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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chinese Artichokes and Some Spring Vegetables

One of my Spring preparation projects is to weed my cold frame and get ready to sow some peas in it.  This is my cold frame, designed and built by me, with a wooden frame, hardware cloth bottom to keep out the voles, sides made of corrugated Polycarbonate, and a 4x8' double-walled Polycarbonate sheet for a top.
The main problem I have encountered with it is that the corner wooden posts have been rotting.   I haven't really tried much to grow vegetables over the winter with it except a few greens in the photo, but start peas in it every year in March, and last fall I placed my Chinese Artichokes growing in a planter in it for over-wintering.  I decided to try growing the Artichokes in it this spring to see if they will do better than in the planter, since they need protection from voles and will have more room to develope.  If you have not grown them, they make nice tubers that look rather like a string of pearls, and make a nice crunchy addition to stir-fries.  They are in the Mint family, Lamiaceae, and are also called Crosnes or Stachys affinis.    Here are some from my planter, around 2-3" long.   The tops had not completely died down on the plants.  I wish I had a photo, but when in bloom, the upright petals fit neatly between the eyes of the bees that visit the blossoms, and it is so adorable the way the bee's eyes are peering around the petals as it is sipping the nectar.
I am putting them in the center of the cold frame and will put the peas around the edges.  I like the edible-podded peas exclusively, no shelling, especially the Sugar Snap pea varieties like the short Sugar Ann, Sugar Sprint, Sugar Daddy, and tall Super Sugar Snap, as they are very tasty and crunchy raw, and also very good cooked.  I like them either boiled or in stir-fries.   I also like  Snow peas, the kind of edible-podded pea used in Chinese restaurants in stir-fries when the pods have enlarged but the peas are still mostly undeveloped.  They can also be eaten raw but are not as good that way as the Sugar Snap varieties which have pods closely wrapped around the peas.  Snow pea pods tend to stay flat and larger than the peas so when the peas inside are mature the pods tend to balloon out.  I am going to try a new variety, Norli, which is described as a Sugar Snap but looks more like a Snow pea in the photo, and is supposed to be able to keep bearing when the weather heats up.  When the peas get above the height of the sides of my cold frame, I have to remove the cover and surround them with a wire cage to protect them from the deer, and for support for the taller ones.   Pea foliage as in the tender tips can also be eaten as greens, and some Oriental seed companies have varieties to grow just for their foliage.

I also have to spend some time cleaning out and replanting my 2 large stock tanks up on my deck that I use for tender greens since the slugs and voles can't get to them there.  The Evergreen seed company also sells some nice frilly baby leaf greens that can be cut over a long period of time, and add a nice taste and texture to a salad, as does Kitazawa.

Bon Apetit!   Hannah

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