A GREEN HARVEST JUST IN TIME FOR SAINT PATRICK’S DAY

A GREEN HARVEST JUST IN TIME FOR SAINT PATRICK’S DAY

The last couple of weeks have been mostly wet and muddy. We have been fortunate the last few days to have dry conditions which made it possible to spend some time in the vegetable garden. There’s not much going on out there except for the mache patch that I have growing in a small low plastic tunnel.

THE LOW TUNNEL WHERE I GROW MY MACHE

I was able to harvest enough mache to add to our dinner of white pizza. We got the idea for this pizza from watching an episode of “Milk Street” on PBS. The pizza topping consists of equal parts whipped heavy cream, grated Parmigiano cheese and grated Fontina cheese. You put the topping on your favorite pizza dough, bake it and then top it with greens that have been dressed with a olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Mache was the perfect green to top our pizza with its nutty flavor and satisfying chew. My wife Catherine is a huge fan of this particular pizza as well as being a fan of “Milk Street”.

WHITE PIZZA WITH MACHE

The dough recipe that I used comes from a book called “The Elements of Pizza” by Ken Forkish. The style of dough is referred to as “Neopolitan” and produces a thin and chewy crust.

What a treat to have fresh greens from the garden. Thus begins the first season in our gardening year, “Mache Madness”.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

A LOVELY NEW YEAR’S DAY

A LOVELY NEW YEAR’S DAY

THE “PEEPSTER” STALKING THE CHICKENS

We were blessed with a mild and sunny start to the New Year. I couldn’t resist the urge to get some rays and fresh air, so I put on a light jacket and headed outside with my little female cat, “Peep”. We call her Peep because that’s how she speaks. We let the chickens out of their pen and we all enjoyed a winter frolic.

PEEP AND THE CHICKENS GETTING REACQUAINTED

While I was out, I checked on the status of my small patch of mache and “Red Kitten” spinach. I opened up the low tunnel covering them to sneak a peek and give them an early winter watering with fertilizer. So far, so good. We have had critter issues for the last couple of winters. Voles have done a number on the mache patch and the winter carrots. However, the “Peepster” seems to be making a difference. So far, I am not noticing any signs of vole activity in or near the mache. Peep is a relentless hunter of rodents. Winter doesn’t seem to damp her enthusiasm for the out of doors nor her pursuit of all things rodent.

MACHE GROWING SLOWLY IN A LOW TUNNEL

I have to admit that I was losing my mojo toward the end of the last growing season. All it took was a sunny day, seeing the mache and enjoying a sunny day with Peep and “the girls”.

Here’s wishing you all a productive and fun gardening year.

All the best,

Greg Garnache gcgarnache@gmail.com

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of March

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of March

Spring Comes Early This Year.

What a difference a year makes.  At this last season, we still had two feet of snow on the ground.  March in my corner of the Globe has been unusually mild this year.  I’ve already planted peas, mache, spinach, curly endive and gourmet baby lettuce seeds in the garden.  That’s right, IN THE GARDEN!  Last weekend I joked that I was embracing global warming because I could get things into the ground a whole month early.  Like many people, I am concerned about this phenomenon and thinking of ways that I can be a better steward of the acre and a half under our care.

A sure sign that we are experiencing an early Spring is that the garlic is up and poking through the bed of leaves I laid down in the Fall.  Time to take down the little fence surrounding the garlic patch and rake out those leaves.

GARLIC PLANTS POKING UP OUT OF THE GROUND

GARLIC PLANTS POKING UP OUT OF THE GROUND

We have been enjoying the “Red Kitten” spinach harvested from the garden.  It was planted last fall and grown under plastic.  My little two foot by four foot patch has produced a colander  full of spinach every other day for the last week plus.  Spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can grow, especially if you eat it raw in salads.  “Red Kitten” is especially good in this regard.

