The high tunnel hoop house at our farm is full of tomato plants all summer. In late fall, we plant it with winter greens. Collards, kale, bok choy, arugula, turnips, Napa cabbage and lettuce fill the hoop. This cold hardy garden feeds our family and volunteers through the winter and early spring. By March something magical starts happening. Just when my interest in kale and collards starts to wane, the Brassicas start bolting into…broccoli!
By March, the Brassicas—Napa cabbage, kale, collards, arugula, bok choy--sprout up shoots like broccoli. I discovered this by accident, when I left some bok choy to grow too long. It started to bolt, blossoming into succulent shoots that are delicious raw or lightly sautéed. Catch them before they flower into yellow flowers. The flowers are edible as well, but its best to catch the shoots with their more tender leafy stems before they flower. Once the plants flower, they slow down their leafy growth. Clipping the shoots regularly will force the plant to create more shoots for you to harvest.
Now I intentionally save some of my winter bok choy plants for the sprouts. The kale and Napa cabbage shoots are also tasty. They come to the garden in early spring, March and April at my Maryland farm, when the weather starts to warm up and the plants begin to bolt. I don’t have a chance to eat the sprouts in my summer garden, because the heat of the season bolts the plants into flowers more quickly. And there is so much more to eat in the summertime. But in the winter garden, the sprouts add a bit of variety that is much appreciated. Brassica sprouts are a delicious surprise harvest.
Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life on the farm's Facebook Page. For more about House in the Woods Farm, go to the House in the Woods website, and read all of Ilene's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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