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Jennifer Bartley Gets Back in the Garden

by Timber Press on February 11, 2011

in Gardening

We’re hosting a weeklong Get Back in the Garden Giveaway. Our authors will share their processes for getting the garden ready for Spring, and we’ll give away a copy of their book. Join the fun, and share the ways that you prepare for the gardening season, too!

Our last guest blogger is Jennifer R. Bartley, author of The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook.

Spring Food and Flowers

It’s true. We’ve been trapped in a frigid icy gloom this winter. Temperatures hover below zero while snow keeps piling up outside my door. I find myself clutching mugs of hot squash soup and roasting vegetables just to warm the kitchen. I know, every season is special. There is much to enjoy about winter: sledding, building snowmen, and drinking hot chocolate by the fire, but those thrills were over a while ago. (Somewhere around mid November, I think.) Honestly, just between you and me, I’m done with winter. My thoughts now drift to warm weather, seed catalogs and the delicacies of spring. I am eager to get my hands dirty, plant tiny seeds, harvest arugula for my salad, coat wild violets with sugar, and pick bouquets of pink peonies.

Medieval kitchen gardens contained fruits, vegetables, and herbs along with edible and non-edible flowers.  It is the same mandate I still follow: plant food for the plate and flowers for the vase and enjoy them in season. Here are the joys of the spring table — perennials that come back every year and the annual seeds that can be planted in cool soil.

Take a long walk in the woods and be on the lookout for edible treasures you may find. I am lucky to have friends that bring me morel mushrooms from their old farm, and ramps grow in abundance on my father’s property. Surely you have tasted the oniony, garlicky, unique flavor of fresh-picked ramps? Use like you would use green onions. Ramps are native to North America and thrive in the same conditions as hostas. You will find harvesting tips in my book.

Spring is asparagus season. For a few weeks it’s time to cut the young stems at soil level, rinse in a colander, blanch in boiling water, drain, drizzle with good olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice and chill. (Have you tried purple asparagus?)

Rhubarb is another long lived perennial in the garden.  Cut off the leaves and use the crisp sour stalks in pies and tarts. There is a reason many recipes pair rhubarb and strawberries. The sweet berries and tart stalks are ripe at the same time.

While you are harvesting asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries, pick a bouquet of peonies, Siberian irises, daffodils, crabapple, and dogwood blossoms for the vase.

Plant a variety of peas in early spring — I plant in March. Pea plants thrive in cool weather. Offer some support for the climbing tendrils and soon you will be harvesting English peas or tasty snow and sugar peas, crunching pod and all. Plant enough to harvest the young shoots for salads and stir fries.

Green garlic is one of my favorite spring treats. You probably won’t find it at the grocery store but if you planted garlic last fall, harvest the immature bulbs in spring and use like green onions. Green garlic is very mild — a different taste than mature garlic.

You can grow your own fancy spring salads because greens love the brisk outdoors and tolerate frost. Plant a variety of cabbages, kales, arugula, Asian greens, mustards, beet greens, dandelion greens, lettuce, rapini, and radicchio to make sure you never have a boring salad. Throw in edible chive blossoms and borage flowers for bright color.

Food and flowers from my own garden — the thought is keeping me warm on this cold snowy day.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bonnie Chadwick February 11, 2011 at 4:34 am

My daughter and I have spring fever, too! I would love a copy of The Kitchen Gardeners Handbook. I have never tried ramps, but would love to read about them. I grow lots of garlic and some onions. We are potting up about 10 Amaryllis a week to try to bring some flowers into the house. This will be our second year to harvest asparagus, but someone we eat alot of it fresh as we are picking it, and it doesn’t even make to the kitchen.

2 Virginia Waller February 11, 2011 at 7:25 am

I LOVE Timber Press and it’s pulications. And would LOVE to receive a copy of The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook, it sounds like a lovely book. It is hard at this time of year not to be salivating over the thought of vegetables fresh from the garden not to mention working in soil that isn’t frozen. Ah well another month of that at least but it doesn’t hurt to dream.

3 Amy February 11, 2011 at 9:37 am

I hope I posted this on my Facebook correctly…how can I tell??? Anyway…I LOVE the idea of combining edibles and flowers in the same garden patches. I am going to put my new Blueberry bushes right in front of my Hydrangea garden this year. And definitely plant some annuals in my vegy garden too!!

