Although our gardens can be grown year round in Central Florida, if I had to choose, summer would be considered my off-season. Having options to easily generate a crop at this time of year bestows a whole extra dimension to the gardening experience. I would like to share a few successes from my garden that have provided a harvest even in the depths of our tropical recess.
French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) grows all year as a leafy salad herb. It produces well in containers under mottled shade in the summer’s heat, and a light blanket during the worst of winter’s cold. Sorrel leaves are very tender, so no wonder it is rarely available in grocery stores. The tangy flavor is created by an abundance of oxalic acid, so limited quantities are all that is needed to add a sparkle to any salad, sauce or soup. Grazing on the leaves fresh in the garden is a quick thirst quencher or even an energy boost. Fresh from the Cuisinart, my garden pesto recipe of basil, garlic chives, sorrel, cheese, olive oil and nuts is my favorite use.
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) do not offer a bulb of multiple cloves. They instead supply flat, quarter-inch-wide leaves from a woody, perennial root. Their flavor is milder and sweeter than the garlic we are most familiar with, but as I mentioned in my garden pesto recipe, a wonderful herbal food. Most uses are related to oriental cuisine, although it could be adapted to most garlic formulations. It is easily started from seeds or divided root clumps. As with the sorrel, I grow pots of garlic chives under an orange tree with some protection during winter. I occasionally set a pot of it out for my chickens, but have not detected any benign flavors in the eggs.
Dandelion greens (Cichorium intybus or Taraxacum officinale), with their bitter taste, provide a depth of flavor to salads or mess of greens. Whether selecting the classic weedy puffball seed dispersal or the chicory coffee substitute European red variety, the whole plants are edible. Cultivated from seed, dandelions produce efficiently for months at a time, declining after flowering. As with the previously mentioned crops, I grow this green in dappled shade. Used in antipasto, its bitterness encourages salivation as an aid to digestion.
For all of these, harvest by snipping individual leaves, but not the growing crowns. I fertilize monthly with compost, earthworm tea and fish emulsion. Except for random grasshoppers, pest problems are non-existent. Seeds may be purchased from numerous mail order sources, or plants are available through my Sundew Gardens.