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Plant several of the cut-and-come-again leaf vegetables, and you 'll harvest greens from midsummer through the hard frosts.
GREENS THAT GROW back after you pick them save time, effort and garden space. Swiss chard, New Zealand spinach, Chinese (or vegetable) amaranth and other leafy green vegetables all stars producing when they're very young plants--and then continue putting out food over a long season. You get a two, three and often up to six harvests without having to work the ground again and again or raise more seedlings. Because you eat almost everything the plants produces, these vegetables are very space efficient. And all of them Ire among the most nutritious vegetables you can put on the table. They are the richest sources of vitamin A and calcium that you can get from the mid- and late-summer garden.
People often refer to these vegetables in ways-that call spinach to mind. They look and cook like spinach, but the similarities end there. Most are better steamed or cooked in some way than raw. And calling them a spinach substitute does them a disservice. It makes us expect a spinach taste, which interferes with our enjoying them for their own unique flavors.
These cut-and-come-again vegetables are among the easiest to grow. But there are a few tricks to keep the work light and the plants vigorous.
A common mistake is to plant too much They are good eating when they are young and tender. But if you have overplanted and are frugal, the tendency is to pick large outer leaves, which are really past their prime. 'That leads to disappointment, and some people abandon the crop when they simply haven't learned how to pick it. You must pick fairly heavily to keep the greens good, but let enough leaves remain to support regeneration. The plants must have plenty of water and rich soil for the rapid and succulent growth that produces tender leaves. Each one of these vegetables is a little different, so I'll give special cultural details for each -
Swiss chard is a beet that never' forms a sweet root, but' its leaves are much better than any beet greens you can raise, Chard is raised just like beets. You can easily plant too much. The best-tasting leaves are six to ten inches long. Ideally, you pick only a few outer leaves from each plant When too many leaves get large and coarse, waving around at knee height, I whack off all of them about three inches above-ground on half the row, and then pick only the Inner leaves on the remaining plants. The cut plants will send up tender new tasty leaves within a month.
Another good thing about chard is that--with its deep, strong root-- it often lives over winter, especially if mulched, and - starts producing leaves in early spring while many other vegetables are still just seeds in the packet Going strong all season long as it does, chard often needs a side-dressing of manure tea or other fertilizer in midsummer. But even without it, chard doesn't slow down much, probably because its deep root system ranges far for nourish mend '
Vegetable amaranth has teem developed in the Orient strictly as a cut and-come-again crop, not as a grain producer. There are several main types and numerous cultivars grown in China and Taiwan, but only three are available here. Only a small area is needed to produce a nice supply of summer greens, according to Skip Kaufman, who is in charge of experimental amaranth plantings at the Organic Gardening and Farming Research Center. A bed of only 24 plants planted six inches apart in all directions will produce one cutting of greens a week The cuttings produced from one to 23; pounds each.
The best methods for growing vegetable amaranth were developed by Charles Daloz who began his amaranth testing at the Research Center and is coning the work at Cornell, says Kaufman. Daloz has- found that amaranth should never be planted until. hot weather settles in. IT a perfect crop for planting At after peas About three weeks before the pea harvest ends, start vegetable amaranth seeds in market packs (plastic units with six or nine compartments in each) or pots. When the seedlings get about a i~alf-inch talk thin to one plant per pot. Set them in fertile soil, keep them watered, and they'll grow fast.
- When the plants get four to six
inches tall, it's time to snip the leafy rosette from the top of each plant. New stems, which develop new rosettes, will grow from each leaf awl along the stem. Side branches on the side branches make the third cutting, and so on. To keep the plants growing fast, you must provide plenty of water. As the days begin to shorten at summer's end, the plants toughen and start to go to seed. So in Pennsylvania there is a five-week cutting season. In the South it may be longer.
New Zealand spinach is a sprawling plant that thrives in hot weather but should be planted early because its seed germinates better in cool soil in my garden, I often find volunteers when tilling. I pluck the three- to four-inch tips of each shoot, taking only the young leaves. New shoots form in the leaf axils. Unlike amaranth or regular spinach, New Zealand spinach just keeps on growing through hot weather and until frost cuts it down. I've kept picking it fill the end of October by covering a plant at night when frost threatened just by kicking a loose wad of hay grow is the crop of secondary heads over it that form in a circle around the stem Cabbage isn't usually thought of as when the main-crop cabbage head is a cut-end coma-again green vegetable. But the easiest cabbage we grow is the crop of secondary heads that forms in a circle around the stem when the main crop cabbage head is cut off. Our cabbage is ready for cutting in late June, and the secondary heads from those early cuttings are well formed by the end of July. As cuttings continue down the row, more small heads start to grow so the small-head harvest lasts until fall. If you don't thin the sprouts, you'll get three to six golf-ball-to-orange-sized heads--great for soups because many of the leaves are green, yet they're young and tender. If you pinch off extra sprouts, leaving only orate on each plant, you might get a solid grapefruit-sized second heady just right for coleslaw~for two.
Kale is another crop to plant after peas. It's hard not to pick in early fan, when the plants I set out as seedlings are large and full with extravagantly need leaves. I know, though, that its flavor will be vastly improved by frost. The night after our first frost, our dinner usually includes kale--now mellowed in flavor --along with the sweet potatoes that had to be dug up before frost reached the roots. When picking kale, I cut off individual leaves, sometimes taking the tender rosette of new unfolding leaves, but more often choosing those that are fully developed yet still tender and toward the top of the plant. I leave the tough lower leaves to make food for the plant.
The leaves don't shrink much when cooked, as }eaves of most greens do, so if you haven't picked kale before, plan on about Lit to two full-grown leaves per person, and you'll have plenty. Kale resists temperatures-low enough to kill other garden vegetables. If your winters are severe or snowless, yowl get more from your kale plants if you mulch them. My mulched plants live over winter and produce a bonus crop of fresh new green leaves first thing in spring, before going to seed late in April. Since kale produces for so long, I like to give it at least one feeding of manure teas usually Just before picking begins, and often very early in the spring when growth resumes.
Escarole (endive) is much hardier than leaf lettuce. Last year our escarole--covered) only at night--kept going until November 17. Earlier in the season, I had cut out the heart leaves at the center of some of the plants, which then went on to produce new center shoots. Large outer leaves from mature plants also Prow back if cut up to a month before Frost I `o*en fertilize escarole with fish emulsion or manure tea.
Shungiku, also known as garland chrysanthemum or chop suey greens, similarly favors cool weather and will grow vigorously in the weaker light of autumn. Where winters are mild, it will produce late and regrow in spring. It also self-sows readily. Its leaves and tender stems are deep green and spicy--with a mild Savor of chrysanthemum. ·
- Most places, shungiku probably grows best as a fall crop. Start. the seed eight to ten weeks before the first frost date. It is probably best to plant it in pots or flats so you can protect the young plants from heat stress, which can induce premature flowering. Set the plants in fertile ground and provide plenty of moisture to keep the growth succulent. When the plants are about six inches high, harvest can begin. It grows back from side shoots, so pick it like amaranth or New Zealand spinach. Take three- to four-inch long tender shoots with tiny leaves and, sometimes, small Bower buds. Then chop them all up for steaming or stir-frying.
If you don't mind planning for several planting fumes and can spare the space in a freezer to store extra seed for next season, the best way to keep yourself happily in greens is to grow just a few plants of several of these types. As I've explained, it doesn't take much space to grow an abundance of any one of them. And if you grow several kinds, you'll have plenty through a long season without getting tired of the taste of just one.
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