Real Men Sow

Eight Veg for the Hungry Gap

This week, I’ve been writing a guest post for Tom at the very funny Hapless Gardener. Tom runs a regular series called the Guest Bed, where bloggers from elsewhere in cyberspace write about a feeling they experience in the garden or allotment.

Stuck bang in the middle of the Hungry Gap, I chose ‘glum’, and went on to bemoan the bareness of my plot now the winter veg has all but gone, and the spring replacements are still finding their feet.

This got me thinking about planning for 2013’s Hungry Gap. A long way off, I know, but I really don’t want to be relying on perpetual spinach (as much as I love it) and rhubarb as my sole allotment contributors this time next spring.

So, these are my top 8 veg to keep us going during the Hungry Gap. For my next trick, I’ll try and get them all to grow succcesfully at the same time…

Asparagus
One of the tastiest crops to grow, and coming into season right about now. It’s a perennial as well, so once you’ve planted the crowns, they’ll keep coming back every year.

Sounds perfect, apart from the small matter of a good asparagus crown taking 2 years to mature to a level where you can harvest the spears, and even the they’re sparse. Good things come to those that wait though.

Unfortunately, my asparagus doesn’t look like the spears in the picture. Maybe one day…

Squashes
Squashes are amazing. They’re keepability never ceases to amaze me. I’ve still got three left from last summer, happily stored in no more a complicated fashion than on my living room shelf.

I harvested them towards the end of October, and over 6 months later they’re still as tasty. Grow loads, and enjoy them all through winter and into spring.

Leeks
Last year, I harvested leeks up until the end of May. I’ve found leeks will happily sit in the ground and suffer no detrimental effect to their taste or quality.

When I consider that I plant the little seedlings out in May, it makes me wonder if they have the longest time sat in the ground and available of all veg on the plot?

Purple Sprouting Broccoli
PSB is a favourite in my house, and adds a welcome dose of colour to the plot as well as nutrition during these barren couple of months.

What’s also great is that you can buy an Early Sprouting and a Late Sprouting, which should cover you from late winter until the end of spring.

Rhubarb
Oh, wonderful rhubarb. How I love rhubarb, especially as it arrives just when my frozen fruit has run out and I’m desperate for something fresh.

Like asparagus, rhubarb will come back each year once planted. The sugary sticks are great fun to cook with too – there are all manner of exciting things to do with it, from ice cream to cake, and jam to trifles.

Spring Greens
I sow a row of spring greens (Hispi or January King are very reliable) in Autumn to over winter, and they’ve never let me down yet. Tough as old boots against the weather, but tender on the plate.

They can be left to heart up into cabbages, but I prefer to pick the young leaves as spring greens instead, which is handy as the ones I do leave always turn out rubbish. Pick the little leaves while you can, I say.

Perpetual Spinach
This variety of chard really is made for endurance. My present row has been in since last summer and seems intent on living forever. Just when I thought the snow and cold had killed it off, the spring perked the leaves up and now they look better than ever.

Going beyond the Hungry Gap, a spring sowing followed by a late summer one will ensure perpetual spinach all year round.

Curly Kale
Last, but not least, some curly kale won’t go amiss to complement the perpetual spinach. As a cut and come again vegetable, the more you pick during the winter, the more it comes back. Small, baby shoots will also start growing on the stalked varieties of kale (pictured), and can be used in salads.

And if that isn’t perfect enough, there is even a variety called the Hungry Gap.

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3 Comments

  1. Claire BensonMay 9, 2012 at 8:42 amReply

    Hi Jono

    I was thinking about food and delicious dishes all the way through reading this blog!

    Would you be happy to show a pic of your asparagus? It would be great to see what you can expect in the early years. When I have got my new veg patch fully up and running, I will be applying at the local allotment for space with a major motivation for wanting an allotment being to grow these luscious spears.

    Squashes – whole heartedly agree :) This year I’ve germinated so many different types of squash with the majority being winter squash. They’re a taste of summer through the winter, taste great in curries, roasted with slow roasted tomatoes and chillies and even make great cakes. My boyfriend’s last birthday cake (in Feb) was made with the biggest winter squash cropped last autumn.

    Leeks – I’ve just planted a grid of leeks in the hope of a good crop through the winter and early spring next year. I’ve been reading how they look proud on a winter plot and my boyfriend loves to eat them too.

    Rhubarb – Before moving house, I needed to use up the last of my frozen foraged fruits and still had a bag of blackberries. They tasted divine with rhubarb in a crumble. I’ve been lucky to inherit a rhubarb plant in my new garden.

    Sprouting Broccoli – I’ve been experimenting with Kai Lan which can also provide something very similar to PSB with lovely white flowers and the stalks are brassica sweet. Small shoots are great raw, slightly thicker shoots in stir fries. Its perennial so usually around this time of the year.

    Kale won me over last winter. Every winter plot should have some and you can get some beautiful colours. I’m almost convinced to replace the cabbage with kale and when my HSL lucky dip turned out to be kale seeds I was over joyed!

  2. Dee SewellMay 9, 2012 at 9:12 pmReply

    Chuckled at reading this as always have great plans but like you am usually left with perpetual spinach ;) Usually have curly kale though which is great for us over the winter months, never plant enough leeks, this year am growing squashes and have yet to start an asparagus patch. The rainbow chard overwintered here amazingly tho is looking a bit scraggly now. Here’s to a better crop next winter!

  3. KateMay 14, 2012 at 10:39 amReply

    What an excellent Blog! Sadly I live in London and have limited space available to me for growing anything… other than a headache (those I get lots of) Its inspiring to see how you have managed to grow all theses fantastic foods – You really can save money buy doing this! One day I hope to be able to do what you do and have enough time and space to grow tasty veggies too!

    Thanks

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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