My daughter, Hannah, visited us from Baltimore and put her artistic skills right to use. She took several of the pictures that you see in this slideshow….the best ones, of course! I’m drawn to these colorful, late June, early July images…the photos depict some of the most beautiful red-ish edibles! What follows are some details about them.
Opopeo Amaranth is easy to grow and, in fact, will self sow readily. They don’t need staking and are tolerant of hot, dry weather. I can eat their leaves and seeds. I hope to harvest the seed for the first time this summer. I understand that it is not a true cereal grain; but its seed can be used as such. I eat amaranth as a breakfast porridge. Sometimes, I eat it with raisins. Sometimes, I go another way; throwing in sauteed red malabar spinach, garlic, and egg…and whatever vegetables are left from last night’s dinner. J won’t touch this style of cooking with a ten foot pole! Amaranth attracts plenty of insects and I suspect I’ll have to rush to get the seeds before the birds eat them. June beetles are cruising this summer and like to park on the seed heads…I just let them be. There are holes in the leaves of the Amaranth from cucumber beetles but nothing compared to the Green Callaloo. The Callaloo is in the amaranth family and I enjoyed eating the leaves. I discovered that it is, also, the best Cucumber Beetle trap plant. They swarm to the Callaloo, leave them looking like lace; and never touch the cucumbers. The beetles can have the Callaloo. I have plenty of other leaves to eat!
Speaking of leaves! Red Malabar Spinach is a vining summer green which can be eaten raw or cooked. I like it sauteed with garlic…of course. Malabar spinach loves the summer heat. I understand that it will overwinter here with a heavy mulch. I know that it self seeds. This is a great edible landscaping plant; especially, if you want to add a structural component to the design. Hannah helped me in creating the trellis. We used branches from a volunteer cherry tree that was growing too close to a neighbor’s garage. I used the rest of the cherry tree as a border to a new mushroom patch.
Everyone knows Swiss Chard. The Bright Lights variety is very decorative, easy on the suburban aesthetic eye, and ideal for edible landscaping. I have had to be on the alert for Spinach Leaf Miners which go for chard, beet greens, and spinach as well as some wild food plants such as lamb’s-quarters and chickweed. I don’t spray for insects, organic or otherwise. I recognize the eggs and do frequent monitoring to remove them but it takes real diligence. I, also, monitor for their signature tracks on the leaves and remove those leaves from the garden. It’s worth the effort and effective on a small scale. Last year, the infestation destroyed my crops. This year, I have had very good harvests.
Hinnomaki Red Gooseberries! What a great surprise! I planted these in the spring and they have given me five, sweet-right-off-the-bush, fruit! I planted this shrub in a pear tree guild. It is lightly shaded and shares space with comfrey, alpine strawberries, hog peanut, Cinnamon vine (Dioscorea batatas), green and gold, caraway, and mint. Wow! All that? I have two other gooseberries elsewhere; a Hinnomaki Yellow and an Invicta. Neither have fruited yet. The Yellow is sprawling and very thorny. It’s not the best idea to plant this variety too close to a path. The other gooseberry varieties are upright…and thorny.
Last but not least is another new favorite…alpine strawberry. They have just taken a break in their fruiting. The fruit is small, delicious, beautiful, and wonderfully fragrant. They don’t have runners so there is no problem to keep them under control. They can take a little shade too. I’ve been putting this perennial everywhere..in the vegetable garden, under the pear tree, near the blueberries, and around the currants. They are slow to grow into mature plants but not very difficult to grow from seed. I highly recommend trying them!