Tuesday, April 3, 2012

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More on Edible Perennials...

Young Asparagus
Plant Edible Perennials among your landscape plants for a more Nutritious Yard.

Most of our vegetable gardens are filled with annual plants: tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peppers, peas, green beans, etc. Each year gardeners either start each plant from seed or purchase the plants from nurseries like Woodbridge Greenhouses. It wasn't very long ago that our forefathers (and mothers) wisely grew perennial vegetables for much of their food supply.

Perennials have been a part of home gardens for generations...perhaps your grandmother also had a garden with peonies, roses, hollyhocks, and lily-of-the-valley. Think also, of vegetables like asparagus and rhubarb, plus herbs, fruit trees and berry bushes.
Some edible perennials can be harvested the first year (like bunching onions), but others need a little time to develop.
The current trend of planting edible perennials within our landscaping is changing how we feed ourselves and our families. Planting perennials lowers the maintenance of your landscape and increases your enjoyment. This month the spotlight is on a few nutritious Edible Perennials to incorporate into your garden and/or your landscaping.
RHUBARB is a vegetable that grows wild on mountains in China and Tibet and is in the buckwheat family, but more closely resembles garden sorrel.
In your landscape: Rhubarb plants grow several feet tall with wide leaves measuring roughly 12" by 12". A row of them near the back of the garden makes a lovely border. With careful harvesting, a single plant may make a nice specimen plant.
The Harvest: When the stalks are about 18" long and over an 1" in diameter, cut each stalk low with a sharp knife. Cut the stalk at the top and put the leaves directly into the compost bin to avoid accidental eating.
For your Health: The stalks are rich in Vitamin C and fiber. Avoid eating the leaves which contain oxalic acid crystals (can cause the tongue and throat to swell).
In your Kitchen: Most people are familiar with Strawberry Rhubarb Pie or rhubarb jams, jellies, sauce or even juice. When I was growing up, the only way we knew to eat rhubarb was to dip the end in a small dish of sugar and bite into the crisp, bitter stalk.

BUNCHING ONIONS (aka Green Onions aka Rareripes) grow in clumps and multiply on their own, small pink bulbs.
In your Landscape: Plant a dozen or more in a circle a bit smaller than a square foot. In about three months, start picking from the outside of the circle to maintain an attractive, spiky looking plant in your garden.
The Harvest: Leave a few in the soil to produce offshoots. Next year, separate them and you have next years crop ready to plant. When picked before they are mature, they are known as Scallions.
For your Health:  Low in calories. They contain flavinoid anti-oxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins.
In your Kitchen: Cut off the roots and rinse off any dirt. The green stalks are milder and often used as garnish. The small white bulbs can be used in place of onions in most recipes like soups, stews, sautees, etc. Other ideas: Add a few bulbs to a batch of pickles. Finely dice for a tasty garnish for soups, dips, salads, potatoes, pizza, etc. Try putting the entire onion on the grill with a dash of olive oil and fresh herbs.

GARLIC was discovered in King Tut's tomb and is technically an herb... definitely a flavorful one! Garlic is closely related to chives, leeks and onions.
In your Landscape:  Depending on the variety, garlic may vary in height from one foot to five feet tall. Choose the location for your garlic wisely based on its size. Garlic will keep pests away from nearby plants, but is not a good neighbor for potatoes, pease and legumes...bad chemistry.
The Harvest: Towards the end of summer, check your garlic when about half of the leaves are turning brown. Pull up a plant or two to check the size of the head. You want to pick them before the layers start to split. Without washing your garlic, brush off the soil and hang in a dry place for a few weeks.
For your Health: Garlic is a natural antibiotic, it won't heal a specific infection, but will boost your immunie system. Avoid excessive amounts of garlic prior to surgery since large amounts impede blood cooagulation.  Garlic is a great source for antioxidants.
In your Kitchen or on the Grill: Wrap a whole unpeeled head of garlic in aluminum foil and toss in the oven or on the grill for an hour while cooking something else. While it's still warm, squeeze each clove to get at the creamy pulp. Great on crackers or bread. Excellent addition to most recipes.

In your Landscape:
The Harvest: Harvest just the side roots so the tap root will continue to produce a new harvest every year.
For your Health: Clean and peel the roots, and chop them roughly. Grind them in a food processor with a little water until almost creamy. Add 1/2 tsp salt for each cup, and 2-3 Tbs of white vinegar. Seal and store in the refrigerator.
In your Kitchen: Excellent on a roast beef sandwich, hamburger or even a hot dog. Mix with ground pickled beets to make a sweet and tangy spread for cheese and crackers.

