Category: Grow Your Own Food
June 17, 2014
As the first day of summer approaches, cool season crops like lettuce, baby carrots, and broccoli ripen for harvest, but are you missing out on eating all their parts because, maybe, you need a broccoli leaves recipe and harvesting help?
Yep, broccoli leaves are as edible as the leaves of their nutrient-packed cousin kale!
When the central head of a broccoli crown is still tightly in bud and tucked several inches below the tops of the highest leaves, it’s time to take your first harvest. If you wait longer and the crown flowers begin to open, your harvest may be tougher and less flavorful, so don’t keep waiting to see what else might happen.
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How to Harvest the Central Crown:
Using a sharp knife, slice out that central flower head (or crown), and leave the rest of the plant in place. Smaller broccoli florets will likely form along the intact stalk, arising from buds at the base of the remaining leaves. In fact, you may see some of them already starting to form when you cut out the big, central crown.
How to Harvest axillary (side) florets:
The side florets on broccoli can form rapidly, so check your plants frequently, and trim out the side florets when they are no more than about 4-5″ long. These aren’t likely to get big like the central crown, so the idea is to harvest many of them while they are small.
Like the central crown, the axillary florets will get tough and unpalatable if you let them grow long and open their flowers.
How to Harvest broccoli leaves:
When you harvest your big, central broccoli crown, you’ll probably end up cutting out a few leaves as well. Don’t toss them into the compost pile. Instead, remove the mid-rib and add them to your broccoli dish. Once the central crown is removed from the plant, you can begin trimming out a few leaves from the plant on a regular basis. As you would with Kale, remove the lower leaves on the plant first, and only take a few from each plant at a time — especially if you are encouraging the plant to grow more axillary florets. They’ll need those leaves to photosynthesize, which is how they feed themselves.
Once you have harvested all the side florets from your broccoli plant (at a certain point the plant will either run out of side buds for production or just wear out from having everything taken from it), go ahead and trim out the rest of the leaves as well as the central stalk, much of which is truly delicious as well — just chop off the toughest portions and peel off the exterior layer to reveal the crunchy sweetness of the central stem.(You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)
The roots, leaf midribs, and the toughest portions of the stalk are food for your compost heap.
Want more info on growing broccoli? Read on!
How to Use broccoli leaves in the kitchen (recipe!): (more…)
June 03, 2014
It’s easy to grow cilantro from seed. And getting fresh leaves isn’t the only reason to grow cilantro. This tasty herb offers up a number of surprising flavors for the kitchen and benefits in the garden.
Not only will you get to enjoy the tangy fresh leaves shortly after seeding, but this plant also matures to yield coriander seed later in its life cycle. So, even if you’re someone who finds the flavor of cilantro to be soapy and distasteful, consider growing this crop for delicious coriander, which tastes entirely different from the fresh leaves. While it is possible to purchase cilantro starts at the nursery, we find it is best to grow cilantro from seed because it matures rapidly and doesn’t perform well if transplanted. So grab a packet of seeds, fill a pot with soil, or just get your veggie beds prepped, and start seeding today!
Unlike many other edible plants, cilantro grows very well even when individual plants are grown closely together. And, cilantro will germinate and grow in relatively cool (not frigid or frozen) temperatures, so it is often possible to get an early crop growing under a bit of protection in late winter or very early spring. Although crops sown in the heat of summer have the potential to bolt rapidly, those bolting (aka flowering) plants will come in handy in the garden and kitchen as well. When it comes to cilantro, sowing multiple succession crops (aka plant a new round of seeds every few weeks) means having fresh leaves to harvest harvest well into the end of the growing season.
Once your cilantro plants begin to form a purplish-thick mid-stem for flowering, the flavor of the entire plant will begin to be more like the taste of coriander than cilantro. It’s still edible and tastes great in curries, but it may not be quite the right flavor for dishes like salsa. Hopefully, as one crop begins to transform into the coriander phase, you have another, more recently seeded crop of cilantro growing on strong as well. Seed this crop over and over for both flavors fresh from the garden throughout the growing season.
