Vegetable gardening in Melbourne’s winter tends to be all about Brassicas, well Brassicas and alliums – but once you’ve planted your garlic and onions they just sit there slowly growing all winter and spring. The brassicas though actually produce in winter, so in my mind they are what cool season gardening is all about. Of the brassicas I have in the garden at the moment some are cropping and some are still growing. This is what I am growing this year:
Calabrese broccoli, Romanesco broccoli, Year round cauliflower, Red express cabbage, Watermelon radishes, Horseradish, Watercress, Mustard, Tuscan Kale, Red Winter Kale, Chinese cabbage, & Pak Choi.
These are the ones that I find the most valuable:
I love cauliflower, it may not have the glamour of say, broccoli, but I find it the most versatile to cook with. Its great with spices, its fabulous roasted, delicious deep fried, it combines well with cheese and is lovely in salads. What more could you want….actually it could be slightly easier to grow. It can be a little temperamental and if it doesn’t have the right levels of food, water, and minerals then those lovely tightly packed white heads can be hard to achieve. But I forgive it that – especially when I taste it deep fried with tahini sauce.
Broccoli/Calabrese is one of the great kitchen gardening crops. I love eating cauliflower but I prefer growing broccoli – primarily because it just keeps on giving. A good broccoli plant should keep giving you side shoots well after you’ve harvested the initial head, particularly if you are growing one of the sprouting broccoli/calabrese varieties. Broccoli also tends to be quicker than some of the other brassicas (I’m thinking cabbage and cauliflower in particular here) which is a blessing for us impatient individuals.
3. Red Cabbage
Red Cabbage is a great crop, not only does it taste great but it also looks great in the garden. I love the greeny/grey leaves contrasting with the purple veins of the young plants and then the beautiful deep reddy purple of the mature heads. Yes it takes a long time to mature but at least it has the decency to look good while its doing it.
It only recently occurred to me that watercress was a brassica, and frankly I consider it a minor miracle that I remembered that when I came to write this post. I am a huge fan of watercress. I love the peppery taste, I love that it grows vigorously in our winters, I love that it tolerates some shade and I love that you can eat it both raw and cooked. Watercress salads are fabulous and it makes a mean soup. All that and it is, apparently, very, very good for you indeed – check out the health benefits that Wikipedia lists. What’s not to like?
5. Tuscan Kale
Tuscan style Kale’s are my favourite Kale varieties, I love the colour of the leaves as well as the texture they add in the garden. They also taste great cooked. My favourite way to cook Kale is in Caldo Verde and I find the Tuscan Kales work particularly well in that dish.
And that concludes this weeks Top 5. Over at the New Good Life its her Top 5 One dish Wonders.