Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Five easy to grow vegetable greens

Leaf vegetables can be some of the easiest to grow but are the most rewarding in terms of their nutritional value as well as monetary value. Here are my top leaf vegetables that can be cooked to make hearty side and main dishes.

Amaranth Greens : In south India, the many genus of Amaranth are priced for their flavor and nutritional value. In my experiment, I sprinkled some store bought Organic Amaranth seeds in my backyard. To my delight, these fast growing plants sprouted with very high germination rates in about a week. Within 4 weeks they were ready for the kitchen. Amaranths are related to red root pig-weed. They love the warm weather and will grow to 6-8 feet tall. A pound of Amaranth seed is good enough to sow an acre of land.

Because Amaranth seeds are tiny, when seeded by hand would grow very dense. When thinned the plants grow more vigorously. Thinning is required to harvest the seed. Do not thin to cook tender leaves.

Amaranth Seedlings

Amaranth Greens 4 weeks not thinned

Amaranth Greens 4 week thinned

Black Nightshade: Often confused with deadly nightshade, this plant is one of the most hated weeds of American mid-west. Solanum nigrum or the European black nightshade according to Wikipedia is the South Indian green called ManiThakkali (pearl tomatoes). I found a lone plant by the highway and took some seed to my garden After two years we have this plant everywhere, in the container , in my raised bed. I cant really say I grow black nightshade rather it grows itself. We harvest the berries and dry them to make 'vathal', cook the greens and the kids eat the ripe black berries.If you are foraging for this plant, please be very careful as there can be toxic varieties of this super green.

Black nightshade flower

Once you have one plant in your garden, it seeds itself and grows year after year. A berry contains several hundred seeds and thinning is required if you are looking to harvest berries. Greens are cooked best with tamarind to offset the slightly bitter taste, cumin, pepper and coconut.

Kale : Nobody needs an introduction to Kale. Kale scores a perfect 1000 on the ANDI and is the easiest to grow. I grow the Scottish variety which produces from spring to late fall , even after a hard frost or two.

Fenugreek Greens :  Consumed fondly all over India, this Fabaceae is a cousin of our common Clover, easily identified by its trifoliate. Easily sprouted with a handful of seeds from the kitchen, the seeds are cheap and sold in Indian grocery stores as Methi (in Hindi) and Mendhayam (in Tamil).

Mustard Greens : Another kitchen staple turned greens in my garden, this pungent green is cooked best with potatoes. I will post a recipe soon. Buying mustard seeds bred for broad edible leaves is best if you consume mustard geens on a regular basis. Mustrads are cold hardy and will produce till first hard frost date. These are great companion plants to your tomatoes.

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