Sunday, 15 August 2010

Brassicas

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 broccoli
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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