Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hot May in Chicago: Spring Greens Report

Heat changes everything about spring growing. When nice steady cool temps are replaced by spikes in the 90s, cool-weather greens wilt and sag unhappily and flavor starts to distort. These Burpee organic lettuces were stunning though.

Check out this chart of highs and lows in Chicago for May 2012. Yikes. We broke a record on Memorial Day with 97 degrees and had many more days far hotter than normal. Unsettling.

Amish Snap Peas from Seed Savers Exchange 
Got these seeds germinating in the unheated greenhouse in February. The nighttime cold/daytime greenhouse heat of trapped sun cracked 'em right open. We've had a beautiful harvest.

Braising greens (Hudson Valley Seed Library)
gone to seed

Aztec Spinach
First year for this beautiful leaf with a nutty flavor. Bruce was over for a salad last week and swore it was lambs quarters. They have a lot in common. Plus, does this doesn't look anything like...
...this photo of the seeds I ordered?


Perpetual spinach-chard
This yummy green gets leathery when the weather gets hot, but it's a spring standby at our house. Here's what Bountiful Gardens says:
Description: (1869) Rare, fine old European strain of Swiss Chard. Smaller smooth dark-green leaves, small mid-ribs. Frost and bolt resistant, needs water in a dry spell. We saw whole fields under cultivation in England.

Agretti 
Officially one of my favorite greens. This year we're eating, not growing seeds, and does this ever pick nicely. Pinching off delectable end bits triggers a double branch to form. 

These chrysanthemum greens taste like an evergreen tree smells,
and they're budding up to white flowers. They make any salad sparkle.

Mmm. With the hot temps my cutting board
won't be filled with these much longer.

Malabar Spinach 
Just started eating these substantial spinach-y leaves (thanks to Debbie who swapped me some seeds). They've been languishing on the roof in their little cups. Today I pulled bolted greens out of three yellow SIPs, removed the fertilizer, and planted these. Cornell says:
The leaves from this heat-loving vine have a mild flavor and are used like spinach in salads and cooking. Extremely frost-sensitive. It creeps when temperatures are cool, but leaps when the mercury hits 90 F.
 

We hope the Malabar leaps up our arched trellis this summer...


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