The Fall Garden: The Greens

22 09 2008

I have much-neglected about writing about the fall garden, which is really too bad.  It’s doing shockingly well, too well, perhaps.

Back in August, I put in some baby pak choi, cabbage, and kale starts.

The pak choi grew at ridiculous rates.

I hadn’t planned on eating any of it by now, but two of the five plants were about to bolt, so I ended up having to pull them out!   I used 1 1/2 heads for a stir-fry.  Tonight, I’m going to try using the leaves from one or two in a vegetable soup in place of spinach.  The leaves are surprisingly spicy compared to the baby pak choi I’ve bought at the market.  I think it must be a different, stronger-flavored variety.

I put in six Red Express cabbages.  I think they may be growing too fast:

The goal was to get them big enough to surive being frozen out, then have them head up in the spring.  This is one of the smaller ones.  I’ve read that if they’re too big going into spring, they’ll bolt rather than head up.  I really didn’t expect them to grow this quickly.

Meanwhile, there is kale to be eaten, and I haven’t even begun to think about what to do with that yet:

Here is the chard AFTER the two major haircuts over the last few weeks.  It looks like there will still be plenty of meals coming our way.

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What does one do with cabbage?

3 09 2008

I pulled this nearly 2  1/2-pounder out of the garden this week.   To cabbage growers, my ability to produce a cabbage will not seem a very grandiose achievement, but I’m still dazzled at how the head went from some slightly crumpled leaves to a dense ball in just a matter of weeks.  I wish I hadn’t unnecessarily pulled the other cabbage plants out.  I do have a 1-pounder that I started eating this evening, but I think I really ended up wasting those plants.  Alas.

What I do appreciate about cabbage is how much food you get for the space.  Three and a half pounds of cabbage will go a long way as side dishes.   The question is, what to do with this much maligned vegetable?  I am neither a fan of any sort of recipes that makes cabbage limp, nor am I a big fan of coleslaw.  As I’ve been looking around, I’ve realized, as should have been obvious, that cabbage has really fallen out of favor with both cooks and cookbook authors.  Given what a sturdy food cabbage is, this really is a shame.  At the same time, I have zero interest in eating something that doesn’t taste good.

My favorite recipe for green cabbage is a stir fry with bean sprouts and peanuts.  You can find it at http://www.cooksillustrated.com.  I’d love to post the recipe, but it’s detailed enough that I don’t think I can fairly post it without violating their intellectual property rights.   I tried a more simple saute this evening that I enjoyed far more than I thought I would.  This was an experiment, so I cut off 1/4 pound of the smallest cabbage.  I sliced it very thin.  I melted a half tablespoon of butter, then added about a tablespoon of water. I added the cabbage and a pinch of fresh thyme.  I let it braise, covered, for about seven minutes, until the pan was fairly dry and the cabbage was crispy.  I sprinkled on a little salt and pepper and gave it a try.  It was good!  I think the key here is to not add too much liquid and to minimize the cooking time so the cabbage still has some crunch to it.

I’ve put in five cabbage plants into my fall garden, but more on that later.





DNA is amazing.

22 08 2008

I am becoming more and more enthralled by the supernatural abilities of plants. This was the bean trellis on August 1st:

This is it today, a mere three weeks later: (you have to forgive my photo shooting skills.  The screen on my camera has gone blank, giving “point and shoot” a whole new meaning.

I am dumbfounded at how fast they have grown and how many beans I have pulled off of them.   Considering I was wondering whether they were going to make it AT ALL, they have proved me wrong ten times over.  These produce a thin haricot vert, which are thinner than many green beans.  I’d pay about $8/lb at the farmers market for these.  Instead, for the price of the trellis, which is reusable, I pull the off by the handful for free.

Meanwhile, someone has to explain the magic of cabbage to me.   They start out like this

and SOMEHOW end up looking like this!

Now, there really weren’t that many leaves that folded under, so I have to wonder HOW the cabbage actually grows?  Do the leaves that fold under keep expanding despite the fact they are curled up under other leaves?  I ask because, a week ago, the cabbage felt like it wasn’t going to be firm at all, and I was really wondering if I had wasted a lot of space.  Now, they are firm to the touch, and I sort of regret pulling out two that didn’t seem to be doing so well.  My guess is that they would have grown much more than I thought they would have.  I’m just amazed they have turned into actual heads of cabbage!

Meanwhile the various sets of chives that I was pretty sure I was going to kill while propagating them have all put on inches of new growth during the last couple of rainy days.   Despite the fact the soil does not yet have any redeeming value, I’ve decided that chives are pretty much indestructible.

The yard IS starting to get healthier, though.   My lavender is starting to bloom, and it is is attracting insects I have never seen before in the yard.  There was a very pretty butterfly or moth on them earlier, which was a welcome sight.





Jumping on the brasscia bandwagon.

3 08 2008

Ahhhhhh, the brassicas.  Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, collards,.brussels sprouts, and more.    In my ongoing efforts to spread out my harvest over the year, I’ve planted cabbage, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, and brussels sprouts.   For plants all from the same family, I’ve been having some problems getting them going.

The cabbages seem to doing pretty well.  I planted them a little late for this variety, so my fingers are crossed that they will head up and not bolt.  So far, so good.  Likewise, the purple sprouting broccoli in the photos in the thread below show nothing but promise. Unfortunately, I haven’t had as much luck with the kale.  From all accounts, kale is supposed to sprout and grow readily.  I had started several seeds on 24″ centers, but it looks like I will just have one plant.  I sure hope this little guy makes it.  I have no idea why the seeds on this center sprouted but not on the other two centers.

Which leads me to this question:  Why do some seedlings and young plants seem to thrive in one spot but not in another right next to it?  For example, I have this handsome young brussels sprout.  I’m still curious about where the sprouts will come from, but it’s always good to have something to look forward to.

Now, compared to the other three in the row.  I’m told that starting brussels sprouts from seed can be challenging, but once they’ve sprouted, what micro-conditions let one plant thrive and the others just survive?  They were all planted at the same time, and I think the same level of fertilizer and sun.  So…..is the big one growing TOO fast or are the little guys lagging behind?