"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

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Little Green in Amongst the Brown

While most of the garden is still covered in a veil of drab brown a few things have started to put forth new and most welcomed green growth. The chives have awoken from a long winter's nap and are now poking up through the remnants of their past, straining upwards as the afternoon sun beats down upon them. It has taken us a few years but we finally have enough of these tasty little alliums growing in various plots that they are for more than just looking at but eating as well.

French sorrel is popping up everywhere. It has the same tang as wild sorrel but the leaves get much larger. This is one of the grandson's favorite greens, I caught him sitting in a patch sharing it with the puppy the other day and had to pull him away before he turned green from eating too much of it.

Parsley, ever faithful to us, has managed the winter quite well and is now springing forth with vibrant new growth. It is so much more than just a garnish to us and one of the few foods that seems to be part of almost every single meal that we partake in.

Chicory with all of it's brilliantly colored florets has also held steadfast all year around. It has always been a treat that we are forced to share with the voles who love to pull it into their subterranean tunnels and have a little winter feast of their own. This year, however, they never showed up for the party.

Spinach that was planted late last fall is slowly but surely starting to put out a bit of new growth under our row covers. I planted some more yesterday in another row to follow this crop. Not much though as come June it will all bolt to seed anyway.

The source of nutrition we depend on the most during the winter months is kale and along with parsley and turnip greens makes up the majority of the numerous salad ingredients we attempt to grow outside 365 days each year. We froze many gallons of fresh kale last spring before the aphids showed up and have been enjoying it all winter in soups, potato salads, and it even makes a great pizza topping. I just planted a whole covered row of it for an early June harvest as the over wintered kale will quickly bolt to seed once the weather warms. I even started a small flat of it in the greenhouse just to test the germination on some of my older seed.

For a few recipes on what to do with all that kale check out this great blog I ran across today -365 Days of Kale.


Annie's Granny said...

A "little" green? That looks like a LOT of green to me! All the green I can see are chives and the raspberry canes that are absolutely bursting with new growth. The little bit of spinach that over wintered had to be pulled to plant a new crop. I'm always amazed at the amount of food you take from your garden.

Sylvie said...

I LOVE this time of the year when the green planted in the fall are finally shaking the winter "blah" and perk up all over the place: spinach, lettuce cilantro, violas... and then the perennial show up fresh and green: sorrel, primroses, parsley.. Sadly it only take a few warm days to push the ache over... (but the newly planted peas are pushing their little green nose through the soil). Yes, I love this time o the year....

Mr. H. said...

Annie's Granny,

The more green the merrier.:)

Our raspberries are still dormant but my Jostaberry bushes are really budding out.

Mr. H. said...


I'm with you, summer is great but spring in just so full of newness. I should plant some cilantro, I always forget to plant it early...thanks for the reminder.

kitsapFG said...

The overwintered spinach, chicory, kale, and the emerging parsley look great! Lots of green growing on. :D

Thanks for the link to the 365 days of kale recipes. I am always looking for new ways to use this versatile and hardy crop.

It's me ...Mavis said...

Yeah Spinach! I'm going to try again this year... last year I wasn't able to grow any... maybe it was too hot? Thyhandhathprovided has an awesome spinach quiche... you should try it out. And 2 weeks between posts... HELLO... where were you? And don't use the excuse that you were too busy picking up free cereal :)

Anonymous said...

I never had much luck with growing spinach so I love this picture of your perfect spinach growing.
You do have a lot of vegetables in the garden. This time of year can bring so many surprises when you see what has survived winter and what hasn’t. I’m already making plans for next winter season, while information is still fresh in my head.

Ayak said...

It's all looking good Mr H. Talking of spinach, today we have a dish I often make with spinach:
Wilt about a kilo in hot salted water and drain. Put a good helping of olive oil into a large pan and add chopped onions and some crushed red pepper and salt. Add the spinach and heat through. Make four wells in the spinach and crack an egg into each, cover with a lid and keep on a low heat until the eggs are cooked. Lovely served with crusty bread, and also some natural yogurt with crushed garlic.

