Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Perennial broccoli??

How is it that American palates have been refined to demand the most transient of a plant's lifecycle?  Large, tight heads of broccoli with unopened blossoms; large clumps of cauliflower with snow white curds; tomatoes at the perfect stage of ripeness; much energy goes into getting these from farm to market at just the right stage, and if one small flaw is discovered, the trip continues on to the landfill.  If you are raising these in your garden, you can't be so fussy about appearances, if it's healthy, nutritious, and tasty, you need to be eating it.  So you look up recipes for what to do with green tomatoes and learn that careful clipping with garden scissors can get a continual harvest from brassicas, not the one-shot that commercial agriculture has marketed to us. 

I have come across an excellent source for Italian vegetable seeds: Pagano Seeds.  The Italians have a much broader definition of what makes for acceptable broccoli.  The yellowish fractal heads of Romanesco broccoli, the cut again and again florets of a raab type broccoli, and the leafy stalks of the Spigariello variety.  I've had some of the latter growing in the garden, and it has yet to produce a flower head.  It has taken the Georgia summer heat in stride, but the plant just gets bigger and bigger, with more leaves, but no blossoms.  I suppose it is remaining true to its biennial character and will form heads and go to seed next spring. In the meanwhile, I am left with how to use it over the winter. 

I tried cutting small branches and chopping up the leaves, stems and all, for the soup pot.  The only problem with this is that the stems are quite tough.  A 1/4" diameter spigariello stem requires a lot more chewing than a 2" diameter stem of store-bought broccoli.  I think I will put these stems in the same category as collard ribs: something to chop up fine and feed to the chickens.  But the leaves are a keeper, if you want some broccoli flavor to add to soups or other dishes.  Just chiffonade them up and toss them in. I can see where these could be part of a food-security kitchen garden. 

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