Beau­ti­ful bras­si­cas

In­stead of sick­en­ing your­self on end­less bog-stan­dard broc­coli, broaden your bras­sica hori­zons.

Element - - Well Being - JANET LUKE

The tem­per­a­ture has dropped and the ther­mals are on. Growth in the gar­den slows over this chilly time. On the pos­i­tive side all those pesky bugs are be­ing frozen to death! Isn’t gar­den­ing such a com­pas­sion­ate pas­time!

Ripe for the pick­ing

Florence fennel, ar­ti­chokes and cele­riac are in sea­son if you feel like try­ing some­thing other than broc­coli. All the root veg­eta­bles such as beet­root, car­rots, parsnip and

turnips are also in sea­son. The new sea­son ap­ples will still be com­ing in as will the juicy easy peel man­darins which are just per­fect for lunch­boxes.

In the veg­etable gar­den

In June it is dif­fi­cult to get ec­static about veg­gie gar­den­ing. Growth has prob­a­bly come to a halt, the soil is wet and gluggy and it seems like you traipse it all into the house as it clings to your gum­boots. To top it off, you fear that if you serve up an­other plate of broc­coli, the chil­dren will stage their very own re­volt . The only sug­ges­tion I can of­fer is try and spruce up what is on of­fer. The stark re­al­ity is that th­ese are the months that bras­si­cas are the high achiev­ers in the gar­den. In­stead of your bog-stan­dard bras­si­cas why not try grow­ing some dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties. Here are some sug­ges­tions.

• Pur­ple sprout­ing broc­coli – th­ese lit­tle gems grow pur­ple heads and masses of side shoots when the main head is har­vested. Lightly steam or mi­crowave to pre­serve their colour.

• Broc­col­ini or ten­der stems – this plant pro­duces mul­ti­ple ten­der side shoots with small flo­rets. Snap off and eat the whole stem.

• Broc­coli Ro­manesco – Is it a broc­coli or is it a cauliflower? What­ever it is, this Ro­man heir­loom is al­most too strik­ing to eat. Its lime green head forms spi­ralling clus­ters of won­der­ful nu­tri­tion.

• Or­ange cauliflower – a cauliflower which is the ex­act colour of ched­dar cheese. See if you can pass it off for this with the kids.

• Pur­ple cauliflower – eat it raw in sal­ads to pre­serve its beau­ti­ful colour.

• Savoy cab­bage – there is a rea­son why th­ese crinkly leaves have been painted so ex­ten­sively in art - they are beau­ti­ful. Steam the leaves and stuff them with meat or any other fill­ing.

• Red cab­bage – Bright scar­let round balls grow­ing in a gar­den re­ally make an im­pact and that is even be­fore you have tasted them.

Many gar­den cen­tres stock th­ese rarer va­ri­eties of bras­si­cas. Fail­ing that, have a hunt around in the seed sec­tions or on­line.

Ur­ban orchard

Ripe per­sim­mons will be hang­ing off the tree like or­ange orbs. Per­sim­mons are eaten fresh, dried, raw or cooked. Most fruit is best eaten when it is very soft and ripe as they are less astringent. The ‘Fruyu’ va­ri­ety can be eaten when it is still firm. This tree is the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of pro­duc­tive and or­na­men­tal. It can suit many small back­yards where it is sunny and well drained. Gen­er­ally th­ese trees will only grow to around 3-5 me­tres and it starts pro­duc­ing fruit at an early age. They are low main­te­nance and don’t gen­er­ally suf­fer from many dis­eases.

Herbs

Saf­fron – This herb has the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing the most ex­pen­sive spice in the world. It is the or­ange sta­mens of this cro­cus flower which are har­vested. It takes 150 flow­ers to make 1 gram of dried saf­fron. The saf­fron cro­cus needs well-drained, rich soil in a sunny but shel­tered lo­ca­tion. Try grow­ing some in a pot if space is re­stricted.

Anise – Anise is a sum­mer an­nual herb. Sow seeds af­ter the last frosts. Sow in full sun in well-drained, rich soil. It is a low, spread­ing, bright green bushy plant which pro­duces small white um­brella-shaped flow­ers in the sum­mer. Har­vest the seeds in au­tumn. The cut leaves can also be used to flavour soups, stews and gar­den sal­ads.

The saf­fron flower.

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