"Food for Revenge!"
Eat your Hostas before the darling Deer do!
Food for Revenge!
Plantain Lily “Spring rolls”…
May 2014 Muse
Recognise the plant name? Ok Last hint: eat these before deer do!
I have waited almost a year to share this astounding news, for me anyway…Humans can eat HOSTAS. And I have the perfect photos of “Spring roll” Hosta leaves emerging from their winter’s nap. Cruise any Japanese site or Google “Urui” and you will be flooded with photos of steamed and seasoned Hosta “shoots” served as a salad or stir fry with garlic, herbs and accompanied by a cooked grain.
“Beloved” deer eat Hostas we sadly know for sure: all those mowed down circles at the crime scene and unsavory language in the air. Cute Easter bunnies are also guilty, not-so-cute slugs and snails plus if you are out after dark with your nose close to the ground you can look Mr. Vole in the eye taking nibbles too…Everybody is out to eat your Hostas!
Plantain Lilies aka “Giboshi” in Japanese culture, belong to the Asparagacea family, originating in NE Asia. And yes, Asparagus~ another spring treat~ are a side branch of this family too. Hostas are described as a woodland plant with rhizomes or stolens, broad leaves and pendulous flowers, some even scented (Hosta plantaginea has the best scented edible flowers). Both leaves and flowers are edible with the prize time to harvest just as the scrolls of new leaves start to unfold. Hosta montana is the most popular variety to try, with Hosta sieboldii an alternative. In Japan, the newest way is to grow them is in the dark over winter for whiteness and extra tenderness, serving “Snow Urui” as a choice delicacy. We are so behind on this trend.
Of course, this does take will power for you to “harvest” your crop of Urui in your showy spring woodland gardens. Think of those #*%#+* deer and you will enjoy every bite they did not get to eat! Who’d of thought you would be racing deer for Hosta leaves?!
If you need a tamer spring green project, less emotionally charged~ here is how to make a dynamite Mesclun mix! Every couple of years I either go through all my half used packages of seeds of lettuce, annual herbs, and mustard greens ~ even older chard and beet seeds OR buy a few new seed packages to play with. I set up three bowls; and using a small teaspoon for the seed, I blend and play! (One teaspoon of seed is an amazing number of potential babies; so we are only talking maybe 2 to 4 teaspoons total per blend.)
The first bowl I use for a “mild” Mesclun mix: mainly fancy red and green and unusual frilled lettuces to equal 75% and maybe some dill seed and basil to top it off with a twist on flavours… The next bowl I make a traditional very heavy on the herbs Mesclun mix with 80% arugula, chervil, coriander, dill, summer savory, sweet marjoram and about 20% simple ruffled green lettuce: perhaps a pinch or two of basil. For the last hot and spicy Mesclun blend: start with 40-60% mixed mustard greens with the other third lettuces, spinach even mild beets for their tops only. You cannot make a bad blend. Make yourself three little jars or very small Ziploc bags to hold your blends and label. Store unused seed blends somewhere dry, dark and cool like your other extra veggie seeds…
The idea being, you sow a small patch, wait 10 days and sow another small patch and so on. Do not be overly concerned with traditional seed spacing as you plant out; your Mesclun babies do not have to mature, so a heavy hand at planting time is not a handicap and allows a huge variety of tastes in a small growing space.
As the seedlings emerge and attain 3-4 inches~ you harvest with scissors straight into the salad bowl! After all, Mesclun simply means “a mess of greens”. Rinse. Add a simple slightly sweet dressing with perhaps a splash of raspberry vinaigrette OR a plain oil and vinegar dressing with fresh seasonal berries sprinkled in with the greens. Toss. Serve.
Your Mesclun salad will vary with your choice of the seed bowl mix you grow and the season. Make a 50/50 Basil and lettuce blend to sow August 1st to take advantage of summer’s last heat wave (I hope)…remembering they do not have to grow very large for a big burst of flavour. Use lemon juice instead of vinegar for the dressing, you could even add crushed garlic and a touch of parmesan for a light Pesto style salad!
Be decadent: toss on some edible flower petals. Yes, familiar nasturtium, calendula, viola, pansy and borage blue stars will do. But also be bold~ try small petaled dianthus, spicy tagetes and any edible herb blossoms from your early chives, to thymes, even refreshing mint flowers. Break down larger blossoms to be evenly moistened by your dressing, have a daintier texture and small bursts of flavour. Again a slightly fruity-sweet dressing will pull it all together and sweeten the marriage of all these flavours, like mild lettuce dilutes straight flower salads.
Do not expect these Mesclun green babies to regrow like “Cut and Come again” older 6 inch lettuces. Remove cut Mesclun stem ends and simply sow fresh seed, then move on to harvest your next maturing little Mesclun patch. And yes, you can do this project in a rotation of pots. Do freshen the soil after the second round by removing the top 3 or 4 inches of used soil and top up with new soil before seeding again. For fertilizer use a low balanced choice like 4-4-4. You do not want to push the growth and lose flavour with quick “water growth” from a rush of a high numbered nitrogen. You want to savor the full-on variety of flavours~ we dream about these garden tastes all through winter and impatiently await green beginnings in spring!
I wonder how many of you will contact me about your Hosta Dinner party?
Originally published in the May 2014 edition of the Metchosin Muse