Archive for January, 2010

Vegetables for Your Fowl – by David Rogers

January 1, 2010
Most people who have poultry also garden. Many of us know that January brings the arrival of new seed and plant catalogs. It’s a small bright spot in the mid-winter gloominess that holds northern climates captive in a state of deep freeze that’s so conducive of cabin fever.

For many of us these catalogs are the only tangible connection we have with out gardens at this time of the year. Who among us has not spread out nearly a dozen or more gardening catalogs out across the living room floor? For gardeners, there’s nothing else like it; the comparisons of prices and new plant varieties.

This year, while you’re planning out your rows of vegetables, don’t forget to plant something for your fowl. They benefit from fresh produce as an important part of their regular diet just as much as we do.

If I had to choose just two plants to allow room for in my garden for my fowl, without a doubt they would be garlic chives, Nira, (Allium tuberosum) and the giant white radish (Raphanus sativum) known as the Daikon. Nira is a perennial and, while it’s an annual, Daikon is an exceptionally hardy vegetable. When it comes to consumption by fowl, both plants are grown for their greens. Though Daikon may be better known for the use of its root in most Asian cuisine.

Daikon is the one vegetable that I am most taken by. It is an annual, but it continues to produce new leaves right through frosts, freezes, and snow falls. Mine continued to produce until a period of single digit Fahrenheit temperatures in mid-December. Not only is it exceptionally durable for an annual, one would be hard pressed to beat its nutritional value. Gram to gram, it has over twice the amount of calcium as the well known quality of mustard greens.

Daikon greens are said to have amazing nutritional properties. They have
•large amounts of beta-carotene,
•every 100 gm of daikon radish leaves contains 1400 IU of vitamin A; over three times more that found in an equivalent amount of broccoli,
•210 mg of Calcium per 100 gm of leaves, which is almost four times that as found in an equivalent amount of spinach,
•ten times more Vitamin C than lemon,
•three times more iron than liver and eels,
•60 % more Vitamin B1 than pickled black beans,
•and twice as much Vitamin B2 as found in beef.

Above – A planting of Daikon resulting from a 100 seed spring planting begins flowering in early summer. This patch of Daikon yielded over 5,000 seeds for planting the following season.
While Daikon tolerates and prefers cool weather, it often flowers and enters a semi-dromant state during summer heat. Be sure to gather seeds once the pods dry.

These seeds may be planted for a new crop at the appropriate time. Don’t despair when growth stalls over summer, the same roots will once again produce greens when the weather cools. So hold off with pulling them up once they go semi-dormant for the summer.

Excess greens may be frozen in freezer bags for use during extreme cold if you live far enough north that the roots will not continue to produce new growth into mid and late winter. Do not harvest too many greens from a single plant during the growing season, lest you should weaken it. Harvesting one or two leaves from each plant while it’s putting on two or three more would be fine.

Above – A box of newly arrived Nira plants from a fellow gardener has sparked the interest of a curious family member. – Other pets such as dogs and cats should be allowed to only look and not eat. All Allium species are toxic to them. They generally have no interest in eating them anyway.

Nira is a hardy perennial and will emerge from the ground very early in the spring, right through ice and snow in northern climates. Unlike Daikon, it will continue to produce greens through summer heat. However, as with Daikon, care should be taken not to gather to many leaves from a single plant until more have time to re-grow.

After Nira has flowered and the seeds have dried on the stems, they may be gathered and sprinkled back over the planting area or sown elsewhere to start a new patch.

My friend in Tokyo says that Nira is a common vegetable in Japan and it is served with anything from eggs to liver and even mixed into pancake-style dishes with some meat and other vegetables. It is considered highly nutritious and is often cooked when one feels stressed or fatigued. Kampo, the Japanese version of Chinese medicine, holds that Nira is beneficial to the blood circulatory and cleansing system, including the kidneys.

One place where you may obtain both Daikon and Nira seeds is the Kitazawa Seed Company in CA, USA.

So this year, when you plan your garden, think of your fowl too and set a few rows aside for them.