Sunday, March 28, 2010

Early Spring Harvest

The peas are officially in the ground, just-in-time for those forsythia blooms! And I've planted seeds for lettuce, spinach, carrots, parsnips, and beets. There are a few brave little shoots coming up, but they're still tiny. But we still managed to have an early spring harvest of parsnips, salsify, leeks, spinach and mache. How, you might ask? They're actually from last season and they over-wintered in the garden. Root crops like parsnips and salsify are actually biennials. As the weather cools in the fall these plants store their energy in the form of sugar in that big root that we normally eat. These survive in the ground over the winter and when the soil warms up again they begin to sprout new greens and grow, and eventually produce a flower and seeds. If you harvest them as soon as the soil is warm enough to dig you'll find that your parsnips are at their sweetest. Leave them to grow more and those stored sugars wind up fueling the new growth, so nab them when the new leaves just start to show! As for spinach and mache, these greens are very cold-hardy. As long as they have some growth before the true winter comes they survive, and in spring they're raring to go before any new seeds are even germinating.

I wish I could attribute this early harvest to some garden planning genius on my part. In reality I HAD planned on having the parsnips and leeks over the winter, but stupidly forgot that if the ground is FROZEN, you can't dig them out! As for the spinach and mache, I'd hoped to be able to sneak a few leaves during the winter since I'd covered them with fabric for a bit of protection. That really didn't work because for most of the winter the plants were still too small to bother with. And then they got buried under our 2-foot snow fall, and there they stayed! Luckily I don't have to rely on my garden planning for winter survival! But it is nice when you can still reap something of value despite your own poor planning. And guess what? Leaving a few hardy vegetables in the ground over the winter to provide an early spring feast is going to be part of my garden plan from now on!


Pandoras Box said...

what do you do with all those parsnips? That's a hearty harvest!

Jeannine from Pittsburgh said...

Hi Pandora! I roasted them in a little bit of olive oil. They're better than French fries--yum!! Also made some parsnip and leek soup that was very tasty!

Anonymous said...

I love parsnips a lot..!!!I made a lot of dishes and the main ingredients of course is parsnips..!!I believe on you that parsnips is better than french fries,I tried it and it taste good,no doubt..!Nice post,I think I should make my own garden also..!!

cafe in pittsburg pa

Jeannine from Pittsburgh said...

Hey there Anonymous--

I really have to get back to the 17th St Cafe (great place!), especially if you guys are serving parsnip dishes! And by-the-way, you don't need a whole garden to grow parsnips. I grew these in a garden bag!
So easy it feels like cheating!