December Garden Notes: Purple Potatoes and Sweet Sugar Snaps

How glad are we that we planted all those peas? In staggered plantings, over several weeks, we sowed the round, lumpy seeds in various spots, and are rewarded now with green curling tendrils, fat pods, and the tender young leaves. When they get a bit bigger, we aim to try out a pea shoot pesto. For now, we are savoring the fresh green crunch of the pea pods (Sugar Snap, Mammoth Melting) in a season that is short on snacking-right-out-of-the-garden-delights.
pea shoots

Another green crunch that delights right now are dandelion greens. For years, I shunned them, feeling that they were more of a weed than a vegetable. But I must humbly now admit how wrong I was. The garden varieties are incredibly good. Bitter, yes, but the stems are fat and juicy, sweeter than bok choy, and a bit more fibrous. I’ve loved to eat them fresh out of the garden, beaded with dew, crisp and bitter and sweet and full of nutrition. Haven’t cooked with them, yet, because I keep harvesting a bunch to stir-fry, and eating them raw before they get into the kitchen. How I love to be wrong, sometimes.

The carrots are presumably swelling beneath the ground; their tops are green and ferny, but no orange shoulder beckons yet above the soil line. A late seeding of parsnips seems to have foundered, weeks later; we were so patient, knowing how long the white roots take to germinate from their flat coin-like seeds, but now that the month has passed we are forced to admit that they might not come up at all. Did they fall prey to a wayward gopher, or a hungry bird? We may never know. The turnips we sowed at the end of September are plumping up nicely, though.
herb garden

Herbs are a great filler this time of year, and we’re still hanging on even to a few shivering basil plants who seem not to have gotten the memo that it’s winter. The dill, cilantro and parsley are all handling the weather in better style, and the mint, too, a veritable living, growing batch of chimichurri. Bachelors buttons and cosmos are still confused about the season, since you cannot reason with a seedling, we just let them sprout out of season, and grow, seemingly oblivious to the cold, The sunflowers never listen to us, either, and they sent up a few seedlings already, too. Strangely, though it contradicts every gardening book ever written, this seems to work for them; the patch of sunflowers that lives at the stop sign at the corner of Fillmore and Hwy 9 has been an entirely volunteer operation for years, now. Seedlings, here’s to ‘em, may they always spring up in the in-between places, and flourish, whatever the season.

late blooming flowers
We planted deCiccio broccoli a few months ago, and though the stalks were thin, the heads formed small and sweet. The nice thing about diCiccio and other sprouting types is that once the main head has been harvested, the side shoots send up a few more slender, smaller heads of broccoli, that are perfect for grilling or salads or other applications that show off their dainty size and tender texture.

broccoli
The lettuce that we planted from six-packs, and also that we transplanted out from under the fava beans, are both doing well, but still too small to harvest. We’ll have to attend to the weeding, soon; the rain pushed up a bumper crop of grass and weed seed in amidst the lettuce. If we let it get just a little bigger, it will be easier to grab ahold of, and the lettuce will be better rooted. Wait too long, though, and the grass will win. The delicate, shifting balance thing, as always.

lettuce starts
What else? We found a surprise patch of potatoes to harvest, where the corn was taken out. Purple potatoes are so lovely. I have to admit that I may prefer a white, buttery spud like the Yukon Gold over the purple potatoes in a culinary sense, but nothing is as magical as digging in the soil and suddenly coming upon up the glowing, vivid, violet color of a purple potato. They’re like jewels in the earth, and the way they always seem to come back from a single, tiny, overlooked spudlet is it’s own kind of garden magic. This particular patch of Viking Purples has been sustaining itself for at least 3 years now, and I thought that it had finally played itself out. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, treasure in the earth, round and brilliant and…purple.

harvesting peppersLeeks went in recently, too, and radicchio. It's not the textbook time for planting, but it does seem to be shaping up to be a warm year, so we have a bit of leeway, there. And it took us a while to pull out the last of the peppers and sprawling squash. In the spaces where they were cleared, the earth was calling for a new plant to take root in it. Or maybe, we just wanted to get our hands in the dirt, as a busy season approaches, and to know that even as we cooked and shopped and celebrated, the garden would be full, too, growing slowly in the days of short light, but still growing, sinking roots in the ground, and maturing slowly while the world around it bustled by.
leek starts

Renee wants to make necklaces from the kernels of Glass Gem corn. Or tree garlands. Luke is bring us some Stropharia spawn to nestle in the straw. The grape vines have been trimmed, and their long vines woven into bases for seasonal wreaths. The cardoon is growing again, and the lemongrass is hanging in there, despite the seasonal chill. december demo with cardoonLife in the garden goes on. May we all continue find nourishment in the earth, and in each other, as the season of winter on the central coast settles in. 

seed pods
Over to You

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