Monday, June 15, 2009

Flowering Food - pink

The food is starting to flower fast and furious. Not only is chicory and bietina in bud (type of chard that can have perennial tendancies) but sorrel and rhubarb are almost in seed. I am looking forward to seeing mallow and daylily next according to the schedule.

Amoung the pink flowering edibles I spotted today are Rugosa Rose with edible petals and plump, colourful hips in the fall. Here shown with edible spiderwort or Tradescantia virginiana , possible a hybrid though and if so I'm not sure of its edibility. Another google project.

Rugosa rose in bloom with spiderwort.

Yellow, edible podded pea with pink / purple flowers is growing up a bamboo stick trellis in the middle of my circular veggie garden.

Lovely purple blossoms promise golden peas.

Poppy mallow, or Callirhoe involucrata, has a beautiful fushia cup flower. Its leaves are edible, as are its roots which are rumoured to taste like sweet potato. I haven't tried them yet as I just planted it this year. I have some started from seed but they are about an inch high. This one was purchased at a nursery but I really shouldn't have cleared them out of poppy mallows as the next time I went to get some more, they were all gone.

Poppy mallow meandering around the front garden bed. Conditions are hot and dry, perfect for this plant. Planted here with some cabbage seedlings... we'll see how they do. It's their rotational turn in the less than perfect conditions for growth.

My rattail radish is in bloom though it did not have the purple and white blooms I expected, more pinkish and white. The plant also bolted very young but that's not surprising in the crowded, dry and hot conditions under which I planted it. Here are some blooms shown with rose campion leaves in the background:

I'm intrigued by a radish with spicey pods, especially as I'm not a fan of its roots.

Looks like my Salad Burnet or Sanguisorba minor is going to flower this year too. Its leaves are supposed to taste like cucumber but I'm not really convinced. It is grown here with some truely tasty plants including orach, mallow, and chicory. I also just noticed the pink tinged petals of english daisy or bellis perennis - another edible plant.

Salad burnet in the centre, just about to flower.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Flowering Food - Bunchberry


White flowers of bunchberry have invaded a pansy (edible petals*), that has overwintered several years running, to make this bouquet.

Cornus canadensis is a northern north american native with a span from east to west. It is a forest dweller, forming thick carpets of four petaled dogwood flowers in late spring to early summer, followed by edible berries. To grow well, it needs acidic soil that doesn't dry out. Not only do I know this by reading, but I have this on authority from the local expert on natives at the Native Plant Sale at the Wildlife Fletcher Garden that I attended yesterday. We had this conversation:

Plant Expert (talking to another customer, I'm just snooping): It really needs acidic soil to do well which is probably why you haven't had success with it.
Buyer: Oh, well yes.
Plant Expert: I haven't had it work either.
Me (butting in): I have bunchberry that grows well in my soil though it's pretty nuetral.
Plant Expert: Is your soil sandy?
Me: Um, yup.
Plant Expert: The conditions must be good enough that it is overcoming its requirements. If you had it against the foundation with all that lime leaching in the soil, it probably wouldn't do well.
Me: Hmm. Guess some plants surprise us with their tolerances.

Me (thinking to myself): Actually, it is against the foundation. Oops.

It is planted on the north side of my house (against the foundation), in a bed heavily enriched with leaves, many of which are the acidifying oak leaves so maybe I have managed to acidify the soil at least locally though when I infrequently check the pH, I find it nuetral. My friend gave me the bunchberry with the warning that it spreads. He has his planted near the house foundation as well though he also has an evergreen nearby which might be helping in the acid department.

Back to the berries. They are described as suvival food which should give you a good idea of their palatibility or lack thereof. I like to give them the more flattering description of children's berries as children seem to overcome their ick factor in the garden and eat anything that won't kill them. Anyhow, they are pretty, grow in a woodland setting, are native and have bland but acceptible taste. If you have acidic soil, they make a nice ground cover.

And another thing:
More on the Native Plant Sale

I didn't manage to come home with too many edibles this time as the Viburnum cassinoides or Wild Raison was walked away as I was about to pick it up, but I did get a number of lovely natives including tall sunflower, pearly everlasting, bellwort, prairie smoke, canadian wild ginger (root edible), blue stemmed goldenrod, st. john's wort (bushy, I think), nodding onion (also edible), and a plant whose name I can't remember... oh yes, it was a wild time.

