The mild winter this year has meant a winter greens bonanza in my garden. Back in August I started kale, swiss chard, salad mixes, beets, arugula, and cilantro. Everything came up and thrived through the winter. The parsley just re-seeded itself.
I’m a big believer in late-summer plantings of cool season vegetables. Allowing them to winter over—to get a start in the early fall warmth and then kind of stop growing with colder weather and go into hibernation—brings them back with a vigor you don’t see in crops seeded in the spring. It’s something we southern gardeners can do more easily than the northern ones, and we should take full advantage. This year, the growing didn’t really stop, however. Everything just got hardier and more persistent through the cool weather.
Then as made that early turn into spring, things started to go a little crazy. Really, it started with the cilantro.
The parsley saw what was going on and decided to get in on the act.
I really have no idea what to do with that much parsley. And that’s just one of the many mounds that have volunteered.
I have been harvesting baby kale all winter long and eating it mostly fresh in smoothies, but the warm weather has instigated a sudden growth spurt.
I have been picking pounds and pounds of Swiss chard—I think my best crop ever. Here’s what I came inside with last Saturday.
And the salad greens.
The arugula thrived through the winter but bolted when the warm temps hit. The chickens, however, have chowed down on arugula blossoms, not to mention all the weeds I have been pulling up. It has made their egg yolks richly yellow, almost orange. We have all feasted on the greens of this season!
In the past week or two the sheer volume and scope of food rising out of the earth has exploded. One can literally make a meal standing in the middle of the garden, picking, and eating.
Lots of what is ready in my garden never makes it into the house (the strawberries especially), but I did manage to get enough basil into my basket to makethe first batch of pesto of the season on Monday, tossing some into some cappelini and fresh sugar snap peas and freezing the rest. On Wednesday I harvested kale, cilantro, more sugar snaps, and mushrooms for a stir-fry with ginger and tofu. I have also picked six pints of strawberries this week; two went into the freezer for ice cream I’m planning to make for a special party the week after next, and the rest will go into some jam.
The mulberries are starting to come in, too, and a lot of folks have been picking them off the trees that hang heavy over the streets in my neighborhood and making pies. I picked about three cups today during my long morning walk with Caleb, and when I got home I decided I wanted to try making some scones. I modified a recipe I found for oatmeal scones, adding a touch of orange extract and using the mulberries instead of currants, and here is the result. In a few minutes I will take a few of these next door to my neighbors.
The sugar snaps are copious and remarkably sweet this year. I love them in the pasta and stir fry, but I also love them fresh and crunchy, right off the vine. That’s the experience I had in mind when I took a platter of them to a little farewell gathering this week for a friend who is moving away. I mounded some hummus in the middle of them, tossed on some kalamata olives and feta cheese, drizzled it all with olive oil, and sprinkled salt. Here’s what the platter looked like.
Enjoy this lovely day! I’m going to pick more sugar snaps.