4 Verdant Sage February 11, 2011 at 9:53 am

I would LOVE to put this book to good use!!

5 Janelle February 11, 2011 at 10:01 am

I have been trying to incorporate a veggie/herb garden into our backyard and need a bit of help with ideas and when to plant what. I love that you add all the lovely flowers for the season; perfect to know what blossoms can adorn the table while you eat your current harvest!

6 Chani West-Foyle, Marketing Associate February 11, 2011 at 10:12 am

Amy, to tag us you have to first “like” us on FB, and then type the @ sign and start typing “Timber Press”. You should get a pop up menu with the option of selecting us. In any case – you are definitely entered in the drawing!

7 HissyStitch February 11, 2011 at 10:15 am

Right now my garden is tucked into bed for the winter, but it’s getting close to pea-planting season, the strawberry beds need renovated, and it’s about time to start the tomatoes, melons, and other summer things indoors. I’ve been gardening ever since I could toddle, but I’m still in love with new gardening books just to see how others do things and get new ideas. Heck, maybe I’ll even write one.

8 Ficurinia February 11, 2011 at 10:44 am

My garden is a bit mixed too and I am so happy to be a proponent of such practices. It is really confusing to some folks though because it does take some extra work to get their minds to bend around the idea. Hurray for kitchen gardens.

I grew our asparagus from seed and we have a raised bed that is made just for it. Wow! Just writing about this is making me really hungry. :)

9 Iris February 11, 2011 at 10:47 am

food and flowers… plant to table… just the thought will help me make it a few more weeks…!! thanks… :)

10 Tim Lee February 11, 2011 at 11:00 am

Wonderful addition to any library..sure would love to win it!!

11 Tanja February 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

What a wonderful book! Right up my alley with the integrated gardening. Please pick me, lol.

12 Michelle's Green Thumb February 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

My gardens are waking up for spring & I’m harvesting the first little leaves of sorrel, the remenants of chard & kale & parsley too. I’d love to add this book to my library & share some tips with my green tumb’ed neighbours.

13 Christina Salwitz February 11, 2011 at 11:33 am

This will be my second year of growing veggies is my very young landscape. We moved into this new home after a bachelor had owned it and nothing had been done to the landscaping since the “builder’s special” as I like to call it, was installed.
I’ll be growing a wide variety of edibles in large scale containers, such as horse troughs and the like. My soil is horrid and the poor edibles need to be a bit warmer above ground here in the damp Northwest spring and summer!
Looking forward to this book!

14 Donna February 11, 2011 at 11:40 am

looking forward to this wonderful book…I have been expanding my garden plans and this book will be a great resource…

15 Brenda Powell February 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm

love all your posts and encouraging ideas…we live in southern california where we had alot of rain this winter and still growing tomatoes!! Thank you for the opportunity for the book : )

16 Susy February 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I have bought all my seeds, now I just need the weather to cooperate. I’m hungry for garden grown lettuce. I would love to add this book to my library.

17 Gardeing Jones February 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm

This is my favorite post so far, I must say. You are talking my language!

18 Ruth February 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm

I have several books on the kitchen garden but have yet to set up a good one — we grow a few veggies in a couple of small raised beds, But this is the year! Is this the same book as “Designing the New Kitchen Garden”?. I have that one & enjoy it immensely.

19 Catie February 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Looks like another great one. I’ve just stared my first seeds of the year indoors. This would be a great help.

20 Chani West-Foyle, Marketing Associate February 11, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Congratulations to Susy for winning the prize! And thank you to everyone else for participating in the drawing. I hope you found this week’s blog posts to be interesting and informative, even if you didn’t win anything. Hang in there – spring will come!

21 Theresa N February 11, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I’m going to be planting peas in March.

22 Karen K February 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I have been thinking of planting an herb garden this year and would love to win the book because I’ll bet there’s something on that to help me!

23 Christine February 12, 2011 at 6:29 am

Love Jennifer’s new book. We just moved and my garden is a blank slate, would love to use Jennifer’s book ideas to fill it up!

24 Christine Powell February 13, 2011 at 8:16 am

Whoops, am I too late – I was in the garden….

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