemon balm mojitos, Jes--that's a fantastic plan!

Smultron Soul said...

You're so lucky to have a garden that you can eat out of! My mom's lemon balm (in NJ) comes back every year as well, and it's so beautifully fragrant! I love just smelling it, but it's great in lemonade too!

Sara said...

Your garden looks great! It's so fun to have things come back isn't it? Thanks for visiting our blog as well.

Kirsten McCulloch said...

Here, we're heading towards winter. I imagine in another month I'll see a post like this and long for Spring, but right now Autumn is still new enough (and we've just had a series of 26C days, so not too cold, though it's forecast to cool down from today), that I am enjoying the morning chill in the air.

I'm hoping to get the last of my winter greens in the ground today (a bit late, so we'll see how they go).