Whether you are just starting out growing edibles or you grow so many you can start your own CSA Farm (community supported agriculture) early spring edibles are a wonderful way to get some home-grown veggies while you wait for your tomatoes and peppers.
You’re probably familiar with popular favorites like lettuce, cabbage, and kale but what about adding some edible spring perennials? Some of our favorites include Chives, French Sorrel, Rhubarb, Asparagus, Egyptian Walking Onion, and even Strawberries!
Chives are a great low maintenance kitchen garden herb that loves the sun. Grow them near your kitchen door in a garden bed or container so they are easy to reach from early spring all the way through the growing season. They have a mild onion or garlic flavor and their edible lavender flowers are considered a delicacy.
French Sorrel is the first green to perk up in spring and the last to lose its usefulness in winter. Its bright green leaves are high in Vitamin C and the slightly sour taste of the leaves combine well with chicken, fish, and eggs. Cut its distinctive sword-shaped leaves as you need them and allow the plant to regrow after each harvest. It likes full sun and moist soil, but will adapt to other conditions.
Rhubarb is considered the first ‘fruit’ of spring. The thick, fleshy stalks of this stately plant are used for sauces, wine, pie, and jam. However, do not eat Rhubarb leaves, they are poisonous. Given full sun, well-drained soil rich in organic matter and a yearly application of composted manure, it will last a lifetime.
Asparagus can be planted in rows in the vegetable garden or decoratively in the garden. Its foliage is fernlike and provides a beautiful background for other plants. They need full sun, and because they remain in place for many years, the soil should be prepared very well. (A handout is available at both locations on how to prepare the soil and successfully plant them.) We have both bare-root and potted plants in two varieties developed for our area.
Egyptian Walking Onions are an interesting and very hardy perennial onion. They are sometimes called winter onions and produce as soon as the snow melts until they covered again with snow the following winter. The entire plant is edible with green leaves (scallions) produced all season and clusters of small bulblets produced on top of the flower stalks. As the bulblets grow they weigh down the stems, pulling it to the ground where they grow new plants. You can also eat the underground bulbs. It has a robust flavor without the ‘bite’ of stronger onions. They are a cross between onions that form large bulbs and bunching onions and are heirlooms said to date back to the 1850s.
Other types of onions are also available as onion sets are also available now at both locations and can be directly sown into the soil for green onions this spring. Plant the sets almost touching each other and harvest them before crowding becomes an issue. To develop white stems on your onions, mound loose soil up gently around the new plants when they are about four inches tall. By blocking sunlight, the stems will turn white. Green onions can be harvested as soon as the leaves are about six inches high, and they develop stronger flavor as they age.
Strawberries are a favorite of just about everyone! Easy to grow in any sunny location, and even in a container. Combine a spring-bearing variety with an ever-bearing type to have some to harvest all season long. If you are limited in space, try growing the Alpine Strawberries. They form neat clumps and can be used as an edible edging in the flower garden.
Of course, you can’t forget about leafy crops like lettuce, spinach and kale and also legumes like peas. These veggies can be directly sown into the soil as soon as the soil is workable. Lettuce and spinach crops germinate quickly, giving you fresh salad greens in about two weeks. Peas, depending on the variety, take about two months to truly produce, so starting them early means you can enjoy them the beginning of June.
With all these options, it’s easy to enjoy fresh edibles, even in early spring!
Posted on 4/14/2016 at 1:26:00 PM