Monday, June 10, 2013
3 Amazing (Heat Tolerant) Summer Greens for Your Garden
There's no doubt about it. Springtime means lots of great lettuce, spinach and various other summer greens. This year I planted Broccoli Raab, Arugula, Mizuna and Giant Red Indian Mustard. There's no doubt that these greens are wonderful during these cool springtime temperatures but as soon as the heat of summer sets in, these greens have bolted and finished. I still will have kale growing but eventually it also will succumb to the cabbage butterflies who love to use their leaves for their voracious young.
This does not work for me. I don't spray the garden. I don't want the pesticides, $$ and expensive as well as the labor involved. Ultimately I'm a lazy gardener who wants plants who don't need to be coaxed, babied or pampered to produce. That's where these 3 greens come in. Easy to grow, very heat resistant as well as vitamin dense, these top performers deserve consideration for being grown in your garden.
1. Swiss Chard. I mention this green a lot because it deserves attention. Most people are unfamiliar with it unless they have grown it themselves and that's too bad because it's one of the most reliable greens to grow. It germinates very easily in pots or directly sown in mid-spring and that's about all the work you'll need to do. Love. It also comes in a variety of colors including, yellow, white, orange, and red.
Health benefits? Lots of them. Swiss Chard is a great source for vitamin C and vitamin K. Vitamin K is believed to help with bone formation and strengthening as well as helping to limit neuronal damage to the brain. This means it's thought to be useful as a treatment for those with Alzheimer's.
It is also rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, B-complex group of vitamins, and minerals like copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. Need I say more? This summer green can stand the heat, is very insect resistant and doesn't bolt. If left to overwinter, it will come up in the spring and produce leaves before it finally bolts. I manage to harvest as many as I can before my new plants have gotten big enough to harvest. This green is a win-win.
2. Mustard Spinach. This is a new green for me. I grew this one year in the garden and it not only grew well and quickly but was also hardy and very heat resistant over the summer. It's not a mix of two greens but rather a mild Chinese mustard and native of east Asia. This ancient green is making a comeback with the emerging trend of nutritious greens being fashionable on the dinner plate once again. Its mild flavor makes it popular as a cooked green. I found my seeds in the grocery store seed rack and not in a seed catalog. Don't worry if you can't find the seeds easily, one packet should be enough. I planted mine once and had LOTS of volunteers the following spring. You won't want to let this go to seed if you don't want lots of it around. I like mine to set seed as it's a great way to get your seed for next year.
It's also a very fast growing and large leafed green. You won't need too many of these plants as the leaves of one or two plants as these plants become quite jungle-like in nature. That's a bonus for me, it's less leaves to have to wash and more to cut up in soups, stews, as well as sauteing in garlic.
.This green is also loaded with vitamins C, A, Folate and B-6, Calcium and trace minerals. It packs a big bang in the nutrient department. This is a great green on its own or to mix with others.
3. New Zealand Spinach. This isn't a true spinach either but rather a long vine-like plant that produces edible leaves. It was said to have first been introduced by Captain Cook from his South Seas expedition. It has a mild flavor as well and has thicker more succulent type of leaves. It likes a moist environment and will thrive under those conditions even with the heat of summer. Mine grows in an area with some part shade which might explain why it loves to grows so well.
It's said to be difficult to germinate so you may want to soak the seeds for 2-8 hours before planting. I however had no problems getting mine started and once established in the right environment, it needs no maintenance except for harvesting. I planted mine five years ago and I haven't planted it since. It reseeds itself readily and I often end of weeding it out of the garden. This could be called invasive, but I call it handy because it has shallow roots which make it easy to remove.
New Zealand Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin C, A, Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus. It also contains antioxidants which adds to its already rich nutritional profile. I like it because while regular spinach is gone with the heat of summer, this green grows steadily on for months through the fall.
There you have it, three amazing greens that are easy to grow, withstand the heat of summer and are loaded with vitamins and nutrients like their spring cousins. Did I mention these greens are highly resistant to insects and pests too? Another great bonus as a garden vegetable. There are more great summer greens for your garden, but this is a good place to get started now...happy eating!
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