After last year’s happy experience with overwintering cauliflower and broccoli , I’ve been eager for this year’s overwintered brassica harvest to begin. I planted these overwintering brassicas indoors in early June and set them out in the kitchen garden in mid-July where they grew steadily through late summer and fall, then settled into winter, surviving cold, snow and winds. The first overwintered treat to mature this year was Purple Cape Cauliflower, its intense purple startling me as much this year as it did last.
I’ve been harvesting heads for the past several weeks while the curds are still tightly packed, unlike last year when I, in my inexperience with them, let them grow out onto their stems.
For dinner the other night, I paired a head of Purple Cape cauliflower with emerging flower buds of Dazzling Blue kale and January King cabbage, nice color matches.
I roasted the cauliflower and lightly wilted the flower buds. While the cauliflower finished roasting, I sautéed the wilted flower buds in lots of olive oil and garlic and then added some cooked black beans. When the cauliflower was browned and soft, I added it to the pan with the other vegetables and scattered all with finely grated lemon zest.
On its own, this mixture would be a lovely side dish, but by adding pasta, it becomes a hearty main dish. Any pasta would be fine, but orecchiette is especially fun for the way the beans nestle into the little ears of orecchiette. Sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and toasted bread crumbs, this pasta dish makes a perfect early spring meal.
In the days before social distancing, I’d make this pasta meal again and invite friends over to enjoy it, or I’d bring the vegetable side dish to a potluck. I miss these dinner table connections and conversations, but I’m grateful for another connection between friends that still continues. On the phone and over email, even sometimes at a distance of six feet during a walk, gardeners are asking each other questions and sharing advice. “What are you planting, now?” “Are you planting out in the garden or starting seeds indoors?” “What kind of potting soil do you use?” “Do I need to buy new seeds of that vegetable, or will my old seeds still work?” And, as I asked my friend Carol on the phone the other day, “When will the rest of my overwintered brassicas mature?” “Soon,” she answered reassuringly, “April or maybe May.”
In addition to friends, I’m grateful to Linda Gilkeson whose “Lists” address gardeners’ questions every couple of weeks. If you already subscribe, you know how useful her advice is for maritime northwest gardeners. If you want to subscribe, go to her website http://www.lindagilkeson.ca/gardening_tips.htmland click on Gardening Tips in the menu.
In her March 22, 2020 list, she makes a very generous offer to all gardeners: access to her gardening courses. She writes:
I am getting emails from first-time gardeners wanting to grow food in this year of the pandemic, yet my gardening classes, workshops and talks in the region have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. SO, I am making my Year Round Harvest gardening course slides available to everyone. These are pdf files of the PowerPoint slides that I show in my two 10-month gardening courses and are normally only accessible by the people registered in the classes. The two courses are sponsored by the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific [https://hcp.ca/ ] and the Salt Spring Garden Club [https://ssigardenclub.ca/ ] and I appreciate their support for releasing these presentation to anyone who wants to see them.
You will need to use the class password to view these files, which will be available until December. Here’s how:
Use this password: honeycrisp
Click on SUBMIT (hitting ENTER doesn’t work)
Around the middle of each month from January to October I put up a new module on a different topic appropriate to the season. So far, there are 3 files:
- Garden Plans and Seed Starting
- Soil, Nutrients and Amendments
- Spring Garden
If you have questions about the material in these presentations, there is much more detail in my book Backyard Bounty. If you have access to a copy, please try to find your answers there first: I am becoming overwhelmed by emails. My priority is to answer questions for people in this year’s gardening classes and from Master Gardeners in BC and I will try to answer others as I have time.
Thank you to Linda for her generosity.
My blog also provides answers to some of our spring gardening questions. Check out the post on Starting Seeds Indoors and another on Transplanting vs Direct Seeding. And if you’re ordering seeds, this post provides a chart on seed viability and if you’re wondering when you can eat the vegetables you’re planting, read this one on Days to Maturity.
I’m very grateful to have the kitchen garden right now, both because it provides food and because it provides a point of connection with friends, family and blog readers. We’re comforted by growing food in this uncertain time, comforted by the sense of normalcy that germinating seeds and growing plants offer us each day.