Saturday, January 16, 2016

End of Season Review - Brassicas - Part 2


My 2nd post on the brassicas of 2015 is all about the successes – namely broccoli, salad turnips, kohlrabi and radishes.


Broccoli

My first attempt at growing broccoli was in 2014.  It was a late sowing (transplanted at the end of July/early August) in the hopes of getting a fall crop & I did harvest a few small heads.  The sowing was much too late to generate any side shoots, although Munchkin showed some promise on that front.

This photo, taken in late 2014, shows
Munchkin's side shoot potential

My intention in 2015 was to do a proper spring planting and trial 4 varieties of broccoli – Packman, Munchkin, Aspabroc and Arcadia.  Unfortunately I had issues with both Packman and Munchkin right from the start.  If you want the details, you can take a peak at the broccoli post I wrote back in May.

Transplanted Arcadia seedling

I’m sure that the rush that ensued once we got back from vacation had a lot to do with my problems as I had many issues during that time period.  Bottom line is that I only ended up growing two varieties of broccoli in 2015 – Arcadia & Aspabroc.

This was my first time growing Aspabroc and it was a bit underwhelming.  I messed up when harvesting it and cut the shoots too far down on the stalk, thinking those stalks would resemble asparagus in taste.  Only later did I realize that cutting them so low would limit their ability to generate side shoots.

The Aspabroc mistake

Whether I would have been happy with its performance had I cut the shoots properly is anyone’s guess.  I don't recall that these tasted any different from regular broccoli & am fairly certain that they did not taste like asparagus.

Arcadia grew right alongside the Aspabroc...and it was beyond amazing.

Late September side shoot harvest

My notes suffered this past year – a lot.  Apparently I had 4 Arcadia seedlings to transplant (2 of which would have been thinned had the other varieties survived) ….but I ended up with 7 plants in that bed.  Where those extra 3 came from I have no idea.  I must have had more seedlings than I noted and used those to fill the gaps.

All of the central heads were harvested by August 9th, but Arcadia kept sending out side shoots for FOUR more months, some of which rivaled those main heads!  The numbers speak for themselves:




Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

Happy, happy, happy…..broccoli topped the list when it came to highlights this year.  I froze quite a lot and it looks like we will be enjoying it until spring arrives.  If I had grown another couple of plants, I could have added this to the list of veg that would last until the next harvest & I no longer need to shop for…this will be a goal for next year!

Last spring, I sowed the broccoli about 3 weeks later than I should have so this year I *plan* to stick to my schedule.  :) I will be growing Arcadia again – was there any doubt?  I won’t be giving the Aspabroc any bed space, but will be keeping the seed in case I want to give this variety another go in the future.

I’ll be giving Packman & Munchkin another try.  I also have seeds for a variety called “Calabrese” which is supposedly good for a fall crop.  I’m still undecided as to whether or not I’ll be including this one in the plan.

Lastly, I’ll be changing up the spacing in the bed.  You may wonder – why bother tinkering with spacing when this year was such a success?  Well, I’m an experimenter & am always willing to try a new method in the hopes of a better harvest.  The thing with experiments is that there's always the chance they will be a flop – you just have to be willing to take the risk.  This year, I planted the broccoli 12” apart in 2 rows that were spaced 24” apart.  Next year I plan to try a suggestion I received from Daphne & plant them with 16” spacing all the way around.  The only issue with this new spacing may be the salad turnips - I inter-planted them between the broccoli rows in the spring, which worked out REALLY well.  Hopefully the revised spacing still allows for that.


Salad Turnips

Salad turnips were new this year and what a revelation!  They were so incredibly yummy...we couldn’t get enough!

I grew two varieties – White Lady & Just Right.

Freshly pulled "White Lady" turnip

White Lady was the definite favourite – it had EVERYTHING going for it.  The turnips were very sweet, mild, moist, and crisp, even when I left them a bit too long and they got rather large.  It was a super quick grower – for once, the “30 days to harvest” printed on the packet was accurate :)    And then there was the bonus crop – turnip greens - which were also mild and delicious.

Just Right was ok, but they took over twice as long to mature (60 days) and their flavor was somewhat stronger.

"Just Right" turnips were not as "right" for us as White Lady ;)

I did grow these during the summer, so that likely impacted on the flavor.  Not having grown any White Lady during the summer, I couldn't do a comparison on that front.




Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

Salad turnips are here to stay.  Next season, I’ll be sowing them a bit earlier and I'll also try to do some sort of succession instead of sowing them all at once.  I must say they did keep very well in the fridge, so we’ll see if the bother of succession sowing every couple of weeks is worth it.  Perhaps I’ll do monthly sowings instead. 

As for varieties, White Lady is so good in every respect that I’ve decided to leave it at that for next year.  I only grew it in the spring and fall last year, so it will be interesting to see how it does if I do end up sowing them during the summer as well.


Kohlrabi

The kohlrabi was a case where it wasn’t the quantity that made it a success this year but the variety.  My first try at both growing and eating kohlrabi was in 2014 when I grew Early White Vienna.  I found it to be rather strongly flavoured – very cabbagey – although roasted it was pretty good.

Early White Vienna kohlrabi hanging out with White Lady turnips

Having never eaten kohlrabi before, I had simply assumed that this is what it tasted like and had relegated it to secondary crop status – nice to have a bit coming out of the garden for variety, but I wasn’t about to devote more than a square or two of space to it.

This year, I grew a few Early White Vienna's but also tried a different variety – Kolibri – and my views have taken a 180.

Mid-November Harvest - Kolibri kohlrabi & mizuna

We LOVED the Kolibri; in fact, the few sticks that the above bulb provided were fought over when they ended up on the veggie tray.




It’s too bad that the bulbs didn’t end up being that big, which I’m thinking was due to both inadequate irrigation and how late the seeds were sown.  Also, the bulbs harvested in December were not as tender as the one harvested in November, so we ended up roasting them.  They had been through several hard freezes, which may account for the change in texture.

Kohlrabi harvested on December 30th....on a bed of snow :)

The last two bulbs were harvested just before New Years & they were the final harvest of the 2015 gardening season.

Overall Impressions & Plans for Next Year

More kohlrabi – that’s it.  Early White Vienna is OUT.  Together with the Kohlibi, I also want to try a variety that was grown on the farm and was equally tasty – Kossak.


Radishes

This was the year when I figured out how to grow radishes…the quintessential “easy” vegetable.  In the past, I had interplanted them amongst other brassicas as they are quick to grow and I don’t consider them a major crop.  And therein lay my problem.

In the shade of other brassicas such as kale and collards (which also grow rather quickly in the spring), the radishes barely had a chance.  Many would simply bolt before forming a bulb while others produced undersized bulbs.  It took a post written by Mark to open my eyes – and now that I see what was happening, I’m of course scratching my head as to why I hadn’t realized it before.

So this year I gave the radishes their own spot in the bed and voila – nice, big, juicy bulbs:

From the left:
1 Scarlet Globe, 2 Easter Egg & 5 French Breakfast

Unfortunately, the white icicle radishes still didn't perform well.  Only 2 seedlings bulbed up.  Don't know what the problem is with that variety, but I've pretty much given up on them.

Even though I knew that radishes are best grown in cooler temperatures, I did attempt to get a succession of radishes happening during the summer, but that didn’t pan out.   The fall radishes were not as good as the spring ones, but decent enough to repeat in the future.




For comparison, last year I also grew Scarlet Globe in the spring and those that actually ended up forming a bulb averaged a measly 7 grams (not even a ¼ ounce!)…quite the improvement.

Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

Now that I’ve had my radish breakthrough, I’ll be applying what I learned to next year’s crop.  I’ll only be growing radishes in the spring and fall and they will have their own, sunny spot in the bed.  Radishes keep forever in the fridge, so I won’t bother with succession planting.

As for varieties, I’ll be dropping the White Icicle and keeping the rest.  I’m quite happy with the variety that they provide, so I’ll not be trying out any new ones next year.


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

12 comments:

  1. I love that picture of the box of broccoli - nice harvest! I laughed so hard at your comment in that section re: 3 extra plants. I know how you feel! And I'm glad to hear that the asparbroc wasn't too special as I decided against trying it myself.

    I grew kohlrabi for the first time in 2015 and loved it! I've never tried cooking it as I always ate it raw. But definitely a keeper for me as well.

    Radishes ... meh. I grow them because they grow early and fast so it's always fun as they are one of the first crops to come up. But I throw them into the compost more often than not unfortunately. They are still good for pest control, so I might still grow them - but not so much to eat.

