Aka The Great Yearly Event in Which I Grant Myself Permission to Pig Out on More Herbs Than You Can Shake a Stick At.
I went. I smelled. Money left my wallet. I went home with an allergy attack and a cart full of glorious, smellerific plants.
Here’s what everyone wants to see:
- ‘Red Gem’ and ‘Tangerine Gem’ Marigolds – Have I sold you on these yet? I’ve been shouting high and low about these for years and they’re still not as popular as I’d like them to be. In fact I did not grow any from seed because they were so easy to find last year. 4 for a buck. This year, NOTHING. Now I’ve been reduced to purchasing these at 2 bucks a pop.
- Virginia Mountain Mint
- Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) – A native carnivorous plant. I purchased this one from the North American Native Plant Society. There is a large cocoon snug inside one of the old pitchers. Only time will tell what will emerge from within. We wait and watch with fear and excitement.
- Coconut Geranium – My scented geranium collection is seriously out-of-hand. Have I mentioned how I really do not need more plants to over-winter? You should see it though. It’s the small leaved type with delicate little purple/pink flowers. Sigh.
- Peppermint Geranium – I have a variegated type but this one has irresistably soft and fuzzy leaves.
- Sweet Marjoram
- Basils – I won’t list all the varieties, of which there are many. Several in fact. This list might go on for days.
- Perilla ‘Britton’ – I grew this two-toned leaf variety last year and it was such a hit I thought I’d try it again.
- ‘Purple Beauty’ Pepper – A sweet bell pepper that I can’t recommend enough. It does well in medium-sized containers (try at least a foot and a half deep) with fruit that starts out purple so you don’t have to slug it out through boring green bells waiting for a colour change.
- ‘Black Pineapple’ Tomato – Colette of Urban Harvest describes it as “ugly but delicious.” She’s been trying to sell it to me all season-long and frankly I just don’t have the fortitude and willpower necessary to resist a black tomato.
- Orange Thyme – One of my favourite thyme varieties. There are an astonishing number beyond the usual — please don’t make me choose just one. This one features a very low trailing habit with spikey leaves that carry a sweet n’ spicey orange scent.
- Lemon Eucalyptus – I could not resist the strong, fresh lemon scent and the delicate, floppy leaves. I do not need another plant to overwinter! Why do I do this to myself?
I also received a couple of basils and eggplants in trade. Now I just have to get these things planted!
Previously: 2005, 2004, 2003… and so on.
Now I know why I neglected to write a yearly update after last year’s event… too many plants!
If you’re looking for a hardy herb that will produce a harvest all season-long, and can withstand just about anything you can throw at it then look no further than chives. I’ve been growing this wash basin of chives for so many years I can’t for the life of me recall where I got the tub or the plant. All I know is that it is one of the few perennial herbs that I can count on to withstand an inconsistent and sometimes bitter winter in a container and additionally be the first plant up and providing garnishes for early spring soups.
Every spring I try and find a new way to fill in the gaps left by the plants that don’t have the fortitude of chives and give the planter a place of prominence as the first pretty thing to look at out on the rooftop deck. This particular planting received a lot of positive attention this spring so I thought I’d share it with you.
I use just about ever part of the plant. The early buds and fully open chive blossoms taste great in salads or steeped in vinegar to make a salad dressing.
In the spirit of Be Nice to Nettles Week, we tried our hand at a batch of nettle soup using the site recipe as a basis. Let me tell you that a half pound of nettles is a whole lot more than you’d expect. I harvested enough young nettles (stems included) to fill a small plastic bag however once the stems and not so great parts were removed it came out to just slightly over 1/4 pound. Here’s what that looks like:
Just a reminder to protect your hands with gloves at any point in the process that involves touching any part of the fresh nettles including leaves and stems. The plant will lose its sting once cooked, but can get you at anytime when fresh, even when soaking under water.
The recipe seemed a little too bland so I chopped and added half a small onion before adding the nettles. We did not have sour cream or yoghurt on hand so I garnished mine with bits of smoked trout bought at my local farmer’s market. The soup was really good, tasting very much like vichyssoise. In fact I ate the leftovers cold. The geek in me was very satisfied that a portion of this meal was collected/foraged from the out-of-doors. Over the last year I’ve come back full circle to an early interest in wild foods and edible weeds that I haven’t really indulged since I was a teenager foraging for plants with “Edible Weeds of Canada” tucked under my arm.
Next up: Garlic Mustard.
I first discovered stinging nettle one day while book shopping on Harbord Street, a popular used book area of Toronto. One of the stores had a selection of herbs sitting out front. Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for herbs and am impulsive about touching them. You should see me at the end of our yearly Herb Fair meet-ups. All of those smells in one place! I am a maniac!
So there I am happily rubbing each plant and lifting my fingers to my face repeatedly soaking in a variety of delicious herbal scents. And then I rub the stinging nettle. Let’s just say the experience has taught me to be patient and observe with my eyes BEFORE making contact with my fingers or god forbid my nose! It has also taught me a new level of respect for plants. That initial shock prompted me to look into this unassuming yet powerful plant, and I have since come to appreciate it as a very valuable and fantastic herb.
May 16-27 is “Be Nice to Nettles Week.” The site has a lot of interesting facts and tid bits from a recipe for nettle soup to information about the wildlife the plant sustains. Learning about stinging nettle might not win you over completely but perhaps warm you up just a little to this painful herb.
You can’t beat an early spring harvest courtesy of cold-hardy perennials. I’ve barely done anything in the garden and I’m already raking in the food stuffs!
Clockwise from top right: Onions, dandelion greens, garlic chives, chives, lemon balm.
These chives have been growing in a large galvanized wash basin on my rooftop deck for several years. They always survive whatever winter throws at them and are the first thing up in the spring. Buds are starting to show which means that chive blossoms aren’t far off.
This is only the beginning of lemon balm (aka lemon bomb!) season at the community garden. The trick of it is to catch it early and harvest the tender leaves before flowers make an appearance.
My French sorrel (another early riser) inexplicably disappeared this year so I walked over to the garden early this evening and popped a new one into the ground.