Reap harvestable plants now
Harvest time is here already. All you need to do is look around your garden. Right now the chives are ready to be picked, chopped and frozen for adding to winter dishes. If you pick chives now, they will not have the woody flower stems that develop in another few weeks.
You may also find that last season’s parsley has come back. Parsley is a biennial herb that goes to seed in the second year. You might want to pick, chop and freeze the new parsley before it develops a seed head and becomes unusable.
If you’ve noticed clumps of onion like stalks coming up in your garden where you grew garlic last year, don’t put them in the compost pile. The stalks are probably where a head of garlic was left in the ground and has sprouted into new shoots. These sprouts are known as green garlic and can be used in just about any dish that you might use regular garlic.
For example, I make a pasta sauce out of chopped green garlic sautéed in olive oil. If you add a little chopped pancetta and parsley to the pan you have an instant dressing for your favorite pasta. If you want to get more exotic, add a dash of red pepper and some chopped arugula for a zesty pasta sauce. You can also use the green garlic as a stuffing for chicken, instead of 40 cloves of garlic. Simply chop it and toss a quarter cup or a small handful into the cavity and into the dish containing the chicken and roast as normal. The garlic loses its fire in the roasting oven and tastes quite sweet.
You can also add a stalk or two of green garlic to boiled potatoes. When you mash them, simply mash the green garlic right into the potatoes. Violá — instant garlic potatoes.
If you grew onions last year, you may have left a bulb or two in the ground. This spring it will mark its location by sending up some green leaves. You can use these leaves anywhere you would normally use spring onions. But don’t use larger, older leaves. They tend to have a strong onion taste and may be stringy.
Another plant that’s ready for harvest is sorrel. It is a lemony tasting perennial herb that gives you spinach-like leaves every spring and for most of the summer. It can be used in sorrel soup, tossed into a salad with other greens or made into a sauce for salmon. It is reputed to be a springtime tonic after a winter of store-bought vegetables.
Rhubarb is almost ready. While many people do not like it, I do enjoy a rhubarb pie. Rhubarb can also be made into a sauce that many lamb lovers like. Of course, you can also add strawberries to your rhubarb pie to sweeten it instead of piling on the sugar. My greenhouse-grown strawberries are harvestable right now and are often added to frozen rhubarb for a fall pie. Outdoor strawberries are still a few weeks from harvest.
Even outside spring lettuce is only a week or two away and if you grew lettuce in a cold frame you should be close to harvesting it. Keep sowing a large pinch of seeds every two weeks to keep the lettuce going until summer heat stops it growing.
My mint escaped from its container and is busily tunneling its way throughout the yard. I have been digging it out as hard as I can go and find that it is best used for a mojito at the end of a day’s work in the garden. It can also be used for pesto. Use equal quantities of parsley and mint instead of basil in your pesto sauce — you’ll also need olive oil pine nuts and Parmesan cheese as well — and pour it over pasta or put on toasted French bread.
Even at this time of year there is no need to use supermarket produce until your garden plants grow to maturity. You can find many appetizing plants in your garden. Simply go out there and harvest them.