Harvest and planting Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring planting is well underway. This past week I planted horseradish. Technically, Vic planted it, but I’ll take credit. Horseradish is an ugly plant and spreads like crazy, so we grow it in a pot. Sounds like we’re old hands at horseradish culture, but in fact this is only the second time we’ve grown it in 35 years of gardening.

Buying horseradish roots from nurseries is too expensive for us. It costs about $9 for a bundle of five roots. Why the heck would we need to plant five roots? One will provide us with more horseradish than we could consume in a lifetime. Some grocery stores carry fresh horseradish roots in February and March, when it is dug up. I selected a thick root that had tiny sprouts at one end. Vic planted it at an angle with the top about a half inch below the surface. It has already sprouted.

The first tiny leaves are up on our horseradish plant.

In winter, we’ll dig up some of the roots, grate them, mix them with vinegar and have our own fresh horseradish. But honestly, I don’t know why Vic wants to grow it. The only thing we use it for is prime rib and I never cook prime rib. And grating a big fresh root fills the kitchen with choking fumes. I think he’s forgotten that part. But who can read the heart of a gardener, especially a gardening spouse? He wanted to grow it, so I made it happen. That’s what love does to you.

I’m experimenting with a number of things this spring, among them growing peas in flats just for the microgreens. I’ll harvest the shoots by cutting them when they are three to four inches long, and use the shoots in salads and stir frys. When the flat is all harvested, the chickens will get the rest. I expect to begin cutting this week and trying something new. Thomas at “A Growing Tradition” inspired me to try pea shoots.

Another new thing I’m trying is making lavender sugar. The experts tell me that English lavender is better for culinary purposes than French lavender, which is used more for crafts. French lavender has deeply serrated leaves while English lavender has smooth leaf edges. Recipes say to use 1/4 C of lavender heads for every cup of sugar. Since recipes for lavender cake and lavender cookies may call for 2 cups of suguar, I made 2 cups. I made the mistake of washing the freshly picked lavender flower heads. All that moisture clumped the sugar and I had to leave it in an open dish for a couple of days to dry out.

The proper procedure is to alternate layers of unwashed English lavender flower heads and sugar in a container such as a quart Mason or Ball jar, put on the lid, and let sit for two weeks. Sift out the lavender and discard it. Use the sugar for recipes that call for it. The photo below is of French lavender.

Flower heads of French lavender are more compact than the spiky heads of English lavender.

And now on to this week’s harvest.

17 eggs (Wow, the hens were busy this week.)

1/2 cup English lavender heads (1.5 oz.)

1 Meyer lemon (5 oz.)

parsley (1 oz.)

lettuce (2 0z., green oakleaf and red salad bowl)

Total produce harvested, 9.5 oz.

Aw, what a pathetic harvest for this week. But what I am not reporting are the massive handfuls of sorrel, parsley, cilantro, nasturtium leaves, and kale that I feed to the chickens. I also am not reporting my crop failures of broccoli (it bolted when the heads were miniscule) and some of the green savoy cabbages that split and got bug-eaten while too tiny for human use. Those went to the chickens as well. I report those harvests not in tonnage of greens pulled, but in number of eggs received from the three hens. It all works out.

(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com /blogs_and_columns)

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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6 Responses to Harvest and planting Monday, March 1, 2010

  1. villager says:

    Sounds like the hens WERE busy! I love fresh horseradish, we need to get some planted here too. I never thought about planting some from the grocery, I will have to keep a lookout for it.

  2. Thomas says:

    Hi Lou, thanks for your kind works. I think I might try growing horseradish myself this year in addition to ginger. Sometimes I see the roots at our local supermarket. Do you just plop it in a pot filled with ordinary potting mix?

    I can’t wait for pea shoots this spring! I bought excess snow pea seeds just so that I could reserve some just for shoots. I look forward to seeing how they turn out for you!

    • Hi Thomas, it was your post last fall on eating pea shoots that inspired me to try growing them. I am learning so much from reading blog posts of my fellow gardeners. This blogging thing has added a whole new dimension to my pleasure of gardening. We share in the joys of harvests and the frustrations of failures as well as swap tips on growing and using our produce. Fun.

  3. Daphne says:

    I had some pea shoot microgreens at a restaurant on Monday. They were absolutely fabulous. I really have to try that with some extra seed some year.

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