Also called lamb's lettuce or corn salad (Valerianella locusta), mâche produces a low-growing rosette of tender, mild-flavoured leaves. The leaves lose their succulent sweetness in the heat of the summer but don't become bitter. Mâche is hardy throughout the fall in most of Canada and in the winter and early spring on the coast of British Columbia.
Sow seeds as soon as soil can be worked in spring; germination takes two to three weeks. Plant six millimetres deep, 2.5 centimetres apart in rows 30 centimetres apart or broadcast seed in a bed. Gradually thin plants to 10 centimetres apart when leaves start to touch.
The succulent, mild leaves of spring mâche can be used alone or to balance the assertive taste of greens such as mustard, arugula and cress. Pick outer leaves or the entire rosette; wash thoroughly and remove any yellow leaves.
Orach (Shown right)
Orach (Atriplex hortensis) plants eventually reach 1.5 to two metres. When the soil warms up, sow seeds six millimetres deep, 2.5 centimetres apart. Germination takes about 10 days. As plants grow, keep thinning until they're 45 centimetres apart.
Orach matures in 42 days. Cut off young leaves and pinch off growing tips and flower stalks to produce branching and delay going to seed.
Ornamental cabbage and kale
Ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) and kale (B. oleracea var. acephala) will last into December in much of Canada and survive the winter on the coast of British Columbia. They require cool weather to produce their lovely foliage colours - creamy white, pink or red with a wonderful crinkled texture - and frost improves their flavours.
Start ornamental cabbage and kale plants three months before the first fall frost - they germinate at about 20°C. Plants need full sun and rich, well-drained soil with a neutral pH. If sowing directly into the garden, sow seeds six millimetres deep, five centi-metres apart. Thin to 30 to 45 centi-metres apart when leaves start to touch. Every four weeks dig some compost into the soil around the plants. Tender, young leaves can be harvested a few at a time once the plant has good growth, but most are best after a frost.
Often dismissed as a weed, domesticated varieties of purslane (Portulaca oleracea) produce large, succulent leaves on low, bushy plants. Garden purslane has green leaves; golden purslane has yellow-green leaves.
Once soil has warmed up, sow seeds six millimetres deep, 2.5 centimetres apart. Thin plants to 10 centimetres apart when leaves start to touch.
Start harvesting shoots when plants are 10 centimetres tall (40 to 50 days after planting). Cut plants back regularly to five centimetres to encourage new growth.