It is possible to save seeds from your cilantro plants to grow in the years ahead, but to get a good crop of cilantro from your saved seed, you may need to isolate your seed plant from pollinators. If a pollinator visits a cousin of the cilantro (like dill, parsley or carrots) and mixes the pollen from those plants with the flowers of your cilantro, you may end up with seed that looks like coriander and tastes like coriander but will produce a plant that tastes nothing like cilantro. Sure, you might end up with a new cool plant, but you might end up growing something that isn’t what you want at all. That’s sexual reproduction for you!
April 22, 2014
A majority of our gardening clients ask for drought tolerant edible gardens. Usually, they tack on a request for low maintenance as well. Achieving all three goals: low water needs, edible and easy care doesn’t quite fall into lock-step with a traditional, seasonal vegetable garden filled with (say) tomatoes, spinach and carrots.
While you could reach this trinity with a neglected yard lush with edible “weeds” like purslane and dandelion, your neighbors might not see the value as much as you do. Certainly, an herb garden might begin to fit this bill, but you would still need to provide supplemental water to get the garden growing, plus a few flavorful, woody herbal shrubs aren’t likely to truly fill your family’s belly. So, what’s the key to creating a beautiful garden that you can eat and you don’t need to heavily water in a drought or fuss with every day?
Enter noted plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobson, author of several books including Trees of Seattle and Wild Plants of Seattle. Also, he is the author of over a hundred articles on weeds and the former curator of the Weed Garden at Seattle Tilth. In his own garden, he cultivates all sorts of fun plants — from natives to weeds to the rare and unusual. And, he’s tasted many of them and happily shares what he’s eaten. In one of his recent newsletters, he mentioned that many sedums are edible; he knows because he has eaten them.
If you read this blog or have worked with Garden Mentors® on a garden design or consulting project, you know there are any number of hardy, beautiful, drought tolerant, perennial sedums. These plants come in a range of colors and sizes, and their blooms are magnets for honeybees and other pollinators. And, the seed heads that remain into winter are food for foraging songbirds.
Turns out, according to Arthur Lee in our recent email exchange, many are also food for our plates. He does warn that while, “Hundreds of Sedum species exist, I have tasted only dozens. Most are unpleasantly astringent, or even acrid.” But there are several he does favor including one of our favorites for the garden: Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and a Great Plant Picks favorite Sedum ‘Sieboldii’. (more…)
April 21, 2014
Despite the fact that our cabbage patch is planted under a hoop house, we caught a sneaky cabbage butterfly laying her eggs on our greens recently. These ladies are sneaky. They will go so far as to land and walk under a tiny crack where hoop coverings meet soil to get in and give their babies a delicious birthing location.
Caught giving birth all over our cauliflowers, cabbages, and broccoli, she met her maker with a big ole squish.
Then, it was time to flip over each leaf every day for a couple of days to flick off the eggs she had laid. Said eggs are really tiny, so it’s easy to miss them. Hence, checking every day for several days.
If you miss squishing all the eggs, those little yellow flecks hatch fast into tiny yellow caterpillars that voraciously devour all things brassica (cabbage, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc…). And, as they eat, they quickly change from snot-yellow to bright green, which camouflages them among the plants they eat.
Have a look at what you’ll see once those flecks of cabbage butterfly eggs grow into fast, green eating machines.
December 29, 2013
Try our step-by-step tips & tricks to grow your own asparagus at home!
The biggest mistake you’ll make as a gardener is waiting to plant certain things. Yeah, there’s a lot to be said for giving yourself time to experience a space before you go crazy putting in an entire garden, but if there’s one thing you want to get into the ground as early as possible, it’s asparagus.
Why plant it on the hurry-up?
As with many perennial crops, asparagus needs at least two to three years to become established in the garden before you harvest a single spear. Sounds frustrating, but once this long-lived crop hits its stride, it will feed you an abundance of tasty, nutritious spears.
Plus, these plants are incredibly beautiful, so encouraging them to grow beyond the edible spear stage will reward you with gorgeous, tall, ferny foliage spring through fall.
Here’s a step-by-step, year-to-year guide to get your asparagus growing strong: (more…)