"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Forced To Provide

Forcing = the art of raising plants, flowers, and fruits at an earlier season than the natural one, as in a hotbed or by the use of artificial heat.

We do not totally rely upon the outside garden for greens in the cold months, forcing is used upon a variety of plants to help provide for us. To us, forcing means allowing certain plants that we have stored in our root cellar to get enough warmth that they will start to grow new edible leaves again.

In Victorian kitchen gardens of old it was popular to force belgian endive, sea kale and rhubarb. Belgian endive was always forced in the dark and the new non bitter shoots were often served at meals.

In the fall we pot up belgian endive

various beets,

turnips, kohlrabi (we call them martians),

and celery

that are stored in our basement/root cellar. As needed, we bring some of the plants upstairs and keep them next to a window so they get light and the pale new growth that has sometimes already started is allowed to change into a more natural healthy color.

The leaves are then cut and used in salads. The root or stalk on all of these is also used at that point. Most of these plants will send out more growth but it will not be as vigorous and the root will become less palatable. This also works well for onions that have started to spoil, instead of the mulch pile we can usually get them to send up some fresh shoots first by simply providing warmth and a little dampness to the roots.

We prefer to eat the leaves after they have been in the light, some of them (especially the endive) will be somewhat bitter tasting but perhaps much more nutritious. Our favorites are the endive and beets. Our endive roots are much smaller this year due to having been replanted in July after a hail storm destroyed them.

Here is a great YouTube video series on Victorian kitchen gardens. The last part of the video talks about forcing rhubarb and sea kale.

Has anyone else tried this, and if so with what plants and results? I am thinking of growing sea kale for forcing this year, I would love to hear others thoughts on this plant.


anne said...

What a fabulous blog. Thanks for sharing the pictures and tips for season extension. I force onions.

Mr. H said...

Thanks Anne,

I really enjoy your blog also, and love the cow pictures.

Anonymous said...

I have never thought about forcing my mustard greens- something we both love. I think I will just have to give this a try for sure.
Wish it wasn't raining today. I loved watching the video so interesting!

Mr. H. said...

I can't believe someone made it all the way to the bottom of this post and watched the video...amazing.:)

Mature mustard has a pretty good root system and would be a great canididate for forcing. I have never tried it but should. Hearty green mustard is also extremely cold hearty if covered and mulched during the winter months. Mustard and turnip greens are two of our favorites as well...and oh so nutritionally good.

If you ever try forcing mustard I would love to hear about the results.:)

Ruralrose said...

I had never seen this before, what an awesome idea! You are so clever, are you from a long line of vegetarian gardeners? peace

ps word verification: dinerho

Mr. H. said...

Hi Ruralrose,

I am not really a vegetarian, only in action not in thought. What I mean is that we both would be more then happy to include some meat in our diet if it economically fit into our plans, it does not right now. So we are very happy to eat a mostly vegetarian diet with the occasional fish and wild game thrown in for good measure.

That said, I am not from a long line of gardeners but am trying my darnedest to start the line right here with our grandson.:)

Forcing vegetables is really neat, if I ever was to write more then a blog post this would be a topic I would be very interested in pursuing for that endeavor.

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