Greens And Misc. Plants
( Originally Published 1909 )
MOST persons like greens, especially in spring when the system seems to demand a change from the somewhat heavy and restricted diet of winter. We gather dandelions from road-side and pasture, but they are so small that it takes a bushel basketful to make a " mess," so many have to be discarded as worthless, and a great deal of work is involved in "looking them over," and preparing them for cooking.
Now this plant can be grown to perfection by cultivating it in the garden. By treating it as well as other plants are treated, it grows to good size, each crown forming a thick mass of foliage, and one plant will furnish ten times the amount of material for cooking that you get from a wild plant.
It can be had very early in spring by inverting a box over it, as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Leave the box in place for several days. The exclusion from light will blanch the newly formed leaves, and make them far tenderer than those of the wild plant. It will also extract some of the bitter quality which seems to be, to some extent at least, the result of exposure to sunshine. No lover of greens who has a garden can afford to depend upon the highway or pasture for a supply of this healthful and really delicious vegetable.
Gather seed as soon as it ripens, and gets into the fluffy stage, and sow it in drills, covering very lightly. Thin out the plants so that each one left will have ample space in which to develop. It will be necessary to grow new plants each year, as, in gathering them for the table, the crown of the old plant will have to be cut away, thus putting an end to its life. Those who simply pluck away the foliage from about the crown make a great mistake. The most delicious part of the plant is the crown itself, with its mass of tender, unfolded foliage, and blossom-buds. This portion, when well blanched, makes a most appetizing salad.
Seedling beet plants make a very tender, delicate green. They are most pleasing when cooked with salt pork, as that gives them a flavor which they lack when cooked alone.
However, the use of horseradish, freshly grated, pepper, mustard, or vinegar, supplies the lack, and makes the dish very satisfactory to most appetites.
The plants can be used until their roots have grown to be an inch or more across, roots and tops being cooked together.
Lettuce is often cooked for greens, but, like the beet, it calls for some condiment with decided flavor to make it entirely satisfactory.
Mustard, if gathered while young and tender, is highly prized as greens, because it has so pungent a flavor of its own. If cooked with beets or lettuce it adds a piquancy which will be greatly appreciated by most persons.
Spinach is perhaps the most extensively grown plant we have in the "green" line. It is tender, well flavored, early, and easily grown. Sow at intervals of ten days or two weeks in order to secure a succession.
Most housewives will be glad to have on hand a supply of what the seedsmen call "pot herbs," for flavoring soups, roasts, stews, and sausage.
Sage and summer savory are used more than all other kinds. Both are easily grown, and a few plants will be sufficient to supply the wants of a large family. Cut them when they are in bud. Hang them in a shady place until dry. Then crumble the leaves from the stalk, pulverize them finely, and put the pow-der into bottles and cork tightly. Prepared in this way, they will retain their strength much better than when kept in paper bags, as is the usual custom.
If pepper plants are cut off close to the ground, when their fruit is partially ripened, and hung in a dry place where the sun can get at them, they will ripen nearly all their pods. In this way they can be kept fresh throughout the greater part of winter. Of course the fruit will shrivel somewhat, but by putting it into warm water for a few minutes it will freshen up wonderfully, and become almost as plump as when gathered from the garden. This puts the pod in good shape for use in soups, salads, and the various kinds of " piecalillies " which women can prepare during the winter season from odds and ends of vegetables at their disposal.
Endive is widely grown for salad use. To make it edible, the leaves of half-matured plants should be folded over each other compactly and tied. This causes them to blanch, and become very tender. It is well to cover the plants thus treated with a roofing of boards, oil-cloth, or something that will exclude rain, as water getting among the foliage will be sure to cause rot. This plant is also good for greens.
Every garden should have a few roots of horseradish for spring use. It can be planted in out-of-the-way corners, where it will not interfere with other plants, and there it will take care of itself if weeds and grass are kept down. It grows from a division of old roots. Simply a piece of root having a growing point, or eye, under the ground, will speedily develop into a strong plant. Let the soil be rich and light. Young leaves of this plant make excel-lent greens, as they have something of the pungency peculiar to the grated root.
Those who grow and prepare their own horseradish will have an article far superior, in every respect, to the article to be bought of grocers. To have it in perfection it must be freshly dug and grated at once. It loses the tang which makes it so delightful an excitant of the appetite after standing for a short time in vinegar. Therefore it is advisable to prepare it in small quantities, using freshly dug root each time.
Swiss Chard is a variety of beet having very large leaves. These, being tender and well flavored, are much prized for greens. The large midribs of the leaves are often cut out and served like asparagus. Give the same culture as advised for the beet.
Sweet marjoram is used as a seasoning for soups and roasts by many, but most persons prefer summer savory, which is somewhat similar in flavor.
Dill is used to give a flavor to pickles, and sometimes in soups and sauces.
Sweet Basil is valued as a flavoring for highly seasoned soups and stews, and some-times in salads.