Artichokes, asparagus, eggplants, golden berries and even occasionally ginger and tumeric …. I now add a new exotic flavour that can be grown in the North – shiso leaves! Until this year I had never even heard of shiso. I am now a huge fan, thanks to Carol Ann Gingras of Whitehorse, who introduced me to this herb and sent me some of her Yukon-grown plants.One thing that I missed early on during my of eating local were spices from the Far East – cinnamon, cumin, cloves, nutmeg … Birch syrup and ground juniper berries helped to fill that void, but now I have a new favourite – shiso – to add some Asian spice to a Yukon local diet. Shiso leaves taste exotic! To me, it is the taste of cumin combined with a hint of cardomon. For others it has been described as a combination of spearmint, basil, anise and cinnamon. Shiso (pronounced she-so), Perilla frutescens, is an Asian herb – used commonly in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and China – and a member of the mint family. It was introduced to North America in the late 1800’s but only introduced to me in 2018! Although it flourishes in the southeaster USA, I would never have guessed how well it thrives during a Yukon summer. Its large leaves can be used to scoop up food or as a wrap for fish, meat and sushi. The fresh leaves, sliced in thin strips to bring out the flavour, can be added to soups, stir-fry, rice, scrambled eggs, salads, even fruit – almost anything, really. The leaves can be air-dried or frozen to use during the winter. Dried, the leaves can also be used as a flavourful tea. The leaves are high in calcium and iron. Apparently shiso buds and sprouts are also delicious and the seeds can be toasted and crushed and sprinkled on fish. If you plant shiso in pots, let the plants go to seed and bring them inside before the first frost, then the plants will self-seed for spring. Here’s hoping my shiso plants will self-seed so they can become a regular part of my on-going Dawson local diet!
Best Cool Seeds, the online store for the Denali Seed Company, a Michigan-based firm that specializes in cold-weather gardening. And check out the other seeds that have been proven to grow well in the North!
Back Yard Grain Growing in the Yukon – the Logical Next Step”and Kokopellie Farm’s success in growing grain in Dawson, I decided to give back yard grain growing a try. My experience last Fall taught me that hulling grain is no easy feat. In fact sometimes, as is the case for oats and buckwheat, it is virtually impossible for a home gardener. Therefore I was thrilled that Salt Spring Seeds carries hulless varieties of grain. After consulting owner Dan Jason, I decided to try Faust Barley (hulless) and Streaker Hulless Oats. And look how well they are doing! Gardening has never come easily to me. I struggle to grow brassicas while the local farmers produce them in abundance. This year I decided to try my luck growing edibles that are not so easily found at our local Farmers Market. My raised beds are hosting oats, barley, amaranth, Tom Thumb popping corn and onions. The onions are not looking so good but, so far, the rest seem to be growing well. With the idiosyncrasies of our short growing season, grains have often been difficult to grow in the North. Perhaps as a result of climate change, perhaps due to hardier cultivars, it seems that in the past few years growing grain is becoming more feasible. So it is a good time test out the possibilities of back yard grain growing in the Yukon! Fingers crossed that local barley and local breakfast oats will be on the menu in our house next year.
firewood shoots in May and garden asparagus in June and July! Tips if you want to try growing your own asparagus:
- Buy roots, not seeds
- Plant the roots in spring in 1⁄2 dirt and 1⁄2 sand
- The harvest will be in the second year
- Harvest by cutting from June till mid July, and then stop cutting
First We Eat Seeds page. And if you have some favourites that grow well in your part of the North, let us know (there’s a contribution form on the page) and we will share it . Here are my seed ordering tips for 2018: Fothergill’s Perpetual Spinach. Spinach is notoriously difficult to grow in Dawson. Sure we have a short season. But our short summers are really hot! And regular spinach just bolts up here. Both New Zealand Spinach and Fothergill’s Perpetual Spinach grow well in Dawson and do not bolt. I tried them both last year, but preferred the texture of Fothergills. My favourite tomato last year was Black Prince. And while you’re at it, consider growing some GMO-free sugar beets. They grew well in several locations in Dawson last year. They are a delicious white beet to eat and the pot liquor you cook them in can be boiled down to make a sweet syrup! Salt Spring Seeds, based on Vancouver Island, only carries organic, non-GMO seeds and is your one-stop shop for Fothergills Perpetual Spinach, Black Prince tomatoes, and non-GMO sugar beet seeds!
