From the Archive: The Kitchen Garden: Our Spring Favorites

pink and green stalks of chard

Spring has sprung, and you know what that means: It’s time to get gardening! These are the must-plant varieties right now.


You’ve got to have respect for a seemingly lowly root that puts off as much color as a bottle of India ink, sports enough sugar to beget an entire industry and, when sliced on the bias, reveals an infinite number of unique and dazzling works of art. 

In the Garden:

Plant seeds snugly together and thin to four inches apart. Chuck the thinnings onto a much-needed early-summer salad. Successively plant at least three types and you’ll never grow tired of their palette of shapes, colors and sizes. 

In the Kitchen:

Harvest Chioggia beets small and thinly slice them raw with a mandoline. Beets pair perfectly nutty oils like hazelnut, walnut and pistachio. Dribble fruity vinegar or your priciest balsamic on cooled, steamed beets. It’s fun to pair the florid beet with a virtuous something white, like goat cheese or crème fraîche, and watch the border stain to a psychedelic pink. 

Favorite Varieties:

Bull’s Blood—Deep-red microgreens and tasty roots. 

Cylindra—Rich beet-y taste in a cylindrical shape. Ideal for slicing. 

Chioggia—The candy-striped variety. Pretty for slicing raw.

Red Ace—The quintessential bunching beet. Harvest small or large. 

Touchstone Gold—Sweet golden roots. A perfect non-bleed variety for roasting.

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No garden should be without at least one patch of this fetching and versatile plant. As ornamental as it is delicious, chard lends beauty and two virtually distinct vegetables in one. Throughout the dog days of summer and into the first weeks of frost, chard will be your most dependable and hardy companion. 

In the Garden:

Thin to four inches apart for baby bunches in early summer, then thin to 18 inches apart for the remainder of the season. A classic “cut and come again” veggie, snip the leaves at the base of the plant at any stage of maturity. Use red varieties as an edible bedding plant mixed with showy Crested Mix or Forest Fire Celosia.

In the Kitchen:

Chopped thinly and steamed or sautéed until just wilted, chard’s tender greens provide the perfect foil to a garlicky roast chicken. The stems are nearly a second vegetable altogether. Crisp pickled chard stems are an excellent reason to spare them from the compost bin. 

Favorite Varieties:

Flamingo Pink—Name says it all. Best picked when the leaves are young.

Fordhook Giant—For stem fans out there, an impressive garden workhorse.

Rainbow or Bright Lights Chard—The only mix you’ll ever need. 

Umaina—A tender Japanese variety. 


A healthy carrot yanked from the earth is emblematic of a garden going well. Crayola-colorful, carrots bring out the child in even the most seasoned gardener. Nothing is as satisfying as the first fistful of these brilliant roots, feathery tops still attached, scrubbed down in the basin of a farmhouse sink. 

In the Garden:

Scatter seeds willy-nilly into the soil then get down on your knees a few weeks later and thin like you mean it. The elfin carrot seedlings are easy to ignore, but you’ll be sorry if you wait until it’s too late. This is the job the Garden Kneeler* was made for. 

In the Kitchen:

If carrots can make it past the eat-directly-from-the-sink stage, they pair well with butter, orange, chervil and cilantro. A simple purée with some herbs tossed in makes for an elegant soup. A windfall crop is a happy addition to the morning’s juice. 

Favorite Varieties:

Cosmic Purple—A crowd (and kid) pleaser. 

Kaleidoscope—Hudson Valley Seed’s beloved prismatic mix. 

Nelson, Yaya, Danvers & Napoli—Good, all-around carrot-y varieties.

Parisian—Small, round and flavorful, a perfect variety if your beds are shallow or your soil is heavy.


Le Menagier de Paris, a French medieval guidebook from 1393, includes a recipe for parsnips: “You must clean them and remove the bad parts as with turnips, then you must wash them thoroughly in warm water, then parboil a little, then put them to dry on a towel, then flour them, then fry, then arrange nicely on little plates, and put sugar on them.”

In the Garden:

Extreme patience must be the gardener’s mantra for this hoggish slowpoke. Thin to a few inches apart, mark them conspicuously with a 24-inch field marker and then completely forget about them. The ample August parasol of foliage will eventually have you wondering what the heck you planted there in spring. 

In the Kitchen:

Roasting brings out the root’s luxurious, caramel sweetness. Mashed, the parsnip offers an elegant alternative to the potato. The roots store well and combine with all the grounded flavors of winter: maple, nutmeg, meat drippings, garam masala. Dried and powdered in a coffee mill, parsnips can be used in place of powdered sugar. 

Favorite Varieties:

Half Long Guernsey—The most popular parsnip of the 19th century.

Javelin—Overwinter in the ground. Harvest the following spring. 

Lancer—standard parsnip.

Our Favorite Resources:

Hudson Valley Seed

Baker Creek Heirlooms

Johnny’s Seeds

Kitazawa Seed Company

*Garden Kneeler available at Gardener’s Supply Company

This story was originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Edible Hudson Valley.