27 March 2012
The edible spring garden
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.
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.
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.
This 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.
About 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.
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?