I’ve been harvesting overwintered purple sprouting broccoli for several weeks, and last week I harvested the first of the overwintered cauliflower. These harvests offer the special pleasure of seeing a vegetable that I set out in July reach maturity in April despite months of winter’s cold and rain. Overwintered brassicas have amazed me ever since I started growing them several years ago.
An additional pleasure last week was that this over-wintered brassica harvest coincided with setting out starts of spring and summer broccoli and cauliflower. Unlike their longer-maturing cousins, these brassica varieties will mature and provide tasty meals by early summer. And soon after that harvest, I’ll start seeds of over-wintered brassicas again. This sense of continuity, that there will always be a new plant to replace the old one, is one of the things that makes vegetable gardening so satisfying.
I’m noticing this same reassuring continuity as I get ready to set out thin spears of this year’s onion and shallot crop and as seed potatoes green up in preparation for this year’s planting. They make it less concerning that the storage bins of last year’s onions and potatoes are nearly empty. In the same way, the tomatoes and pepper plants growing slowly in the greenhouse make it easier to use up the last of the roasted and frozen tomatoes and peppers.
Wrapped in this reassuring sense of continuity, I roasted the cauliflower and the purple sprouting broccoli, piled them in a large bowl and added some spears of asparagus.
Then I took the dish to our neighbors for a shared dinner, the first in over a year. Even more joyful than the yearly cycle of garden vegetables is the return of meals with friends after this long year of isolation. Like the promise of continuity in the kitchen garden, the promise of a return to normal social interactions in the months ahead feels very good.