Monday, 1 December 2014

Romanesco and Cavolo Nero

Romanesco and Cavolo Nero
will go nicely with Pheasant tonight
You've got to hand it to the Italians. They certainly know how to grow a good brassica!

I have often waned lyrical (I guess this is the opposite of waxing lyrical) about brassicas.
Cabbages, Greens, Sprouts, Broccoli... they are all green, they all taste and smell roughly the same (caterpillar poo springs to mind), they take up inordinate space in the veg garden and they are nigh on impossible to grow as, for some very strange reason, everything in the natural world seems determined to eat them!

However, I do like a challenge.

I remember as a teenager deciding that I really should eat green things. I would eat just one sprout every time they were served up and eventually I actually came to quite like them. I won't go any further than that though. The same goes for broccoli. Cauliflower I actually do like - maybe that's because it's not green. I did manage to grow a cauliflower earlier in the year, my first ever. I got it past the cabbage flies, past the caterpillars, past the pigeons and then, right at the last moment, some giant slug found it! So disappointed.

Continuing with the 'not green' theme, I have found that I like Red Cabbage too and we managed to grow a few right through to the eating stage last year. I even won the 'above ground' category in the Smallholder Show with my Red Cabbage.

So, what about the Italians I mentioned?
Kale forest
Well, another brassica which I've come close to success with in the past is Kale. It takes many forms. There's borecole, aka Curly Kale, which comes in Red and Green.

Curly Green Kale
Then there's Cavolo Nero, aka Black Cabbage or Black Tuscan Kale.Cavolo Nero is one of the brassicas I want to highlight today. On our fertile Lincolnshire soil the kales seem to grow very well. They seem more resilient than other brassicas. I've had a little trouble with caterpillars, but only really during the Cabbage White plague year of 2013. In general, a modicum of netting is all that is needed to get Cavolo Nero past the pests. It is a handsome crop and produces plentiful leaves in a relatively small area. Furthermore, it actually tastes rather pleasant.



For more on Kale, it even has it's own website with some very good background information and recipes. Just click discoverkale.

The second Italian brassica of the day is Romanesco. Another very good looking vegetable, Romanesco has me a little confused as I still cannot work out whether it's a broccoli or a cauliflower. Anyway, I decided to try growing some this year. The seeds went into modules in the polytunnel early in the year. As usual with brassicas, they germinated well. I remembered to thin them out to one seedling per module. Then something amazing happened. Brassica seedlings always seem very slow to grow and invariably I forget about them in the May mayhem of a busy veg grower. They either dry out or I discover them sometime in late July, all leggy and well past the time when they should have been planted out. All this would be avoided if I grew them the old fashioned way, in a seedbed, but that means outside which means standing guard over them day and night to protect them from invading hoards! Anyway, the amazing thing that happened this year was that my brassicas all got planted out into the garden at the right time... Then I forgot about them!

What with the netting, the weeds and the giant proportions to which some of the brassicas have grown, I just never got round to inspecting them very often. So it was with some great delight that yesterday I discovered a Romanesco ready to eat!


There were another two which had flowered and gone over, but never mind that. The first time you harvest any vegetable is always special, and this little beaut was no exception.

I may also get some Brussels sprouts this year and the Purple Sprouting Broccoli (as opposed to supermarket 'broccoli' which is really calabrese) is looking promising for later in the winter.

So all in all my brassica growing is most definitely improving year on year and I've even found some which I quite like eating. Especially the Italian duo.

2 comments:

  1. I'm going to grow Romanesco for the first time this year. I agree that of all vegetables brassicas seem to the object of every form of horticultural pest but I will continue the battle again next year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good luck with the Romanesco! Do you have any other favourites among the brassicas?

    ReplyDelete

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