The Lazy Gardener's Guide to Spring Veggies
I am no pro. In fact my garden has been created 100% by trial and error and anything that remains, is there because it is easy! 3 of my 5 top choices below are perennial and appear early in the spring and the last 2 are annuals that grow rapidly and do well it cool wet weather. Many are producing before I've even planted most of my summer vegetables. These are very rewarding, easy care veggies that really get me excited about gardening in the spring and I don't have to spend a lot of time fussing in the garden with these before the weather turns consistently nice, they just pop up like a little gift.
1. Arugula (aka Rocket) I have a delicious and prolific variety of Italian Arugula. I acquired the seeds from the Sooke Harbour House many years ago and so I am not sure how cool a zone it would tolerate (but I would guess down to at least a zone 5) and have never had to replant it. It can bolt in summer if not it is not kept picked but is notably cold hardy so if I keep it trimmed back it flourishes again in the fall and lasts until the cold of winter. In addition to being a perennial, it also self seeds easily so you can save them and share them with a friend (Campbell River friends, hit me up this summer if you want some seeds!). I love spicy crunchy arugula salads and it is equally delicious cooked, whether sautéed in a pan, in a soup or wilted in pasta or on a hot pizza. Recipe below for Wilted Arugula Crostini with Boerenkaas Cheese.
2. Asparagus A hearty perennial that is an elegant and easy vegetable to cook. My asparagus usually starts in April here on Vancouver Island and will produce for about a month before it starts to thin and I let it grow into fronds to grow it's roots and store energy for the following year. You can read my post about asparagus and my asparagus risotto recipe for more information.
3. Rhubarb Yes, rhubarb! Although it's usually cooked as a dessert or sweet compote, rhubarb is a vegetable. While it likes to have full sun, it will tolerate partial shade (it does in my yard) and it likes to be fed with well rotted manure. You can plant your rhubarb from seed or hurry it along and plant crowns just like with Asparagus and when you pick it you should pull off the stalks and try to rip the whole stalk off instead of cutting them with a knife and potentially leaving a stump which can rot.
Rhubarb makes great desserts, jam and my mother in law makes a family favourite relish recipe with it but it is also delicious with savory dishes. Click here for Rhubarb Salsa recipe or Rhubarb Blog Post.
4. Peas These seriously have to be one the easiest all time vegetables to grow. Fun for kids to plant and pick and fast growing so you don't have to wait long. Peas love cool and wet weather and are at risk of disease once the temperature rises so get your peas in the ground in March and April and again in the late summer for a fall harvest. I remember my mom letting us loose in the garden to pick, shell and eat fresh peas and like tomatoes, they are so much sweeter and delicious freshly picked. I love to send my own kids out in the yard to do the same. Easy Peasy 😉 I recently read a great blog post by A Foragers Home about growing Pea Shoots. I just loved it! I've been buying these little shoots through the winter but I should have been growing them! So fast and healthy to grow. I have a large bag of peas for sprouting so I've thrown a few good handfuls into my garden to grow some shoots while I await the more plentiful summer produce.
UPDATE: MY pea shoots grew fast and well. We really enjoyed harvesting the sweet early greens. If you have extra pea seeds, scatter them densely together and enjoy your microgreens within 2 weeks! Since writing this, I've done a lot of microgreens including writing an article on them for Edible Vancouver Island and my own more detailed blog post on them here.
5. Radishes Another fast growing, cool and wet weather loving veggie. These are usually ready in 4 short weeks and it's ideal to plant them approximately every 2 weeks through spring so that you have a good supply of them for an extended period. Don't like the spice of a radish? Saute them gently in a pan with butter or olive oil and they mellow right out and taste like a mild mini turnip. Learned that trick from our Thomas Keller cookbook 😉 UPDATE: You can check out the recipe for Lacto Fermented Radishes that I wrote for Edible Vancouver Island here.
So that is my round up of EASY spring vegetables. Let me know if you have some other favourite herbs, veggies or fruits that you grow this time of year!
- 1 Sourdough or French Baguette
- 1 Garlic Clove
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 4 c Arugula Coarsely chopped
- 5 Cherry Tomatoes Quartered
- ⅛ tsp Kosher Salt
- 8 Thin Slices Boernkaas Cheese Or other semi-firm to firm cheese
- Gently heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in frying pan on medium heat until shimmering. Add arugula, cherry tomatoes and ⅛ tsp of salt and sauté until wilted.
- Meanwhile cut 8 slices of sourdough baguette and toast slices under a broiler until lightly browned. Cut clove of garlic in half and gently rub cut side over toasts when they come out of oven.
- Top crostini with large spoonful of greens and top with shaved semi-hard cheese. I chose Natural Pastures Boerenkaas which is semi-firm and has a lot of yummy, tangy flavour but you could use a nice aged cheddar or even thin shavings of Parmesan. I believe Boerenkaas is a type of Dutch farmers cheese, somewhat like Gouda so you could try that too!