Helen Jackson's Kitchen Garden

Spring time in the garden is a time for drama and show. Daffodils are nodding their yellow heads, oranges and lemons are aplenty and herbs have awakened from their winter sleep to suddenly grow with vigour.

Spring is for planting loads of edibles and if you are quick you may be able to plant and harvest within the same season. My peas and broad beans were sown as seeds in July but all that means is I will be eating them slightly earlier than if you purchase and plant seedlings now. Spring gardening can be about almost instant gratification and we all like that!

Strawberries can also have a quick turnaround, most strawberry pots in garden centres have set their fruit and come late spring or early summer you will be chasing the birds away.

An experimental globe artichoke planted last year was forgotten about until it burst into flower, and while I felt guilty at having let food go to waste, the baby bumble bees that found a safe haven within the flower petals more than made up for me missing out on a splendid antipasti platter. At the end of the season the artichoke was duly slashed and while I eyed it dubiously wondering what would happen next, it has burst back to life and I recently dug in a couple of friends so there are plenty for the bees and I to share.

With bees in mind borage is a great for any garden gaps, with its pretty sky blue star shaped flowers and edible leaves it is a bee attractant and a great companion for strawberries and tomatoes, to name but a few. Borage flowers are pretty in drinks and while mature borage leaves have sharp bristles, try adding the younger more tender leaves to salads, they have a mild cucumber like flavour. Be warned though, once you plant borage you will have it for life!

Salad greens grow well in most parts in spring as long as Jack Frost has packed his bags and you are enjoying some sunshine and mellow temperatures. While lettuce varieties are popular, I prefer the flavoursome rocket and spring is a great time to both grow and harvest. Winter can be too cold and summer too hot but rocket in spring grows at an ideal pace and develops flavour without bolting or being overwhelmingly strong. When it does go to flower then make sure you incorporate the flowers into salads as well. They look pretty and also have a rocket like flavour.

But surely the champion of all spring crops must go to asparagus. From mid September in the north and further into the season for the south, asparagus is a gardener’s and cook’s delight.
Having never quite managed to venture into asparagus gardening (it’s a bit like chooks, I keep procrastinating), I do know someone who does, which is almost just as good!

Click here for Helen's Pizza of Asparagus, Courgettes, Pine Nuts & Goat's Cheese. Bon appétit!

By Helen Jackson

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Helen Jackson's Kitchen Garden Comments

  • You are so right about beating the birds to the strawberries. Up in the vege garden yesterday morning I looked at what would have been a small bowl of perfect ready-to-eat strawberries. "I'll come back and pick them soon", I said to myself. I got busy and forgot about my waiting dessert until later in the afternoon... And there wasn't a single berry left. My feathery friends had polished off every last one, leaving a small ragged dash of red at the end of each empty stalk. I guess I will just have to take the philosophical view that the birds seem to enjoy all the snails and caterpillars as well. They simply beat me to dessert...

    Judi McLachlan