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What are your earliest vegetables?

 
Posts: 48
Location: Ontario - zone 5b
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After months of impatient waiting, tonight we ate the first "real" meal from our garden - lettuce and peas and garlic scapes. We've had lettuce for a while, and have eaten some beet greens but peas are "food". Last weekend we had the first strawberries of the season. I planted a lot of stuff this year, much of it weeks before the official last frost date (May 10) as a gamble. The daikon radishes went to seed before forming any sort of a root, the beets are similar....

Admittedly I was a bit late with planting the peas, but surely there's something else I can plant I could be eating before July!  And in about 1-2 weeks, the tomatos and peppers and squash will start ripening, and we will be buried in produce.

What do you plant?

I know there's some perennials - I planted a bunch of rhubarb this spring, and some asparagus, and discovered that hosta shoots are apparently edible. Plus there's wild forage stuff like fiddleheads and wild leeks. Anything else I should be planting?

What about annuals? Any annuals (other than kale!!!) I could be eating right now - without moving a few hundred km south?
 
gardener
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Asparagus is by far our first harvest. We have mild winters so brocolli,  cabbage, and cauliflower are technically early.
 
pollinator
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I just finished a post on my blog about a couple great perennial vegetables and some ideas on how I use them.  One of them probably represents my earliest non-greenhouse harvest, that being daylilies.  Their tender young shoots are some the first green things to appear around here in the late winter/early spring.  They are also putting out lots of edible buds and flowers now.  If interested here's a link to the blog post.  https://theartisthomestead.com/excellent-perennial-vegetables-you-cant-buy-in-stores/

Another early harvest for me are Jerusalem artichokes.  I dig the tuber up in the spring so they've had all winter for the difficult to digest starches to break down into easier to digest sugars.  This harvest can happen as soon as I can get a shovel into the soil.
 
pollinator
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The humble radish is the fastest imaginable thing to grow from seed early in the season...they are frost hardy and don't mind chill and wet.  I try to grow a patch every year just for the greens.  Yes, radish greens are eminently edible....just cook them like turnip or mustard greens, they are practically indistinguishable from them when cooked.  The roots too can be cooked, especially in curries.  Radishes of the daikon type are major staple crops in much of Asia, almost all of them for cooked use.  When they go to seed, the young pods when still green and "snap-eable" make a tasty stir-fry!
 
Posts: 101
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Rhubarb.  It's perennial so you don't have to do any thing, except split it every couple of years to get more plants.
It loves abuse. I don't feed, water, or protect it from freezing. It just comes back, year after year after year.
 
steward
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I like sorrel for a really early perennial green.  Lovage is pretty fast to put up leaves in the spring too.  They're a bit strong for a salad just by themselves but it's a start...
 
Catie George
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Post a late night question on permies, get half a dozen really good answers by morning :)

David - thanks for sharing that useful blog post ! I knew you could eat daylily tubers, but never wanted to kill the plants. But the shoots and the flowers? That I didn't know, and we have hundreds. I will be trying your spring roll recipe tonight, and the shoots (from those, and our hundreds of hostas) next spring.

Alder - had no idea I could eat the greens and the seed pods from radish. Will be trying that too, so hopefully I get at least some food out of the daikons I planted. I am not a huge radish fan, but love cooked daikon.

I planted 5 asparagus crowns and 6 brilliantly red rhubarb plants divided from my grandmother's house this year (what? have you ever actually had TOO MUCH rhubarb?) - I have high hopes for the next few years.

I forgot the perennial herbs too - haven't tried sorrel, but love my mint, chives, etc... I guess I also forgot lambsquarters - I've been staying with my mother, who doesn't like it, but could have boiled up "a mess of greens" with vinegar like my grandmother does a few times already. Yum!
 
pollinator
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False Solomon's seal (Maianthemum racemosum) comes up earlier than asparagus where I live. It's always described as tasting like asparagus, but I don't think it tastes anything like. To me, it's got kind of an oniony or garlicky taste with some funk. Good funk :) I ate a lot of it chopped up in chickpea flour pancakes this spring.

I sometimes seed my peas in the fall so they'll come up extra early. If we have good snow cover right through the winter, sometimes fall peas will survive under the snow and be super extra early the next year. You can get a good harvest of pea greens before the plants start flowering, too.

