Category Archives: Bumbling Gardener

Delicious Home Grown Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts at LocalDelicious.comYou either love or you hate brussel sprouts. I don’t think there is an in-between way to feel about them.

I happen to love them, though until about 2 years ago I didn’t know how they grew. I never really thought about it, to be honest.

This year I planted a couple of them in my community garden plot but only one took off. Low and behold if it didn’t become a huge, thriving plant. Hurrah! (Everyone thinks I know what I’m doing, but I got the plant started from the nursery and stuck it in the ground. Aside from a little mushroom manure and keeping it watered, it did not get any assistance from me.)

I’d heard that you can wait until the first frost to harvest the sprouts, and that this makes them sweeter, but after I experienced some garden theft, I decided I better get them out while I could.

Brussel Sprout Harvest at LocalDelicious.comI trimmed off the big leaves first and, after mucking about with a knife and accidentally slicing into a couple of them, I figured out that you can snap them off horizontally.

I got quite a haul — a least a few meals worth — and tried them for the first time last night. I may be a little biased, but they were the sweetest, most tender Brussel sprouts I’ve ever eaten. And that’s many years’ worth.

Local and delicious!

Cabbage Goes Missing

Cabbage at Local DeliciousI grew a beautiful plump head of cabbage and was waiting for the mood for soup to strike before harvesting it. However, before I could get there, it was stolen from my community garden plot. They planned ahead and seemed experience. They’d brought a knife, and it was a clean slice that took only the head and left the outer leaves.

If the individual in question was truly hungry, I’m happy to have my cabbage go to a good cause — though apparently even the starving don’t like Brussel sprouts, as these remained untouched.

I had a tarp go missing as well. My thought is that if someone is truly hungry enough to take a cabbage, then maybe they are exposed to the elements on a daily basis and the tarp will aid in keeping them dry.

That’s my hope, anyway.

Brassica Success…And Not

Homegrown CabbageDespite brassicas supposedly being some of the more difficult veggies to grow, I’ve had good success with them. Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions that it’s due to some great knowledge on my part. It just happens that they seem to like the climate and soil they’ve been planted in.

Cabbage BugsThere have been some creepy, crawly bugs at them, and I’ve dispensed with many of those via squishing (fingers fully gloved, of course). However, I came across a disgusting infestation of what look like bug eggs in my first red cabbage.

I have a confession, and I’m not proud of it — I was so grossed out that, in a fit of repulsion, I pitched the whole thing. (I REALLY don’t like bugs.) Later in the day, long after I’d left the garden, it occurred to me that I probably could have peeled off a few layers and salvaged the inner portion. Too late, tragically. I still live with that regret.

Cauliflower 1One of my other red cabbages was decimated early in its development. In between garden visits, bugs completely devoured the most tender leaves at its core, and it has never produced a proper head.

Thankfully, the regular cabbage has fared well (I’ve harvested 3 so far), the cauliflower has produced it’s first crop, and the broccoli — my favourite — has provided an ongoing supply for the past number of weeks.

End of July Harvest

Harvest Jul29The community garden plot is well underway, but it will be a while before there’s any harvest to show for all the water lugged to sustain it.

Meanwhile, the original, tri-plot, “borrowed” garden has continued to produce plenty of healthy kitchen goodies. My last harvest of July included my first crop of cauliflower. It doesn’t look “normal” but it cooked up just fine in my super supper stirfry.

Garden Stirfry 2The stirfry included the cauliflower, broccoli, snow peas, green beans, kale, cabbage, and a variety of herbs from my balcony garden.

In fact, the only thing in the dish pictured that didn’t come from my garden are the red and yellow mini sweet peppers, which came from the farmers market last weekend.

Spider Bite

Alright, I’ve been laughed at for being an improbable gardener, one who doesn’t like bugs or dirt, but I now rest my case. I awoke with an itchy spot on my left shin that went from no visible mark to red, unhappy welt to 2.5″ diameter red, itchy welt.

<b.On the mend, still itchy</b>

<b.On the mend, still itchy

At first I ignored it, but as the red patch expanded I thought I better dial HealthLink BC at 811 (formerly the Nurse Line) to see if I needed to be concerned. Because it was expanding and I was feeling a little short of breath, the nurse I spoke with advised me to go to a clinic and get it checked out. Rather than risk a deadly anaphylactic reaction, I did, and clearly it wasn’t anything fatal.

Despite this unprovoked attack, I do intend to continue practicing my catch and release insect philosophy when it comes to good bugs, including (most) spiders.

Bumbling Gardener Update

Garden Jul19I am pleased as punch. My backyard garden on borrowed land — whether because of, or in spite of my attempts — looks awesome. I’ve been eating cabbage, kale, broccoli, snow peas, regular peas, and even the occasional yellow wax bean, with no end of tasty produce in sight.

I suspect that the soil, though clay-ish in some places and low lying (and therefore prone to pooling water) in others, is pretty darn good quality. That, or the manure and bone meal added in at the beginning has made a big difference. (Its nutrients certainly haven’t been depleted by anything other than weeds in the past 10+ years, so maybe it’s been stock piling!)

