Your Urban Fall Crop Plan: Wasabi-Like Mustard Greens, Sweet Pea Shoots and Bordeaux Spinach Leaves

It ain’t over till it’s over, sister.  There is still gardening to be done.

September has been weird, in terms of weather. And who knows what October will bring, but above my head, on the silvertop roof, there will be a succession greens. At least that is certain.

Cool weather belongs to leafy greens and to Brassicas, vegetables with a bite. Because I suffer from two constraints–container-gardening combined with impatience–I concentrate on crops that do not need to go wide and that germinate rather quickly. To that end I have just gathered my first peppery salad collection: three mustards. Those are Ruby Streaks, Spicy Green and Red Giant, all more or less thumb-sized after being sown two weeks ago. Not a bad turnaround, and despite their youth they pack a snort like wasabi.  I also nipped the sweet tips off my snap peas, the tiniest Bordeaux spinach leaves with scarlet veins, and snipped some still-tender Nero Toscana Kale. The latter are carrying my hopes with them: the experiment is to see how they will fare through the first cold snaps, when the temperature slides beneath freezing.

So much for the instant gratification element of the small roof farm. Longer term projects include parsnips, slow to germinate and just peeking above the surface, and which will, in theory, overwinter and become sweet in their deep buckets. (Or perhaps they will just rot.)  The broccoli rabe has been reluctant to match the growth of the kale, and despite my dreaming (literally, yes) about its fat florets it remains small and shy. Check in again at the end of October. My red bunching onions are mere wisps of green and the wild argula is surprisingly reticent. I will keep sowing the young greens till frost, and may invest in more seed: a mesclun mix, and perhaps some turnips.  A gardener raging against the dying of the light.

For now it will be salads with a kick and a crunch–mustards and early apples,  and then fall pestos, heavy on the mustard greens, with pecans for some sweetness. Minestrone with barely wilted young kale and a whisper of parmigiana, and, I hope, ravioli filled with October pea shoots and lemony ricotta.



Marie Viljoen

Marie Viljoen lives in Brooklyn and believes in food, flowers and plants you can eat (and drink). Join her on a seasonal forage walk or find her daily posts on Instagram @66squarefeet

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