Top 5: Brassicas

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:

1. Cauliflower

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.

2. Broccoli/Calabrese

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.

4. Watercress

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.

This entry was posted in Brassicas, Top 5 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Top 5: Brassicas

  1. Lrong says:

    Watermelon radishes? Hmmm, wonder how they look like… agree with you on cauliflower being the top spot… we enjoy cooking it in curries too… I am not aware that water cress is a brassica… shall try to grow this veg next time…

    • Liz says:

      They look really pretty – i’ve never grown them before but Mac at High Dessert Garden (should be a link in my side bar) has posted some beautiful photos of them on her blog in the past – just lovely.

  2. Louise says:

    I agree with you on the cauli being the fav to eat but broccoli being easier to grow and continuing to produce. That picture of your red cabbage is lovely. I have a habit of only growing savoys, but your lovely red cabbage makes me want to grow them.

    Do you ever grow Brussels?

  3. Nina says:

    Brussel sprouts? What about Brussel sprouts? I know, I know, you either love ’em or hate ’em but I’ve always loved them, even from a very young age. I’m growing them for the second time (the first was a disaster and they did absolutely nothing) but this time, they are forming those lovely little morsels of goodness even as I type. Yum! I can’t wait for my first harvest (still a way off, I think). They are delicious sliced in half when small, browned in a little oil and topped with parmesan, sea salt and a smidge of lemon zest.

    • Liz says:

      Actually just to be contraversial I actually neither love or hate them – i do quite enjoy them when I eat them but don’t go out of my way to find them but i do think you’re right I should grow some next year – if only so I can have them the Nina way.

  4. Julie says:

    Someday I will grow a cauliflower! Someday!! Until then I would have to say broccoli is my favorite brassica.

  5. Norma Chang says:

    I had no idea watercress was a brassica, learnt something new, thanks. I have no luck growing cauliflower, tried for several years decide to give up.

    • Liz says:

      I have to say i’m still trying to work out exactly the growing conditions they enjoy. I have grown them successfully but I’ve also had unsuccessful crops and I’m not too sure what made the difference.

  6. Tuscan kale – kavolo nero – is my current favourite. I love it. And it is such a rewarding plant in the garden – hardy, pick and pick again, long lived, hugely productive, always there when you want a good green to add to something.

    • Liz says:

      I absolutely agree – I’m really enjoying my plants at the moment, and it takes up far less space than you think it might.

  7. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who struggles to grow cauliflower. I haven’t got any in the garden this year, more because I was slack than anything else. Nor have I ever tried water cress or kale (though I have just picked up some kale seeds which I’ve planted out, but probably way too late). It’s only broccoli and cabbage around here, and will definitely give the red cabbage a go next year. And for the record I love cauliflower too. Did you see the episode of River Cottage when they were trying to cook the best cauliflower dish?

    • Liz says:

      If its cavolo nero I think you should probably have sown them over summer, but it never hurts to try – what you may find though is that the plants appear and then bolt as spring arrives. I haven’t seen the river cottage episode and now I really want to – I am thinking of doing a cauliflower top 5 soonh so it would be lovely research.

      • Nina says:

        Back in the 70s (showing my age, here) I sometimes did deep-fried cauliflower florets coated in beer batter. They were delicious and were a great hit back then but, gee, the cholesterol police would be after me now!

        • Liz says:

          Ooooh they sound nice – I think its still acceptable to eat deep fried and battered cauliflower, although now you probably do have to add spices, use besam and call them pakoras to really get away with it……

  8. I love red cabbage too! Do you grow the watercress in water or in the ground?

    • Liz says:

      I grow it in the ground – it grows well in our winters when the ground never fully dries out – it dies back completely in summer though. Its funny I have had absolutely no problem growing it in the ground, it grows vigorously and happily and doesn’t taste any tougher than any I’ve bought that is presumably grown in water.

  9. I love watercress, but never thought it was brassicas. I need to try to grow it next winter.

  10. Diana says:

    I agree with you our winter is mostly all about brassica and allium. Among the radishes I grow, I like watermelon radish now with daikon. They don’t become hot that quickly. Interestingly watermelon radish does not have the strong smell that usually other radish have. With the busy year forgot to sow Tuscan kale seeds when I realise looking at your beautiful photo.

  11. Wendy says:

    those red cabbage leaves are so pretty.

  12. Hi Liz,

    Great post!

    It’s funny that in the UK, Watercress and Pak Choi are Spring/Summer vegetables. Home-grown watercress is fabulous…I’m using it in salads and adore watercress soup-apparently it was also the late Diana, Princess of Wales’s favourite soup!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *