Winter Purslane (Miners Lettuce) and Mache (Corn Salad)

I was doing some research on Winter Purslane and Mache for including them in my cold frame for next fall/winter gardening and found a seed company in (of all places) New Mexico.  It is called www.gourmetseed.com and hails out of Tatum, NM and you can purchase these items and more from them.  Mache is pretty common but I haven’t heard about Purslane (except the wild kind that grows here). So let me talk a little about these two winter crops that have been grown in Europe for centuries.

Mache (French Corn Salad)-picture from gourmetseed.com

Mache-(Valerianella locusta)

This gourmet green is also known as corn salad and lamb’s lettuce. It has been cultivated from France since the 17th century. Mache was named because it’s leaf resembles the shape and size of a lamb’s tongue!  It is one of the few greens that can handle our winters (like spinach). It grows in a rosette if you plant individually but most just broadcast the seeds (like you would for mesclun) in an area to make a carpet of leaves as they are very small. Growing low to the ground, it is harder to harvest but it has a nutty, sweet flavor worth the effort. To harvest it, just take a knife and cut it off below the leaf level being careful not to injure the delicate leaves and wash well. You can eat it alone or put it in with other salad greens but use a light vinaigrette or even lemon juice and a little oil-it is too delicate for heavy dressings. They say you can steam it like spinach but it is too small for me to do that. I grew this many years ago under row cover in raised boxes and it did well but grew very slow in our winter but when Spring came it was ready and I went out one day only to find the chickens had escaped and raided the garden and they ate all but a few leaves of my Mache! The few leaves left tasted wonderful so I hope they enjoyed it! It like colder weather so I may try again this early spring as it takes 6-12 weeks till harvest but much longer if it goes into winter. Mache doesn’t like to be warm. Maybe I’ll try it when I plant more spinach in early March and again next fall.

Winter Purslane (Miner's Lettuce)--picture from gourmetseed.com

Winter-Purslane-(Montia perfoliata)

This is not to be confused with the purslane weed that grows wild in New Mexico and throughout the U.S. I will write the next post on that one (Portulaca oleracea) because it is interesting too but for now I want to focus on this variety. This winter green is also known as Miner’s Lettuce or Indian Lettuce and is rich in Vitamin C. It was eaten by early miners to avoid Scurvy. This wonderful wild green is used in Germany and other European countries for it’s tender young leaves. It is used as an addition to mesclun and other salads or steamed like spinach. You pick the leaves when they are young and tender. Most people plant this in fall because it handles the winter so well. I think I will try this in my cold frame next fall. I haven’t done a cold frame in years until this year, but am enjoying seeing the spinach, oakleaf lettuce and chard in it. It’s nice seeing something green in the dead of winter and hopefully if they survive this winter, I will get an early crop of some wonderful greens and now that I’m excited again about fall/winter gardening, I will definitely plant some Mache and Purslane next year. You might consider it too.

Winter gardening

Main garden Jan. 8, 2011

Bri's Pumpkin Patch Jan. 8, 2011

It really looks like old man winter has arrived. Here are pictures of  the main garden and pumpkin patch down by the barn that I took this morning. We’ve had some precipitation (finally) on Dec 31-Jan.1 and some absolutely frigid temperatures last week which is why it is still on the ground.  Another Arctic blast is due here next week. Oh boy, can’t wait..

I went to get some carrots in my small patch protected only by 12 inches of straw up by the house for dinner last night and the carrots (yellow carrots) were looking good but the ground was frozen. All those nights in the single digits made the ground rock hard. Guess I’ll have to wait till spring when it thaws to harvest some.

Cold Frame Jan 8, 2011

When I checked the cold frame, the soil is still soft and the plants are doing great!

Winter lettuce damage

A little damage on some of the lettuce leaves from the -4° we had one night but not bad considering I don’t pay any attention to it except for an occasional watering. In the picture notice I have large bubble wrap on my cover to add insulation and you can see the row cover to the left that I have to cover the crop with to also add protection. Guess this is working pretty well. The transplanted chard is holding it’s own and the spinach leaves ARE ACTUALLY GROWING-slowly but growing!  So I watered the cold frame winter veggies before the next big weather front.  I use gallon jugs to water-easier than the frozen hose…

Closeup of cold frame veggies

10 Things To Do in November In The Garden

I’m baaaack! Been on vacation all last week in sunny, warm Southern California down in San Diego playing on the beaches and up to Disneyland. Ahhh, 78-80 degree weather. How nice!   A much needed vacation..But now that I’m back there is still much to do before cozying up to a fireplace and looking at future seed catalogs that I haven’t gotten yet. I’m so far behind, I can’t see. So here is my list of to do’s that I haven’t done:

1. Finish taking out the garden-only partially done. Must dispose of all tomato plants (all now dead), all cucumber and squash plants. I won’t compost any of these as I don’t want to spread any possible diseases they may have had since they are very disease prone and if you don’t get your compost pile hot enough, you may not kill all the pathogens. Also rake any debris and get rid of it. Make the dirt pretty. Here I come city dump!

2. Finish my compost pile. Got to get more coffee grounds, leaves and fresh horse manure or cottonseed meal (to heat up the pile) and add to the partially composted piles. Soon I won’t be adding any kitchen scraps as they will not break down in the dead of winter (at least not for me (I’m not a worm farmer)-Deb F. I need your advice on making hot compost in cold winter climates!)

3. I already took off the drip system timers but need to take out the batteries and put them inside somewhere. I never drain or blow out the drip and never had a problem. Ahh, one less thing to do!

4. Oh oh! I think I blew it. We have already had freezing weather at night, so I may have killed my new little friends-soil microbes in products such as Serenade, Companion and Mycorizial but I’m going to get them anyways out of the garden shed and put them in the house where it is warmer. Hmm, wonder what closet I can hide them in? I know, the cat room closet! Nobody wants to go in the cats room anyways (where the kitty litter boxes are)! I wonder what these microbes do in the winter anyways out in nature?! Hmm, I’ll have to investigate that this winter.

5. Put everything from the Tomato Lady business in the garden shed. Oh yea and clean up and straighten out that garden shed while I’m in there. And set some mouse traps in case they think the row cover is really just blankets for them in the winter.

6. I’m going to get the pumpkin patch soil tested this year and see what amendments I need to add.  I’m going to add amendments to it and the general veggie garden as soon as the sales go on at the garden stores. Last year I picked up my Seaweed, Thrive, Yum, Yum mix, and Fish emulsion really cheap- right about now.

7. Need to make notes about what happen in the garden this year-you know, successes, failures, problems-things I can look at next Spring to refresh my memory. Need to make a diagram of where my diseased tomatoes were before I forget. Shouldn’t replant tomatoes back in those spots again for 3 years. I will be planting less tomatoes next year in an area that either hasn’t had tomatoes or it’s been 3 years since I planted there. It’s called plant rotation-but with the number of tomato plants I plant every year, it’s getting harder to find new places with in the garden to plant them or I may need to expand again next year.  Na, just plant less tomatoes..

8. Finish up my collecting seeds and sorting them. I’ve almost done there.

9. Do you believe this? I’m planting some starts of spinach and lettuce in a cold frame NOW! Just an experiment to see if they will do well or not..

10. Planning to build a small high tunnel to be ready for early Spring. Hope it’s a warm winter…

MG Giant Veggie Garden Tour and Winter Gardening Class Information Sheets

Here are all the information sheets I had out at the Santa Fe Master Gardener’s Giant Veggie Tour and the Winter Gardening Class held at my garden for anyone that wants them. I’m also listing the  link to the whole article on attracting beneficial insects that I got from http://www.grinning planet.com. Following are the pdfs for the info sheets from the tour on Attracting Beneficial Insects, the Mid Summer/Fall Plant Help info sheet, the Squash Bug Preference Chart (yes squash bugs actually have squash preferences!) and Organic Plant Insect/Critter Control Recipes. Also are the sheets from the Winter Gardening Class held today. Two plans showing how to build coldframe/hotbeds, winter gardening information sheet and Fall/Winter Vegetable Planting Guide from Ed Hume Seeds website. Just download them and print them for your files.

PDFS FROM TOUR:

Attracting Beneficial Insects

Mid Summer/Fall Help For Plants

Squash Bug Preference Chart

Organic Plant Insect/Critter Control Recipes

PDFS FROM WINTER GARDENING CLASS:

Winter Gardening Sheet

Fall and Winter Vegetable Planting Guide

Hotbed Plans

Cold Frame Gardening

Cold Frame/hotbed plans