ginger and tumeric, asparagus, and ground cherries. This year, Louise experimented with growing purple peppers, and reports they grew really well. These plants — a sweet pepper variety — are purple on the outside but white on the inside and very tasty. The seed variety she used was the Purple Star Hybrid from William Dam Seeds (65 days to maturity). But there were more interesting things growing in Louise Piché’s greenhouse this year. A white pumpkin! Despite its long days to maturity in a short growing season, the pumpkin is doing quite well in a Dawson greenhouse. The plant is of the New Moon variety from Veseys Seeds. It takes 100 days to grow to a final size of 25 to 35 lbs. To see the specific varieties of fruit and vegetables that one of Dawson’s great home gardeners has had success with, download Louise Piché’s Seed Guide. Have you had success re-growing a plant not typical in the north? Share it with us.
not usually found in the North. This includes Jerusalem artichokes (a type of sunflower), which is grown for its edible root/tuber), and is growing very well in the Sister island greenhouse. She is also raising a variety of colourful carrots, as well as “black” tomatoes, which are actually vine tomatoes of the indigo rose variety.
Jerusalem artichokes growing in the Sister Island greenhouse (left) and some colourful carrots. Photos by Suzanne Crocker. For Suzanne, the timing of the visit to Sister Island was especially fortuitous, as she arrived the day before she started her 100-per-cent-local eating. She was treated to one of Lou’s amazing cupcakes — a floral art form in itself — and a cup of tea. … which turned out to be her last cup of orange pekoe tea (and cupcake) for a year.
Earlier, we posted how Suzanne was looking forward to having some quinoa in her diet, thanks to conservationist and local grower Sebastian Jones. Quinoa is not normally a northern crop, but Sebastian has been experimenting with growing it in previous years. He’s had good success with the plants, although he has just never gotten far enough during the short season to be able to harvest the quinoa seeds before the fall frost. This year, he planted early, and Suzanne was excited about the prospect of quinoa in her local diet, as there will be no rice, and minimal grains. Unfortunately, the quinoa has grown up … and turned out to be turnips instead. The culprit was a seed mislabeling issue, as quinoa seeds look similar in size and shape to those from turnips. Even after the plants had germinated, the power of positive thinking had convinced Sebastian for a while that he had a field of lovely baby quinoa seedlings — until the harsh reality, turnip root and all, could be denied no longer. “I don’t even like turnips,” Sebastian complained. That may or may not be the end of the story. Suzanne has four struggling actual quinoa plants of her own in the ground, and her fingers are crossed in hopes that they take off. There are also some potential alternatives. She will be looking at the wild plant lambsquarter, also sometimes known as pigweed (which is a cousin to quinoa) to see if she can harvest and cook the seed this autumn in a similar manner. Has anyone had any success processing lambs quarter seeds, or have some other tips for Suzanne? Let us know!
Louise Piché’s Seed Guide. In the case of asparagus, buy roots, not seeds. Plant the roots in spring in 1⁄2 dirt and 1⁄2 sand. The harvest will be in the second year. Harvest by cutting from June till mid July, and then stop cutting.
One way to have celery year round from the garden is to grow celeriac root. Weird looking but quite flavorful, celeriac root is edible raw or cooked, and tastes similar to the stalks of common celery. It grows well in the North, keeps well in cold storage all winter, and apparently can have a shelf life of approximately six to eight months if stored properly. You can serve it roasted, stewed, blanched, or mashed, or added to your favorite stews or casseroles. Peel it and chop it and use it in place of fresh celery in cooking. Excellent combined with potatoes when cooking mashed potatoes!
Grant Dowdell about northern gardening and by Scott Henderson about mushroom cultivation. The following day on Sunday the 26th, there will be a Birch Syrup workshop in which participants will meet at the Rec Centre and then go hunting for Birch sap. There are limited spaces on both, so make sure you sign up soon!
If there is something exotic you wish to grow in the North, ask Louise Piché of Rock Creek, Dawson City, Yukon. Louise is a well known gardener in Dawson and a frequent ribbon winner at Dawson’s annual Discovery Days Horticultural Fair. She loves experimenting with new and colorful varieties. She has successfully grown peanuts and ground cherries (aka golden berries) as well as asparagus, giant pumpkins and buckwheat. Louise has generously shared her ‘tried and true’ cultivars that grow well in Rock Creek, which you can view on our seed page. This year she is experimenting with ginger, turmeric, artichokes and pink potatoes. We will keep you posted! Continue reading “Peanuts and Ground Cherries Growing in the North!”