April 22, 2012

Early Greens in the Garden

Egyptian Onions

 In early spring, long before any of the annual crops are ready, perennial herbs are sending up their bright green leaves. First of the season are the Egyptian Onions whose leaves have a tangy oniony flavor; they are also known as Walking Onions because their tops form bulblets which fall over and root. I've been cutting up the hollow leaves for my lunchtime cole slaws, made with cabbage from the root cellar.


Chives have a milder onion flavor and I rely on them when the Egyptian onion leaves get tough, which they will in a little while.


I love the celery-like flavor of lovage, and have been adding some cut up leaves to my slaws along with the Egyptian onions. A favorite recipe with lovage is the Potato-Lovage Fritatta from Deborah Madison, which I'll make this week.


Then there is sorrel, for me an indispensable herb for soups and sauces all summer long, with its spicy lemony taste. A favorite spring to summer recipe is another from Deborah Madison's The Greens Cookbook,  a Sorrel-Onion Tart.

I generally get to enjoy these green for a couple of weeks before the first of the perennial asparagus emerges from the ground, but yesterday I had quite a shock: several spears of asparagus were standing tall in the bed, a couple had even gone by. Asparagus is a May vegetable, usually ready in early to mid May. Last year's snows made the crop late, but in 2010 the first spears were ready on May 4th, in 2009 on May 8th, 2008 May 10th, 2007 May 14th. As you can see, never have I seen an asparagus spear in April. And, the dandelions are blooming in the lawn, another May phenomenon happening in April. And the lawn needs mowing! I hope this year is a strange blip and not a speeded up arrival of climate change. At least it finally rained last night, breaking a very long dry spell with 1.3 inches of rain.


  1. Yes, aren't these early spring greens welcomed...I put in some sorrel this year as I remembered your love of it. Started digging a new garden but today water stands in it. My land has springs abounding to keep it damp; now it overflows..sunchoke, ramp, and watercress soup...no recipe, just throw them all together, yum!

    1. hi Maggie, your greens combo sounds great. I'm making myself some potato-sorrel soup for lunch.

  2. Thanks for the sorrel reminder. A client just asked me about hers which overwintered for the first time (in a very small container amidst a lot of urban concrete). Yes, I hope it's a blip, but I fear not. The general shift to extreme weather events has become very present to me as a landscape designer in many different gardens.

  3. I grew sorrel and lovage in our former garden. I should try them again, eps. lovage. It's so sculptural and big.

  4. Sorrel is great, Julie and Linda. And lovage is a spectacular plant, growing to 6 feet with large yellow umbels. I love it.