One of the reasons why I like PSB so much is that (in common with the chilli), it is just so photogenic. Actually my post today is really just an excuse to publish my latest photos of this veg!
I love eating PSB as well as photographing it, but to be honest, it is not everyone's favourite vegetable to grow, because it requires a lot of patience. From seed to harvest, PSB takes about 10 months, and all that time it is tying-up space. I suppose that when the PSB is small you can under-plant or inter-crop it with something else, but you have to be careful not to rob it of the light and nutrients that it needs to develop well.
In its early days PSB is very prone to attack by Cabbage Root Fly, against which you need to protect it with Brassica Collars or very fine-mesh netting.
|PSB suffering from Cabbage Root Fly attack|
Don't forget that you will need to provide some strong stakes to support your plants during the Winter gales.
But in my opinion, all this care and attention is justified by the end results (as long as you get a good crop, that is!) because the young shoots of PSB are so tender and delicious.
I normally grow 2 or 3 different varieties of PSB each year, in order to extend the cropping period. This year I was supposed to have two each of "Rudolph", "Red Spear" and "Early Purple Sprouting", but due to some losses at the Young Plant stage I ended up with only one "Rudolph", and the missing one was replaced with a "Red Arrow". The different varieties do tend to perform slightly differently, though the harvest times are very approximate.
Towards the middle of January, the main heads of the plants start to be more prominent and visible, and it gets easier to see the differences. This one is "Rudolph". Its main head normally rises well above the foliage (incidentally making it even better as a photo-subject!).
This one on the other hand is "Red Spear", whose main head tends to nestle down in amongst the leaves a bit more.
This is "Red Arrow". No sign at all of any flower-shoots just yet, but otherwise looking strong.
This last one is "Early Purple Sprouting". Again, no spears yet, and quite sparse in terms of foliage.
The plant is also significantly shorter than the others. In this next photo it is the one at the left. The other two visible ones are both "Red Spear"
The spears, or flowering shoots, of PSB are the bits you eat. Rudolph produces spears that have very few leaves on them. Some people like it for that very reason, but I prefer the spears of Early Purple Sprouting, which tend to have more foliage on them. The leaves are very tasty and should definitely not be wasted. With all types of PSB it is best to cut the main head first, before it gets too big and loose - certainly before the flowers start showing any yellow colour. This will promote the formation of side-shoots further down the plant.
|Photo from 2013. "Rudolph": Central head cut; side-shoots forming.|
Well, this year's pay-off time is fast approaching. My plants are looking strong and healthy and I'm anticipating a decent crop. Even the plant which nearly died as a result of the Cabbage Root Fly attack (see second photo in this post) looks as if it will deliver at least a handful of spears. In a funny sort of way I shall derive more pleasure from nursing this "casualty" through to maturity than I will from growing all the other normal ones!