Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Some (Greens) Like It Hot

Being new to vegetable gardening, it came as a deep disappointment that lettuce and spinach cannot survive Houston's hot summers. After reading seed catalogs, websites, and my assorted gardening tomes, I decided to try some Asian greens from Evergreen Seeds which are recommended for their heat-hardiness:

Senposai Hybrid
Hybrid King of Summer Spinach
India Spinach Beet
Chinese Kale Green Delight

The Green Delight seeds were started on April 30th, and the other seeds were all started towards the end of May. In hindsight, it would have been better to start the seeds several months earlier, but I didn't discover these vegetables until Spring was all but over here in Houston.

The Hybrid King of Summer quickly succumbed to the heat. The Chinese Kale is still alive, but barely. The two stars have been the Senposai Hybrid and the India Spinach Beet, both of which are thriving. I have them planted in full sun in our front yard, which faces East and gets baked in the hot afternoon sun. I water them every day -- a lot of work with no sprinkler or drip irrigation system.

Senposai is a cross between Komatsuna and common cabbage. India Spinach Beet is native to India (hence the name), and it thrives in a hot, wet climate. If you're interested in learning more about these vegetables, I highly recommend "Oriental Vegetables" by Joy Larkcom. The author is a British gardener and writer who was an early pioneer in studying and then bringing Asian vegetables to the West. She goes into a lot of detail regarding each plant's history, climate and cultivation needs, and uses for these vegetables. You can pick the book up on Amazon.

Senposai and India Spinach Beet are both "cut and come again" greens, so we have already had three mini harvests since transplanting the plants to the garden in early June. The first two times, we sauteed them like spinach. They were really tasty. David will have to provide the details -- I don't cook the veggies, just grow and eat them. Tonight, we're using a combination of the two in a recipe courtesy of Delicious Magazine's website (deliciousmagazine.co.uk) -- haloumi and bulgur salad with harissa dressing. We're also using Yellow Pear tomatoes, mint, and cucumber from the garden for this recipe. The India Spinach works nicely in any recipe which calls for spinach.

We'll try the King of Summer and the Green Delight Kale again when it cools off. I don't hold their failure to thrive against Evergreen Seeds -- I've had great luck with many of their vegetable seeds, including eggplants, coriander, and bunching onions. It just goes to show that many plants that "love hot weather" can't stand Houston summers, so it's still a process of trial and error to discover the vegetables that actually like 100 degree temperatures day in and day out for 6 months of the year. My success with Sensposai and India Spinach Beet has inspired me to try several additional Asian greens -- a few more from Evergreen Seeds, plus two from Kitazawa Seed. This is my first order from Kitazawa which, like Evergreen, specializes in Asian vegetable seeds. Most people probably aren't experimenting with new seeds for Asian greens in July, but I'll get an earlier start next year armed with this summer's garden results.


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