My radishes always bolt too, so I grow rat tail radishes which are bred for extra big, tender seed pods.

Another vote for sorrel. That's the absolute first thing that starts growing here in the spring.

Mache/corn salad is supposed to be really early. If youve never had it, it's a very mild green with a bit of a floral taste. This fall I'm determined to actually get some planted to see if it works here or just bolts.
 
pollinator
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My last frost date is 1st June and we're harvesting Potatoes, spinach, carrots(baby) radishes, onions, dill, coriander, parsley, lettuce, peas, broad beans and sugar snap peas all direct seeded and chinese cabbage, kale, broccoli, pointed cabbages, courgettes and cucumbers transplanted. Here this is a very late year so that might be part of the problem.
 
Posts: 110
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Miner's lettuce is very cold hardy and comes up super early for me, and it's low maintenance. I can have miner's lettuce salads for weeks and weeks before the lettuce is ready.
 
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Location: SW Ohio, 6b, heavy clay prone to hardpan
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Asparagus is usually our first harvest, along with some sorrel and sea kale.  At first I was conflicted about harvesting the early leaves of the kale, but the plants were so huge (six feet across), that I realized I needed to slow them down a bit by eating the early leaves.  Some years the older leaves of the kale get too bitter (but this year they are just as good as the young leaves) and the sorrel loses it's lemony flavor as the season progresses.

After that, it's usually peas, and then the other brassicas (besides the kales)

Here, people usually advise holding off until Mother's Day to plant vegetables, but we monitor the weather closely and often plant two week before, if frost seems unlikely.
 
Posts: 317
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Nettles for soup are one of the earliest things I harvest.  Corn salad will have been pickable all winter, musk mallow sulks a bit over winter but then sprouts pretty early.  Overwintered kale and sprouting broccoli will be ready early too.  And onions or garlic that I've missed the previous harvest will shoot and be dug up as spring onions, and wild garlic leaves chopped in soups.  
 
steward
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Many mustard greens are very cold hardy. I planted in mid March, and was eating it before the end of April. Pac Choi as well. Radish has already been mentioned. Cilantro is also a cool weather crop. As is arugula. Mix all those together and you've got a pretty tasty salad!

Happy gardening!

Tracy
 
Hester Winterbourne
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Land cress will overwinter too and start cropping very early if not all winter.
 
Catie George
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I am learning a lot! Miners lettuce,  corn salad, rattail radishes ! Never heard of them but will have to investigate.

I really need to look into snow peas. I have always planted garden peas but I guess I could eat snow peas earlier. And pea greens! Had no idea. Also need to start looking at the other brassicas.... the last three years I haven't known I would have a garden until April or may at the earliest, so haven't gotten to grow anything from seed indoors, and brassica starts arrive at the garden centre at the same time as tomatos, long after they probably should be planted.  Any time I plant bought curcubit starts before late June they get eaten by something. Seed grown curcubits seem to escape whatever it is.

I am dreaming of being able to garden over the winter like some of you! We had snow until at least early April-and I have pictures to prove it! I guess looking at it, we have a really short spring before full blown summer. Perhaps I should work on extending fall plantings instead, as we do have a long fall with a few months of bare ground not always freezing. Oh well.... it's an improvement over my childhood garden, where no sane gardener would plant before June 10th, and there was still snow this year til early May!

For other impatient gardeners.... I planted subarctic maxi tomatos this year, and it looks like it may produce at the same time or earlier than my cherry tomatos. Yay.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
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Don't wait for brassica starts! Direct seeding works great for brassicas. Plant some really early - just a small patch, so that if you get some nasty weather, you won't lose much - and then plant them at 2 or 3 week intervals, so you have a continual harvest, instead of them all being ripe at the same time.

And you can direct seed most brassicas right up until September. This will give you a longer harvest window, in the spring and in the fall.  Most brassicas are very hardy, and some get even sweeter with light fall frosts.

Hope this helps!
 
Mike Jay
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I don't know what I'm doing wrong but I can not get brassicas to grow from seed in the ground very well at all.  This year I planted brussels sprouts twice and only a couple germinated (my uncle did one batch so maybe it's not me).  I struggle with kale as well.  I do just find growing them in seedling flats so I'm just going to do kale and brussels that way in the future (along with cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower).
 
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