Hmmm. Brassicas. At this point most people will be thinking of some rather chewy and bitter Brussels Sprouts or perhaps watery over-cooked cabbage. However, the Brassica family is probably my favourite family of veg (today, at least -- because I have LOTS of favourites!)
The star performer in my garden this year has been the Tenderstem Broccoli. I grew it last year, but in retrospect I must have dug it up too soon. It's only this year that I have discovered that if you leave the plants in the ground once you have harvested the "main" heads, lots more lovely succulent side-shoots appear, and then even more shoots appear from ground level. These secondary / tertiary shoots are definitely even better than the first "main" heads -- which are after all just like Calabrese (which is OK but not wildly exciting). They just seem to go on and on, producing more and more shoots. At some stage I will HAVE to dig up the plants, because I need the space for winter chicories...
The small shoots are great steamed or stir-fried. We cook them in an "asparagus kettle" - designed to cook asparagus upright, with the bases immersed in water, but with the tips above water level -- hence they get steamed instead of boiled. It is basically a tall cylindrical pan with a removable wire cage insert. I'm sure you can get one from your local kitchenware shop.To be honest, our asparagus kettle has been used a lot more for broccoli than for asparagus!
|The Asparagus kettle|
|Tenderstem re-sprouting from the base, after harvesting of the main head|
You can see some more Tenderstem here in this miscellany of veg that I picked today (August 15th)...
I have also had some success this year with summer cabbage. This one is called Golden Acre...
|Cabbge Golden Acre, next to Tenderstem Broccoli|
Here is an arty picture of the inside of a Golden Acre cabbage
|Cabbage Golden Acre|
Looking further ahead, I also have a few Cavollo Nero (Black Cabbage) plants on the go. They will be ready to use in a month or so, although they will last through the winter if I let them... This variety is called "Nero di Toscana" (Black Tuscany). I think this is the most commonly available variety in the UK. Jane does a wonderful recipe with this: Cavollo Nero in a pasta dish with creamy garlicky sauce, with some chilli flakes to give it some umph.
|Cavollo Nero - Black Tuscany|
I have this week pricked-out a few seedlings of a winter cabbage called Tundra. It is supposed to be very winter-hardy. At present the seedlings are very small. Hopefully they will grow quickly enough to survive the falling temperatures. Is it just me, or does it feel like Autumn already???
|Seedlings of Tundra cabbage|
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