Saturday, March 9, 2013

St. Patrick’s Day in the Garden

St. Patrick’s Day has always held a special significance for John and me. Besides the fun of celebrating our respective Irish ancestry, his mother’s birthday was March 17. She was a McDonald, and her Irish forebears took part in the Oklahoma Land Rush back in the 1890s. She was fond of putting on the traditionally American St. Paddy’s Day feast of corned beef and cabbage…but if you ask me, parsnips are the perfect veggie to serve this time of year.

In our Foothills garden, parsnips are the best overwintering crop we have. Parsnips are unfazed by our climate’s repeated freeze-and-thaw cycles, and aren’t bothered by weevils or other insects. Plus you can store them in the ground, and harvest as needed in between freezes! Long after we’ve run out of carrots, beets, and apples, and just as the potatoes are getting kind of gnarly, parsnips are still going strong. I harvested our last row today, and while a few parsnips had rust around the tops, they were otherwise firm and useable.

Lately, parsnip recipes have turned up all over the place. Magazines like More, Whole Living, and Sunset recently featured parsnip salad, parsnip soup, and chicken with braised parsnips. I put parsnips in all our soups and stews, but to me, roasting is the best preparation of all. Simply peel, cut into chunks, drizzle with olive oil and add a pinch or two of salt. Then bake at 350 degrees until tender—easy-peasy, sweet and delicious!

A lot of gardeners swear by planting early spring crops around March 17—potatoes, spinach, peas, etc.  Despite our luck of being in sort of a warm zone—unlike our neighbors down the hill whose yard is in a super-cold sink—our soil here on Berryridge Farm is still too chilly and wet for even the hardiest crops. So we wait until mid-April for planting…which gives us a few extra weeks for early spring tilling, weeding, and raised-bed building.
I’d love to hear about your early-spring planting success stories…but in the meantime, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and Happy Spring!