Thursday, January 24, 2008

Greens - what to plant & what not to plant...


Gorgeous collards, two varities though I am not sure which is which.

... that is the question on this series of posts. See:



What a HUGE vegetable subject this is. Human Beings seem to be willing to sink their teeth into a whole botanical ecosystem of greenery. I will try and do my best to catalogue all I know about what grows in the north (here), what I am growing next year, and what I have resigned not to grow again. I am not including those that are only grown as 'herbs.' That is the subject of another post.

Perennial Greens:

French Sorrel - This year, I've decided to go for it after hearing all these tales of delicious lemony sorrel soup in spring. It will also tolerate some shade. YES (I will grow it)

Bloody Dock (red veined sorrel)- This sounds a bit tough for me but hey what do I know, I've never grown it. It appears in The Urban Farmer's garden of delights. MAYBE?

Lovage (borderline 'green', more of a herb) - I have grown this plant for several years and find its semi-shrub habit and deep green, cut leaves quite attractive. I also love the flavour in soups and stews. Some people eat this celery relative raw but I find the taste a bit too strong. Interestingly, it smells almost like chicken stock. Another plant that doesn't mind a bit of shade. YES

Chicory - The chicories (unlike endives) are perennial and I have lots of anecdotal evidence of friends and relatives (often italian) who grow it year upon year. I am still waiting for signs of life in those that I've been growing in my spaceship - recent pic here. I'll keep you posted. YES

Rocket / arugula - Apparently, perennial, but I'm not sure how hardy it is. YES

Salad Burnet - Ordered the seed for this from Salt Spring Seeds. I'll let you know. YES

Stingy Nettles - I don't grow these myself, nor have any volunteered for me, nor have I ever eaten stiny nettles but I hear good things!

Good King Henry - My seed arrived. It is a spinach relative, whose shoots are eaten in early spring. It is sometimes referred to as poor man's asparagus. Most of the time, people say it tastes great, but Carol Deppe in 'Breed your own vegetables' says her plant tastes awful. She suggests that there might be a lot of variation in this uncommon vegetable and that you should try more than one seed source before giving up on plants like this. YES

Asparagus - Actually a young shoot but I'm including it (even though I do intend on doing an 'all stems' post) I don't grow it because I don't have a convinient spot to grow enough for our family's needs. Apparently, someone has planted it nearby in Ottawa. Must go a-foraging.

SeaKale - Another plant mostly eaten for its spring shoots, I've gotten mixed messages on whether or not this is hardy in Ottawa, but I'm going to try it anyhow. An old time Ottawa Garden writer grows it so I figure, it's possible. YES

Chickweed - Well, it might taste good I suppose but it's on my 'haven't tried it yet' list. I am friendly to this week so I guess I grow it so ... YES

Scorzonera - I'm awaiting the seeds. This is something without a seed source (that I could find) in Canada but with some impressive mentions by the authors of 'Perennial Vegetables,' and 'Breed your own Vegetables Varities.' Though it is commonly thought of as a root crop, I guess the leaves in the spring taste almost like lettuce, and it's perennial (though once again, I've read very conflicting information on how hardy it is). Hope it works for me! YES

Grape Leaves - I love seasoned rice stuffed grape leaves! YES

Fiddle Head Ferns - Another delicacy that no one has cooked for me (including myself). If you have a shady spot, this plant is a great idea.

Mint - Is this a green, a herb, a tea plant, desert? I don't braise it, but I certainly use it in salads including cous cous.



Good old purslane, the wild variety, ready for harvest, with some green orach leaves (large) in the background, also coriander, chokecherry, 'black lace' elderberry in the picture.

Cold Hardy

Mache / Corn Salad / Lamb's Lettuce - This is definitely cold hardy, it's still sloooooooowly growing in my spaceship, and it has reseeded nicely for me. So nice, I didn't have to thin it or anything. YES

Claytonia - My first crop failed so I'll have to order more seeds and try again. YES

Giant Red Mustard (motherearthnews) - I am excited about trying this piquant braising green, especially now that I know it reseeds. YES

Arugula / Rocket (motherearthnews) - The native is perennial so is of more interest to me and I hear it also reseeds. YES

Parsley - I include this as a green because I use it so heavily in sauces and pesto that it is nearly a vegetable. It reseeds prolifically for me every year. It is extremely cold hardy in a coldframe as well. YES

Warm Season

Amaranth - Related to the common garden pest pigweed has some lovely vegetable relatives including a tri-varigated variety. It can also be grown for its nutritious seeds. I have grown the weed before. It definitely reseeds so I have no cause to doubt the cultivated variety won't reseed as well. The problem would be with the varities crossing (if you didn't want that). I know that the ornamental reseeds as well. I'm growing a grain variety this year though some of those vegetable ones look lovely.

Orach - A reseeder related to spinach that doesn't mind warm weather but is sometimes described as a cool season crop. I grew lime green, green and red orach last year. This year, I plan on trying just the red and purple varities. It is quite ornamental in seed. YES

Beetberry - I have yet to have this seed work for me but there is always next year. Another relative of spinach which produces bland red berries as well. YES

Wild purslane - Well this certainly reseeds. Pull out the baby plants and pop them into your salad. They are full of essential fatty acids. Grow again? Um, I have no choice. YES

Magenta Spreen lamb's quarters - A relative of lamb's quarters. Oh yes, reseeds too. It has a pretty pink blush to the giant leaves. Grow again? I have enough regular lamb's quarters around that I don't need to grow this too.


