Photo by Cornell University
The end of summer by the calendar is upon us. Time to start crops for harvest in the cool weather of autumn, or even into early winter. This one, mache, has been grown for centuries in Europe, but hardly at all in U.S. gardens. You sow the seeds now and soon you will have a small rosette of short, cupped leaves, very low to the ground. To keep rains from splattering the plants with dirt, cover your mache bed from the start with floating row cover, the gauzy white fabric sold at garden shops.
Mache is hardy. It survives frosts in the low 20s. Keep sowing seeds to mid-autumn or later for continuous harvests into winter. For more information about mache and other plants that you can harvest into early winter or longer, find a copy of Binda Colebrook’s classic book, “Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest.”
Along with mild, sweet flavor, mache is loaded with Vitamin C. The easy way to use the plant is to cut the leaves for salads. New leaves will grow, but slowly. For steady production, it’s best to have a number of plants of different ages. Over its long history, mache has acquired several common names. The most intriguing is Rapunzel (odd for such a low-growing plant). Others include lamb’s lettuce and field salad.
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