Tuesday, December 16, 2014

End of Season Review - Brassicas - Part 2


In Part 1 of my Brassica review, I gave the results on two crops I had grown in prior years – Chinese greens and collards.  Part 2 is all about new to me crops – those that I grew for the first time this year.


Rapini


I grew two varieties of rapini this year - Zamboni & Sorrento.  I absolutely love rapini so I'm not exactly sure why I had never grown it before.  It’s one of those “scratch your head” moments – like in my first garden when I had a spot for tomatillos (which I had never even tried before) but not for carrots.

The one lesson I learned about rapini this year is that it is a super-fast grower - from seed to harvest, it takes only 35-45 days, depending on the variety.
 
Zamboni
 
The turnaround on the rapini was fast...a little too fast at times.  I had to start hardening them off practically as soon as they emerged from the soil and I always felt as if I was behind.  I do prefer to grow transplants as I often have better results than with direct seeding.  Unfortunately, I allowed the rapini seedlings to languish in their little cell packs for far too long, which likely impacted on their overall performance.
 
Sorrento
 
By mid-July, I was a bit tired of all the sowing and transplanting and my last harvest was on August 8th.  Had I kept up with the sowings, I likely could have continued harvesting rapini well into the fall.




Both varieties yielded more or less the same per sowing at around 100 grams (3.56 oz)/sq. foot.  I have a feeling that these numbers are on the low side and could be improved upon if I had transplanted the seedlings on time and upped the fertilization.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any tasting notes on the plants themselves but I do vaguely recall   Zamboni being more tender than Sorrento.  I’ll have to do a better job taste testing next year.
 

Overall Impressions& Plan for Next Year

I have definitely learned a lot about growing rapini.  Two out of the three sowings were left in their cell packs much too long & I'm pretty sure that this was detrimental to subsequent plant growth.  I'll be sticking with these two varieties next year and hopefully I will be a bit more organized when it comes to timing.  I'm also thinking that a dose of fish fertilizer applied after transplanting would give them a nice boost.

 

Broccoli


Broccoli is another one of my favourite veg.  When I saw so many others harvesting broccoli from their spring sowings, it made me all the more excited to get some growing as a fall crop.  I knew that the allium beds would be free in mid-summer (or so I thought) and figured this would be the perfect spot for them.

Packman
Well, the onions took much longer to get to a harvestable stage than I had predicted (they were a first this year as well), so my poor broccoli transplants sat in their containers for at least 2 weeks longer than they should have.

I planted two varieties - Packman & Munchkin.  I didn’t get huge heads, that’s for sure (the one pictured above was, in fact, the largest of them), but I was happy with what I did get nonetheless.
 



Not exactly a stellar harvest.  Next year I hope to do MUCH better.
 

Overall Impressions& Plan for Next Year

When I planned the garden last spring, I didn't include broccoli.  For an unplanned first-time attempt, I'm fairly happy.  Watching those heads develop was pretty exciting.

Next year I am definitely doing a spring broccoli planting.  Whether I also do a fall planting is still up in the air but one thing is for sure – I would have to get them into the ground much sooner than I did this year.  Definitely no later than the end of July and even then, I would have to pick quick maturing varieties.

Munchkin is on the list, even though it was planted so late that it only gave me teeny tiny heads this year.  The main reason I am anxious to try it again is that it has loads of promise as a good side shoot variety.
 
Munchkin Broccoli - Side Shoots Developing
 
Considering the main head was barely an inch wide at this early stage, those baby side shoots are pretty impressive.

Packman will also be on the list.  This was a big learning curve year for broccoli so I don’t want to get rid of a variety without giving it a fair chance.  I’ll probably add another variety or two to the list as well.  I would love to have an entire bed of broccoli, but am not sure if I will be able to pull that off.


Kale


I grew two varieties of kale as a fall crop this year – Russian Kale and Dark Blue Dwarf Curled.  I chose the latter variety because curly kale is supposed to give you the best chance when overwintering and I would love to have some super early spring greens.  Well, as it turned out, that packet did not contain the correct seeds and what actually grew was this:
 
NCK
 
Not exactly curly and definitely NOT dwarf!  Consensus from other bloggers is that it could be a variety of Siberian kale.  I couldn’t call it curly kale because that’s not what it was and I didn’t want to call it Siberian kale as this wasn’t certain either.  So I dubbed it NCK (Not Curly Kale).  Other than the fact that I didn’t get what I expected, we actually loved this variety (whatever it was).  It was mild, lightly sweet and incredibly productive.  A real winner.

The Russian kale was wonderful too – we used it primarily in salads although I did end up freezing some of it for winter soups.

Russian Kale (left);
NCK (right)


 
The Russian kale was obviously nowhere near as productive as the NCK but I think that this was at least partially due to the slug explosion in the fall.  The slugs were significantly worse in the Russian kale bed than in the NCK bed and at least half of the Russian kale leaves ended up in the compost as they were just too badly chewed up.


Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

I'm quite happy with my first try at growing kale and I'm equally happy with the varieties I grew.

