Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable
The weather has certainly kept us entertained recently, and Saturday was no exception. Most people were happy that the big storm did not really materialize, but the alternating pattern of snow/rain/snow/rain/snow with temperatures hovering around freezing resulted in people from the North Shore to the South Shore marveling at the leopard patterned sidewalks that resulted. I wasn’t the only one who took pictures of the ground with its slushy matrix surrounding little blobs of unmelted snow on Saturday morning. I’d much rather not have to shovel but find light flurries and a soft blanket of snow among the pleasures of winter. The full moon of March peeked through mist and clouds but was mostly obscured by the snow on Tuesday.
A few plants are blooming outdoors, and the birds have certainly gotten the message that winter is nearly at an end. The pair of swans so many people enjoyed in the last few years are back this week on Birch Pond. John Wilkinson, whose birdhouses were mentioned in last week’s article, said there were already birds going in and out of one of the new houses this weekend – the fastest he has ever had a new house adopted!
Parts of the ground still remain frozen at this point, so most gardening activities are still best pursued indoors. I have brought a few pots of the tulip bulbs I had started in the garage into the house this week, since they had undergone the required weeks of cold by now, and tiny green points are poking up above the ground.
We are still a few months away from being able to plant most vegetables and annual flowers outdoors, but some seeds can be started now. Among the fun things to grow in a kitchen are microgreens and sprouts, which don’t require much patience before they are ready to eat.
Alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts and many other vegetable varieties can be started from seed, and they are pretty easy to get to a tasty and edible stage in just a few weeks. Sprouted peas have been a popular garnish in fancy restaurants for decades. They are charming to watch grow, with their tiny tendrils reaching up for something to climb. While not every kind of sprout is edible and tasty, many popular salad vegetables are delicious and nutritious in their early stages. Some kinds of kohlrabi have lilac-colored stems beneath their green leaves. Among the most colorful options are rainbow varieties of chard, which may have magenta, orange or bright yellow stems. Microgreens are delicate and can be eaten raw, although most of these can also be stir-fried, and you might decide to harvest them at different stages for different purposes. Mesclun is a mix of baby lettuces and other greens, and these can be harvested early as microgreens.
Microgreens are defined as the seedling stage of a vegetable, often about 7-14 days old, depending on species. They are slightly more mature than sprouts, which are the stage just after the seed has germinated. Sprouts are usually eaten with the seed attached, while microgreens are most often cut off from the seed and roots. If you let them grow a few weeks more, their leaves expand and they would be called baby vegetables. You can grow any of these from seed packages of a single vegetable variety, but many seed producers also provide seed mixes that include several different vegetables that will mature around the same time. Among the popular choices are mustard greens, spinach, beet greens, cabbage, bok choi, kohlrabi, broccoli, radish, dandelion greens, chervil, arugula, endives, collard greens, Swiss chard, frisée (a kind of chicory), mizuna (sometimes called Japanese mustard greens), mâche (also called cornsalad or lamb’s lettuce), radicchio, broccoli, sorrel, peas, mung beans, alfalfa, watercress, amaranth, any kind of lettuce, and even onions and chives. I’m sure I’ve left out a few!
Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.