Friday, May 4, 2012

Early Spring Crops: Common and Uncommon

Submitted by Megan Bucknum and Michele Sokoloff

Along side the large greenhouse at the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park sits our Demonstration Garden called The Edible Garden. Master Gardeners have been sprucing the area up since February 2012. The winter labor has included: digging out old, rotted sign posts, clearing leaves and debris, serious weeding, mulching and edging. We created a compost area with wood pallets and we put together a  6’ X 4’ Green Wall structure sewn by a MG’s mother with fleece and mesh. Other weekly tasks have included uprighting the brick and stone that surround each planting bed. 

We have also given attention to the area on either side of the steps leading down to the Demo Garden. This is a 3-tiered area that has overgrown plantings and beds. The 3-tiers extend many yards on either side.  It has been cleared, weeded, pruned and planted with new Pachysandra and Hostas making it a cleaner, nicer entrance to the Edible Garden. With 9 separate growing bed areas, we began planting cold crops by seed in March.  

The spring bounty began with the tall, green showinf of asparagus shoots. Other early spring crops growing are rhubarb, a variety of lettuce greens, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and peas. Overwintered herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, lavendar, mint and sage are in abundance

There are two  less frequently consumed crops that make us scratch our heads wondering how to use them. They are cardoon and sorrel.

Cardoon can be referred to as an artichoke thistle and is native to the western and central Mediterranean region.  It’s in the same species as the globe artichoke (what we more frequently eat).  It appears that this whole plant can be consumed!  The bud of the flower can be prepared similarly as the artichoke.  The large leaf stalks, which can resemble celery stalks, can be braised or steamed and carry with them the same artichoke flavor with which we are accustomed. For a quick recipe on how to eat cardoons when they are young and tender.Bagna-Cauda

Sorrel is a perennial herb that can be cultivated as a garden herb or leaf vegetable.  At maturity, sorrel will grow about 60 cm high and has roots that run deeply into the ground supporting the oblong leaves that are slightly arrow-shaped at the base, with very long petioles.  There are many uses for this plant and they have an “interesting” flavor that has been linked to similarities of kiwi fruit or sour wild strawberries.  Most of the Edible Garden team are not too keen to this vegetable, as it does have a sharp taste.  Further research reveals that this taste is from the presence of oxalic acid -- naturally found in spinach, rhubarb, chard and beet greens -- which in large quantities is not safe for consumption, but small quantities is harmless.  This vegetable is commonly made into sauces to serve with fish.  See below for Alice Waters’ Sorrel Sauce recipe.

Sorrel Sauce
from “Chez Panisse Vegetables Cookbook,” Alice Waters

Use about 24 large sorrel leaves
                                                2 shallots
                                               ½ cup heavy cream
                                               Salt and pepper
                                              Lemon juice

Wash the sorrel in plenty of cold water.  Remove the stems and drain well.  Cut the sorrel into  rough pieces.  Peel and dice the shallots and put in a nonreactive pot with the cream.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the sorrel and cook for another 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Sorrel sauce can be pureed.  Serve it with fish, chicken or potatoes.

We’ll keep you posted on this blog as to what is going on and provide some additional research for you to ponder. 

No comments:

Post a Comment