Heiko said...

"We froze many gallons of fresh kale last spring before the aphids showed up and have been enjoying it all winter in soups, potato salads, and it even makes a great pizza topping"

Your aphids eat soups, potato salad and pizza?!? Woah, I'd like to see those! :-) And those voles pull your chicory down? What mighty pests you have.

Anyway, it's looking great and I'm sure you're happy to finally see some spring your end.

Mr. H. said...

kitsapFG - Yes, stuff is starting to grow, and none to soon as our winter rows were becoming quite depleted.

As to the link, how could I not enjoy a site that was all about kale. I am looking forward to perusing through more of her recipes. Some of them sound really good.

Mavis - You might try planting your spinach right now or in the fall as it does not like the warm weather at all. There is a type called Olympia that holds out really well if you ever run across it, much slower to bolt in the heat. Although I think it is a hybrid and it might not provide you with quality seed if you should chose to try saving any.

It was not the buying of the cereal but the eating. I had some of those Cocoa Pebbles and all of that geneticaly modified corn made me so sick that I have not been able to post.:) Just kidding, I would never eat anything called Cocoa pebbles. Honestly, we have been having too much fun with other things and I have not had time for posting...but I still read all of yours.:)

vrtlarcia - It really is fun to see what will emerge first. It is also quite amazing how many plants there are that can withstand the cold temperatures, some with no cover at all. Since our climates are so very similar let me know if you ever want a list of plants that we grow during the cold months.

Ayak - That sounds like a most delicious way to eat some of our spinach up. If I try it I will make sure and let you know. Eggs, spinach, onions and garlic are four things that we always have on hand. Even the FIL might try that, make sure he provides the ingredients though.:)

Mr. H. said...

Heiko - In America we have giant pests. Voles as big as small children and aphids the size of a bumble bees. It must have something to do with all of the genetic engineering that goes on.:)
But at least we don't have ants that eat fruit trees like they do in Italy...that would be really bad.

Yes, I am very happy to finally see some green growth in our gardens.

Roasted Garlicious said...

okay Mr. H... your making me feel bad.... you have such a bountiful 'preharvest' already!!! i keep looking at my pathetic sized garden and sigh... then i think that it's not so bad, it's managable for me and gives treats to my kids :D as for the those giant voles... whew i don't have any.. but the aphids... oh ya... i swear your right about the GMO species!!!

Stefaneener said...

Great blog suggestion! My red kale just bolted finally this weekend, and I pulled the spinach and True Siberian! What to do in a kale-less world?
The garden looks terrific, and that is some beautiful chicory. It's like a painting.
Enjoy your spring -- it seems so bittersweet. So lovely, but you know summer is waiting to smack you a bit.

randi said...

you've convinced me that for our climate the low tunnels are the way to go..the spinach is just downright inspiring and don't even get me going on the kale! looking great Mike!

Jennifer Jo said...

Did you already use up everything you put up for the winter? Are you all set to eat straight from the garden?

LynnS said...

A nice Monday treat to see a new blogpost from you. Your pictures are more a greenfest than 'a little green', Mike. Fantastic!

I am so jealous of that spinach! I could eat myself sick with spinach if I was there. We have such a lousy time with it -- the weather never seems to cooperate well enough to allow the spinach to grow lush enough to pig out like I want to. I may be resigned to try hydroponics for spinach in my future.

I see from your first picture that you are growing sticks. What kind of sticks are they?

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

WOW Mike, everything looks so wonderful!!! I love all the bright colors! My wintered over spinach is pretty blah, so I'll probably pull it so I can get a good crop going. The Cilantro is booming and of course chives are looking pretty. I got a lot done this weekend prepping beds with some composted manure! I'm praying for a productive year!

