I seem to like every spring-blooming flower within this genus. They have an elegance about them that I find appealing.
The first new radishes have been making their way into our salads over the last week — what a treat! First up is ‘Sparkler’, a tender, two-toned variety that reminds me of a flattened ‘French Breakfast.’ The later is long and elegant but only appropriate for the very deepest containers, while ‘Sparkler’ is short and squat, perfect for window boxes and smaller pots.
The trick to growing tender radishes in pots is to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Dry soil turns out small, woody radishes. Deeper containers are easier to keep moist. If you are having trouble growing decent radishes, try supersizing your container and growing a smaller variety.
This year I am experimenting with a big wash basin that is about 8 1/2″ deep by 18″ wide. I made lots of holes in the bottom of the container with a big nail and a hammer before filling it with potting soil. I then planted the seeds in concentric circles within the container, spaced about 2 inches apart so the radishes would have room to grow. Approximately 20 or so radishes can grow in there at one time — I could have fit a few more had I not sown a patch of wild arugula in the center for the heck of it.
More About Radishes:
I bought this plant Claytonia nevadensis, also known as Sierra Spring Beauty, a few weeks ago on a trip to Lost Horizons, a nursery located in the town of Acton. The plant is endemic to California, growing along rocky streams high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
I bought the plant hoping it is edible like others within the genus (sometimes called Montia). Unfortunately, there isn’t much information about this species available and I haven’t found proof either way. The mystery continues, although I ate a leaf recently so… On the positive side of things, I haven’t come across a poisonous claytonia, so there is still hope. And I am neither sick nor dead. That too.
I do not recommend or condone this method of identification.
Edible or not, buying this plant has opened my eyes to a whole new world of claytonias. I have grown the most common types and have identified them growing wild in parks on trips to California, but I had no idea there were so many different species — some much more beautiful and intriguing than c. perfoliata aka ‘Miner’s Lettuce’.
The education I sometimes glean from the acquisition of a single plant and the new worlds it can open up still surprises me. Worth the insane $9 price tag.
On the flip side of things, I’m a bit concerned about my ability to keep this little gem alive. It grows in very free draining soil or scree, alongside flowing mountain streams. Clearly these are not the conditions at my community garden plot. So for the time being, I’m keeping it in a pot until I can figure something out.
Recently, our meals have been peppered with ingredients gleaned from the gardens; however, today’s lunch is the first that is all garden grown.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Chive Blossoms: A hardy perennial that has been growing for about a decade in a big container on the roof.
- Lemon Balm: Eat the fresh leaves in the spring. This is a hardy perennial that self seeds all over the community garden.
- Parsley: From the roof.
- Pansy petals: Also from the roof.
- Three types of lettuce: All of which self-seeded in various containers on the roof. I didn’t have to do a thing, although I did transplant a few to the community garden plot.
- ‘Egyptian Walking Onion’: Just the greens.
- Borage sprouts: I got this idea from Julianna, who brought a salad to our Saturday afternoon transplant trade/potluck that included borage from her garden. Borage self-seeds like nobody’s business and is coming up like mad right now. why not use the tender, fresh sprouts rather than tossing them in the compost? The first set of true leaves are prickly but the cotyledon leaves are smooth, with a fresh cucumbery taste.
- Baby kale
- Purple Mizuna: More on this soon. This is my new favourite edible!
- Assorted mustard greens
- Violet leaves and flowers: I have a small patch over at the community garden that is going to expand this year once I add the three additional varieties I have acquired this spring. Eat the young, new leaves and the flowers.
- Bloody Dock: If you’d like to know more, I wrote an article on spring greens including bloody dock, for Garden Making magazine.
For identification purposes, here’s what the borage seedlings look like. You can also identify them by their cucumber scent. The seedling in the top left corner is anise-hyssop. You can eat that too.