I had originally wanted to grow a curly kale both for it's overwintering abilities and salad potential.  Well, the Russian kale is wonderful in salads (and you don't have all those hidden nooks & crannies for bugs to hide in as with curly kale), so that's one check.  As for overwintering, I decided not to rip out either kale variety at the end of the season, but covered them with straw instead.  It's a long shot, but I figured it was worth a try.

Kale is in the garden plan next year right from the get go in the spring.  I'll definitely be keeping both varieties and will likely try at least one more.


Kohlrabi


Kohlrabi was an impulse purchase this year as I was scouring seeds at a local store to plant for a fall crop.  I had never grown nor even tasted kohlrabi before.  That's one of the wonderful things about vegetable gardening...it peaks your interest in growing (and eating!) vegetables that you otherwise would walk right past in a grocery store.

Early White Vienna

There was only one variety on display - Early White Vienna - so that is what I purchased.  For some reason, I thought that these grew to be fairly large, but then read that they should be picked when only about 2" in diameter or so.  I'm thinking, however, that this has a lot to do with the variety as well.




The kohlrabi was not hugely productive, but I really have nothing to compare it to, so I'll reserve judgment on that front.  I will say that several of the plants did not bulb up at all, which of course impacted on the total harvest.  Not really sure why this was but I will have to devote a bit of time at some point in the future to finding out possible causes.
 

Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

Overall, I liked the kohlrabi.  It wasn't a favourite vegetable and when I originally tasted it raw, I was not a fan as I found the flavour too strong.  But since then I have enjoyed it both pan fried & roasted - the caramelized kohlrabi was quite nice.

I will grow some of these next year but will not devote as much space to them.  To me, they are more of a side-crop to add to the diversity of veg that I grow, rather than a main crop.  Early White Vienna will stay on the list and I will likely try another variety as well.

 
Till next time…

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

10 comments:

  1. Hi Margaret, I have never grown rapini before. In fact, I don't even know if I have heard of it. How do you use it? You do such a great job of keeping good reports! I am lax on that! Nancy

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    1. Hi Nancy! Rapini, also known as broccoli raab, is a veg that is really popular in Europe, esp. in Mediterranean countries. It is usually blanched and/or stir-fried. The flavour is very distinctive and I've often found that it is one of those veg that you either love or hate with very little middle ground. I grew up eating it so I'm firmly in the Love camp.

      As for taking notes, I have to write everything down or I'll forget in pretty short order and then keep repeating the same mistakes! It's amazing how quickly a problem goes from being at the forefront of your mind to "was that even a problem?" only a few months later :)

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  2. Another great review - you really do a wonderful job of record keeping. And reporting on it, as well. I am no where near as thorough as you.

    After reading you and Michelle raving about the rapini, I guess I need to give it another try. I grew it and wound up in the 'hate it' camp. I think I grew Sorrento, if I remember. But that was several years ago, and my tastes have changed since then. It sounds like it does well as a spring planting for you? It is possible I didn't prepare it in the best way either. I know some compare it to turnip greens, which I really love. And I also love the flowers of many brassicas. Now I just need to find a spot in the garden plan!

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    1. I’ve never eaten turnip greens, so can’t really say if the taste is comparable (I'm looking forward to trying them when I grow turnips next year). But rapini grows so quickly, it's definitely worth another try & you would still have lots of time to plant something else in that spot after harvest.

      I did grow Sorrento in the spring and the William Dam catalogue notes that it grows well in the shorter days of spring & fall, so you are good to go there. It's also one of the quickest maturing varieties, going from seed to harvest in just 35 days.

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  3. We love raab/rapini, even my wife who hates a lot of the cabbage family. We chop it into small pieces and saute it in olive oil with garlic, then squeeze some lemon juice over it, maybe a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. Served it to my Southern in-laws who are big time turnip green eaters and it kind of blew their socks off. I have purchased seeds several times but never found the space or time to plant it.

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    1. I also find that lemon juice really sets off rapini...yum! It's such a quick grower that it probably wouldn't be hard to find a spot for it in the spring as it would likely be harvested by the time the heat lovers are planted outside. Having the time, however, is a different story...I'm always short on that as well.

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  4. I love kohlrabi raw, but weirdly I don't like the smell of it. I find the smell too strong.

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    1. If I don't like the smell of something, I often don't like the taste either. Or maybe it's that I don't even bother trying it if the smell puts me off.

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  5. Kohlrabi is one of those veggies that I can take or leave, but if there are other veggies around I'll tend to leave it, so I don't bother to grow it anymore. Rapini, kale, and broccoli, on the other hand, are much adored around here. Rapini is one of the few brassicas that I generally sow directly into the garden these days, as you've found it is so easy to have them out grow their starter containers that it just makes more sense to put them straight into the ground. Fortunately I don't have to worry about slugs and snails devouring the seedlings, just the birds which I thwart by growing the rapini in tunnels.

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    1. For the most part, I don't have much luck with direct seeding, although I have never tried it with rapini. It is such a quick veg & germination doesn't seem to be a problem, so I may just take that suggestion and give direct seeding a go in the spring when the slug population is still relatively low.

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