I spent last week at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show getting all inspired about gardening. I bought some new plants for the garden. I got home and did a reality check. It’s too cold to go out and plant all the plants waiting on my patio. I’m not going out there to be assaulted by flying limbs from the Doug Firs. I’ll write about my garden instead.
One of the garden tips that struck a chord with me was on the use of perennial food crops. Yes! Grow veggies that don’t need to be planted every year. I’m replanting asparagus for the first time in about 10 years. Our asparagus has served us well for about six weeks in the early spring. Homegrown asparagus is nothing like store asparagus.
Of course, my prolific raspberries have kept us in fruit for years with little care. I planted ever-bearing raspberries that give me berries from June to December. No, that was not a typo. Shortly before Christmas I picked raspberries out of my garden to use in a salad. That is a long fruiting season for very little work.
Among the plants that don’t need to be planted every year, you might consider letting some kale go to seed. I haven’t planted kale for years, yet it infests my yard providing tender sweet greens in the winter. Kale harvested 20 minutes before cooking has no relationship to anything in the grocery store. It is tender and as sweet as corn.
One of my favorite greens that nobody mentioned at the garden show is the stinging nettle. Every year about this time, I can harvest enough nettle to supplement a stir fry. It has a flavor reminiscent of spinach, but is not as strong and is much easier to digest. Another wild green was mentioned. Do you know that some places sell dandelion greens for over four dollars a pound? Stop by my lawn anytime and harvest some. I don’t really care for the strong flavor of dandelion no matter how young it is harvested.
Several speakers at the garden show mentioned problems with pollinators. Apparently I wasn’t the only person who didn’t get zucchini because of a lack of bees. Remember the days of drive-by zucchini attacks—you’d get up in the morning and find five giant zucchini on your front porch. You’d clutch your toddlers to your breast in fear that the giant monsters would eat your offspring. These attacks are history. I got a few early zucchini, but then nothing. We didn’t have enough pollinators. While toddlers may be safer in the garden, we need those pollinators!
I attended a couple seminars on cooking the bounty from the garden. I liked the recipe for the Jerusalem Artichoke soup, which inspired me to plant Jerusalem Artichokes. These can be invasive so I’ll probably plant them in the repurposed children’s wading pool that I use for a planting bed. This veggie is a good alternative for those with nightshade/potato allergies. I liked the cook who suggested that veggies are best prepared with equal parts of butter to veggie.
Many of my fruits and veggies never leave the garden. I like to graze so I really admired the speaker who mentioned being a busy mom so she just sends her children out to graze in the garden. You can do this if you garden without chemicals. You can garden without chemicals if you have lots of different plants in your garden and allow for a weed patch or two. I also have chickens and ducks who do bug and slug patrol.
I wish everybody had access to fresh chemical-free vegetables. Even the organic section at the supermarket cannot come close to providing the quality of vegetables I have just outside my door. Often varieties grown commercially give up flavor for beauty or shelf life. I’ve learned of several movements to bring fresh food into the inner-city both through city gardens and through veggie-mobiles, which function like a bookmobile. I’d welcome a city dweller to come share my crop by doing some of my heavy garden chores.
Finally, I appreciated the speaker who did a history of organic gardening in the US. She noted the importance of the home grower and the small market grower as important partners in supplying our country with food.For pictures from the garden show click on the link to the left for Enchanted Forest Florals/
Delinda McCann is a social psychologist, author, avid organic gardener and amateur musician.