This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Dear sir: I have various books and papers on gardening, etc, but I see but little said about the following named common "greens," than that nothing can be more wholesome or cheaper: 1. Sorrel. 2. Cowslip. 3. Deerweed. 4. Shepherd Sprouts. 5. Dandelion. 6. (Narrow) Dock.
I may be thought very "green" to say anything about these, but I have an idea of establishing a bed of them if I can get hardy sorts, and such as will hold themselves in the ground - weeds like dandelion, etc. - and which are good, and cheap, and wholesome, but beneath the dignity of most writers of books on gardening. Can you furnish me any information about such things? Respectfully, E.S. Zevrly.
(1.) The large leaved French Sorrel is in common use. It grows well in stony ground made very rich by barnyard manure. It does not do well on limestone soils.
(2.) We have no knowledge of the Cowslip being applied to culinary uses, except that, in some parts of Europe, the peasantry make puddings of the flowers. Unlike the last, it is at home in limestone soils.
(3.) Local names are a nuisance. What is "Deerweed?"
(4.) " " " " By "Shepherd's Sprouts" do you mean the Capsella Bursa pastoris of botanists, which is generally known as " Shepherd's Purse?" If so, we are not aware of its uses. As a weed, it thrives in the richest kinds of garden soil, and we should imagine, to get anything from it as a vegetable, it should be sown in the fall, about the same time as spinach.
(5.) This makes an excellent salad. Take roots as perfect as possible, lay them in boxes of rich soil, about three inches apart, water well, and leave in the open air for two or three weeks; then put the box in a dark place, with the temperature about 55°, and it will grow and blanch finely. Or, get a one-light frame, and, in the fall, place it on a bed of leaves three or four feet thick; plant the roots as in the box; then line the frame with leaves or hot dung, and cover the box with a shutter. This is an excellent plan.
(6.) A variety called the "Patience Dock," should be in every garden. It will come in use before even spinach, and, to many tastes, is superior. It requires only a deep, rich loam, and is very readily propagated from seeds. Once formed, a bed will last for years, if the flower stalks are kept down. We refer you to a late volume for an account of the weed chickory as a winter salad.
(D. S. Place, Greencastle.) Tour plant is Viola palmata. It is rather common, in damp soils; in the Eastern States, though seldom seen in cultivation.