Wednesday, June 10, 2015
For some reason I've been thinking about edible weeds a lot this week. Maybe it's because pop-ups for broad-leaf plantain as some sort of miracle plant keep showing up as I go wandering around the Internet. Good to know that if we get desperate for green, leafy vegetables, we can always graze on the lawn. Ditto the dandelions. I know dandelions are edible. The plants are, after all, an invasive species. They were brought to North America by European colonists to plant for salad greens. They kind of got away, and now they're the bane of lawn fanatics everywhere. There's nothing like a plant demonstrating it doesn't need our help to get it moved on to the "we don't want it around" list. The only problem with dandelion greens is that you've got to remember to pick them when they're first starting to grow; leaves from a mature dandelion plant are pretty bitter.
Dandelion flowers are edible, too, if you dip them in a coating batter and deep-fat fry them. Then again, just about everything becomes edible once it's been dipped in batter and deep-fat fried, especially if there's a good dipping sauce on the side.
In any case, the garden is in. I set out tomato plants and tomatillos, planted a gazillion green beans, am optimistically hoping to get picking cucumbers after planting them from seed -- it's not likely to happen, but you never know -- and am trying something new this year: kohlrabi. I finally learned what that stuff is good for so decided, what the heck, I'll try planting some and see what happens.
My other experiment is Afghan melons. A few months ago a friend told me about Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. They specialize in heritage and rare seeds. I spotted a type of honeydew melon that is grown in the mountains of Afghanistan near Kabul. I figured that if it can in the rather nasty climate Afghanistan enjoys, maybe it'll grow here. We shall see. My tomatillo seeds also came from Baker Creek. They're a variety grown in some remote area in Guatemala. I started the tomatillos in the house so they'd have a bit of a head start. The plants aren't real big yet but at least they're surviving. I grew tomatillos last summer so know they will grow here. The big question is will they grow fast enough to yield anything harvestable before Labor Day.
As I was planting the garden, I found myself remembering some of the advice I've read over the years, tips on companion planting, i.e., if you plant some plants right next to other plants they'll do better and be sure to avoid planting other things too close to each other because they don't get along. You're also not supposed to plant the same things in the same spaces each year. And, as usual, I found myself wondering just how a person is supposed to follow that advice. Unless you're practicing slash-and-burn agriculture, your garden is going to be in the same space year after year. If it's in the same space every year, no matter how you figure out a rotation pattern, eventually everything you grow is going to end up in a space where it was planted before. It's a mystery.
I did do an upside down tomato again this year, but don't know how many more summers I'll bother. The upside down tomato planter is beginning to show signs of age; once it gets to where it's not re-usable, I won't bother buying another one. I've also got a few tomato plants in more conventional containers; I figured as long as I have the big planters, I might as well use them.