Even with our unusually cold April that is delaying our normal planting schedule, this is looking like a fantastic May. I can finally get my hands back in the soil. Soil is considered to be antidepressant. The smell of mycobacterium vacii, a microorganism found in soil, compost and leaf mold, lights up neurotransmitters that release serotonin (a mood-lifting hormone). While the crocuses were the stars of the March garden and the hyacinths and primula dominated April, tulips are making their fantastic appearance in May and thankfully the deer that were visiting this winter have moved on. Lilacs will be next on the bloomers list in our garden. Suffering from our unusual fall and winter, our forsythia had a poor showing this spring. Also suffering some winter damage this year are our rockery flowers along the sidewalk: the rock cress, moss phlox and aubrieta.
Despite the cool weather, or perhaps because of the cool weather, the garlic, rhubarb, radishes, lettuce, kale and choi are doing quite well. In our garden these are all planted against a light coloured wall or covered with clear umbrellas allowing them to get a head start in our garden. All these will be available to consume in a week or so.
Sitting in the cold frames, our tomato plants are toughening up nicely awaiting their transplanting in early May. They will be followed by geraniums, squashes and zucchini cucumbers, and then lastly, peppers. I planted some asparagus crowns this year, hopefully to get a few fresh spears now and then, but mostly to get the lace-like fern foliage in a feature garden area. The crowns available this year are from Armstrong, the major asparagus producing area of the Okanagan. They were the largest and healthiest I have seen in many years, which prompted me to plant them this spring.
Confessions of a plant hog… I have a lot of difficulty throwing away any seedling or plant, weather it be a relatively new plant or an old one I am dividing. Instead, starting in June, I pot up any extras and hold them over until the next May when our Kelowna Garden Club has their annual plant sale at Guisichan Gardens, this year being held on Saturday May 6, 2023 at 9:00 am.
Confessions of a forager… following my ancestors penchant for foraging their food from the land around them, I must admit the dandelion salads consumed this year have been fantastic. Perhaps the cool spring has helped them stay tender for a longer period of time. My favourite way of consuming them is to mix the dandelions with some of my fresh lettuce from the greenhouse, drizzled with olive oil and a little salt. Served with garlic toast and a glass of wine, and I am in heaven.
Our feature plant of the month is the ‘pastinaca,’ Italian parsley root, often referred to as a parsnip. I recently received a Facebook post from Capitignano, Abruzzo, Italy announcing a new book “La pastinaca di Capitignano”. "The parsnip of Capitignano narrates the essence of the peasant civilization of our mountain. Its roots saturated and never betrayed the humble tables of families who had love for their land. " - this is how Giuseppe Commentucci, local gastronomic expert, describes what we can define without delay the most peculiar and precious typical product of Capitignano.
The edible part of pastinaca is the meaty root with a slightly sweet taste, which for a long time has been part of the "seven dishes" that are prepared in Capitignano on Christmas Eve night. In the village of Alta Valle Aterno ancient seeds are still cultivated and preserved, which make this ecotype one of the rarest and precious vegetables existing today.
Parsnips, as we know them, have been cultivated for their sweet roots since ancient times. The Romans frequently grew the vegetables. In fact, Emperor Tiberius adored parsnips and, every year, had them brought from France where the colder climate allowed the roots to develop a sweeter flavour. The British are particularly fond of parsnips. It was British colonists that introduced the vegetable into the New World in 1609.
Parsnips are native to Europe, but they have been introduced throughout the world, and because they are so hardy, they now grow wild having escaped from cultivated gardens in many areas. The parsnip requires a long growing season, but the distinctive sweet flavour of the root will only develop after a hard frost. The parsnip has become a favourite of cold climate gardeners. Because it is one of the hardiest vegetables, it can overwinter easily with careful mulching.
The Parsnip – A Little History and Some Growing Instructions
https://harvesting-history.com/the-parsnip/#:~:text=Parsnips are native to Europe,is a native of Europe.
"La Pastinaca di Capitignano - A vegetable of absolute excellence", By Maurizio DiFelice, 2016
Life-long Gardener Don Rampone shares his tips and advice for gardening