Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sunlit vegetables in winter

After I had let the chickens and ducks out of their houses into their covered enclosures, I spent a pleasing half an hour in the vegetable garden lifting the last of the oca tubers that I am going to harvest (as I'm leaving some in the ground to see if they will over-winter). The weak winter sun was warming my back and making the vegetables look beautiful and it occurred to me that although the vegetable garden has the potential to look rather dull in winter, it is actually filled with contrasting colours, shapes and textures.
 This red cabbage is ready to harvest, I will braise it slowly with apples, cinnamon and nutmug and it should make a delicious accompaniment for several meals. 
 I planted eighteen red cabbage which I thought would be plenty to see us through until summer even if we eat it is once or twice a week. My daughter loves braised red cabbage, so I will freeze some for her too. The glossy leaves of Swiss chard planted next to the red cabbages are a nice contrast to the matt purple of the cabbage.
 The young purple sprouting broccoli plants should give a crop in early to mid spring and follow on from the purple sprouting broccoli that I am harvesting now. 

I've been picking these delicous flower heads for about six weeks and now there is more than we can eat with a meal, so I will pick it and freeze it to use later.
 I planted three different varieties of leeks to ensure that we had a constant supply throughout the winter. We've been eating them since September when I harvested them at a little thicker than a pencil. Now some of them are nearly to two inches across and packed with flavour.
 I thought that the parsnips hadn't done very well, the foliage didn't grow very high and although I thinned them, I suspected that they were still too close together. Having lifted some of them, my suspicions about spacing has been confirmed. Where I didn't thin enough, I have small, almost baby size parsnips, but where I have given them more room, we've enjoyed large, tasty, sweet parsnips. Lesson learnt for next year, thinning really does make a big difference.
 Storm Angus flattened the tall kale plants but they are still growing new leaves and also they are providing some shelter for the January King cabbages. On the left of the photo are some hollyhocks that I tucked into this bed to grow on. I will plant them into the food forest next spring in their permanent positions. 
 The January King cabbages are huge and very strong in flavour. They are actually too strong in flavour for either Mr J or I to enjoy very much and next year, I plan to grow a savoy cabbage instead. But they aren't going to waste. During this month of lockdown for the birds, I need to supply them with more greens than I usually give them as they aren't getting their usual diet while locked inside under cover, so these huge cabbages are proving very useful. Even the ducks who are very often picky about which vegetables they eat are now racing to eat the cabbages and other leafy greens offered to them.
 Likewise the purple curly kale is being enjoyed by the birds, I grew this for them so that they'd have fresh leaves throughout the year. I am not a kale fan, I wish I was because it has grown very well. I have, however, enjoyed it regularly as I've looked at the dew, rain and frost on the leaves.
 The Cavolo Nero kale has grown very well. I like these structural plants that give shape and form to the garden and stand up to the cold. They've been a little battered by the wind, as has everything in the garden, but they seem to cope.

These little lettuces have been a lovely surprise, they've grown from seeds that were broadcast when I pulled up a lettuce plant that I had let go to seed. I didn't expect them to germinate this year, but they have and they've coped with the frosts so far. I've lifted a few of them and planted them in the greenhouse and covered with them horticultural fleece as a precaution in case the weather becomes much worse.

Now the oca has been lifted I need to wash it and leave it on the windowsill to sweeten for a few days before using it. It has a gentle radishy-lemony flavour and is nice boiled and mashed or sliced and used in stir-fry meals. But before I wash the oca, it is time for a cuppa!
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1 comment:

  1. I'm actually salivating at the thought of cabbage ... it is an addiction!


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