Mâche Pit

mache

Now that it’s after Candlemas, things in our hoophouse are really taking off.

Candlemas is celebrated as “Groundhog Day” in the U.S, and is thought to be the ancient marking of the point between Winter solstice and the Vernal equinox; according to Wikipedia, in France, “Candlemas (French: La Chandeleur) is celebrated with crêpes, which must be eaten only after eight p.m. If the cook can flip a crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the family is assured of prosperity throughout the coming year…” Did you and Valerie flip your crêpes, Bro?

One of the hardiest of the greens we grow through the winter are these cute little tufts of buttery soft green called “mâche” or “corn salad” which are starting to bolt in the early spring heat. (Our unheated hoophouse will often get 40 to 50 °F above the outside temp, which now can be a blazing 40 or 50 °F at mid-day — you do the math…)

Mache in the groundAccording to Wikipedia, Valerianella locusta is a small plant of the family Valerianaceae which grows in a low rosette and in mild climates is used as a winter green, especially in salads. In warm and dry conditions it tends to bolt to seed. It is also called Lewiston cornsalad, mache, mâche, doucette, rampon, lamb’s lettuce, field salad, nüssli, nüsslisalat, and rapunzel. Click here for the USDA “Plant Profile.”
Mache clip
In our experience, it will survive the harshest cold conditions as long as it’s the least bit protected from the wind. When our other greens will get knocked back (outer, more mature leaves will yellow and wither) in our hoophouse during our coldest (-20 °F at night) periods, Mache will bounce right back and ask for more. It’s got thick leaves, which must help it deal with the cold, which are extremely tender (hence the “buttery” description) and have a floral, almost citrusy, flavor that is fantastic in a mixed greens salad, but can sometimes be a bit like having a salad with a perfume based dressing when eaten alone.

4 thoughts on “Mâche Pit

  1. Taxonomic note: The Valerianaceae is the closest family relative of the teasel family (Dipsacaceae) and therefore I use mache as one of my myriad test plants in host-specificity tests of potential teasel-eating bugs.

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  2. Do you get to harvest any for salads? What are it’s ideal growing conditions? Do you know whether the seeds have to freeze before they’ll sprout?

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  3. Tatsoi is good, and I also have it growing in the hoophouse, but it’s in the mustard family and tastes like it, although with a very mellow bite. It looks somewhat similar (small short round leaves), but tatsoi leaves have a large stiff mid-rib like chard, and mache leaves are more like mesclun lettuce leaves, soft and pliant.

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