The Miracle of  Growing Food Regeneratively

Creating Local Food Security & Healthy, Vibrant, Regenerated Living Soil, & Nutrient Dense Food

GROWING GREENS

  

CONTENTS:

 

1. AMARANTH

2. BROCCOLI

3. BRUSSELS SPROUTS 

4. CABBAGE

5. CAULIFLOWER

6. KALE 

7. KOMATSUNA

8. LEAF BEET 

9. MIBUNA

10. PAK CHOI 

11. SPINACH

12. TATSOI

AMARANTH (Amaranthus tricolor)

There are varieties of amaranth grown for grain, but here we are talking about varieties grown for their leaves. The taste has been likened to spinach with a hint of bitter/sweet horseradish.

Amaranth greens have a strong flavour and a texture that makes it ideal for use in stir-fries and sautés. Though younger amaranth greens can be eaten raw in salads, the mature plants need to be cooked, in stir-fries, soups, simmered dishes, etc. 

Soil & Feeding:

Amaranth is a good crop to grow after peas and beans in your rotation system. Cut your beans or peas off at ground level and sow the seeds next to the bean or pea stems so the nitrogen in the pea/bean root nodules is released as they rot down to feed the amaranth plants - otherwise feed with one handful of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

 

Varieties:

Some varieties of amaranth greens are streaked through with shades of red and purple, and others blood red. Slightly astringent when raw, the greens turn soft and mellow as they cook down. The leaves of the red-leafed varieties exude a blood-red juice when cooked. Other varieties, having leaves tinged with light green, are just as flavourful.

 

Green & Red: is a good variety for both stir-fries and salads.

 

Mekong Red: is good for stir-fries

 

Sowing:

Amaranth seed lasts 4-6 years.

 

Edible Amaranth grows best in warm weather. Full sun is recommended but they will grow in shady spots with almost the same vigour. Amaranth seeds are very small and will germinate best at temperature above 180C (640F), so wait until the weather has warmed up in spring or early summer. You can sow amaranth greens directly into your garden beds any time after your frost-free date. They take only 30 days to reach harvest size. For a continuous supply, sow a new patch every month during the summer season.

 

The best way to sow the very small seeds is the same way I recommend to sow carrot seeds. Make a shallow groove with your finger. Trickle some water into the groove. Sprinkle about 3-6 seeds every 5cm (2in) – in rows around 8cm (3in) apart – and barely cover them up with some sieved garden compost, or sieved leaf-mould to hold moisture, and then water gently with the ‘rose’ sprinkler on your watering can. The damp garden compost or leaf-mould will hold the moisture until they start to grow properly.

 

Growing:

Prevent the soil from drying out too much until their tops are at least 5cm (2in) tall. After that you can irrigate them the way you would any garden vegetable. They will tolerate some drought but the tenderest greens come from unstressed plants that receive plenty of water.

 

Harvesting:

This fast-growing vegetable can be harvested 30 days after sowing, by the cut-and-grow-again method. Thin plants during the growth if necessary; the thinnings can be eaten.

 

Possible Pests & Diseases:

Amaranth has very few diseases. In wet climates seedlings may disappear as they emerge due to hungry snails and slugs. Use beer traps to protect them – see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ - TRAPS.

 

 

BEET – see: LEAF BEET

 

BOK CHOY -see: PAK CHOI

BROCCOLI (Brassica oleraceae var. italica)

Broccoli – some love it, some hate it, but if you are of the latter persuasion, I have included some cooking recipes that might change your mind! Personally I’m not a huge fan, but I have found ways of cooking and preparing it that I really enjoy. It is however one of the best of the cabbage family for its nutritious qualities.

 Fresh Broccoli is a storehouse of many phyto-nutrients such as thiocyanates, indoles, sulforaphane, isothiocyanates and flavonoids like beta-carotene cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zea-xanthin. 

Studies have shown that these compounds by modifying positive signalling at molecular receptor levels help protect from prostate, colon, urinary bladder, pancreatic, and breast cancers.

 

Fresh broccoli is exceptionally rich source of vitamin-C. Provides 89.2mg (0.003146437oz) or about 150% of RDA per 100g (3½oz). Vitamin-C is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and immune modulator, helps fight against flu causing viruses.

 

Further, it contains very good amounts of another anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-A. 100g (3½oz) fresh head provides 623 IU or 21% of recommended daily levels. Together with other pro-vitamins like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and zea-xanthin, vitamin A helps maintain integrity of skin and mucus membranes. Vitamin A is essential for healthy eyesight and helps prevent from macular degeneration of the retina in the elderly population.

 

This flower vegetable is rich source of vitamin-K; and B-complex group of vitamins like niacin (vit.B-3), pantothenic acid (vit.B-5), pyridoxine (vit.B-6), and riboflavin. The flower heads also have some amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

 

It is also a good source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and phosphorus.

 

OK have I convinced you yet? Look, the most important thing is to enjoy your food, so try some of the recipes and see what you think.

 

In this climate we can grow broccoli all the year round and even in climates with colder winters there are winter varieties, such as Early Purple Sprouting, that will stand a reasonably cold winter – check with the locals and your local seed catalogues.

 

Varieties:

Di Cicco: is a variety that has a large head in the middle to begin with, and when this is cut the side shoots (florets) keep up production as long as you keep picking them when they are ready. This is our favourite.

 

Early Purple Sprouting: is an old variety that has small florets evenly around the whole plant that keep producing over a long time.

 

Soil & Feeding:

Ideally, broccoli (like other brassicas) should follow peas and beans in your rotation system, having left the roots of the peas and beans in with their Nitrogen rich root nodules on to rot down and release the Nitrogen to feed the young broccoli plants which you have cleverly planted tucked up next to the bean/pea roots – an old gardener’s trick!

 

DON’T dig the soil, because broccoli prefers a firm soil and therefore it’s unnecessary. Feed with Eco or Organic Fertiliser, at the rate 2 handfuls per square metre (yard). This is also the time to apply garden lime, if your soil has a lower pH than 6.4, follow the instructions on the packet. If the pH is fine, apply gypsum (pH neutral) at 4 handfuls per square metre. This will provide readily available Calcium and Sulphur, both of which will benefit broccoli without changing the pH.

 

Rake into the top 2cm (¾in) with your fingers or a small hand fork. If your garden is new and the soil needs improving, fork in some well rotted horse poo as well as the powdered fertiliser into the top 10cm (4in) and then tread the soil down afterwards to make it firm.

 

Sowing:

Broccoli seed lasts 3-4 years.

 

Sow early crops in boxes of seed compost (see seed sowing section above) in late winter, early spring. The later sowings from October (southern hemisphere), or April (northern hemisphere) onwards can be done outside in a small seed bed made at the end of your main bed, by sieving the top few centimetres through the usual 9mm (⅕in) garden sieve, spreading the course material onto the main bed – no boxes and special seed compost necessary and the seedlings will be much stockier and healthy. You only need a small area [½ square metre (5 square feet)] for most purposes.