ThyHandHathProvided said...

I, too, love the shot of all your spinach coming up- ours is on it's way, too, but not as far as yours. I missed your posting, too, although I was pretty sure you weren't off eating cereal:-). I hope you had a lovely blogging haitus!

Frustrated Farmer Rick said...

Lookin good Mr H.
Your garden as always fills me with envy.

Dirty Girl Gardening said...

fabulous pics... I love seeing the emergence of new sprouts. so gratifying!

Mr. H. said...

Roasted garlicious - Your garden is great, it's not how much you grow so much as your ability to do so that really matters. I look around in the area we live in and many, perhaps most, people do not have a garden at all. So I worry that if anything should happen to our store bought food supply that people would be hard pressed to feed themselves.

There is really not much difference in growing one tomato or 100 tomato plants (perhaps a longer soaker hose), but having never grown one before a person might be hard pressed to do so in a pinch.

Stefaneener - In a world without kale we must be brave and eat any of the other greens.:) Spring usually smacks us around the most but we are ready for the challenge.

I do like the chicory, some are loose leaf and others actual radiccio that might form small heads if I'm lucky, I just mix the seed and plant, they are all so hardy.

Randi - You will have to try it as there is no better way to get an early spinach harvest than to plant it in the fall and keep it protected. I made all of the spacings on my hoops closer to add strength this year as I was expecting another 100" snow year...I think we maybe got 2"'s.:)

Jennifer Jo - We still have lot's of food left in the root cellar and will continue to eat that and salad greens from the garden all the way into June. It is still to cold for much else to be grown outside but I am looking forward to starting peas, fava beans, and my onion seedlings in the garden soon....and potatoes.

Lynn - I would imagine that spinach could be a bit tricky to grow in other locals but we are fortunate in that it is fairly easy to grow here...sometimes even in mid summer if we have a cool spell and I keep it partially shaded.

Those sticks you see are one year old English walnut trees that I just potted up, I think we have about 50 of them plus a few black walnut and chestnut trees. I planted a few in or lower field and the rest are for sale. I wanted to get them out of the ground before they started to leaf out.


Diane - I hope you have a very productive year and judging by the seedlings you have started it looks like you are headed in that direction. Just don't let any of those goats get into the garden, I hear they really like fresh produce.:)

Thy Hand - Nope no cereal for me...well maybe steal cut oats or something like that. I can't wait to start harvesting the spinach in the picture as our bigger stuff has mostly been used up. Mavis said that you have the best quiche recipe ever, so that will be first on our agenda.:)

I did enjoy my blogging hiatus, more time to read everyone elses great posts.:)

Rick - Judging by the size of garden you will be having this year it is I that am a bit envious.:)

Dirty Girl - Ah yes, there is nothing I like more than seeing the first bits of spring green in the garden, or anywhere for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Mr H,
I would LOVE that list of winter plants you grow. If it’s not too much trouble, you can send it to vrtlaricaana@gmail.com or just leave it here as a comment, maybe someone else will appreciate it also. THANKS Mr H!

Robbyn said...

Wow, love seeing those first arrivals of green!

GetSoiled said...

I have been running around doing so many things I have hardly had (made?) any time to actually do garden work...but you guys are my endless source of inspiration. Tomorrow I'll be out before the roosters wake up. Just sayin'

Your edibles look enviable!!!! Gotta hurry and plant some kale myself...and can you believe I have never had chicory? I just might this year...

Silke said...

Isn't it a wonderful time of the year when everything comes back to life! Plants are amazing!! Even here after a colder than usual winter, everything is coming back strongly, especially my lemon balm - I see lots of iced tea in our future... so refreshing!

365 days of kale? I don't know... I'm using kale in two recipes this week, but every day? Hm. I guess I like variety too much!

Glad you are all doing well!! Hi to Mrs. H., grandson and Rowdy! :) Silke

Mr. H. said...


