Category Archives: kale

cabbage is king…

I’m a big convert to cabbage, particularly Cavolo nero, (black kale).

It’s a very versatile vegetable.  We use the young leaves in salads and the longer crinkly ones in, well just about anything, from soup, stews, as a side dish and, the other day, in a kale and pancetta flan served with a good handful of our juicy rocket leaves.

I have plenty of seedlings ready to be planted out – lucky then that the lovely OH has finished weeding the brassica tunnel as well as spending time on pollarding some of the goat willow and weaving a retaining wall.  The wall will support the soil until the hornbeam hedge has established enough to knit the slope.

In between sowing and planting out….

I’m still trying to identify the perennials in the wildflower verge…

and I’m completely enthralled by the tulips ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Comet’.  I can’t wait for ‘Ballerina’ to complete the trio, (all have a lovely scent as well).


jobs for the weekend…

…could be viewed as a list of chores but when the weather is as glorious as it is at the moment then being outside and working on the holding is anything but.

dsc_0651First up – a nice compact job of cutting down the autumn raspberry canes. We only grow primocane varieties now, (Polka, Autumn Bliss and Joan J),  as I think these are the best-flavoured berries, plus All Gold for the yellow fruit.  In the past, I have left this pruning job until the tail end of winter, so I’ll see how things fare with this change of tack.  I did have a go at double cropping but found that too onerous to keep on top of, though looking at the stands I could have beendsc_0636dsc_0656a bit more rigorous with cutting out the weaker canes.

dsc_0648As I cut, the lovely OH shredded and carted the whole lot off to the compost bays.

dsc_0657This year’s canes of the hybrids, tayberry and loganberry, will bear fruit next summer so have been left.  Job done and cup of tea time!  Next up – pruning the soft fruit and clearing suckers from the pears and medlars.

Whilst we try to keep on top of pruning and clearing in our productive areas elsewhere we are very untidy, as the wildlife wouldn’t thank us.

dsc_0655dsc_0653My favourite tree at the moment is an unknown apple variety in the ‘old orchard’, still laden with yellow gold fruit.   Next year I may try to find out what variety this is.

Going into winter we still have good things for eating, plenty in the stores plus  red and savoy cabbage, kales, chard, celeriac and parsnip in the kitchen garden.

dsc_0640dsc_0644dsc_0643Reading this week: The Making of the British Landscape by Nicholas Crane.


raab rapture ….

The air temperature is rising, one result of which is that the over-wintered brassica have started to flower.

DSC_0909I’ve opened the tunnel so that the bees can have a snack. In previous years they would have been the only ones feasting as I used to hoik the plants out and consign the whole lot to the compost heap, which is great from a recycle point but we had been missing out on a culinary trick.

DSC_0905Because the flower shoots are really delicious.  From what I can glean, these budding shoots of broccoli, kale, mustards etc. are called raab or rabe.  I picked a huge bowl of purple shoots the other day and we had a bunch wilted with anchovy and chilli to accompany baked cod fillet.

DSC_0904Today we snapped off some shoots from the curly kale.

DSC_0911These featured in a home-made pizza along with roasted onions and black olives, (recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, who also has a mean looking pasta recipe). All the more reason to keep the brassica producing shoots over the coming few weeks by nipping out any that have broken into flower.


A very fitting final flourish.



eat your greens…

When I was a young student my stamping ground was London, in particular the villages of South Kensington and Knightsbridge.  Occasionally I went to have a pot of tea at Harrods.  It was probably the first place I came across lump brown sugar which I used to pile up in a napkin and take back to my student digs.  The lumps I didn’t eat there and then of course.

I always wandered round the Art Nouveau designed Food Hall though I was probably more interested in the piles of hand-made chocolates than the meat, fish, fruit and veg displays.  Ahhhh….the exotic displays, smell and echoing sound.

harrods food hall

I should have a return trip and also take in the hall at Selfridges.

Perhaps not quite as swanky as Harrods, but by no means shabby, is the food offering at Darts Farm.


I was particularly impressed to see a couple of dozen leaves of cavolo nero (black kale) lovingly, and beautifully, presented. I don’t how much they sell but the display was fantastic.  Well it certainly made me smile.

Every so often chefs get very chefy about certain vegetables.  Kale has been on the radar for some, and it’s so easy to grow, plus it stands up well to cold, wet weather, so there’s no excuse no to grow it.  Sowings can be started now through to June and pickings can be made from October onwards.

I’m tempted by the Braised vegetables with pulses and tahini yoghurt recipe by Bill Granger in this Independent article.

I haven’t got any rustic wicker trays or personalised apple crates to spread with  cabbage leaves so I have left the leaves on the plants (for now).   Photos from the brassica tunnel……




Off to sow some kale…….


the beauty of brassicas….

I’m not sure that I came across a lot of cabbage in my youth.   Perhaps it wasn’t much grown in the mid USA in the 1960s.  I certainly didn’t develop any great dislike for cabbage as a food stuff and let me tell you – given my paucity in succession sowing technique I’m looking upon the Brassica tunnel with great affection at the moment.


Whilst not a necessity at this time of year, as any sensible cabbage white butterfly is long gone, I find that there is no point growing Brassica organically unless one invests in netting.  Scraping off the eggs or picking off the caterpillars – forget it.  Miss a few leaves, a few days and that way lies Brassica armageddon.  So devastating is the cabbage white to a brassica crop that for a short period in 2013 the NZ government offered a reward of $10 for every capture of a specimen of the non native interloper.   Goodness, if I had $10 for every cabbage white that flitted over the veg. patch.

Well the netting has done its job and there looks like there is plenty to play with in the culinary department – dwarf curly kale, cavolo nero and small heads of coloured caulis.

DSC_0777DSC_0778 DSC_0779

Bring on the Brassicas……