 

Planting out:

Plant out when 7-10cm (2¾-4in) high, 60cm (2ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between the rows, or if you are block planting 45cm (18in) between them on the triangular planting. This may seem far apart, but they grow quite big and need the space. You can plant out a quick crop of lettuce in between.

 

The usual rule for planting any plant is to plant at the same depth they were growing, but brassicas really enjoy being planted up to their necks (where the side branches are); this causes them to grow new roots up the stem and they will be firmer in the soil. This is particularly important for taller plants like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. If you have a light soil you can also earth them up as they grow. Water the planting hole and water well after planting.

 

If there is very dry hot weather when you are planting out, place some worm compost, or well-rotted sticky garden compost around the roots to both feed and retain moisture for the seedlings to stop them wilting in the sun. Also a light mulch of straw, or grass clippings over the watered soil around the seedlings will help to maintain moisture.

 

Harvesting:

Keep picking or cutting the florets when they are still firm, but not starting to open into flowers. There is always the temptation to leave them too long in the hope they will get bigger. Knowing when to pick comes with experience.

 

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See first the section ‘Pests & Diseases’ on how to create a healthy vibrant soil and healthy resistant plants.

 

Club root: is a soil-borne fungus disease of brassicas, which thickens the root and stunts the growth of the plants. It is worse on badly drained soil and where acid conditions exist and where brassicas are grown too regularly in the same area – so make sure your soil is well drained, plus use gypsum on heavy clay soils to open up the clay making it freer draining and more airy, make sure your soil’s pH is around 6.4 and rotate your crops allowing a minimum of 3 years between growing broccoli (or any brassica) on the same area. Once you have this disease there is no cure and it will remain in the soil for more than seven years. So, avoid at all costs by correcting the nutrient balance in your soil and increase the humus content of the soil to around 6 per cent so as to create a thriving healthy soil life and deeply resistant plants. If the worst comes to worse, find new unaffected ground in which to grow the brassica family. •

 

Cabbage White Caterpillars: Try keeping them at bay by increasing plant resistance (see: the section ‘Pests & Diseases’). You can also attract predatory insects, like predatory wasps that inject their eggs into the caterpillars so their babies eat them, by growing flowers that attract them. We have noticed this happening to great effect at Waimarama Community Gardens in the past. If you have not had the chance to create super-high resistance in your plants yet and they start to become a problem spray with BT Bacillus thuringiensis every ten days. This is marketed as ‘Dipel’ and ‘Thuricide’, amongst others. The caterpillars ingest the bacteria when they eat the sprayed plant, which is a natural disease of caterpillars. The caterpillars take a few days to die, but they stop eating almost immediately. As long as you only spray the plants you want to protect there will be no problem and it is only harmful to the caterpillars and is harmless to other species including us. It is certified for use on organic farms.

 

Aphids: Again if the soil and plant is healthy there should be little or no problem with them on organic farms and gardens, because of the build up of natural predators like ladybirds and hover-flies. If they do cause a problem spray with garlic, ginger and chilli spray and liquid soap as described in the section ‘Pests & Diseases’.

 

Cabbage Root Fly: Luckily we don’t have cabbage root fly here in New Zealand, but in the UK, Europe and the northern parts of the United States and Canada, they are a problem. The cabbage root fly (Delia radicum) attacks cabbages cauliflower, kale, with Brussels sprouts and broccoli. The fly lays its eggs next to the base of the stem and when the grubs hatch they burrow down into the root and start eating, causing the plant to eventually wilt. The only truly successful way of controlling this pest organically from laying their eggs next to the base of the stem of the plant is to provide a barrier - (see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’BARRIERS, for details).

 

Recipes:

 

Chinese Broccoli & Ginger

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

 

• 6 medium stalks Chinese broccoli (about 12 ounces)

• ¼ cup chicken broth (or vegetable stock)

• 1½ teaspoons rice wine or dry sherry

• 1 teaspoon ginger juice

• ½ teaspoon cornflour

• ¼ teaspoon salt

• 1/8 teaspoon sugar

• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

• 3 slices ginger cut into fine strips

 

Preparation:

 

1. Cut the broccoli stalks in half lengthwise if more than 1½ cm in diameter.

2. Cut the stalks and leaves into 5cm (2in) long pieces, keeping the stalk ends separate from the leaves.

3. In a small bowl combine the broth, rice wine, ginger juice, corn-starch, salt, and sugar.

4. Heat a 35cm (14in) flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact.

5. Swirl in the oil, add the ginger, and stir-fry 10 seconds or until the ginger is fragrant.

6. Add only the broccoli stalks and stir-fry 1 to 1½ minutes until the stalks are bright green.

7. Add the leaves and stir-fry 1 minute until the leaves are just limp. Stir the broth mixture and swirl it into the wok.

8. Stir-fry 1 minute or until the sauce has thickened slightly and lightly coats the vegetables.

 

Broccoli & Lentil Bake

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

 

• 125g (4½oz) continental lentils

• 370g (13oz) broccoli florets

• 1 tablespoon sultanas

• 30g (1oz) butter

• 1 teaspoon paprika

• Small pinch cayenne

• 1 teaspoon ground coriander

• 1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar

• 1 tablespoon tomato purée

• 4 tomatoes (fresh or tinned)

• ½ teaspoon organic tamari

• Juice of 1 small lemon

 

For Cheese Sauce:

 

• Liquid from cooking broccoli made up to 425 ml with milk

• ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

• 1½ heaped tablespoon flour

• 45g (1½oz) butter

• Salt & pepper to taste

• 125g (4½oz) grated cheddar cheese

 

Preparation:

 

1. Soak lentils overnight and cook in plenty of water until soft (about 1½ hours). Drain through fine sieve

2. Pre-heat the oven to 1900C (3740F)

3. Chop the broccoli roughly and steam for a few minutes until barely tender

4. Melt butter in a pan and add chopped tomatoes and ground coriander. Simmer until liquid is reduced

5. Stir in the broccoli, lentils and rest of the ingredients

6. Spoon into casserole dish

7. Make white sauce – make a roux with butter and flour, cook for a few minutes and gradually add milk stirring continually (use a whisk, it’s easier)

8. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper

9. Pour the sauce over the casserole and sprinkle with grated cheese

10. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until heated through

BRUSSELS SPROUTS (Brassica oleraceae gemmifera)

This is another veg that some love to hate, usually because they have only had it over cooked – they are best cooked quickly, for only 3 minutes, in very little water so they are steamed and still a bit crunchy. The best way to my mind is to serve them 50/50 with roasted peeled sweet chestnuts, yum – anyway, more of that in the recipe section.

In warmer areas, like North Island New Zealand, they do not grow well. They grow fast and the sprouts bolt and don’t form tight buttons.

Brussels Sprouts do best in harder conditions with regular frosts as they are forming their buttons; this makes them firmer and sweeter.

One of the things one has to learn when growing crops, in fact all plants, is that some will not do well in your climate or soil, having found the ones that grow well in your area, stick to those. Hey, there are so many to choose from and enjoy!

