Do you grow kale? Its easier than lettuce to grow in summer, and you can use tender kale leaves in salads for super nutrition.
It lives through the heat of summer as long as it has sufficient water, but when the weather turns cool, then cold, it really thrives. Shake snow off and pick your salad. Kale is packed with vitamins and most varieties are quite pretty. It is more bitter than lettuce when eaten raw, so if you prefer, cook it. It still is full of vitamins and minerals.
Black (Tuscan, Dinosaur) kale does not have a mouth-watering appearance, but it is nutritious and an important ingredient in many cooked dishes. Its color (dark gray) and pebbly surface (dinosaur skin?) are not enticing.
Kale is a biennial, flowering and setting seed its second year. A kale plant under my covered bed survived last winter, and flowered largely in every sense this spring.
You can direct-sow kale outdoors, as long as the soil is not too hot, or sow it indoors and transplant out. Transplanting removes the chore of thinning seedlings.
Kale is chewier than lettuce, but it is packed with calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins B6, A, C and K. Kale contains more than the minimum daily requirement of A, C and K, the latter vital for normal blood clotting, antioxidant activity and bone health, although folks such as those taking coumadin should avoid kale because of its interference with the effect of that blood thinner.
This member of the cole family is also a powerhouse when it comes to fiber, and when you cook kale, it lowers cholesterol and binds bile acids in addition to providing vitamins and minerals.
Varieties often favored in this area are Improved Siberian dwarf kale, Red Russian, Ragged Jack, Tuscan and Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch. The Red Russian has a flatter leaf, so is more easily cleaned of aphids than the curled kales. The pretty ornamental kales are edible, but far from choice. Theyre quite bitter, and probably sprayed with pesticides.
Have you seen the pretty little herb, garlic chives? It has clusters of white star-shaped flowers, and flat green strappy leaves, about 1/4 inches wide.
Its appearance will entice you to try it, but it will then make its appearance wherever it wishes. Its not only pretty, but useful too. However, as in growing any herb, gardeners often think enough is enough: youll find garlic chives in your flower bed, among the vegetables, and even among grasses, where its harder to see until it flowers.
This allium, Allium tuberosum, is a perennial, like regular chives. You can chop the leaves for a light garlic flavor in salads, or use the flowers in salads or for edible decorations on your plate.
If you dont want it where it has chosen to grow, good luck. Its difficult to remove because its bulbous root system lies deep. You wont find dense patches of it, just single plants. To keep it from spreading, remove flowers before it sets seeds.
As I was trying to dig a couple of them out of my raised beds, a friend in Massachusetts wrote offering me some seeds of Chinese leeks. Thanks, but no. Thats just another term for garlic chives.
Asians have grown and used this pretty herb for centuries, raw and lightly cooked. Some especially favor the white parts of the leaf stems that grow below the soils surface.
Margaret Lauterbach: email@example.com or write to Gardening, The Idaho Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707