Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Guides for the Kitchen Gardener Plant Now, Eat Later: The Time Is Ripe to Start Produce

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Guides for the Kitchen Gardener Plant Now, Eat Later: The Time Is Ripe to Start Produce

Article excerpt

As winter's chill fades away, the occasional balmy day whispers: It's time for planting. March may be the month that can't make up its mind, but gardeners know that once St. Patrick's Day has come and gone -- and crocuses are sprouting -- those peas ought to be in the ground.

And as kitchen gardeners know, it takes an awful lot of plants to fill a dinner bowl with peas. About 25 plants will yield 1-1/4 cups of shelled peas, according to gardening writer Sylvia Thompson.

"By contrast, six feet of tomato plants would have you scrambling for the canning jars," she writes.

For the cook who's anxious to work from garden plot to stovetop pot, the harbingers of spring are most welcome: fresh asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries. While these are often in the markets year- round, they are without question more flavorful when homegrown and harvested fresh. And the rewards of cultivating your own herbs and vegetables -- even a humble pot of parsley on the windowsill -- extend beyond taste.

Looking for guidance to get started? A few books may be all you need. Here are some worth investigating:

The Kitchen Garden, by Sylvia Thompson, (Bantam Books, 389 pp., $27.95), tells how to choose seeds for flavor and how to grow them. It offers tips that can't be found in the seed catalogs, such as the pros and cons of specific varieties. The author also points out which seeds hold the most flavor, which are easiest to grow, and which ones need coddling. There are no full-color photos, sketches, or diagrams, but you'll enjoy the flavorful opinions of the author, supported by her personal gardening and cooking experiences.

With flavor as the focus, Thompson shares such tips as the best carrot to plant practically anywhere (Thumbelina); the fast-growing Japanese green that attracts no pests (Mizuna); the best-tasting beans (Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake); and her favorite peas (Super Sugar Mel). Thompson's companion cookbook, "The Kitchen Garden Cookbook," comes out in April. …

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