Varieties:

Fillbasket: will do – an old reliable variety renowned for its large sprouts and long harvesting season. 

There are many flashy F1 hybrids that produce all their buttons at once. That’s great if you are growing a field full for cutting whole plants and harvesting the buttons in a factory, but small growers need a succession of buttons over time. There are also red ones – yes OK if you must.

 

Soil & Feeding:

The same as for broccoli. They need very firm soil, so if you have to dig a new plot fork in 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost per square metre (yard), plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard), plus lime if necessary to get the pH to 6.4, otherwise 4 handfuls of gypsum per square metre, supplying Calcium and Sulphur, but not raising the pH.

 

If they are following peas and beans in your rotation system, just add the lime or gypsum, plus 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost per square metre (yard) and mix in lightly into the top few centimetres.

 

Sowing:

Brussels Sprout seeds last 3-4 years.

 

Sow mid to end of October in the southern hemisphere, April/May in the northern hemisphere – yes they really need that amount of time (6-7 months) to grow well into decent sized plants before the cold of autumn and winter stops their growth. You can sow them in boxes, but as the soil has warmed up by then, better to sow outside in a small seedbed at the end of one of your vegetable beds. Sieve the topsoil to produce a nice fine bed for sowing your seeds.

 

Planting Out:

Remember to plant the seedlings next to the roots of the beans or peas you have left in for the Nitrogen in the root nodules to feed the Sprouts. Plant out when about 10cm high from seed boxes, or from your outside seed bed, 60cm (2ft) apart each way – they take up a lot of room. As for Broccoli, plant your Brussels Sprouts seedlings deeper than they were before – up to their necks, i.e. up to the bottom leaves so that they will form more roots up the stems and be firmer in the ground. Press the soil well down around the plants. Loose ground will cause the buttons to bolt later on rather than forming tight buttons. There is also time to plant out catch crops between the plants, like lettuce, other salad crops or spinach, which will be ready well before the Sprouts get big.

 

Staking:

Hammer in a good stake next to each Sprout plant to tie them to as they grow tall – 2cm (¾in) square wooden ones 1.2 metres (4ft) long are the ones I use, but whatever you use they need to be strong. When the plants are loaded with buttons and standing tall they easily get blown down in autumn or winter storms, and rocking in the wind will loosen the roots and cause the buttons to blow.

 

Maintenance:

As the buttons form, pull off the bottom leaves as they yellow, where they grow under the buttons. Keep pulling the yellowing leaves off higher and higher up the plants. This will encourage the buttons to grow better.

 

Harvesting:

Pick the buttons from the bottom of the stem and work upwards as they grow; this is the order that sprouts grow. Just snap the buttons off at the base with your thumb.

 

Possible Pests & Diseases: - see Broccoli for diseases of brassicas.

 

Recipes:

 

Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Almonds

Serves 3-4

 

Ingredients:

 

• 225g (8oz) fresh Brussels sprouts

• 2-3 tablespoons butter

• ½ small onion, chopped

• Salt and Pepper to taste

• ½ teaspoon lemon juice

• ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

 

Preparation:

 

1. Remove any ragged or old-looking outer leaves on the Brussels sprouts and discard. Parboil the Brussels sprouts (or steam them) for 3 minutes or until just tender. They should be almost cooked all the way through (cut one in half to test). Strain the hot water and place the sprouts in a bowl of ice water, this will keep their colour bright green. Cut the sprouts into halves.

2. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a large pan on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons more of butter and the Brussels sprouts halves.

3. Increase the heat to medium high and cook for several more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste while the Brussels sprouts are cooking. Do not overcook! Overcooked Brussels sprouts are bitter and squishy and are the main reason why some people don't like them.

4. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and half of the toasted almonds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in serving dish and garnish with the rest of the toasted almonds.

 

Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chestnuts

Serves 3-4

This is definitely one of our favourites! The combination of sprouts and chestnuts is a great Italian invention!

 

Ingredients:

 

• 225g (8oz) Brussels sprouts

• Same number of whole chestnuts as Brussels sprouts

• Cooking oil

• Knob of butter

 

Preparation:

 

1. With a sharp knife, make deep crosscuts on the flat side on the shell

2. Coat the chestnuts with cooking oil and spread out on a baking sheet

3. Roast in a 190oC (374oF) oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the shells can be removed easily

4. As soon as the chestnuts are cool enough to handle, peel off the shells and brown inner skins

5. Remove any ragged or old-looking outer leaves on the Brussels sprouts and discard

6. Bring 1cm salted water to boil in a pan

7. When boiling, tip in the Brussels sprouts to steam for 3 minutes

8. Remove and toss with the chestnuts in the butter and serve

 

Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

 

• 4 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

• 227g (½ pound) sliced mushrooms

• A good knob of butter

• 5 tablespoons butter ½ cup chopped fresh parsley

• Salt and pepper to taste

• Fresh lemon juice

 

Preparation:

 

1. Cook Brussels sprouts in a pot of lightly salted boiling water for 3 minutes; strain through a colander, removing as much water as possible. Set aside.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook and stir mushrooms until lightly browned.

3. Toss Brussels sprouts with mushrooms, and sprinkle with parsley and lemon juice. Serve immediately.

CABBAGE (Brassica oleraceae capitata)

You can grow cabbages all the year round unless you live in parts of the world with extremely cold winters. Many people don’t bother to grow cabbages in the summer, as there are so many other lovely things to eat. However cabbage is definitely high on my list of favourites, so I try to have some available all the year round. 

The first varieties are the pointed spring cabbages, followed by tight, white round summer cabbages beloved by those who use them in salads and for making coleslaw, followed by late autumn/winter hardy Savoy cabbages (my favourite), Red cabbage and Collards.

Soil & Feeding:

Cabbages are hungry feeders i.e. they like a good amount of available Nitrogen for leaf growth and plenty of Calcium along with all the other nutrients. Cabbages like a soil pH of 6.5 so if the pH is lower, add the recommended amount of ground limestone (garden lime) per square metre (yard) and mix in to the top few centimetres.

 

If you already have a pH of 6.5 as we have, but still want to give some extra Calcium, then the best way is to add Gypsum at 4 handfuls per square metre. Gypsum is Calcium Sulphate (CaSO4) and is pH neutral, so it will supply both Calcium and Sulphur, both of which the cabbage family will benefit from, but not increase the pH.

 

If they are following peas and beans in your rotation system, remember to leave the pea and bean roots in and plant the cabbages out next to the old roots, which will help to supply some Nitrogen from the rotting root nodules from the peas and beans.

 

If you are starting from scratch add 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost, plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard) and mix in lightly into the top few centimetres (inches). The soil does not need to be so firm for cabbages, as it does for Brussels sprouts and Broccoli.

 

Varieties:

Spring Cabbage:

 

Conehead: best grown through the cooler spring and early summer. Dense heads of 1-2 kg (2-4 pounds) with sweet tender green leaves. Great for coleslaw and cooked dishes.

