Why blanch­ing is a great gar­den­ing tool for the cook

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Jane's Garden Diary -

To blanch or not to blanch? It’s a gar­den tech­nique that many of us for­get to do, or can’t be both­ered do­ing.

This has noth­ing to do with the other kind of blanch­ing where you plunge some­thing into boil­ing wa­ter, then into iced wa­ter. Blanch­ing the gar­den­ing tech­nique is where you cover stems, leaves or whole veg­eta­bles to ex­clude light. This pre­vents pho­to­syn­the­sis and there­fore the pro­duc­tion of chloro­phyll, pro­duc­ing a veg­etable that is much more sweet and ten­der.

The heads of cau­li­flower, for ex­am­ple, are blanched to give them their creamy-white ap­pear­ance. When not blanched, the heads de­velop a greeny-brown colour and can be slightly bitter. To blanch your cau­li­flower heads, snap 2-3 leaves over the curds while they are still small (about the size of an egg).

The stems of leeks can also be blanched to max­imise the ten­der white part. As the plants grow, mound up soil or straw at the base. To keep soil out of the stems, tie a pa­per col­lar around each stem and gen­tly hill the soil up around the pa­per and stem. Keep an eye out for slugs and snails, which like to hide in­side the col­lars. Cel­ery stems can be blanched in a sim­i­lar fash­ion.

You can blanch head­ing let­tuce and en­dives to pro­duce ten­der hearts. About 5-10 days be­fore you wish to harvest your let­tuce or en­dive, draw the leaves to­gether (make sure they are dry) and se­cure with string or a wide rub­ber band. You can also cover the plants with up­turned pots, but make sure you block the drainage holes to ex­clude light. Af­ter five or so days (it can be a lit­tle longer in cooler weather) the veg­eta­bles will have a ten­der, creamy white heart.

You can also pro­duce white as­para­gus by grow­ing it in the dark. Grow your as­para­gus plants as usual, but when the spears start to poke out of the ground, you can ei­ther hill up around them with soil or cover them with a tub or hoops cov­ered with black plas­tic. Ei­ther way, sun must be ex­cluded to pro­duce the white stems.

If you’re us­ing hoops and plas­tic, a soaker hose down the mid­dle of the row al­lows you to keep the beds well wa­tered. As­para­gus grown this way should also be well fed, as ad­di­tional stress is placed on the plants.

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