Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Early Edibles

While we are waiting for those seeds to sprout I wanted to show you some of the plants that are already up and growing and ready for use in the kitchen.

Salad Greens--Most varieties of lettuce and spinach are good growers for cool weather, in both early spring or in the fall.  Adding fiber, folate, vitamins A & K to our diets, one of the types that we like very much is Buttercrunch Leaf Lettuce.  Last summer we also tried growing Mesclun Blend and Romaine as well as Baby Spinach.  A problem we had last year was the Cabbage Moth who visited our lettuce patch and laid eggs which turned into little green wormies that nibbled on our leafy goodness. GROSS!  The plan this year is to create a sort of row cover of fine mesh to keep the moths from getting to the lettuce plants in the first place.  That project will be taking place soon. I will let you know how it turns out.

Chives--Started from seed or bought from a garden center, you'll never regret getting a clump of chives of your very own.  You may even find that you have some growing wild in your lawn, evidenced by a light green oniony fragrance when you mow the grass.  A handful of chives fresh from the garden can be chopped and added to any number of dishes to add great flavor. Chives are also very easy to dry and store for use throughout the winter as well.  More pros: chives are a perennials (they come back every year), multiply quickly, and grow in a clump that is easy to divide, transplant, & share.

Wild Garlic--I discovered this about 3 years ago and transplanted a bunch of it into my herb garden.  As shown in the picture, wild garlic has a green shoot that grows into curlie cues toward the top, and can be used just like chives or green onions. The garlic bulb or clove is very small and much harder than regular garlic, and is pretty difficult to peel, but has a nice strong flavor and is worth the time it takes to clean and prepare it.  I harvest the cloves after the shoots have flowered and produced little seeds (thats what will grow into more little cloves next year).  I wash and peel them and store them whole in the freezer.

This year is the first that I am trying to grow regular large garlic.  Most resources say that garlic must be planted in the fall for harvest the following year, however I read one document that says if planted in the cold weather of March or April garlic has a good chance of growing well for harvest in August.  We'll see what happens to the pieces I planted last week.

Some things you may think of as weeds rather than early edible plants are a good addition to your spring salads.


I recently learned that these pretty perennials growing wild all around the back yard and flower beds are actually an edible plant.  Violets have dark green glossy leaves which vary from oval to heart-shaped, and have fragrant flowers which bloom in  April.  Both the leaves and the blossoms can be used as garnishes on chilled soups, fruit, or punches, candied for use on cakes and pastries. The leaves are good eaten alone or added to a mix of greens.  I read that the violet has herbal/medicinal uses too, but I'll save that for another post...

Dandelion--Just like everyone else I know, I think this is an annoying weed!  But the truth is that some good can be said of it, and since its going to grow in your yard anyways you might as well find some use for it (unless you live on a golf course or have a landscape company care for your yard--and if you did then you probably would be doing something other than reading this blog!)

Dandelions provide beneficial vitamins A, B, C and D as well as minerals Iron, Potassium and Zinc.  The shiny, deeply toothed leaves are commonly added to salads and sandwiches.  I have read that the roots can be used medicinally and the blossoms can be made into wine.

The greens of both the Violet and the Dandelion are considered "hot, bitter, spicy" type of lettuce, and the great cook I am married to just informed me that type of salad tastes best when served with sweeter dressing with a red wine vinegar or a cider vinegar as its base ingredient.

Well, there you go, some basic info... let me know if any of you are going to go check out your yard for some of these unassuming salad fixin's!


  1. Wow just found out that some of the chives I thought I picked were actually wild garlic. At first I though o no I bet I'm not suppose to eat the green shoots from the garlic but am relived you can. I was kinda wondering why most of the chives were so curly! Haha I'm going to go out and see if there are little garlic men out there now!

  2. :) Yes, thats good! Those that you were drying will be fine all mixed in together with the chives. Quite tasty in fact! If you want to, since its so wet outside, right now would be a good time to move some clumps of chives or wild garlic, or both, into a corner of your raised garden bed--closer to the house/kitchen.