RED KITTEN SPINACH WASHED AND READY TO EAT

RED KITTEN SPINACH WASHED AND READY TO EAT

Direct Seeding in the Garden

The mild conditions at the beginning of March provided a perfect opportunity to get and early start on the growing season.  I planted no to low risk vegetables that can withstand a  frost or even a light snow.  I planted peas, mache (corn salad), spinach, frisee and a gourmet lettuce mix.  The mache was planted due to the poor production of the crop that was planted last Fall.  How disappointing!  We have had great success in the past with our mache crop.  Not sure what the issue was, but I planted fresh seeds this time. We love mache and hope that this planting will produce for us by the end of April.  The variety we grow is “Vit 419” from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  I seeded a 2′ x 4′ patch.

GETTING AN EARLY START WITH DIRECT SEEDING

GETTING AN EARLY START WITH DIRECT SEEDING

We have had great success with “Tyee” spinach, another variety from Johnny’s.  It is an early season spinach, so I thought I would get’r goin’ real early.  Frisee is also a cool weather crop so I planted one row of seeds.  I like adding frisee to other salad greens for texture.

I rounded out the early planting with a 4″ wide band of “Allstar Mix” mesclun, one of our yearly favorites.  This versatile mix works well into early Summer.  I plant a band every three weeks until the hot weather arrives.  Then I switch to “Heatwave Blend”.  I will plant at least one more band of “Allstar Mix” in late Summer.  Love this stuff.  By the way, seeds are available from Johnny’s.

Starting Seeds Indoors – High Nutrition Greens

This was the week to get seeds started for transplant out to the garden in April.  With the exception of celeriac, all of the seed varieties started were high nutrition greens; three varieties of kale, broccoli raab, broccoli, cauliflower, frisee, and lettuce. This year, I am making a conscious effort to make sure that we always have nutritious greens available from the garden.  I planted the seeds into 3/4″ square soil blocks that I made with my 20 block press.  I then planted 10 seeds of each variety except the celeriac and the Black Seeded Simpson lettuce. For those I used 20 blocks.

 

SEED PACKETS READY TO GO AND THE 3/4" SOIL BLOCK MAKER SOAKING IN BETWEEN PRESSINGS

SEED PACKETS READY TO GO AND THE 3/4″ SOIL BLOCK MAKER SOAKING IN BETWEEN PRESSINGS

THE TOOLS I USE FOR SEEDING THE SOIL BLOCKS. THE TWEEZERS MAKE IT EASY TO CENTER THE SEEDS IN EACH BLOCK. I THEN PRESS THE SEEDS INTO THE BLOCK WITH THE POINTED TOOL.

THE TOOLS I USE FOR SEEDING THE SOIL BLOCKS. THE TWEEZERS MAKE IT EASY TO CENTER THE SEEDS IN EACH BLOCK. I THEN PRESS THE SEEDS INTO THE BLOCK WITH THE POINTED TOOL.

 

As we begin another gardening season I wish to express my best wishes to all of you who are reading this post.  May you all have the best gardening year of your life.  If I can be of service, please reach out.  My goal is to build a community of people who enjoy growing their own food and sharing that experience.

All the best,

Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com

 

 

An Easier Way to Harvest Mache

An Easier Way to Harvest Mache

We have been growing and enjoying Mache for the last three years. It was only recently that I figured out an easier way to harvest this early green. Kneeling and bending over for extended periods of time are not pleasant for an old codger such as myself. I recently had an “Ah Ha” moment as I was about to harvest some Mache. Instead of getting down on one knee and harvesting one stem at a time I opted to use my
straight bladed shovel and skimmed up a full shovel full of Mache in one swoop. I placed the shovel full of Mache in my potting tray and proceeded to pull the stems off while standing erect. By skimming just below the surface I was able to shear the roots half way, making it easier to pull the stems away from the dirt. I then pinched off the remaining root and any bottom leaves that didn’t look appetizing.