 

Winningstad: – also known as Glory of Enkhuizen – another conehead variety. First listed in America in 1856, A stunning looking, tall pointy pale green cabbage with thick firm leaves, mild flavour, good to eat and extremely ornamental. Excellent keepers, great sauerkraut cabbage.

 

Summer Cabbage (also good for early winter):

 

Copenhagen Market: dense round solid head. This is one we used to grow commercially on our organic farm. Excellent for coleslaw or fine shredding and is delicious and tender when cooked. Needs to be kept well watered to stop it running to seed.

Winter Cabbage:

Savoy

Savoy Chieftain: are huge with beautiful round crinkly green leaves. They are at their best when frost sits on the leaves. Great for cooking, coleslaw and sauerkraut. They keep well over winter if grown well with hard, tight hearts.

Vertis Savoy: have very crinkly leaves with flat round heads of up to 2-3kg (4-6½ pounds) in size; one year ours grew to 20cm (8in) across.

Red Express: forms sweet solid compact 1-2kg (2-4 pound) heads, of a reddish/purple colour. Great cooked with grated apple and/or red onions.

Collards or Loose-leafed Cabbage: these cabbages need to be sown in mid to late summer. They are used as leaf cabbages and are picked throughout the winter and spring (until October, when they head up to seed).

Colard cabbage is known around the world as being one of the most nutritious of brassicas –probably because it is an open leaf variety so all leaves are in the sun.

Traditional recipes used these leaves for making wonderful cabbage rolls, stuffed with minced meat, rice or lentils and then baking.

Sowing & Planting:

Cabbage seed lasts 3-4 years.

 

Sow spring cabbages in late winter/early spring in boxes. Plant out 45cm (18in) apart when around 6-7cm (2-3in) high.

 

Sow summer cabbage mid to late spring in boxes or outside in a seedbed made of sieved top soil. Plant out when 6-7cm (2-3in) high 45-50cm (18-20in) apart.

 

Sow winter cabbage in late November (southern hemisphere) or late May (northern hemisphere) outside in a prepared seedbed. I like the long growing season to get good size cabbages to last the winter. Plant out when 6-7cm (2-3in) high 50cm (20in) apart.

 

When planting out cabbages (and other brassicas) plant up to the first leaf stems – this will encourage more roots to grow from the stem for a healthier plant.

 

Growing:

I feed mine every two weeks through the main growing season with liquid manure made from worm juice, or liquid horse poo (see: the section ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’ - LIQUID MANURES).

 

Mulch down with spray-free straw, or lawn clippings, to hold moisture and control weeds, or you could try sowing annual Crimson Clover between the plants as a living mulch, but it will need cutting regularly with garden sheers and the leaves left to rot down. I have done this regularly and had good results. Another method is to sow broad beans at about 4-5cm (1½-2in) apart each way between the Cabbages, or other brassicas, cutting them down when they are 10-15cm (4-6in) high leaving them as mulch. They will keep growing and you can keep cutting them to supply nitrogen to the Cabbages, or other brassicas.

 

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See Broccoli for diseases of brassicas.

 

Recipes:

Cooked cabbage is delicious if cooked properly, the secret is to finely shred the cabbage and cook until just tender – no more!

 

Steamed Cabbage

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 Cabbage

• Several pats of butter

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Preparation:

 

1. Remove the outer layers and the core and finely shred the cabbage with a sharp knife

2. Place in sieve and rinse with filtered water 

3. Do not shake off the water – water adhering to the cabbage will be sufficient to cook it

4. Place in a heavy pan and top with a little salt, plenty of pepper and several pats of butter

5. Turn on the heat and lower when cabbage starts to steam

6. Cook about 5 minutes, covered, until the cabbage is just wilted

 

These next two recipes are taken from Sally Fallon’s indispensable book ‘Nourishing Traditions’, which has transformed my preserving, preparation and cooking of food. I highly recommend this great book, see: http://www.newtrendspublishing.com/SallyFallon

 

Sweet Red Cabbage

Red cabbage takes longer to cook than green cabbage.

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 medium red cabbage, shredded

• 1 bay leaf

• ½ teaspoon cloves

• ½ teaspoon sea salt

• 1 teaspoon of raw honey

• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

• 1 cup water

• 2 apples, peeled cored and cut into segments

• 2 tablespoons butter

• 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar

 

Preparation:

 

1. Rinse cabbage with filtered water and place in a heavy pan

2. In a small pan, mix bay leaf, cloves, salt, honey and cinnamon with the water and bring to a boil

3. Pour over the cabbage and cook for about 20 minutes.

4. Add the apple and cook for another 10 minutes

5. Remove the cabbage with a slotted spoon to a heated serving dish and toss with the butter and vinegar

 

Red Cabbage With Orange

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 medium red cabbage

• 1 small onion (preferably red), peeled and chopped

• Grated rind of 2 oranges

• Juice of 2 oranges, strained

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

• 1 tablespoons raw honey

• 3 tablespoons whey or raw wine vinegar

• 4 tablespoons butter

 

Preparation:

 

1. Shred cabbage into a large bowl

2. In a small bowl combine onion, orange rind, orange juice, garlic, salt, honey and whey or vinegar.

3. Pour over cabbage and toss well and marinate overnight

4. Melt butter in a large saucepan or frying pan

5. Add cabbage mixture and bring to a simmer

6. Reduce heat, cover and cook gently for about ½ hour

7. Uncover until cabbage is tender and liquid has evaporated

CAULIFLOWER (Brassica oleracea botrytis)

Here in central New Zealand we can grow true cauliflowers all the year round. However in colder Britain we grew winter cauliflowers (white heading broccoli) for the colder months. Although cauliflowers are the most difficult of the brassicas to grow well, they are well worth the trouble. 

Soil & Feeding:

Feed as for cabbage, but make sure the soil is highly fertile. They are particularly sensitive to a lack of trace elements, especially Boron. Watering with liquid seaweed several times during their growth will ensure they get all the trace elements they need.

Varieties:

 

All The Year Round: is probably the most useful, except in areas which have harder winters. Produces medium sized compact white curds.

 

Snowball: is faster growing, with white small to medium sized curds. Hardy winter cauliflowers:

 

In countries with cold winters you will not be able to grow proper cauliflowers through the winter – however do not despair, one can grow so called ‘winter cauliflowers’, which are in fact a form of white headed broccoli and none the worse for that. Here is a succession ready from late winter to late spring, early summer:

 

Galleon: is a good variety for harvesting in the spring.

 

Snow’s Winter White: has pure white heads ready mid- to late winter, when there is a scarcity of vegetables in the garden.

 

St George: is a hardy old favourite, which are ready for cutting in early spring. April: sown during mid-spring; harvested following spring; hard, white, solid heads; keeps for long periods.

 

Late Queen: was bred to be sown in late spring to be harvested in late spring early summer. Rarely affected by frost and produces splendid white heads.

 

Sowing:

Cauliflower seed lasts 3-4 years.

 

For the early ones we sow in boxes in late winter and early spring, and from mid to late spring outside in a seedbed. The problem with sowing in late spring, is the cauliflowers are ready in the height of summer when there are plenty of other things to eat, and they are also likely to bolt and run into flower, so the next period of sowing begins in mid to late summer for cropping in late summer through until autumn for winter and early spring cropping. It all depends on how much you like cauliflower. Personally we grow ours for autumn, winter and spring, the rest of the year we can enjoy other vegetables.

 

The later sowing should be sown in an outside seedbed at the end of a veg bed with the top 2 or 3cm sieved through a garden sieve.

 

For colder winters, you will need to sow your white heading broccoli (winter cauliflower) in spring or early summer because they need around six months growth for them to be ready in the spring of the following year!

 

Planting Out:

Plant out 60cm (2ft) apart with 30cm (1ft) between the rows, or if you are block planting, 45cm (18in) between them on the triangular planting. For winter heading broccoli (winter cauliflower) plant out at 75cm (2½ft) apart, as they are bigger plants.

 

The young Cauliflower seedlings should be transplanted when no taller than 5cm (2in), watering before and after transplanting to avoid a disruption in their growth. When transplanting, check each seedling to make sure they have a central growing point, ones that don’t will only produce leaves and no curds.

 

Growing:

Apart from having fertile soil, the most important thing with growing cauliflowers is to keep them growing steadily. If they are left to long in their seed trays or seed beds causing excessive root damage on transplanting, if they are planted to close and are competing with each other for resources, if they have to compete with weeds, if they suffer from lack of water at any stage even for a day in dry weather, or if they don’t have a good supply of nutrients to draw on, they will start to produce curds prematurely resulting in small curds or even bolting and running up to flower. As long as they are happy and well fed and watered, they will hold off producing curds and will grow large enough to produce a decent sized curd.

 

As the curds are forming, bend some of the larger leaves over the curds to keep them cool and moist and protect them from direct sunlight, which will darken them and make them grey.

 

Harvesting:

Cut off the curd and some of the smaller leaves around it, which can be trimmed back, but many people like to cook some of the smaller leaves with the curds – it’s up to you. You can use the larger leaves for making soup, or add them to smoothies.

 

If too many cauliflowers are ready together, you can dig up some plants, leaving the stem and roots on, trim the leaves and hang upside-down in a cool shed or store room – spray regularly to keep them fresh until needed.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

See Broccoli for pests and diseases of brassicas.

 

As already said, cauliflowers can suffer from a lack of trace elements. A shortage of molybdenum may result in a strange condition known as ‘whiptail’, where the leaves are thin and deformed. Boron deficiency causes small, bitter curds and makes the stems and leaves turn brown. Magnesium deficiency may turn the leaves yellow, reddish or purple. Prevent, by watering with liquid seaweed, which contains the vast majority of known trace elements and also enjoy the benefits of them when you eat your cauliflowers.

 

Recipes:

Apart from the usual cauliflower and cheese sauce, there are other variations and ways of cooking cauliflower. The most important thing is – don’t over cook them. They cook quickly; they need to be firm and just tender, not soft and squishy – about 10 minutes – keep checking by sticking in a small kitchen knife to test.

 

One of our favourite recipes is an Indian one:

 

Turmeric Cauliflower & Potatoes

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 medium sized cauliflower

• ½ kg (1 pound) potatoes with skins on, cubed

• 2 tablespoons ghee or butter

• 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

• 1 or 2 dried chillies crushed, or fresh chopped fine

• 1 teaspoon ground coriander

• 2 teaspoons powdered turmeric

• ¼ teaspoon asafoetida (hing)

• 4 tablespoons water

• Salt to taste • 1 lemon or lime

• 2 firm ripe tomatoes, washed and sliced

 

Method:

 

1. Trim the cauliflower and cut into flowerets about 4cm long by about 2.5cm (1in) thick. Rinse them in a colander and let drain

2. Heat the ghee or butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Drop in the mustard seeds and chillies and fry for 30-45 seconds, or until the mustard seeds have stopped popping

3. Add the rest of the powdered spices, fry a few seconds longer, then immediately add the cubed potatoes

4. Turn the potatoes for 2 or 3 minutes, letting them brown in spots. Now stir in the cauliflower and stir-fry for another 2 or 3 minutes

5. Add water and salt and put on the lid to steam

6. Cook over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender but still firm

7. Serve with slices of tomato and twists of lemon or lime

KALE (Brassica oleraceae, acephala)

There is kale, and then there is kale. There are the traditional curly somewhat bitter types at one end, and Red Russian kale at the other end that is sweet and almost cabbage tasting. The great thing about kale is it is extremely hardy and is great to sow in mid summer for a productive vitamin packed winter green, right through to spring.

Soil & Feeding:

Kale is a hungry feeder i.e. they like a good amount of available Nitrogen for leaf growth and plenty of Calcium along with all the other nutrients. 

Kale likes a soil pH of 6.5 so if the pH is lower, add the recommended amount of ground limestone (garden lime) per square metre (yard) and mix in to the top few centimetres (inches). If you have a pH of 6.5 as we have, but still want to give some extra Calcium, then the best way is to add Gypsum at 4 handfuls per square metre (yard). Gypsum is Calcium Sulphate (CaSO4) and is pH neutral, so it will supply both Calcium and Sulphur, both of which the brassicas will benefit from, without affecting the pH.

 

If they are following peas and beans in your rotation system, remember to leave the pea and bean roots in and plant the kale out next to old roots, which will help to supply some Nitrogen from the rotting root nodules from the peas and beans.

 

If you are starting from scratch add 2 buckets of well rotted manure or garden compost per square metre, plus 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard) and mix in lightly into the top few centimetres (inches).

 

Varieties:

 

Squire: is a heavy yielding type of curled deep bluish-green leaves. Red Russian Kale: This kale is succulent, tender and sweet with blue-green leaves with deep red veins.

 

Asparagus: have leaves that have a more delicate flavour than cabbage or other kales and can be eaten through the winter.

 

Cavolo Nero: is an old rustic Italian variety in the form of a palm tree. This is a more bitter type with a tough central vein. By stripping the leaves off the central stems and cooking the way my mother used to, they are very tasty (see below for recipe).

 

Sowing:

Kale seeds last 4 years.

 

For winter production, sow from late spring to mid summer in an outside seedbed in shallow drills 15cm (6in) apart. When the seedlings are around 8cm (3in) high, transplant them out 45cm (18in) apart up to their bottom leaves and water well in.

 

Growing:

I feed mine every two weeks through the main growing season with liquid manure made from worm juice, liquid horse poo, or liquid fish manure (see the section on ‘How to Build Soil Fertility’Liquid Manures).

 

As brassicas don’t make associations with beneficial mycorrhizae fungi, leaving a light spread of weeds, or a light sowing of red clover as a living mulch will help to keep feeding the mycorrhizae fungi for the next crop, but it will need cutting regularly with garden sheers and the leaves left to rot down.

