MERTENSIA PRIMORSKAYA - PLANTING AND CARE
OYSTER GRASS IN THE GARDEN
It's boring without garden innovations. It’s worth at least dedicating a small bed to this edible curiosity this season.
We invite you to take a closer look at the seaside mertensia.
The plant will appeal to those who love seafood, especially oysters.
After all, it can replace these delicacies in the most unusual dishes. And it is not at all difficult to grow it.
Mertensia Primorskaya - APPLICATION
Not long ago I ordered a beautiful and, in my opinion, exotic plant with bluish-gray shoots and leaves from a garden center near Moscow. It grew on a sunny windowsill and was waiting to be moved to the country. But it didn’t wait. I ate it! This happened after I managed to become closely acquainted with the traditional cuisine of the northern peoples. Mertensia maritime, or sea (Mertensia maritime), used in dishes of northern and Far Eastern cuisine, most often among the Eskimos, Itelmens and Koryaks.
Shoots, leaves, flowers and even rhizomes are used as a spice, vegetable seasoning for meat and fish, and salad greens. I was wondering why it is called oyster grass or oyster leaf, and the answer came during the tasting. At a traditional northern feast, tourists were treated to mertensia greens.
The taste of the bluish-blue plump and crisp stems and leaves with the iodine aroma of the sea is really similar to oyster or, in extreme cases, squid. It turns out especially tasty if you simply put the juicy oblong leaves on a piece of rye or Borodino bread with butter and sprinkle with coarse salt. You can make it more complicated: make sandwiches with cottage cheese, herring, tomatoes, a slice of lime, parsley and mertensia leaves, and wash it down with a glass of dry white wine. It wouldn’t hurt to flavor a seafood salad, or even crab sticks, with raw or slightly stewed oyster grass leaves.
Mertensia is also used as a medicinal plant: in northern folk medicine, a decoction of the leaves is used for lung diseases, the roots - for stomach problems, and the flowers - as an antipyretic, diaphoretic and digestive improver.
HOW TO GROW OYSTER GRASS?
The seaside wonder is a typical inhabitant of rocky placers on the shores of the northern seas. Succulent leaves and a waxy coating are known to be characteristic of succulent plants that survive in conditions of lack of moisture. Coastal plants also experience a shortage of water; they do not absorb salty sea water. Therefore, mertensia stores moisture in thick stems and leaves, which have a taste of iodine. And the wax cover protects it from salty spray, wind and sun.
In general, I I decided to urgently plant oyster grass. Moreover, it easily tolerates 30-degree frosts, and, as it turned out, is quite capable of living on the windowsill of a city apartment. Recently, sea mertensia seeds have appeared on sale. True, there are only 5 pieces in a colorful bag, and frankly speaking, they are not cheap. However, for a keen summer resident this is not an obstacle, so I bought it with a reserve. By the way, propagating mertensia vegetatively at home is almost hopeless, only with seeds.
If you sow in spring, you need seed stratification within 1-5 months. If you put it in a container in the fall, you need to bury it in a shaded, dry place, and in the spring you need to remove it and, after waiting for germination, plant the seedlings in a permanent place.
I kept the seeds in the refrigerator, and in mid-March I sowed them in a mixture of store-bought soil and sand (1:1). Out of 15 seeds, only 3 sprouted, but the strong seedlings did not get sick. At first they developed slowly, then with increasing day length and sunlight, growth accelerated. The temperature in the room was 22° around the clock, and the watering was very moderate. At the end of May, I planted plants at the dacha on a rocky hill specially created for mertensia.
The plant turned out to be unpretentious, but I’ll make a reservation right away - in compliance with the conditions that are vital for it. First of all, you need good drainage and any elevated, bright place on the site. No watering required - just enough rain. A neat and impressive plant remains like this until the cold weather: pretty green-gray semi-creeping shoots and waxy leaves die off after severe frosts. There is no need to cover for the winter.
The plant is a perennial. From the second year, Mertensia must be fed, but in moderation; organic matter should not be used. On more nutritious soils, shoots develop long and lodging. In the spring I apply complex mineral fertilizer - 10-15 g per bush.
A couple of times a season I add 1 tbsp. spoon of wood ash.
OYSTER GRASS HAS A SEASONAL CYCLE
At the end of April, mertensia wakes up, grows and, with a height of only 10-15 cm, extends in width by about 25-30 cm. During flowering, the shoots rise above the soil. The planting even from several specimens looks picturesque. The small funnel-shaped corollas of small lungwort-like flowers (plants from the same family - borage) enchant with the shade of Prussian blue, turning into pink-violet on older flowers. They delight from late June to August with a peak in July. Moreover, you can not only admire it, but also prepare it for tea. I trim off the faded inflorescences. In late autumn, I shorten the shoots to 5 cm above the ground and add compost under the bushes, which will help the roots successfully overwinter and then serve as fertilizer.
Diseases and pests have not yet bothered the new product. In rare cases, snails or slugs attack, which are easy to collect by hand.
Thus, Mertensia maritima is a wonderful find. This unpretentious vegetable perennial will grow on the site for many years as a decoration and exotic treat.
MERTENSIA - OYSTER LEAF: GROWING ON VIDEO
© Author: A. MALAKHOVA Moscow
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