Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Veg Talk

Redbor Curly Kale F1 is not only delicious, hardy but decorative too. Just one of a surprising amount we have currently in the veg garden. OK, its a mild winter, we have hardly had a frost yet, but even so, I'm always pleasantly surprised about just how much choice we have at this time. The 'hungry gap' I think of as May and June, after all the last year's stuff has bolted/been eaten/died but before the current year's produce has really got going.  
Leeks are the hardiest winter veg by far, This is Sultan F1, I think. Modern varieties are good as they are more likely to be rust-resistant , and if you like to eat the green bits where most of the vitamins are a rust-resistant variety is essential.
Another good kale is Ragged Jack, but known as Russian Red,and probably a lot more, a good old open pollinated variety, very good when small as well, so arguably a more versatile plant.
Surprisingly good last winter (down to -16C) was Georgia Collard Greens (front), a traditional variety from the American South which are better than any British spring greens variety, but difficult to get here. Oprah Winfrey once mistook Hostas for  them but that's another story. At the back is Mizuna, which survives quite a bit of frost. We have enough of the stuff to feed Tokyo.

 Swiss chard is looking a bit manky, and its not the world's most exciting vegetable, but stays productive through the winter, especially in this mild weather. Far better than spinach at keeping going from one year to another.
Winter is an easy time in the veg garden - very little to do and surprisingly, plenty to harvest. Paradoxically it can be a more productive time than May or June, when last year's crop has finished but before the new year's has come on stream.

Traditional brassicas usually sit out winter well, although in last year's -16C we lost broccoli and cabbage, even famously hardy kale. Softer-leaved oriental stir-fry greens can survive cold well, and in mild weather, like this winter, can carry on growing. Which is not necessarily a  good thing, as they may start to bolt. Which is the curse of these high-speed greens. Once one mizuna pushes up a flower stalk you know that the rest will soon follow. A new winter crop for us is Raab, an Italian hi-speed broccoli, producing small heads a couple of months after flowering, and needless to say going over quickly, but in the winter ours has continued to produce decent little heads for a few months now; leaves have a nice mustardy flavor too. Good stuff, but a bit hard to get hold of - a good reason to save your own seed if you get any.

Only failure has been Chinese cabbage, which is always a nightmare, sow it too early in the summer and it can bolt, sow it too late and it doesn't grow enough to head up - which is what happened to my lot this year - boo hoo!

Still chomping, baking, roasting, souping etc etc our vast pile of Uchiki Kuri squash, the only variety which does here at 500ft (130m) in the Welsh borders, its from Hokkaido which has a very short hot growing season, and it thrives in our long, cool one.

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