Category Archives: Featured Plant

Cold Weather Corn Salad

The Snarky Gardener shows you that some food plants love the cold.
IMG229
Corn Salad or Mache

I first heard of corn salad (aka mache) while reading Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long, 2nd Edition by Eliot Coleman.  He discusses how some food vegetables can handle cool and cold weather.  Many of these are greens, like spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, and parsley.  The one that stuck out to me was corn salad.  This green was originally cultivated by European peasants who would forage for them in their spent wheat fields (corn is a common term for staple crops).  It seems to me this plant thrives in the cold, which is counter how many people see garden vegetables.

wpid-img_20131222_102757.jpg (3264×2448)
Corn salad – 12/22/2013

Two years ago I naturalized corn salad in my garden so now it grows as a self seeding “weed”.  It starts to grow from previously dropped seed in August or September when we get a bout of cooler weather.  Once it grows up to a decent size, its edible in salads right up until the temperatures drop below freezing for highs (usually after Christmas in Ohio).  Then instead of dying, the corn salad will hold its own (without any cover).  Once the weather warms up in March, growth begins again and by May it’s sending out flowers and going to seed.  Of course, with protection (be it row covers or cold frames), the corn salad would be even more productive with the ability to reap any time over the winter.

wpid-img_20140513_171814.jpg
Corn salad going to seed – 5/14/2014

All (Sun)choked Up

Sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes, sunroots, fartichokes – all names for a North American native related to the sunflower.  This is a perennial plant that produces edible knobby tubers.  And by perennial, I mean they could be invasive if not properly managed.  I obtained several at the Foods Not Lawns seed swap this last January.  Planting them in the back of my garden in March, I just let them go without much assistance.  I did have to fence them in inside my fence as one groundhog acquired a taste for them, but once the sunchokes got tall enough (4 feet or so), the critters couldn’t get to them. The sunchokes ended up getting 10 feet or so tall with pretty sunflower-like flowers on them. On 11/17/2013, I dug them up, bringing in several buckets full – way more than I would have imagined. Also, it seems like they don’t store all that well (some shriveling up within a week), but was able to keep them in the buckets with some dirt on top through the spring.

wpid-wp-1412019474807.jpeg

My understanding is that it’s hard to get rid of sunchokes once they are planted. The roots are very long and grow everywhere. If you miss any while digging, you will have more sunchokes next year. Also, the flowers produce seeds, which will produce even more sunchokes. I believe I’m in trouble next year as I had both roots and seeds I’m sure I missed. The only saving grace is that the leaves and stems make good mulch (read that in a permaculture book recently), so I’ll just be cutting any unwanted stalks down. I’m definitely a mulch believer – the more the better.

wpid-IMG_20131118_174647.jpg
Sunchoke from my garden before cleaning 11/17/2013

The reason for people calling them fartichokes is that some people can’t digest sunchokes, much like lactose intolerance. I didn’t have that issue at first as we only had a small amount. I pushed it the next day and apparently ate too many (oh, my aching stomach). The Turnip, Apple, and Sunchoke soup I made next was much better and didn’t affect me at all.  I think the secret is moderation (which is not my strong suit).