 

Harvesting:

Kale is ideal for cutting, or picking and coming again. Just pick enough leaves and let it grow more.

 

Possible Pests & Diseases:

See Broccoli for diseases of brassicas.

 

The most common are the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies, which can easily get out of hand and devastate a crop. Spay with BT (Bacteria thuringiensis) every 10 days throughout the growing season. BT is a safe biological spray that infects the caterpillars only when they take a bite out of your plants, marketed under such names as ‘Dipel’ and ‘Thuricide’. It is also harmless to animals and humans. However be careful not to spray on other crops or flowering plants, because it could kill friendly butterflies.

 

Recipes:

I am going to start with a simple way to cook kale that my mother taught me. This takes kale to another level:

 

Creamed Kale:

Serve this with the other ingredients of a main meal, e.g. meat and boiled potatoes, rice and beans, omelette and baked potatoes etc.

 

Ingredients:

 

• Enough kale leaves for the number of people – remember it shrinks a bit in cooking

• 1 cm cream in the bottom of the pan

• Salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg to taste

 

Preparation:

 

1. Strip the kale leaves from the stems

2. Coarsely chop the leaves

3. Pour 1cm (⅜in) cream into your pan and heat over medium heat to a simmer

4. Add the chopped kale and stir to cover the kale with cream 5. Add ground pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste 6. Simmer kale gently until tender

KOMATSUNA (Brassica rapa var. perviridis)  

This is a fast growing brassica grown for its leaves that have a flavour between Mustard and Cabbage, with a hint of Spinach, but also pungent. In the summer it will mature in 30 days from sowing.

Soil & Feeding:

As Komatsuna is fast growing, mix in two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

Varieties:

There is the usual green leafed variety and a red leafed variety.

Sowing:

Komatsuna seeds last 4 years. As it is so fast growing, sow outside where it is to grow in rows 12cm (4¾in) apart thinning the plants to 5cm (2in) apart in the rows, or for deep beds sprinkle the seed thinly over the growing area and thin the seedlings to 5cm (2in) apart each way.

Growing:

If you have good soil and/or have applied some organic fertilisers then all you have to do is keep the weeds down.

However, as brassicas don’t make associations with beneficial mycorrhizae fungi, leaving a light spread of weeds, or a light sowing of annual Crimson Clover will help to keep feeding the mycorrhizae fungi for the next crop.

 

Harvesting:

Cut the plants at the base, or you could try picking a few leaves from some of them, allowing them to grow some more.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

As Komatsuna is very fast growing it will probably miss the usual pests and diseases of brassicas, however just in case - (see Broccoli for diseases of brassicas).

 

Cabbage White Butterflies

The most common pest is the caterpillar of cabbage white butterflies, which can easily get out of hand and devastate a crop. Spray with BT (Bacteria thuringiensis) every 10 days throughout the growing season. BT is a safe biological spray that infects the caterpillars only when they take a bite out of you plants.

 

Recipes:

Komatsuna Greens in Ginger Almond Miso Sauce

 

Ingredients:

 

• 1 bunch Komatsuna Greens, stems and leaves separated

• 1 onion, diced

• 3 cloves garlic, diced

• ½ kg (1 pound) firm tofu

• 2 tablespoons organic tamari sauce

• 1 tablespoon miso

• 1 teaspoon rice vinegar

• 2 tablespoons sliced almonds

• 1 tablespoon sesame oil

• ½ teaspoon ground ginger

• 1 cup cooked red quinoa (or rice or other grain)

 

Preparation:

 

1. Dry fry the tofu. It is best to divide the tofu into 2 batches to do this. After it is crisped the way you prefer it, set it aside on a plate to add to the stir-fry later.

2. Chop the komatsuna stems into 1¼cm (½in) pieces. Julienne the leaves.

3. Heat up a wok (without oil) and add the almonds. Stir-fry quickly until fragrant and toasted, about 45 seconds. Remove.

4. Then in the wok, heat up 1-2 tablespoons of sesame oil on medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6-7 minutes or until the onion turns clear and soft. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the komatsuna stems and cook for 5 minutes. Add the leaves and cook for another 5 minutes.

5. While the komatsuna is cooking, combine the tamari sauce, miso, and vinegar until smooth and set it aside.

6. When the greens are tender, add the tofu and then drizzle with miso sauce and sprinkle with almonds.

7. Serve immediately.

LEAF BEET (Beta vulgaris, var cicla) includes RAINBOW & RUBY BEET, SILVER BEET (Swiss Chard) & PERPETUAL SPINACH (Spinach Beet)

All leaf beets are hardy and stand for a long time, so they can be grown throughout the year, however eventually they will run to seed. They are ideal for autumn, winter and spring cropping, but can be grown through the summer.

Soil & Feeding:

All the leaf beets love a good feed, so mix in to the top 10cm (4in), 2 buckets of compost or well rotted horse poo + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard).

Varieties:

Rainbow: is a complete mixture of coloured stems – yellow, gold, pink, and crimson and some are striped – orange and white, white and green etc.

 

Ruby (Cardinal): has bright red stems and purple leaves – very tasty.

 

Argentata: This Silver Beet is an old Italian Heirloom, long selected for its good flavour, with crisp white midribs and crinkly leaves.

 

Ford Hook Giant: This Silver Beet is an old favourite, similar to Argentata but with darker leaves.

 

Perpetual Spinach: This is our favourite, which we have grown for over 40 years. It doesn’t have the thick white midribs and the thick crinkly leaves of Silver beet. It tastes more like real spinach, but still has all the advantages of silver beet. It is hardy and is easy to grow and crops well all the year round.

 

Sowing:

Leaf Beet seed lasts 4 years.

 

For early crops, sow in late winter/very early spring, in seed compost in a seed box in 1½cm (½in) deep drills 4cm (1½in) apart, thinning to 3cm (1in) apart and plant out when the plants are 5cm (2in) high at 30cm (1ft) apart, with rows 35cm (14in) apart.

 

From mid-spring, sow outside in drills 35cm (14in) apart and 2 or 3 seeds every 30cm (1ft), thinning later to 1 seedling in each station. For winter crops sow in late summer.

 

Growing:

Just keep weed-free and mulch down with spray-free straw or 3-4cm (1½in) of grass clippings, and water regularly.

 

Harvesting:

Keep picking the leaves as you need them and more will grow. If the plants are trying to go to flower, cutting out the flower spikes will allow you extra time to harvest the leaves, but this is ultimately a loosing battle.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Over 40 years of growing leaf beets, we have never really had any problems, apart from the occasional slugs and snails – (see: TRAPS in the section ‘Pests & Diseases’.

