How can you tell when a vegetable is ready to harvest?
In my garden, the decision-making process goes something like this: "Aack! Quick! Get the knife! The broccoli's starting to bolt!"
We got to it just in time, yea, it and all its kin. We've had broccoli several times a week now for the last two weeks. (Yes, I planted all six seedlings at the same time--brilliant, I know.) Broccoli has always been a favorite vegetable in our house, but homegrown organic broccoli, even crowns that have started to bolt, harvested minutes before eating, tastes simply AMAZING. A brief steaming turned the broccoli a deep, dark green, and gave it a sweet flavor. Broccoli is sweet! Who knew? So sweet that now I'm trying to figure out how to get in another crop before the heat hits. (This variety is called Packman.)
Cauliflower is a more challenging cole crop to grow than broccoli, as I've learned first hand. I planted a variety called Snowball, which is a self-blanching variety. Blanching refers to the process of covering the heads with the leaves to protect the heads from sunlight; this keeps the heads snowy-white. The gardener can either tie the leaves around each head, or plant a self-blanching type, which has leaves that naturally grow tightly around the head. This head did pretty well until the last few days, when the leaves popped open and the head turned yellow. Sigh. Cauliflower is also very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and moisture, resulting in "ricing," as illustrated in this photograph -- the florets separate and spread out instead of remaining tight and close together.
Yellow, ricey heads are fine to eat, they just don't look very pretty, and aren't quite as firm and crisp. This is the only head I've managed to to harvest out of six plants. The other plants either have no heads, or have tiny heads which have been attacked by downy mildew, causing gray spots on the florets and rendering the head inedible. Boo. I may try cauliflower again this fall, but with a different variety.
The White Lady turnips, on the other hand, have been very productive. Here's a photograph of the first harvest.
The turnip is a vegetable that engenders strong opinions. Folks tend to either love turnips or hate them. Jack has proclaimed that he does not like turnips. I don't think I've eaten turnips often enough to have an opinion. In any event, now that I have a bumper crop of turnips, I need to find recipes -- and quickly! Three I'm considering are Julia Child's Glazed Turnips, Stephen Cooks' Baby Turnips and Sugar Snap Peas, and Leon O'Neal's Turnip Greens (with bacon and Louisiana hot sauce). We may have enough turnips to try all three recipes.
What about you? What have you harvested from your winter garden? (Yes, herbs count!) Do you have a favorite turnip recipe? If you do, please share!
Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.