Garden Candy

George Knowles enjoys digging in the garden early in the spring. And he finds some treasure: parsnips!

April 20, 2010 | | Leisure

The vegetable patch is austere in these early days of spring. I take heart that the rows of garlic are showing an inch or two of green shoot, having been planted last Thanksgiving Day.

There are bright red knobs visible through the debris on top of the rhubarb patch.

Without greenery, I can see the gaps in the fence wire that are big enough to let a baby rabbit into the garden. I’m attentive to those places after a row of newly planted leeks was reduced to stumps last spring. And the guilty party got away.

Like Mr. McGregor in Beatrix Potter’s “Tale of Peter Rabbit”, my patience for thieving rodents is very short. I flailed about with shouts and a shovel, but the damage was done and the rabbit had come through an opening with the diameter of a soft drink can.

Most of the weeding in these early days is due to the self-inflicted idiocy of letting chervil take root along the wire fence and then going to seed.

And seed it has, with small buns of this anise-like salad green appearing all over. It adds greatly to a salad and can be clipped even now. But any plant that is not where you want it to be is a weed – even the edible ones.

Best of all is digging for  last year’s parsnips. Left to overwinter, the starch turns to sugar and the parsnips are as sweet as candy. Cooked around an Easter roast, they are tasty enough to convert the most reticent anti-parsnip person.

I agree that there are good reasons to hate a parsnip, if your Mom boiled and mashed them and told you how many vitamins they contained. But roasted and full of sweetness and subtle taste and texture, they are a treat. Garden candy in the early spring.

About the Author More by George Knowles

George Knowles gardens at Larkspur Hollow in the Hockley Valley.

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