In between rainy weather and other commitments, I hadn’t been to the church gardens in about a week. Yesterday I finally managed to get by there and filled a cooler, again, with broccoli greens, kale, chard, carrots and beets. I also had a basket of onions and shallots.
I decided it was time to pull up the broccoli plants. I started these plants from seed in early March. There were 3 broccoli plants remaining with tiny broccoli heads. These were heirloom varieties – Waltham and diCicco. The Waltham variety did better and now I read on the Victory Seeds site: “Bred to withstand the increasing cold of fall. Don’t use this variety for spring planting. Best for late summer or fall harvests. Compact plants with large crops of side shoots and solid medium green heads. Can survive dry spells. “ Obviously I missed something when I selected this plant to start from seed back in March.
Sounds like I should try the Waltham again. I definitely didn’t get the harvest they suggest is possible, but that isn’t surprising since they are advertised to be better fall transplants. They were also planted late, even for a spring season broccoli. Oh the many things to learn. Now I see why they suggest new veggie gardeners start out slow with just a couple of species.
A few weeks ago, I picked about 15 cabbage worms off the 2 plants in the north bed. Other than that, I didn’t really have a pest problem with the broccoli. In any case, what remains after digging up the plants is a huge bowl of broccoli greens to cook.
The other variety of broccoli that I started from seed was broccoli di Cicco. This variety is described by Abundant Life Seeds as: “50-70 days. We consider this one of the finest tasting broccoli around. Vigorous plants produce heavy crops of 3-4 inch wide, blue-green, central heads. Naturally staggered maturity and good side-shoot production make Di Ciccio an excellent choice for extended harvests. An Italian heirloom from 1890.” I don’t think I harvested any broccoli heads off the 3 di Cicco plants. At least I didn’t get enough to ever serve broccoli as a side dish.
On the other hand, I have been amazed by the quantity and quality of Swiss chard from the Bonnie Brae transplants I planted. I think there are 4 plants and I have had 8 bunches so far, with the first one cut April 30. It’s such a beautiful leaf – I think it would be beautiful in a vase – the stems are truly a rainbow of colors.
I have also been pleased with the Red Russian Kale I planted. The leaves are sturdy and haven’t really been bothered much by pests.
I’m also getting quite a few onions, though most are small. That is partially due to the fact that I planted them on 2″ centers, expecting to thin them by using every other one as a green onion. The act of pulling every other one soon became a game akin to the triangular peg board game that occupies your time while waiting in a Cracker Barrel restaurant. It was complicated by the fact that I planted my onions in one foot squares, 16 per square. When I harvested the first onion in a square, it might be next to as many as 4 other onions that were growing at the same rate, while the onion in the “every other” position was already twice the size. And there were those days when I really didn’t need green onions. Next season, I think I’ll plant the onions in a 4′ row across the bed rather than in squares.
Most of the shallots are small, but since the tops have flopped over and they are appearing above the soil, I’m assuming it’s time to dig them. The shallot experience started off badly; I ordered the sets from an online source. There was a black powder on most. I researched it online but couldn’t come up with a definitive answer. I planted them in spite of the black powder, worrying that I was spreading disease to the onions too. Other than being small, the shallots seemed to be free of the powder now. The other question that came up is whether you separate the cloves from the root when you dry them? I decided to separate them but I’ll try to research what is the correct approach before I plant and harvest shallots again.
Of course I didn’t/couldn’t thin the beets enough so I won’t have many to harvest. I planted Early Wonder beet seeds April 7, so the ones I pulled yesterday had been in the ground for 90 days. There are about as many left in the ground as I harvested yesterday; we’ll see if they actually make beets. According to the seed package and the website, I should have already harvested them. Looks like I’ll be planting the remaining seeds in the fall for a late harvest.
My Dragon carrots haven’t reached the sizes suggested as typical. That’s probably because I have the same problem with the carrots that I had with the beets. I struggle with the idea of thinning. At least with the beets, you can eat the greens of the thinned plant. I actually looked into whether the carrot greens were edible; the information is polarized: some sites say so what if they’re bitter; horses and rabbits love them, why shouldn’t we eat them. Then there’s the side that warns that they are toxic, containing alkaloids. However, you can find plenty of web sites with recipes for the greens and opinions that lots of foods are bitter and contain alkaloids. I’m left with no conclusive evidence so, for now, I’m skipping the carrot greens. I’ll offer them to the rabbits and hope they’ll accept them in lieu of my flower buds.
I spent about 2 hours at the two gardens, then probably three hours washing, photographing, chopping and cooking. I was sloshing in water by the time I rinsed all the greens and tried to find counter space and bowls to hold it all. I sauteed several onions, some red pepper, a small pepper from the garden, and then added all the chard and beet greens. I mostly followed the recipe for chard with raisins and almonds from my recipe link, although I left out the almonds. The smoked sweet paprika seems to make a big difference. I roasted the beets while the chard was cooking. I thawed a package of split chicken breasts that were taking up too much freezer space. I remembered them in the midst of the kitchen chaos, so they went into a pot to simmer after I finished the chard. When I emptied a bag of wheat berries in to the new lidded jar I bought, I was left with about 1/2 cup in the bag. I decided why not, let’s simmer 1/2 cup of red winter wheat berries with 1/2 cup rye berries. I pulled out the Whole Foods Basics pamphlet that is free in the serve yourself section of grains, beans, nuts, etc. It’s nice to know the information is available on line at the above link, although I notice some differences in whether to soak and the cooking times. I did discover 3 cups of water wasn’t enough for simmering 1 1/2 hours. I happened to check on the pan and discover that it was out of liquid. The directions didn’t say whether to cover the pan so I didn’t; perhaps that’s the difference. I added about one cup additional water and simmered for a total of about 2 hours. Now I have a quick breakfast with the addition of a few frozen blueberries, some milk, a spoon of brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I’ll probably freeze a cup or two for adding to salads or soups.