On the Crow Homestead, the animals are starting to get territorial and the smell in the air is starting to change, which means spring is on her way! Yes…we still have many feet of snow on the ground, but the sun is out well into evening and we are getting ready for the big thaw. We can finally start planning for the earliest spring vegetables. Here is a list of the very first edible plants we enjoy from our property.
- #1 Herbs: Our perennial herbs are the first to emerge and in our zone 2 garden they include chives, thyme and a fuzzy kind of oregano. We add the fresh herbs to vinaigrette, pasta and rice dishes. It is such a thrill to have something to harvest as soon as the snow melts!
- #2 Pea Shoots: These are the very first thing you can cultivate and it is possible to have fresh greens in only a couple of weeks! I start peas to grow into full sized pea plants providing delicious peas come June, but I also plant a TON of peas to harvest just the shoots soon after they emerge because they are ready to harvest when nothing else is. Check out my Pinterest board to see some ways these delightful greens.
- #3 Radish: Radishes can be used beyond delicious potato salad! They can be roasted, added to salads and pickled! Check out my Pinterest board to see some more recipes.
- #4 Fiddlehead ferns: In early spring you can find these little guys poking up from the groun, and we are lucky to have them on our property! Any recipe that calls for asparagus, try fiddlehead ferns. Make sure you take the time to ensure you are foraging the right kind of fern. Ostrich ferns are the type that you are looking for!
#5 Lettuce: This leafy green is the bedrock of a great salad and can be topped with all sorts of delicious toppings. We aim to have 5 salads a week and in the spring and summer enjoy a dinner focused on a big salad loaded with protein! No matter what is in the salad we always make our own dressings. Below is a recipe for a simple vinaigrette we make often.
This recipe can handle endless substitutions and the key to success is to taste it often and balance out the fat, acid and seasonings. It is important to understand these ingredients do not want to mix and you must emulsify the dressing by slowly adding the oil to the vinegar.
- 1 small garlic clove, peeled. mash with a pinch or two of salt. Put in a mason jar.
- Add 1/3 cup of acid ( red wine vinegar or lemon juice)
- Add 1/4 onion or shallot minced
- 1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
Add 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil a bit at a time putting the cover on the mason jar and shaking vigorously between additions of olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a little honey if desired.
- #6 Onions: Last year we had a lovely surprise in the spring when we found we had missed a couple of onions the fall before and the onions had survived the winter! The onions we such a treat and I believe the winter cold made them a little sweeter. I’m not sure if all onions will do this but I bet most onions that are good for storage might be able to survive until spring.
- #7 Pansies: These flowers add a lot of color to spring salads and desserts. The pansy is very cold hardy and can even get covered in snow and survive. The flowers can be used in many dishes and they come in just about every color you can imagine!
#8 Spinach: One of the most veristile spring vegetable we use spinach in salads, egg bakes, pasta bakes and to make pesto! This year we are going to try to can spinach to use in the winter to make pizza, artichoke dip and lasagna.
These early spring vegetables are fast growers who thrive in the cold weather. It is important to enjoy them in the spring as the heat of summer makes then tough and bitter. This year I’m trying to minimize all open soil and plan to plant full beds of these spring treats. I hope to be up to my eyeballs in pesto come June!