You’ve probably seen mache (Valerianella locusta) in winter gardening books or perhaps an upscale salad. I love its flavor in salad, but what I really appreciate is the season I eat the salad. February and March there’s hardly even dandelion leaves to scavenge but mache, if I can get at it, is growing thick.
Mache is the quintessential niche in time filler. It’s annual, but sprouts perennial in late fall early winter when everything else is just dying down, and does most of its growing before much has happened in spring.
This allows mache to make a pretty thick groundcover that continues into late June when it finishes seeding. Because it dies down over the summer, the companion perennials hardly notice it’s there. And you really can’t get too much. You just eat it.
What makes mache supreme is it’s easy to establish. To introduce it into a new bed I grab a few seed-filled plants in early June and just shake them out all over the place. In the fall I find them coming up thick, and late winter I have a whole new patch for salad. In spring I have a nice little groundcover coming up around the perennial vegetables that will come up annually ad infinitum.