ROSEHIPS are not really a perennial, but a woody ornamental. If you wish to harvest rosehips, plant one of the many Rugosa varieties.  ... 
In your Landscape: Rugosa roses come in white, red and several shades of pink. Look for varieties that are resistent to bugs and diseases and easy to grow. Taller roses are great for focal points in your garden showcased against a trellis or fence. Those that stay more compact look wonderful planted as a border or hedge.
The Harvest: Rose hips should be red ripe for picking after the first frost. They should be slightly tender, but not mushy. The first year crop is usually unimpressive. Spread them out and allow them to dry. Once they begin to wrinkle slightly, cut them open and remove the seeds. Spread them out again to dry completely. They can be refrigerated or frozen until used.
For your Health: Rose hips are high in vitamin C and is called a remedy for osteoarthritis. Rose hips also contains vitamins D and E, as well as antioxidant flavonoids.
In your Kitchen: Rose Hips are best known for adding tangy sweetness to teas and jellies.
Sunchokes in Debbie's Garden!
SUNCHOKES: They are neither from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes, but they are known as Jerusalem Artichokes, but are native to North America.  Grow and Prepare similar to potatoes - perennial tuber but are smaller and bumpier.
In your Landscape: Sunchokes are related to and resemble sunflower plants. This hardy perennial grows 4 to 10 feet tall. It will put its energy into making seeds unless you cut down the plant to promote tuber growth. The tubers rapidly spread and divide. Perhaps plant a large group of them, and cut down those in the back leaving the front plants as a screen.
The Harvest: After the first frost, the tubers will have a slightly sweeter flavor. They are ready to harvest when the leaves start to brown. Use a pitchfork to gently loosen the earth around the base of the plant. Leave some tubers in the ground to start growing next years crop.
For your Health: Rich in Vitamin C, phosphorus, potassium, fiber and inulin (not insulin) this carbohydrate promotes good intestinal health. Some people experience an adverse reaction similar to that from eating beans.
In your Kitchen: Although they have a distinct nutty flavor, Sunchokes can be used in recipes in place of water chestnuts or prepared like potatoes.

SORREL is a good salad green, and easy to grow. Whether you consider it a vegetable or an herb, this green leafy plant is great in salads, soups and stews.
In your Landscape: Since it is cold hardy, you can plant it in early spring. It may start small, but the plants can reach 3 feet tall. Divide the plants every few years.
The Harvest: As the seeds grow, you will need to thin the plants.   As the plants are larger, snip the leaves and it will continue to produce new leaves. Once it produces flowers, the flavor will get quite bitter.
For your Health:
In your Kitchen: Sorrel is popular in soups and some sauces. Add the young seedlings that are thinned and the smallest leaves to salads. Young leaves can be prepared like chard or spinach. Older leaves are added to soups and stews where their tangy flavor will not be overpowering.

Plant edible perennials to make your ornamental garden productive and functional.
Plant edible perennials to make your vegetable garden more attractive.

Do you have a favorite edible perennial? Please comment below on this article to share your favorite.

Click for a February's article on awesome Asparagus, a nutritious garden perennial that will come back year after year for decades. In March we compiled an article listing several highly nutritious garden vegetables, some of which are also perennials.
Credit to the sources of much of this information goes to:
The Rhubarb Compendium website
WikiPedia has been a great resource for many of these topics.
 WiseGeek.com provides "clear answers for common questions"

Hellabores - Deer Resistant, Shade Loving, Cut-able Flowers

Hellebores Galore!
Glorious Hellebores!

Hellebores make beautiful cut flowers and provide color in your landscape at a time when there virtually is none.

Hellebores flower in the shade!

Hellebores are deer resistant!

Even those with a 'black thumb' will succeed as a Hellebore gardener.

Woodbridge has a great variety of everyone's favorites: daffodil, pansy, tulip and hyacinth.

Instant color for every yard and porch.

Freshly Updated Plant Hardiness Zone Map

...you know, it's the colorful map on the back of most seed packets...

It had not been updated since 1990.  The following is a summary from the USDA's press release: 
  • The Plant Hardiness Zone Map is divided into bands or zones in 10-degree increments.
  • The zones represent the average annual lowest winter temperature for the particular location.
  • The zones don't represent the coldest temperatures past or future.
  • The lowest winter temperature is key for the survival of certain plants.
The new map is...
  • more accurate and shows greater detail
  • adjusted for minor shifts in temperature
  • further divided into 5-degree Fahrenheit zones labeled A and B.
  • internet friendly and features a "find your own ZIP code" function
  • available online at www.planthardiness.ars.usda.gov
  • updated with two new zones: 12 (50-60 degrees F) and 13 (60-70 degrees F)
  • adjusted to include improved better data gathered by more advanced weather stations over a longer period of time
  • more accurate around large bodies of water and takes into account elevation changes.
The sun,

with all those planets revolving around it

and dependent on it,

can still ripen a bunch of grapes

as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.

Why We Love Pansies

It was love at first sight. We find it hard to imagine how anyone could look at a pansy, with their pert little faces, velvet-buttery texture, and deep clear colors, and not be enchanted.
In the language of flowers, pansies represent "thoughts of you." Immortalized by Shakespeare in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", the pansy is anything but common.
We have a plethora of pansies in colors that range from Crown White to Rose Frost to help bring your dull spring landscape to life!

Since pansies are edible, they can bring your meal to life, too. Their mild mint flavor complements many dishes. In addition to being a colorful garnish for salads, vegetables, desserts, etc., try these ideas:
Gently pick a handful of pansy flowers from your garden.
Rinse and dry the blossoms as you would salad greens.
  • Blend into fresh salad dressing.

  • Blend into butter with a little honey and whipping cream for a delicious treat on a warm muffin.
  • Candy pansy flowers by coating them with beaten, pasturized egg whites and tossing them lightly in sugar. Let them dry completely, then use them to decorate cakes, ice cream and other desserts. The minty flavor is a nice complement to lemon, vanilla and chocolate cakes.
  • Place in ice cube tray for a colorful addition to fresh iced tea, lemonade or cocktails.
  • Add 3/4 cup of fresh pansies to a spinach and cheese quiche.
  • Of course, garnish these dishes with fresh pansies, and Enjoy! 

Some people worry that artificial intelligence

will make us feel inferior, but then,

anybody in his right mind

should have an inferiority complex

every time he looks at a flower.

~Alan C. Kay