Cold Hardy

Various lettuce, weeds (oops), radish flowers, and some onions for good measure.

Herb Stella / Minutina / Buckshorn Plantain - This was quite a tasty herb even when it was a bit aged. I will try it again next year. YES

Lettuce - I don't have great luck with the heading varities and this year I am only going to grow loose leaf types but next year, I'll try the headers again. Often it will reseed in my garden though I've not tried to baby these seedlings in the coldframe to see if they come back. My favourite loose leaf types are the ubiquitous 'salad bowl,' and 'oak leaf'. At any rate, worth growing for the seed because they are inbreeders, which means that they (most of the time) come true from seed, even when starting with a small population (small amount of plants) in close proximity to other varities. YES

Spinach - I am growing so many relatives of spinach that I'm not entirely sure why I'm gorwing htis but I love spinach and it is wonderful to see a field of it where I will grow warm season crops in the near future. YES

Endive - The annual version of Chicory. Yup, I'll try it again, mabye this year I'll get a crop. YES

Kale (see brassicas, coming soon to this blog) - I love love love Kale. My favourite variety is Semi Dwarf Westlandse. It seems hardier than the famous Red Russian that is still alive, but unhappy in my spaceship. YES

Chard - I am amazed at the variety of temps this will grow at. Again, it was flavourable in the height of summer and in the depths of winter inside the spaceship. I am going to try a slightly different variety called Bietina. YES

Beet Tops (also included in the roots section) - I grow this incidentally as thinnings of my beets. YES

Turnip Greens (also included in the roots section) - These too are used as thinnings. YES

Cress - I think I'll try Land Cress (or have I already?) this year. YES

Oriental Greens - tatsoi, bok choy (these are brassicas as well) - I love the variety of wonderful flavours of these brassica greens and will definitely grow these again. I'll try a mix of these one year and give you my results. YES

Chrysanthanum / shungiku - intriguing but never tried them. They sure do look pretty in flower!

Chevril - I like this herb but it goes to seed too quickly for me.


Warm Season

Cultivated Purslane ('golden', 'tall') - I'm a bit scared of this given my friend the wild purslane but I am willing to give it a try as I hear it has superior flavour and browth habit. YES

Mizuna - Cold and warm hardy in my experience. YES

New Zealand Spinach - Never tried it what with the amaranth and the orach and the chard, I have no need.

Malabar Spinach - never tried it.

Curly Mallow (reseeder?) - My curiousity is piked. I wonder how regular mallow tastes.

Collards - I'll address these again in Brassicas but they are highly productive, extremely tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and delicious. I recommend that other people grow them but I am giving them a miss this year because they are huge plants and I already have a lot of greens. YES

Basil - Yup, this one too. Like Parsley. I even use this in sandwiches. Yum. YES


But there is more, oh so much more. This subject never ends. I've not mentioned some mexican greens such as Huauzontle and Epazote, stems such as Alexanders and Celery, Flowers such as Calendula and Daylily, other wild foods such as dandelion. We could go on, and please do. I always love to learn about something new!


Read a whole lot more about greens!


gintoino said...

A very interesting collection of greens you have there! Have to try a few...
I didn't know Chrysanthemum coronarium was edible. It is a major weed here in southern Portugal. I guess I'll have to look at them in a diferent perpective...

Patrick said...

scorzonera: This is the European name, in NA it's usually called black salsify.

The roots are delicious. The tops taste like grass. The roots are also deep, and unless your soil is very lose and easy to dig, they will be difficult to get out. A common trick is to dig a trench next to the row of scorzonera, then use a fork to tumble the plants into the trench. I may grow this in 2008 too.

I am also thinking about growing Japanese Gobi root this year too. I don't think it's related to scorzonera other than being a deep growing edible root.

jodi said...

That's a LOT of greens...the best one being Fiddleheads. If you've never had them, they're beyond delicious--better than asparagus (a favourite), green beans, broccoli,, and just about every other green veggie (and I love them all!) They're best steamed gently and served with butter and a little lemon or vinegar, like you would chard, spinach, or dandelion greens, but the taste is unlike any other. Just gotta get the right one--all ferns stuart out as fiddleheads, but this is the young frond of Matteucia struthiopteris, the ostrich fern. I only grow the ferns in our garden for ornamental interest, and harvest some wild ones for a few meals; and buy the rest of them fresh from commercial harvestings.

Ottawa Gardener said...

I've looked under 'black salsify' too and usually they only sell the 'white' variety. I'm curious about the tops as various people say they taste like lettuce (tasty grass?)

Let me know how Gobi goes, I've seen it in the stores and have thought of planting for seed (or buying seed).

If only I had more garden space, I'd try Fiddleheads, or maybe I do have enough space, a corner somewhere... hmm...

Curtis said...

WoW, what a wonderful salad. I have never heard of scorzonera before.

heirloomgardener said...

I love your website. I have to try some of these greens. I confess that I haven't ventured beyond lettuce in my very small vegetable garden.