Ah, just the first few signs of spring and I begin coaxing quince and forsythia branches into bloom. We have had a lovely sunny week here in Western Oregon, and while it is still cool that extra sunshine has begun turning fields and lawns into a soft green haze. Of course there are spots that will have you up to your ankles in mud but let’s not go there.
My friend, garden writer, Joy Larkcom, writes from the UK, “It is all veggies over here now. About time!” We at Nichols Garden Nursery see signs of this here as well. It seemed to begin about the time of the great spinach scare when many realized they could grow their own spinach salads from a small packet of seeds. If you’re looking for a good early spinach, the variety “Jive” is fast growing and cold hardy.
I’ve been craving fresh baby turnips, their flavor and sweetness makes them a spring delicacy. When I sow them I cover the seedbed with a polyspun garden blanket. This raises the temperature about three degrees, lets rain and light pass through but effectively excludes those nasty burrowing larvae that might leave a trail in my turnips. Here is one of our simplest family recipes for:
Baby Spring Turnips
Harvest baby turnips when they are one to two inches in diameter. The greens are tender and delicious and should be cooked with the roots. Just wash and trim off the root tips, no need to peel. I cut off the leaves leaving about 1/2 inch of green stem.
A bunch of one to two inch turnips with leaves (10-15)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
Trim turnips and cut each vertically into halves or quarters. Dice onion.
Place a large lidded skillet on medium heat and add olive oil and then turnips and onion and gently sauté.
Wash greens and cut into one inch lengths, including tender stems. When onions and turnips have cooked for five minutes add greens with water still clinging to the leaves, stir and cover with lid. Greens will cook down and become tender in five minutes. Serve with salt and pepper.
Four slices of lean bacon can be used instead of olive oil and is quite delicious. Cut bacon into strips and cook until almost crisp, remove all but one tablespoon fat and add onions and turnips in the order above.