Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wild Food: June 15th: Violets

Violets (true violet) are not only edible, they are yummy. Many people make early springtime treats such as violet honey, violet jam or violet cakes from the flowers. What most people over look is that violet leaves are also wonderful and you can continue eating them well into the summer.

Some violets leaves are sweet and others have a more pea like flavor. Sweet violets are great for decorating deserts or just munching on straight from the ground. The earthier tasty violets are a great addition to a green salad in spring and early summer. Later in the summer the leaves become tougher and are yummy lightly cooked up with some other greens along with olive oil and garlic.

The most common type, the Blue Violet, has a sterile violet-colored flower that blooms in the spring. There are no leaves on the flower stalk. The heart-shaped, shallow-toothed leaves arise separately from the ground.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Phenology: Following Nature's Clues

First harvest of Kale and Collards
In the past I've always planted my garden based on when the last frost for my area is calculated. This year I was introduced to the concept of Phenology so I decided to give it a try. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate. So when you use phenology you plant based on how the native species of plants and animals in your area are behaving.

Phenology Clues

Plant peasWhen forsythia & daffodils blooms
Plant potatoesWhen 1st dandelion blooms

When the shadbush flowers
Plant beets, carrots, cole crops, lettuce and spinachWhen lilac is in first leaf
Plant beans, cucs and squashWhen lilac is in full bloom
Plant tomatoesWhen lily-of-the-valley are in full bloom
Transplant eggplant, melon and peppersWhen irises bloom
Plant cornWhen apple blossoms start to fall
Seed fall cabbage and broccoliWhen catalpas and mockoranges bloom

Seed morning gloriesWhen maple leaves reach full size
Plant cool season flowers (pansies, snapdragons...)When aspen and chokecherry trees leaf out

So far this method is working really well. I love the idea of following natures cue. For several weeks we've had lettuce, spinach and arugula fresh from the garden. Today I harvested collards and kale and put away the first bath of frozen greens for winter. I planted a second crop of collards and a few more cauliflower plants. I'm looking forward to plenty of greens all summer and enough to get us through the winter.