Monday, March 15, 2010

Harvest Monday - Spring Taste Test

The unusually warm weather we've been having is that NSD (No Snow Day) is fast approaching. We'll probably get a few flurries before spring really settles in but tomorrow the forecast is calling for an incredible 15C!

So for harvest monday, I did some taste testing of various spring greens as I made a salad.

Corn salad looking lush in March

The bulk was provided by corn salad - Valerianella - also known as lamb's lettuce and it really is a valuable crop right around lambing time. I did not seed these lovely, crunchy, mild tasting leaves as they are reliable self seeders. They have slowly spread outward from the original spot they were sown to cover a good 8 foot wide radius, just enough for plenty of winter and spring salads. Besides being abundant in spring, they are also available in the coldframe all year - yes, you read me right.

To this mild backdrop, I added flavour.

Egyptian onion did not disappoint, providing succulent onion tasting hollow spears. Bloody dock was crisp and slightly sour as expected from a member of the Rumex genus. Sorrel was lemony and chicory was mildly but pleasantly bitter. Horseradish shoots, as always, were an interesting addition with their pleasantly pungent, slippery flavour. And there was a mound of parsley from overwintered plants, tasting just as it should.

Bloody dock opening its decorative red veined leaves.

Surprises in great tastes for spring shoots were Red Valerian - Centranthus ruber - which had an excellent mild, sweet crunchy flavour like the best lettuce and English Daisy - Bellis perennis - whose leaves were almost peppery like arugula. Funnily enough, Plants for a Future had different impressions of the quality of these greens. Maybe it is in the amount of frost they received.

In my so-so category included salad burnet - Sanguisorba minor - whose reputed cucumber taste is always lost on me though I did pick up something vaguely gasoline like. Scorzonera has a nice nutty taste but it is hard to appreciate because the leaves are hairy. Also, Mallow - Malva moschata - is a bit too fiborous for fresh eating in my opinion. I prefer the seedpods.

Salad burnet takes over the brick.

Plants that I did not swallow included yarrow - Achillea millefolium. It had a prickly unpleasant texture which made me spit it out. I think I'll leave it to medicinal uses. Also, creeping sedum was too acrid. I do like Sedum telephium whose succulent leaves were excellent when I had them on a wild weed walk while they were growing under deciduous leaf cover.

That's all for today but enough to full my salad bowl. Lots more plants to nibble on in future days. Welcome back spring, early though it may be!

First flower of spring - winter aconite. I also have a viola almost in full bloom - crazy!


Dan said...

A bloom already, that's nice. I have not seen any yet but with all the rain and warmth it can't be long.

Mac said...

Interesting post, I enjoy some of the edible wild greens, but I'm not good at identifying the edibles vs non-edibles.
I've been searching for an edible wild green kalimeris indica (Indian aster) without luck, do you know where I can find this plant?

Daphne said...

Last year in March I had my Johnny Jump Ups blooming, but as of last Friday I didn't. I haven't looked recently. We had 9" of rain over the last three days so the garden was ignored and I stayed inside with my seedlings.

I love all the spring greens you are eating. I have Golden Corn Salad that I overwintered. Or was hoping I did. Last I looked it was in pretty bad shape. If it is alive when I go out today it will have passed the winter survival test (it isn't as hardy as regular mache).

villager said...

That's a lot of mache! Sounds like you have a variety of tastes going on. I'm with you on salad burnet. I think the aroma is better than the taste.

I'm hoping our snow is done too!

miss m said...

Gasoline like ? lol !
Thanks for this taste-test lowdown. I'm taking notes. I had Rumex sanguineus growing as an ornamental in the garden at some point. Didn't know it was edible back then. Now it's gone. Will have to get some more. I guess scorzonera is best appreciated for its roots, then ?

Stefaneener said...

I like some of them, but I'm not thrilled with many salad greens. Still, the green (and flowers) are nice to see now.

michelle said...

Your salad sounds like a wonderful spring tonic. I didn't know that Centranthus ruber was edible. You wouldn't believe how much of that stuff I yank out and throw away - it's a pernicious weed in my garden. Eating it would be the sweetest revenge, unless, of course, my weeds turn out to be bitter tasting. I do love to let my mache self sow also, it's such a well behaved and delicious weed.

Emily said...

Your Mache looks wonderful. I wish mine would get that big. Its currently the size of a quarter for the whole plant. Granted, my cold frame was in a less than ideal location this year. There's always next year.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Yeah, total shock that we have blooms. I imagine that this warm weather will end at some point but in the meantime I"m enjoying every minute.

Mac: I haven't seen Kalimeris indica seeds but if I ever see some, I'll try to remember to update you. Some of the seeds I look for are just not available except through genetic seedbanks or by going to the country at the right season which isn't something I'm generally able to do though I do dream.

I've read about Golden Corn Salad and wondered if I should try it. Is it worth it flavour wise? I really like V. locusta (sp?)

You know, I wrote 8 foot radius, but it's 8 foot diametre (clearly I was really craving greens and they looked really big ;) )

Miss M: I'm not sure if it is just my variety as I have heard time and again how fantastic of a spring green they are. Belstar is cultivar I'm growing, I believe.

Michelle: I was surprised about just how good C. ruber was.

Stefaneer: I seem to be getting into greens more and more.

Emily: Actually I didn't have a coldframe this year as I am doing some garden renos. The first year I grew them they were too impressive either but the self seeded crop, that is well spaced, gets to be a nice size.