Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gardening: Salads in the drought

So, it's getting warm, and we're expecting a drought. Lettuce doesn't like either of those things. So I'm trying to grow salad greens that aren't lettuce. Or spinach. Or mache. Or arugula. Or any of those other things that have the phrase "cool season" on their seed packets. So I'm trying other things.  I don't know if anyone but me cares, but, hey, let's write!

I bought a six-pack Lights? chard at the Grange. I wasn't ready for it, so it sat around and sat around, and then I planted six plants of it in six poorly-prepared holes. Not six of the little six-pack cubes; there were at least two plants per cube, so I ripped the poor things apart. Then I treated the space as dryfarm, not watering it after the first couple of days, and waited for them to die.

They sat still, but remained barely green-and-red, for a few weeks. Then they abruptly put out new leaves and said, "Pbbbbblt!" So I planted another six, because it was a twelve-plant block and the rest of the six-pack was making me feel guilty. They put out new leaves, too. That block is one of the happiest looking in the farm.

So chard appears to tolerate the dryfarm thing very nicely. I just hope I like how it tastes in a salad.

I planted some Red Russian Kale in December, then transplanted two of the plants to a three-foot spacing in April and treated them only fractionally better than the chard. They're healthy happy little fountains of leaves now, despite the cabbage moths circling them, and their seedling bed is essentially a solid block of kale leaves. Unfortunately, none of the leaves are a suitable texture for salad.

So I sent off for Bear Necessities kale, which supposedly produces "finely serrated frilly kale with a tender texture" that should work in salads. We'll see.

But what to do with the Red Russian? I would swear that I remember enjoying some kale cooked with butter and onions, but I did that to this kale, and it I'd eat it for manners, but I wouldn't choose it. I could keep it around until it bolts and eat the...raab? Rapini? but I think I'd have to wait until next spring. I'll wait and see what happens with the few square feet of the seedling bed, anyway.

Beet greens are supposed to work in salads, so I'm going to try to grow Shiraz and Bull's Blood. However, if I don't like chard I'm not likely to like beet greens, and vice versa. They're family.

I do like beets, though. It's not as if leaves are the only thing you can put in a salad. Really, it would be sensible for me to make my hot-weather salads out of cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, beets, and such. But I need leaves. I was raised on Iceberg; my flexibility has its limits.

I'm planting some scorzonera, aka black salsify, for the cold weather lettuce gap, not the hot weather one. Supposedly the salsify roots put out green leaves in winter, leaves suitable for salad. It occurs to me that I read about this in Carol Deppe's book and that she was doing breeding work at the time; I should see if she released anything. Edited to add: Anything salsify-like, that is. She's released lots of things.

Speaking of Carol Deppe, her latest book refers to Oregon Giant Sugar Pod Peas in the "eat-all greens" section. It appears that you can grow this for pea tendrils, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. And that you can grow it in the summer. I ordered half a pound of seed, to play.

I've been curious about shungiku,  a chrysanthemum grown for its leaves, for a while, and "salad" and "plant until summer" finally decided me. We're not far from summer, but I'll give it a try.

Unfortunately the other Asian greens that I ordered--an unnamed Komatsuna, Green Wave mustard, "Misome Hybrid", and Luck Dragon Pak Choi--all refer to cool temperatures. Grumble.

And I forgot to order leaf radishes. Or I couldn't find them.

I should also grow some nasturtiums; I know how to grow those and have a faint memory of how they taste.


That is all.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rambling: Rambling

So I made hard-boiled eggs so that when I have those "I'm hungry!" moments at home, I'd have something healthier than chips around. Not healthy, but not as bad as a snack can be.

Tonight it occurred to me that I had everything I needed to make deviled eggs, and promptly made two of the eggs as bad a snack can be. Well, sort of. I'm sure a snack can be worse. For example, the deviled eggs had no sugar in them. Except for whatever might have been in the mayonnaise.

Mmm, mayonnaise.

I never used to like mayonnaise as a kid. In fact, I hated it, along with mustard and liver and other scarey "I've never tasted it but I know I hate it!" foods. Now I like it far, far more than I should.

What's my point here? I don't seem to have one. This post is, really, just rambling.

Orphan Black is back. I'm not sure how I feel do I say this without writing a spoiler? OK, I'll just say I'm not sure about the increased percentage of male characters. I rather liked the fact that Orphan Black might not have passed the reverse Bechdel test. It's not that I object to male characters, but a truly female-centered show is a pretty rare thing.

The "farm" is coming along nicely. Last weekend I planted thirty-five strawberry plants. And thirty-nine bean "spots"--I plant a group of two or three seeds at each carefully-measured location. And eighteen, or twenty-four, or something like that, "greens" plants. (Six each of two kinds of komatsuna, bok choy, and lettuce.) And some lettuce and beet and basil seed, several little four-foot-long furrows. And a sprinkling of dill.

I haven't planted the melon, cucumber, pumpkin, zucchini, or delicata seeds. I theoretically have the ground prepared for some of them, but I'm not sure if I'm satisfied with it.

I'm hoping to gear the farm up to support a daily salad. We'll see how that works out. Right now, there's a nice backlog of lettuce growing out there--twelve full-size heads and maybe another two dozen little ones, not counting what I just planted. But the warm temperatures are taking us out of prime lettuce season.

There's also the komatsuna, and the beets will produce greens, and so will the kale. I'm not sure if that will be a workable salad or not. And how about purslane? I've never eaten purslane; I'm pretty sure it's that stuff that's growing as a weed in part of the garden. And of course there's no law against the un-leafy salad vegetables. Cucumbers, zucchini, and so on. Assuming I get them planted.

We just ate the first ripe and not-bug-gnawed strawberry. Yay!

That is all.