I highly encourage anyone interested in creating an eco-friendly garden to check out this sale next year. Also, go to the gardens, as they have an beautiful example of an urban garden using entirely native plants behind the information building, along with a butterfly meadow, forest walk and amphibian pond. It is pretty accesible for strollers as well.

* Pansy petals are edible but be careful when trying any new food, especially if you have allergies to pollen, or a similar plant. Avoid the pollen producing parts to be extra safe. That said, I have never had a problem gobbling edible flowers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Flowering Food: Kale

Not only is kale good for you, and by that I mean tasty, but it also works to give long season interest in the garden, still sitting pretty in the snow. Its thick leaves range from silvery green to purple, from softly waved to crinkled or puckered, and contrast well with finer foliage. Tall specimens like Dinosaur kale give an almost tropical look with large frond like leaves. The dwarf kinds like Blue Curled Scotch act as neat border plants the first year and in the second year, send up stalks of yellow flowers early in the season. You can choose to eat these flower heads before they open, much like broccolini but please let a handful flower*. Not only will you be rewarded by this floral delight, but all going well, you'll have a carpet of little kales waiting to take their biennial parent's place.

Red Ursa kale in flower.

* For genetic vigour, plant a variety of kale and let at least 10 go to seed. (I'm just bluffing on the number but it's more than 5 and less than 50. 10 is the number I try to have to go to seed but on bad years, it can be fewer. A fellow blogger saves cabbage seed from as few as three surviving heads so fear not! You can always add to your genetic stock by planting new varieties and letting them cross with your old ones).

How to grow kale

Why not trying winter sowing it? Some time in the depths of winter, take a break from browsing those garden mags, and throw some seeds in a mini greenhouse made of a recycled container (huh? Go to the site, you won't regret it) then let nature do the work. By mid-spring, you should have a kale plugs all ready for planting out.

Alternatively, you can start them around the same time that you start tomatoes, only put them outside when the weather is still cool even if mild frosts can be expected. Around here, I start mine around mid-March to early April and plant out sometime at the end of April to early May. If I plant out when snow still threatens, I use the tops of pop bottles as mini-cloches to create an enhanced growing environment.

You can also direct seed your kale mid-summer for a fall, even winter, harvest. They make good coldframe crops.

When the seedlings have a couple true leaves, you can carefully transplant them into their final spots. The rules of rotation recommends that you don't plant them in the same ground as another member of the brassica family more than every 3 or 4 years. Though less fussy than cabbage, cauliflower or other brassica aristocrats, they do appreciate a side dressing of compost or manure along with a steady water supply. They will also tolerate part shade.

With any luck, they will overwinter giving you broccolini, flowers and baby kale.

Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch kale hanging out with brassica buddies brussel sprouts and chinese cabbage.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Flowering Food: Rhurbarb

My interest in edible landscaping has lead me to look more closely at the food plants that I grow not merely for how they affect my palate but also how they strike the other senses especially sight. And with an eye on appearance, let me present the rhubarb flower*:


Just like in perennial flower design, you can help your plants stand out by contrasting foliage. One of the most effective methods of balancing out green sea of medium sized foliage plants is by adding coarse and finer foliage. Rhubarb is a spectacular plant with huge coarse leaves. The red viens of some varieties are also striking. Other edibles with coarse foliage include most members of the brassica family such as seakale, collards, horseradish (I will have to write a different post singing the praises of this so-called weed), and the beet family with the most impressive, from a decorative standpoint, being the chards. If you live in warmer climes, you can include globe artichoke and cardoon as perennials. Some brave northerners grow these annually and I have considered trying to overwinter giant pots of them in my garage but I haven't gotten up the courage or time.


* Some people recommend cutting off the flowering heads of rhubarb to redivert energy into the production of leaves and stalks. I do this erratically and my plant hasn't suffered yet. In fact, the thing is huge - 4x4 feet huge. It is a green stemmed variety but oh so tasty.