The last three winters since we’ve been here, I have been able to grow salad greens throughout most of the winter. While it dipped down to 0F (-18 C) in February of 2007 (or was that 2006?), there was a thick snow cover that helped to mitigate temperatures on the ground – and in my improvised cold frames – as well as insulate plants from the effects of desiccating winds.
Not this year! Not having set-up my second-hand hoophouse cold frames yet, everything is growing in the open or under agricultural fabric layers. Growing… or dying that is, since we have seen -5F (-21C) without snow covers and icy drying winds sucking the life out of my kitchen garden.
The arugula, cutting celery & parsley while alive do not look too happy – darn right bedraggled, actually. The mature Swiss Chard has expired in a messy brown & slimy goo (the seedlings seem OK). The lettuce has rotted to the base. Since they may send side shoots in early spring, I am leaving the stumps. The bokchoi, tatsoi and the likes are still buried under their blanket of straw. The mache, however… the mache… is green, and while I would not call it “lusty”, it certainly looks good enough to eat. Which is what we are happily doing, as seen pictured with this slab of homemade pate.
What is mache, you ask?
If you are English, that’s “Corn Salad” or “Lamb’s Lettuce”, in German “Feltsalat” or “Ackersalat” and in Italian “Valeriana”. While there are many species of mache, each slightly different in taste, leaf form or color, Valerianella locusta is the one you are most likely to find in cultivation. It originates from Eurasia, and grow wild in many places in Europe and the British Isles. I read that it also escaped cultivation in the North Eastern US, but I have not found it in the wild (I have also not looked!). There is also an Italian species Valerianella eriocarpa which is not as cold hardy. Read more