by Linda C Butler

Regular cucumbers often have large seeds and become bitter as they mature but there are many new varieties of cukes that are worth trying. The old pickling standby, National Pickling cukes are approx 60 days to maturity.

Stokes offers Cool Breeze Hybrid which is 45 days to maturity. No pollen is needed and the plants will produce in cool weather.  Can be pickled or eaten fresh.  Plants can be grown on the ground or caged or trellised.

Alibi is a 4 inch cucumber that can be harvested for gherkins.  52-55 days to maturity but can be harvested earlier.  It is a space-saver plant that can be grown on trellises.

Cucumbers need to be well-watered.  Cucumbers are great for pickling and you may want to plant dill so it will be ripe at the same time as the cukes.

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by Linda C Butler

Spinach is a cool weather crop that should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. Most spinach is 45 days to maturity.  It can be planted in successive plantings until the weather warms.

Parks offers Space Hybrid Spinach at 40 days to maturity.    They also offer Palco Hybrid Spinach which matures in 38 days and is suitable for containers. Both these plant will over-winter in mild areas.  Renegate Hybrid is 30 days to maturity, disease-resistant and sweet flavored.

I harvest wild greens in the spring – nettles, pigweed and others, and I often steam them with garden spinach.  Season with vinegar.

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by Linda C Butler

Beets are a cool weather crop and can be planted early in the spring when the ground can be worked and planted as a successive crop.  Thin the plants so there is room for the roots to grow and swell. The thinning can be cooked with other pot greens.   The soil should be loose.  

Beets can be pickled in the fall and enjoyed all winter long.  I’ve tried recipes with pickling spice and with cloves and both are delicious. They mature in approx 60 days. Red Ace is a Parks hybrid seed which matures in 53 days.

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by Linda C Butler

Radish have been described as “the closest thing to instant gratification in the garden patch” are they are ready for harvesting in just over three weeks. Radish should be planted in succession until the weather warms.  When the temperature warms, radish will bolt to seed.

Radish can be planted in the same space as other, slower growing vegetables as the radishes will be harvested before the other crop matures.

Radish can be grown in soil that contains wood ashes in the compost as this helps to protect from maggots. Do not let the soil dry out, as this can make the radishes strong tasting.

This year I will try “Snappy” a new hybrid variety from Parks for containers (24 days) and Rivoli (30 days) a disease-resistant hybrid.

Winter radishes can be grown on the Pacific coast where there is an extended cool period without frost.

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Old Seeds

Old Seeds
by Linda C Butler

I have a collection of part packages of seeds from last year and I accidentally dropped some radish seeds on the floor and decided that there has to be a better way.  I purchased some 4 x 5-1/2 inch plastic bags (try the dollar store or use snack bags.) These bags will hold a couple packages of seeds.  My seeds are now neatly sorted and the seeds will stay fresher.  Extra seeds should be stored in a cool dry location.

Seeds will usually germinate for several years.  To test for germination of old seeds take 20 seeds, moisten a paper towel and place the seeds on it.  Roll up the towel and store in a cool place. Check the seeds every 2 to 3 days for germination. If you wish, you can calculate the percentage of seeds that germinated. Plant seeds outside or in flats or trays until they can be transplanted outdoors.

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by Linda C Butler

I buy my dill seed in the bulk herb and spice section of the grocery store as dill is close to being a weed and grows easily.  I have even scattered dill seed in people’s gardens, much to their surprise when it pops up.  It is one of those plants that should be grown successively so that you have fresh dill all summer long as it is so useful for dips and salads or with steamed veggies.

If you make dill pickles, it is a bonus to gather your own dill.  Usually the seed heads are stuffed into the jar for dill pickles.  If you have no ripe dill you can add fresh dill stems and supplement with dried seeds, which contain the most flavor.

The stalks can be harvested very young, or left to mature to the yellowish heads.  They are attractive with flowers as the leaves are delicate.  Dill is not usually grown in pots, but if you continually harvest the plant then container plantings work.  Special seed for containers can also be purchased.

Dill can be frozen. Freeze the entire stalk and then break off the pieces and store in a plastic bag.  To dry dill, hang from a hook in the ceiling in a cool place.

Dill is easy to grow and is a very useful herb.

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Strawberry Spinach

by Linda C Butler

Strawberry Spinach

Strawberry Spinach

I was looking through Parks Seeds and was surprised to see the plant “Strawberry Spinach”.  This is a plant that grows wild in Northern Manitoba, although it is usually much smaller than the seed catalog picture.  I had no idea that the plant was edible.  I always called it “Indian Paint” and when I was a little girl I used to squish the berries in my fingers and rub my fingers on rocks and pretend to paint.

Neighbors, where we have our cabin in Manitoba, have a patch of this plant near their doorway and it is very attractive.  They water and tend the patch and of course these plants grow much larger than the uncared for wild ones.

Wikipedia describes the plant:
Strawberry Blite (Blitum capitatum) is an edible annual plant, also known as Blite Goosefoot, Strawberry Goosefoot, Strawberry Spinach, Indian Paint and Indian Ink. It is native to most of North America throughout the United States and Canada, including northern areas.

Flowers are small, pulpy, bright red and edible, resembling strawberries.  The juice from the flowers was also used as a red dye by natives. The fruits contain small, black, lense-shaped seeds that are 0.7-1.2 mm long.  The greens are edible raw or as a potherb, but if raw should be eaten in moderation as they contain oxalates. The seeds may be toxic in large amounts.

It is nice to identify a plant that I have been so familiar with and I look forward to tasting it this summer.

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