SKIMMING A SHOVEL FULL OF MACHE

SKIMMING A SHOVEL FULL
OF MACHE

THE MACHE DEPOSITED IN MY POTTING TRAY

THE MACHE DEPOSITED IN
MY POTTING TRAY

PINCHING OFF THE REMAINING ROOT AND BOTTOM LEAVES

PINCHING OFF THE REMAINING ROOT AND BOTTOM LEAVES

When I finished pinching off all of the roots I brought the Mache into the house and gave it a bath in the sink. The dirt sinks to the bottom and I run the mache through the salad spinner to get rid of excess moisture.

MACHE BATHING IN THE SINK

MACHE BATHING IN THE SINK

If you have an even better way of harvesting Mache please send it along so
I can share it.
All the best,
Greg Garnache

WHAT IS MACHE?

WHAT IS MACHE?

What is Mache?  Mache is a green, leafy vegetable that grows into a rosette about 2 1/2″ to 3″ in height and prefers to germinate in cool weather. It has an almost nutty flavor and a pleasing texture; something like baby spinach.

My dear friend, Vicki Dyer, traveled to France four years ago.  When she returned, she insisted that I grow Mache.  Normally, I don’t respond well when people tell me that I have to do something. However, Vicki is a very good cook and loves good food. I followed her advice and will forever be thankful that she introduced me to this wonderful green.

MACHE IS A WINTER CROP

After a little research, I discovered that my favorite seed company, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, sold Mache seeds. More research led me to Eliot Coleman, author of “Four Season Harvest” where I learned that Mache is a winter crop, grown for centuries in France.  I also learned about low plastic tunnels.  I liked the idea of extending the growing season with the tunnels and the fact that you could plant seeds in October and harvest in February or March when there weren’t many other options for something fresh from the garden. So, I have been growing Mache and using low tunnels ever since.

MACHE  IN MARCH

MACHE IN MARCH (MACHE MADNESS)

MACHE IS EASY TO GROW

 

Mache is relatively easy to grow.  I broadcast seeds over a two foot by four foot patch in late October here in zone 6a.  I cover the seeds with 1/2″ of composte, water regularly until mid-December and let it grow slowly all winter protected by a low plastic tunnel.  I have harvested as early as February 26.  However, we have had two really nasty winter in a row and my first harvest date has been pushed back to late March.I love to eat it fresh with a light vinaigrette dressing all by itself.  I am also fond of serving it with a poached egg on top and letting the yoke cascade into the Mache.  It also works well with other  raw vegetables such as carrot slivers, radishes, and fresh herbs.  If you are having company, serve it with high quality shaved Parmesan cheese and toasted walnuts.  Your guests will love it.

The following drawing was borrowed from Wikipedia:

 

MACHE

All the best,
Greg

GARDEN JOURNAL – 4th Week of March

GARDEN JOURNAL – 4th Week of March

FIRST MACHE OF THE SEASON

IMAG0073[1]

Overwintered Mache under plastic in the garden

A couple of days ago, I harvested the first Mache of the season.  Seeds were planted last October in one of my low plastic tunnels.  The plants grew slowly over the winter; much of it in the dark because the tunnel was completely covered in snow.  Two weeks ago, on a rare sunny and mild day, I removed the snow on the south side of the tunnel so that the sun could warm up the soil.  This week, conditions were right for harvesting.   I love the texture and taste of Mache and especially love the fact that I have something green to eat from my own garden at this time of year.

PROGRESS REPORT

Leaf crop seedlings almost ready for the garden

Leaf crop seedlings almost ready for the garden

LEEK SEEDLINGS  LOOKING  GOOD UNDER THE LIGHTS

LEEK SEEDLINGS LOOKING GOOD UNDER THE LIGHTS

 

WORDS OF WISDOM:
“Nature speaks freely to the individual, but seldom harangues a crowd”
Charles C. Abbott – Naturalist (from “Days out of Doors”)

 

All the best,

Greg