Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chill Out: Think about Winter Soups Plant Vegetables, Herbs Now

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chill Out: Think about Winter Soups Plant Vegetables, Herbs Now

Article excerpt

Hot soup might be the last thing on the chef's mind in August. But for the organized gardener, it should be the first.

A kitchen garden given over to vegetables and herbs for the best cold-weather soups should be planted now, grown through the fall and harvested fresh in late season.

After all, the other name for kitchen garden, potager, derives from the French word for soup.

The best soups are made with the freshest ingredients. A single garden bed dedicated to creating great winter soups can be launched now with the assurance that it will continue to produce late into the season when hot soup is most welcome.

First, plan the varieties that should go into a soup garden. Potatoes, parsnips, cabbages, onions, leeks, celery, sorrel and fennel all are good soup candidates that will flourish in the sunny fall garden. Even the herbs that go into winter soups - parsley, sage, chives and thyme - will continue to grow past the first light frosts.

A regulation-size garden bed of 30 to 35 square feet will provide ample space for a winter soup garden. A half-dozen vegetable varieties can be planted in such a space. The herbs do well in a container or hanging basket, which can be placed strategically outside the kitchen door.

Figure on giving about a third of the garden to the potatoes, the base note of winter soups. Floury varieties such as Kennebec will provide a hefty tuber at harvest time and plenty of bulk after they are cooked. Many garden centers stock seed potatoes - tubers grown specifically to produce new potatoes - for fall harvests. If you cannot find them, use spuds from the supermarket. Select a half-pound of tubers that look as though they will be sprouting soon.

The potatoes should be cut into chunks, each sporting an "eye," the spot where a sprout will emerge. Place the chunks on the surface of soil that has been turned to a depth of eight inches and amended with organic fertilizer or compost. Spaced three to four inches apart, they are then covered with straw or leaf mold or with additional compost, mounding the organic material over the tuber chunks.

Plants will emerge in about a week and will be ready to harvest eight weeks after the first sprouts appear. …

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