With all the other plant life in the area, the garden is prone to a multitude of weeds, but many of the crops do not seem to be affected. Plus, the straw mulch is doing its work rather handily in many spots.

There is a surge in clover growth along the edges of the garden, which I understand indicates good nitrogen content in the soil. This may also be why the peas are growing like crazy — they can’t get enough of the stuff. Clover was not in evidence in the yard at the beginning of this gardening experiment, so I’d be curious to know if it needed the cleared space that the walkways provide, or whether the improved soil conditions are to blame.

First StrawberriesI haven’t had much success with some veggies, such as carrots and radishes, but I’ve discovered in recent weeks that’s due to my own ignorance and lack of attention to detail — when they first sprout, you’re supposed to thin them out. Some of my seed packets said not to, but the successful radish grower at the local farmers market set me straight. Better late than never? Maybe I’ll try some in my box garden, which is closer to home where I can keep a closer eye on things.

The spinach and all lettuce seeds have had a zero yield, despite a second planting at the height of warm weather — I have no idea what’s up with that. There is an ant nest in the area where most of the salad greens were planted and I do wonder if they wandered off with the seeds.

There are lots of tomatoes on the vine, but none have turned red yet. They are getting very plump, though!

Aside from 3 that reached maturity, the strawberries are a complete loss. There were about 8 little berries that something (Mr. Squirrel, me thinks) got a hold of and munched at the beginning of the season. This prompted the construction of a sophisticated mesh covering, but no further berries, or flowers for that matter, have appeared.Strawberry Safety Net

The weird thing is, the stuff that’s supposed to be the easiest hasn’t grown for me and the “difficult” plants like broccoli and cabbage, are coming along nicely. But, despite some challenges and no baby spinach in sight, I am inordinately pleased each time I am able to harvest and eat something out of the garden.

Broccoli Bonanza

<b>Broccoli head</b>

First Broccoli Head

The harvest has begun! I’m very excited to report that the 2009 Bumbling Gardener urban gardening quest has at last resulted in some significant edibles. Patience pays off with these things, as does keeping a close eye on bugs and squishing them at every opportunity. (I’ve also been known to spray soapy water as insecticide.)

I think I’m the most pleased to have grown broccoli, which was never something we grew in our garden when I was a kid so has always seemed an exotic thing to find in a backyard garden. Some gardening books classify it as hard to grow too, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

<b>Broccoli Bonanza</b>

Broccoli Bonanza

I hadn’t realized how tall the broccoli would get, and how quickly, so at one point I had to move the pepper plants out from behind the monsters. After a few more weeks, it seemed like all the plant’s efforts were going into producing huge leaves, but no fruit was apparent. That’s when I did a significant amount of pruning, cutting all the lower leaves off — this also gave the squash I’d planted nearby a fighting chance at getting some sunlight.

<b>Broccoli Harvest</b>

Broccoli Harvest

After a few weeks a single broccoli bud appeared at the very centre of one of the plants. My friend Babs had warned me to cut the first one that appeared so that more would grow, so I did — with some doubts. I mean, I’ve never seen a broccoli plant in full “bloom” so I didn’t really know how they grew. I thought each plant grew a single head of broccoli, like a cabbage — one plant, one head. What I discovered actually happens is that little heads sprouts from each “joint in the stalk where a leaf sprouts out. Then you keep trimming them and harvesting tender mini heads.

I’m not sure if it was the pruning, cutting that first bud, or just the fabulous stretch of sunshine and heat in June, but last weekend I harvested a huge bowl full of broccoli! I’ve used it in several stir fry dinners along with cabbage, kale, snow peas and a variety of herbs from the balcony garden.

Verdict: Delicious!

Early July Harvest

Lone RaspberryAlong with the bounty of broccoli the first week in July, I also harvested a huge bag of kale (my new favourite stir fry veggie), more snow and regular peas than I could carry in two hands, a single raspberry, and my first ever cabbage.

Confession, the peas didn’t make it out of the garden. The only thing better than fresh raspberries, warmed by the sun and fresh off the vine — is plump, juicy, fresh green peas, warmed by the sun and fresh off the vine. Really, it was just efficiency; the pea pods went straight into the compost bin. Consider it the circle of life — and a very delicious circle at that.

1st CabbageThe cabbage I harvested was a full 6″ in diameter once all the outer, ratty looking leaves were removed. That’s bigger than it sounds! The thing that surprised me is that it’s crisp, juicy and crunchy compared to the ones I buy at the supermarket.

The kale is amazing. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Yum, yum! I still haven’t gotten tired of the sauteed in butter with fresh lemon kind, but quite a few people have mentioned other options, including tossing it in olive oil and baking it in the oven until it’s crisp and crunchy like chips. That sounds interesting, especially if I sprinkle a little seasoning on it. I’ve also heard it’s good in soup and stew, so I’m sure I’ll be checking online for additional recipes, once I’ve tried every possible combination of herbs from the balcony (thyme, sage, lemon basil, regular basil, green onions, chives, oregano, cilantro, and parsley).

What I really love about the kale is that in one day from 4 plants, I harvested what would cost est. $24 at the farmers market. And it just keeps growing!