Is it wrong to feel a bit smug after returning from the garden on Jan 12 with a half dozen beets, some carrots, a handful of sun chokes and enough mache for a salad? Mache or corn salad aka fleld lettuce, lamb’s lettuce, nut lettuce, repunzel or field salad is a member of the valerian family. Just so you know, mache has three times the vitamin C as lettuce.
I was gifted with three small plants wrenched out of the community garden last summer. I transplanted them to a small bed in the lower part of our garden. I thought they were dead but the wilty looking plants surprised me by bolting. They reseeded and now, in January, plunging a shovel into frozen soil, I can harvest fresh greens in mid winter, mix them with some young kale and chard leaves that grow wild in the garden and have a tasty salad without having to leave the premises.
I have been negligent in winter gardening but made more of an effort this year to plant some stuff that I could leave in the ground. I’m amazed that the beets still taste good as do the carrots. Not quite as tasty as in summer but good and only a few steps away, stored live in the ground and mulched with leaves to try and keep them from freezing.
The sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) are supposed to be eaten in winter. We roasted some along with beets, carrots, the remaining potatoes, shallots and garlic (the shallots and garlic are storing quite well). Sunchokes are a very useful crop. You could make fuel with them if you had a field full. I started mine with a handful I bought at the co-op. Once they get going there is no stopping them, a striking sunflower that grows eight feet tall and even makes an occasional bloom. They leave behind some tasty tubers which are often difficult to clean but worth the effort.
One notices fewer trips to the store in the summer months but we have been pleasantly surprised at how little we are spending this winter on groceries. We are eating lots of frozen greens, beans, squash, pickled beets, pickles, kim chee we traded for, salsa verde, pesto, chutney, frozen onions, shallots, garlic and pickled garlic. It’s a bit repetitious but we find that a bland meal can be made tasty with lots of condiments.
We extended out eating season by freezing, canning, pickling and storing. Next step is to extend the growing season using cold frames, cloches and hopefully a greenhouse. I have one more season to achieve my goal of growing half our food. Getting closer.