 

Recipes:

Gluten-Free Silverbeet Quiche

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

For the Gluten-Free Flour (I make my own, but you can buy GF flour):

 

• 3 cups brown rice flour

• 3 cups of sorghum (or buckwheat) flour

• 2 cups potato flour

• 1 cup tapioca flour

• ½ cup LSA

 

For the Gluten-Free Pastry:

 

• 225g (8oz) gluten free flour

• 125g (4½oz) salted butter

• 1 large egg

• 4 heaped teaspoons guar gum (or xanthan gum)

• Maybe a little cold water

 

For egg mix:

 

• 8 eggs

• ½ cup pure cream

• ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

• Salt & freshly grated black pepper and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg to taste

 

For filling:

 

• 2 teaspoons olive oil

• 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped

• ½ bunch Silverbeet or perpetual spinach, trimmed and shredded

• 100g fresh ricotta cheese, crumbled

 

For egg mix:

 

• 5 eggs

• ¾ cup thickened cream

• ½ cup grated tasty cheese

• Pinch ground nutmeg

 

Preparation:

 

1. Mix the ingredients for the flour, unless you have some in store, or use some bought GF flour

2. Preheat oven to 200°C, or 180°C fan-forced (392 or 3560F).

3. Place the flour and guar gum in a mixing bowl and mix together. Then chop up the butter into little bits into the flour and gently rub the butter into the flour until it becomes small crumbs. Alternatively, place the flour, guar gum and chopped up butter into a food processor and process until the same result is achieved

4. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and add to the flour mix, and mix thoroughly The great advantage of making GF pastry is you don’t have to be so careful not to overwork the dough.

5. If the pastry is not sticking together properly, add a little cold water and continue

6. Roll the pastry out on a floured board to about ½cm (3/16in) thick and roll round the roller to lift it over a 4cm (1½in) deep, 24cm (9in) flan tin, to line it. If it falls apart you can place the pieces into the flan dish pressing the pieces together.

7. Clean the sides off with a knife, or crimp the edges together with your fingers for a rustic look

8. Prick base with a fork. Freeze for 15 minutes or until firm. Place tin on hot baking tray in oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced (356 or 3200F).

9. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add chopped Silverbeet or perpetual spinach. Cover. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until Silverbeet has wilted. Remove from heat. Cool. Arrange mixture in pastry case.

10. Make egg mix. Stir in nutmeg. Pour over Silverbeet mixture. Top with ricotta. Bake at 200°C or 180°C fan-forced 200°C, or 180°C fan-forced (392 or 3560F) for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden and just set. Serve.

 

You can also use this recipe for ordinary spinach:

 

Spinach Stuffed Chick-pea Flour Pancakes

Feeds 4

 

Ingredients:

 

For the pancakes:

 

• 225g (8oz) chickpea flour

• 55g (2oz) white (or gluten free) flour

• 1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds

• ¼ teaspoon hing (asafetida)

• ¾ teaspoon turmeric

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped

• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 275ml (9floz) cold water

• 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

• Butter

 

For the sauce:

 

• 2 cups puréed tomatoes

• 1 teaspoon organic tamari sauce

• 1 teaspoon rapadura (or brown sugar)

• Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

For the filling:

 

• 500g (1 pound) spinach beet leaves, chopped

• 1 large garlic clove, crushed

• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Preparation:

 

For the pancakes:

 

1. In a large bowl, mix together the chickpea flour, white flour, cumin seeds, hing, turmeric, salt and pepper. Slowly add the cold water, stirring as you do, until you have a thickish pancake batter. If the batter seems too thick, remember the juice from the tomatoes will thin it.

2. Stir in the grated ginger and the chopped tomatoes. Set aside.

3. Place a 20-25cm (8-10in) frying pan over a medium heat

4. When hot, run a block of butter quickly round the pan to coat

5. For those that have never made pancakes without eggs, don’t worry, the chickpea flour sticks together well.

6. Pour in enough batter each time to make a 20cm (8in) round pancake, about 3-4mm (⅛in) thick. It is more important that the pancakes are uniformly thick, rather than perfectly round.

7. Cook slowly on both sides. When the pancake is cooked on the underside and set on top, rub the block of butter on the pancake before tuning it to finish cooking. Both sides should become golden brown (about 4-5 minutes)

8. Rub the butter round the pan each time and finish the pancakes in this way. For the sauce:

9. Combine the puréed tomatoes, tamari, rapadura and pepper together in a pan and heat up. For the filling:

10. Wash the chopped spinach beet in a colander and place the beet in a large pan with a lid, with the crushed garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a medium heat with the lid on. There should be enough water to steam the spinach beet, if not add a little more. To Serve:

11. Lay each pancake out on a board and place enough of the filling at one end and role up.

12. Place all the filled pancakes in an earthenware oven dish and pour over the sauce and serve, or keep warm in a warm oven until ready to serve.

 

MIBUNA (Brassica rapa)

This is a very fast growing vigorous high yielding Japanese green, closely related to Mizuna but with a stronger flavour.

Soil & Feeding:

Unless you are sowing them on a plot that had a heavy feeder before, or ground that needs reviving, you won’t need to feed. If you do, then sprinkle one or two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (yard) and mix into the top 2cm (¾in) of soil.

Varieties:

Green Spray: is as good as any.

 

Sowing:

Mibuna seed lasts 3-4 years.

 

Prepare a plot that is reasonably weed free and lightly sprinkle the seed mix onto the surface then using your fingers mix the seed into the top 1cm (⅜in), pat down and gently water with the rose on your watering can.

 

Harvesting:

This is a cut-and-come again crop so you can cut them when small, or wait till they are taller to cut. They will then grow again for a second or third crop.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

They grow too fast for any problems, unless you have a major slug and/or snail problem, in which case use small saucers or other shallow containers with a 50/50 mix of beer and water every 60 cm (2ft) apart, buried up to the rim. The slugs love beer and will crawl in and die happily at night. If it is wet weather you will need to prop a plate up over the saucer and change the contents regularly – (see: the section ‘Pests & Diseases’TRAPS).

PAK CHOI [bok choy] (Brassica chinensis)

 

Pak Choi is similar to Chinese cabbage but the leaves are smoother and the stalks are longer and thicker. Pak Choi is fast growing and will easily run to seed in hot weather, so it is best grown in the spring or autumn. From sowing to harvesting 45-80 days.

 

Soil & Feeding:

Like most brassicas, Pak Choi is a heavy feeder, so unless they have been planted after peas or beans and even if they have, add two bucket of garden compost per square metre (yard) + two handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser into the top 5cm (2in).

Varieties:

A lot of Pak Choi varieties are F1 hybrids, which I tend to avoid, but there are open pollinated traditional varieties:

 

White Stem: is an open pollinated variety which should not be sown too early in cooler areas to avoid bolting.

 

Sowing:

Pak Choi seed lasts 4 years.

 

Transplanting can encourage them to run to seed. Sow in garden in shallow drills where they are to grow, starting in mid spring, with 30cm (1ft) between the rows thinning the seedlings to 30cm (1ft) apart, or 20cm (8in) apart for smaller more compact ones. In deep beds, thin to 30cm (1ft) each way. They are best sown at soil temperatures between 21°C and 30°C (70-86°F), in other words late summer, early autumn.

 

Growing:

You can grow Pak Choi in full sun, but they will do well in partial shade, as well as they have plenty of water.

