Spring has sprung and I am thankful now for the spinach, leeks, parsnips and parsley that I planted in August and allowed to winter over. They emerge now from the snow with some tasty edibles and the promise of more on the way. Next year I will add chard, broccoli, beets and rutabagas to my fall planting. Trying to winter-over carrots was a disasterous, slimy corky failure. My friends who are lucky enough to own greenhouses are boasting greens that have thrived all winter; chard and spinach, lettuce and beet and turnip greens, those magical plants that can survive a frost and keep on growing through the feeblest sunlight we have to offer.
All winter I have been taking advantage of dandelions that I have dug up, then “forced” in my basement, planting and watering them in complete darkness. They grow thin blanched leaves in a vain attempt to capture sunlight, rendering their root-energy into a tasty salad green. Cruel perhaps, but a Canadian winter requiers such measures. This year I would like to start some Belgian Endives and force those greens also.
Wild weeds have also wintered over that can be picked now: chickweed, ground ivy, violet leaves, Dandelion crowns, wintergreen leaves and berries, the last cranberries, common mallow. My nettles are sprouting along with the first chives. Back in the garden perennial herbs are still around or coming up; thyme, sage, oregano and lemon balm, and, of course, the maple sap is running.
With some preparation in the late summer, winter and early spring need not be without local fresh greens.