Here is a list of the cold hardy plants we grow in our garden under our row covers. Some of these do better than others but all will last us well into December and many are the first to emerge in the spring.

Boc Choy
Bulls Blood beet greens
Chard (green does best for us)
Collard greens
Chicory (most including Belgian endive)
French Sorrel
Garlic greens
Kale (various)
Mustard (mostly red giant)
Onions (green, scallians, Egyptian)
Parsley (curled leaf)
Purple broccoli
Purple Peacock broccoli kale (young plants)
Radish (for greens)
Red Sorrel
Romain lettuce (red & winter density green)
Rutabaga (for greens)
Salad Burnett
Savory (winter)
Tango lettuce
Turnip (for greens)

Mr. H. said...

Robbyn - Thanks Robbyn, me too.:)

GetSoiled - Chicory is one of those nasty greens that you will love and your husband maybe not so much as it takes some getting used to. I had one of my roosters get a hold of your local rooster and you should be expecting a 4:00 AM wake up cocka doodle doo!

Silke - I need to check on our lemon balm, it is tucked away in the corner of the garden and I always forget about it. I have to say that we probabely do eat kale almost every day in our salads but yes a bit of variety is always nice. The one thing that I am getting a bit tired of eating is squash, squash, and more squash. I think I am starting to turn orange due to eating too much squash and carrots.

Mrs. Mac said...

You guys are off to such a good start. And what a great winter followed by a nice spring after two grueling years of snow. Our vole's have been less destructive this past winter as well. It is amazing what they can 'pull' under from the garden to dine on in their 'parlor';)

laura said...

It is surprising how similar our gardens are - mine is in the mountains of Southern France - but we have many of the same things just coming through now too. Have you tried Black Tuscan Kale its a great winter provider. P.S I added you to my blog - I love your site and I'll be back to read more.

Sunny said...

Wow..everything is looking good Mr. H...I have never tried the French Sorrel...now I must find some.... Last year I started using fresh parsley a lot...like in everything...and you are so right....the flavor is spectacular. Btw...I have harvested 5 windowsill cukes so far....still think I'm the first gardener in North Idaho to harvest cukes? lol : )

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list (that is a lot of veggies)! Now I don’t have excuse for not gardening during winter.

Joseph said...

wow, everything is looking great! you've dedicated a lot of space to your veggies - i wish i had that kind of room in my small suburban yard!

Mr. H. said...

Mrs. Mac - Yes, the voles can be quite the nuisance. From what I have read they tend to over populate and die off every so often, perhaps we are at that stage and we will have a break from them for awhile.

Laura - Nice to meet you, we do grow the Tuscan kale, it is one of our favorites. It does really well for us in the early spring and summer but we do have a difficult time keeping it alive this winter for some reason. Perhaps do to our lack of snow cover that helps to insulate the plants. We like your blogs too.:)

Sunny - 5 cukes, I think perhaps you may just hold the North Idaho record.:) You will like the French sorrel, it is an excellent addition to salads or meat dishes. If you don't find any seed let me know as I probably have some extra.

vrtlarcia - It really is amazing how many cold hardy plants there are that will survive the winter with just a little protection from the elements.

Joseph - Thanks, the bigger the garden the more weeds that have to be pulled.:) I love what you are doing with your yard, very ambitious.

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Looks great! I can't believe you grow all that in winter where you are!

I will have to look into growing kale. It sounds like a very versitile crop!

I'm off to Google Jostaberry...

Mr. H. said...


Kale would do good in your area I believe. Our favorite is the Russian variety and very cold hardy.

Josta berry bushes are also extremely cold hardy and easy to propogate from rooted cuttings. We have turned our one bush into many over just a couple years. The bushes grow really fast too.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and enjoying it.

This post is great and thank you for the kale link! We have several kale plants and have been eating it as fast we can in salads but it's winning. I'm checking that site out for sure.

Happy gardening!


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