 

Harvesting:

Cut when young for salads, or wait until they have formed a heart – 45-80 days, then cut at the base.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

See: Broccoli

 

Recipes:

Sesame Pak Choi

 

Ingredients:

 

• 9 Pak Choi

• 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil

• 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

• 1 large garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped

• 1 mild green chilli, seeded and finely chopped

• 1 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (optional)

 

Preparation:

 

1. Cut a thick slice from the Pak Choi root to separate the leaves. Rinse and drain.

2. Heat the coconut oil in a large wok over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoons sesame oil, the garlic, chilli, fish sauce (if using) and Pak Choi. Toss until coated and clamp a pan lid over them. Reduce the heat and cook for 3-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, just until the leaves have wilted (the stalks should be tender-crisp).

3. Add the rest of the sesame oil and salt. Toss the leaves and serve immediately. This is a great vegetable dish served with stir fried prawns and cooked rice

SPINACH (Spinacia oleraceae)

 

Real spinach has a much better flavour than leaf beets like perpetual spinach, but is more difficult to grow in hot weather, as it is likely to run to seed and is more tender – so in areas with colder winters it won’t survive th winter.

  However, in warmer areas, growing in the early spring, and late summer for a winter crop is well worth the effort. If you have colder winters use perpetual spinach (see LEEF BEET Spinach Beet above).

 

Soil & Feeding:

Partial shade and a rich, moisture-retentive soil are best, so mix in 1 or 2 buckets of garden compost per square metre (yard). It also likes a pH of 6.5, so check if you think it is lower and add some garden lime if necessary.

 

Varieties:

Winter Giant: is the one we grow all the year round here in mild Nelson, but it is hardier than others. It is heavy yielding with large leaves, which are tender with a rich spinach flavour.

 

Bloomdale: is an old variety, similar to Winter Giant, but with rounder, thicker crinkly leaves, which are very tasty. It is also winter hardy in milder winters.

 

Sowing:

Spinach seeds last 2 years.

 

If you live where the summers are hot and/or long, don’t try growing through the summer. Late summer/autumn and spring production is best, because of the likelihood of them running to seed, but you can start successive sowings in late summer outside, and again in late winter/early spring in boxes.

 

Outside, sow in shallow drills, with 30cm (1ft) between the rows and thinning the seedlings to 15cm apart, or sow two seeds 20cm (8in) apart each way, thinning to one plant.

 

For late winter early spring sowings, sow in a glasshouse, tunnel house or cold frame. Sow pairs of seed in polystyrene cells, six packs or small pots, thinning later to one seedling. Then plant out in rows 30cm apart with 15cm (6in) between the plants, or in a deep bed plant out 15cm (6in) apart each way.

 

Growing:

There is little to do except weed and water as necessary.

 

Harvesting:

Start picking the outer leaves 6-10 weeks after sowing and keep regularly picking as long as they haven’t run to seed.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Generally spinach grows too fast and doesn’t last long enough for anything too serious, although aphids and sometimes downy mildew can be a problem see the section ‘Pests & Diseases’HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES).

 

Recipes:

Feeds 6

 

Spinach & Feta Cheese Lasagne

 

Ingredients:

 

• 450g (1 pound) cooked and drained spinach

• Generous pinch of grated nutmeg

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 30ml (2 tablespoons) natural yogurt

• 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

• 1 egg yolk

• 175g (6oz) Feta cheese, crumbled

• 225g (8oz) green or whole wheat lasagne (not pre-cooked variety)

 

For the sauce:

 

• 150ml (5floz) natural yogurt

• 1 egg, beaten • 30ml (2 tablespoons) grated Parmesan cheese

• 3 firm tomatoes, sliced

 

Preparation:

 

1. Pre-heat the oven at 190oC (374oF)

2. In a large bowl mix the cooked spinach with nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste

3. Stir in the yogurt, garlic, egg yolk and crumbled Feta cheese

4. Layer the lasagne and spinach mix in a lightly greased ovenproof dish, starting with the spinach and finishing with the lasagne For the sauce:

5. Mix the yogurt with the egg and half the grated Parmesan cheese

6. Spoon over the lasagne

7. Top with sliced tomato and the remaining Parmesan cheese

8. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, until golden on top

9. Serve piping hot

 

 

SPINACH BEET see: BEET SPINACH

TATSOI Spinach Mustard (Brassica rapa subsp. narinosa)

The plant has dark green spoon-shaped leaves that form a thick rosette. It has a soft creamy texture and has a subtle yet distinctive flavour with more of a tangy mustard flavour than Pak Choi. It can be grown to harvestable size in 45-50 days, and can withstand temperatures down to –10°C (14°F). Tatsoi can even be harvested even from under the snow! 

Soil & Feeding:

If your soil is rich, you should not need to feed the plants. However, Tatsoi does like a good level of organic matter, so if your soil is low in organic matter add 2 buckets of well-rotted manure or compost mixed into each square metre (yard).

Varieties:

Although there are varieties of Tatsoi, you will probably only find seed labelled simply Tatsoi. However, there are named varieties:

 

Black Summer: Sow in the autumn and harvest through the winter. Has very dark leaves.

 

Joi Choi: A medium-sized plant with good bolt resistance. Win-Win: Extra large, dense heads. Slow to bolt.

 

Sowing:

Tatsoi seeds last 4 years.

 

Tatsoi sown in late summer, early autumn usually does better than seed sown in the spring. They are very hardy and therefore ideally suited as a winter crop, but can be sown in the spring. For a winter crop sow outside in late summer in a prepared bed. Sow seed ½cm (3/16in) deep, spaced 2½cm (1in) apart. Thin and eat the plants when they are 5cm (2in) tall. If you are growing full-sized plants, thin to 15-20cm (6-8in) apart with 25cm (10in) between the rows.

 

For early crops sow seed indoors about 4-5 weeks before your last frost. Begin sowing outdoors after your last frost. Don't rush it; young plants will bolt if they experience too much cold weather. Seeds are quick to germinate, usually within 4-8 days. You can succession plant every couple of weeks, for a longer harvest period. Stop planting when the weather turns hot.

 

Growing:

As with most leafy vegetables, Tatsoi needs regular watering in warm weather or it will bolt to seed.

 

Harvesting:

When the plants are a good size start picking leaves from them, they will grow some more.

 

Possible Pests and Diseases:

Tatsoi is generally disease free, but insects love its tender leaves.

 

Cabbage White Butterfly: Tatsoi is a brassica so cabbage white butterfly caterpillars can be a problem, so keep an eye out for the yellow eggs under the leaves or young grubs and squash them, otherwise if it is a major problem spray with the biological spray BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) every 10 days.

 

Slugs: The ground hugging leaves are extremely attractive to slugs, in which case use beer traps.

 

White flies & Aphids: are less of a problem. For more information see: the the section ‘Pests & Diseases’.

 

Recipes:

Tatsoi is often found in salad mixes and can be cooked in any dish you would use Pak Choi for - stir-fries, soups, and side dishes.