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    1. Oh boy, this year I had so many cases of "knowing" I sowed a certain variety but then it was nowhere to be seen when I went to transplant that I'm not surprised I also had the opposite with more plants miraculously appearing :)

      I do enjoy growing and eating radishes, but would never purchase them as they aren't really part of our day to day eating. In fact, even from the garden, I seem to be the only one that appreciates them.

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  2. Such a nice, happy post. Congratulations on your successes.

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    1. Thank you Jane - the successes do make up for those not so stellar moments :)

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  3. I'm glad the Arcadia worked out well for you. And yes--give Packman a second chance-it's got wonderfully HUGE heads that are so tasty. As for Asprabroc, sorry to say but I could never get past that name. It just sounds yucky to me.

    I thought of YOU yesterday--I bought a salad "add-in" from the grocery that was called Power Blend Super Food--a mix of shredded brussels sprouts, napa cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, carrots and Kale. OMG--that brought my salad up to a new level. I know you use a ton of different goodies in your garden and wondered if you had ever thought of shredding these into salads.? The taste was superb. I've always eaten brussels sprouts BAKED, or kohlrabi cooked, but never did I think (why?) to shred them raw into a salad. Oh-so yummy!

    Enough of the novel. Loved your review as always. You are the QUEEN of great notes.

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    1. Oh, thanks Sue. That Power Blend Super Food DOES sound delicious! I've never eaten raw brussels sprouts either - I'll take your word for it that their shredded version works well in a salad (although they will probably not show up on the to-grow list for another couple of years...I have enough challenges in the garden already!)

      I've used some of those ingredients individually for salads (i.e. shredded carrot salad or napa cabbage slaw) but have never used them together - that would be a great way to add variety to our typical lettuce salads. I think I'll add some shredded carrots, which we still have in storage, to our next salad. I have a file just on ideas for using the different veg that come out of the garden and I've made a NOTE of this for next year :)

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  4. Your broccoli did so well for you this year. That's one veg which I wouldn't mind a glut of, we do eat a lot of it. I think many people grow radishes thinking they're easy and unfussy but they're just like anything else really, they have their requirements and if they don't get what they need, then they'll be a flop. I usually grow French Breakfast, a variety my dad always grew.

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    1. Very true, Jo - Gardens and gardeners are so different that I doubt there is any veg that is "always" easy to grow. There is no such thing as a fail-proof veg and every gardener - even the experienced ones - seem to have an issue with at least one of the "easy" ones...which makes the rest of us feel much better when we have issues growing a variety that "even a child can grow" ;)

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  5. I think aspabroc is another broccoli/gai lan cross like the brokali that I grew, but it looks like the gai lan predominates. I don't find much difference in flavor between it and the Di Ciccio sprouting broccoli that I like (which, btw, is similar to Calabrese). Arcadia sure was a winner for you!

    I fell in love with salad turnips too, such a revelation, so different than the typical strong flavored purple topped ones.

    And I added radishes to the lineup also, they are so good sliced into salads. And I found one variety of radish, China Rose, that has really good greens. If you like the turnip greens you would probably like China Rose greens, they lack the prickles that most radish leaves have, and they get to be quite large, like the White Lady turnip in your photo.

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    1. There are so many crosses with broccoli, it seems, that it's hard to keep track! I wonder where the asparagus bit comes from.

      The turnips were a surprise, weren't they? Even my 80 year old mom who is pretty versed when it comes to vegetables was surprised by their flavour.

      The prickles of regular radish greens have definitely turned me off when it comes to using them in the kitchen. The China Rose sounds amazing...maybe I will add another variety to my radish selection next year after all :)

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  6. The different experiences you had with the kohlrabi are interesting. I had some very strongly-flavoured ones ("Modrava") last year and we found them unpleasant, but in the past I had had some nice ones - almost sweet. Growing Radishes is a lot more difficult than some people think. If they don't get the right conditions (especially in respect of water) they soon bolt. Your look perfect.

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    1. Thank you Mark - both for the compliment and for the radish revelation!

      I would give a different variety of kohlrabi a try next year - both the Kolibri and Kassak (from the farm) were not almost sweet, they WERE sweet (and crisp and juicy...I could go on and on!).

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