Overwintering Brassicas

My friend Carol has given me lots of great fruit and vegetable ideas over the years: grafting tips and ground cherrybean and tomato varieties.  Her latest suggestion was overwintering brassicas.  I’d always counted on flower buds from kale and other overwintered brassicas to give me a sweet broccoli taste in early spring, but this past summer, Carol encouraged me to grow purple sprouting broccoli as well as overwintering cauliflowers. She even gave me some plants. “You’ll be glad you grew them,” she said.   For the past month, as we’ve enjoyed sweet cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli, we have been glad.  Thanks to Carol, I’ve ordered my own seeds for overwintering brassicas and will plant them this summer for next spring.

Carol gave me starts for “All the Year Round” and Purple Cape cauliflower and for Purple Sprouting Broccoli.   Uprising Organics offers “All the Year Round” cauliflower, shown here in my kitchen garden.

Cauliflower ATYR in garden

Adaptive Seeds offers Purple Cape cauliflower, a bit blown in this photo because I didn’t realize it was cauliflower so picked after it had burst from its head.  It was still delicious. Adaptive also offers Prestige Cauliflower, another white overwintering cauliflower.

Cauliflower purple cape

A variety of Purple Sprouting Broccoli called Red Arrow is usually available from Adaptive Seeds but is sold out this year. Territorial Seeds also offers several different varieties of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, all tempting.  I’m not sure which variety from Carol’s starts is here in these photos.

Broccoli PSB closeup

Broccoli PSB plants in bed

This past winter was a good test for overwintering brassicas.  We had many nights with temperatures in the teens, days with relentless northeast and northwest winds, and snow.  The cauliflower and broccoli plants I’d set out in late July were robust, nearly three-foot tall towers of dark green leaves by late October. From November to February, with each hit of winter weather, the plants looked more and more cold and wind damaged, less and less likely to rebound.  I was about to write them off as a failed experiment when in late February I noticed new growth emerging.  First, small purple buds appeared near the ends of broccoli stems, then leaves on the cauliflowers multiplied, looking like they were starting to enclose growing heads.  Once again, Carol was right.  We were soon harvesting tasty purple broccoli florets and large, sweet heads of cauliflower.

I’ve prepared them as I do summer and fall season broccoli and cauliflower, mainly roasting them and serving them as side dishes or added to pasta, beans or grains for a main dish.

Broccoli PSB roastedPurple sprouting broccoli roasted and topped with some roasted kale leaves and flower buds

Cauliflower ATYR pasta in bowlAll the Year Round Cauliflower roasted with shallots, topped with toasted almonds and parsley

Broccoli PSB roasted with soissons verteRoasted Purple Cape Cauliflower and Soissons Verte beans with sautéed red mustard

I have plants of summer broccoli and cauliflower already growing in this year’s kitchen garden and am looking forward to harvesting them on sunny, warm days of summer, but I’m also anticipating next winter and early spring and the chance to welcome overwintering brassicas again.

 

 

 

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An Italian Recipe for Overwintered Greens

Greens winter in basket

Kale, chard and red mustard are three hardy greens that overwinter in my kitchen garden and are now putting out fresh, new leaves.  The plants are on their way to producing flower buds; in fact, some buds are already forming on the kale and mustard, but it’s their leaves that interest me in the kitchen right now.

Any of these leaves singly or in combination is delicious wilted slightly and then sautéed in olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. They are great as a side dish or as part of the main course on pasta or white beans.

Though I could eat greens prepared this way every night this time of year, I recently remembered a recipe I made years ago. It takes little more time and a few more ingredients but is definitely worth the effort.  It’s from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table (1992) and titled Spiced Spinach with Almonds.  In the note introducing the recipe, Kasper writes: “Far more interesting than Italy’s usual sauté of spinach and onion is Emilia-Romagna’s 17thcentury version of the recipe.  In it, spinach cooks with spices, nuts, currants, and cheeses.  Serve the dish just as they did centuries ago as a side dish,or use it as a topping on warm flat bread “and serve it as an antipasto or with drinks.”

Greens winter on island

Greens winter nuts prep

When I first made this recipe years ago, I followed another of Kasper’s suggestions and layered it with slices of polenta, alternating three layers of polenta with two layers of filling, baking at 350 until it was heated through and serving it as a main course.  It’s this combination of sautéed greens and sliced polenta that I repeated a few weeks ago.

The filling was even better than I remembered, perhaps because I used red mustard leaves instead of spinach.  Spinach was good, but spicy red mustard is even better.  I also made two other substitutions to the recipe, using shallots instead of onion and yellow raisins instead of currants, both good.  I’ll make the polenta dish again soon, but in the meantime, we’ll continue to enjoy the side dish for dinner with leftovers for lunch.

In a final note at the end of the recipe Kasper adds: “Swiss chard, turnip greens, broccoli rape, beet greens, romaine, escarole, curly endive and young dandelion greens are all excellent prepared this way.” To her list, I’ll add red mustard and kale, both of which blend wonderfully with the spices, almonds, creamy ricotta and the nutty Parmesan, and both of which, along with chard, are in good supply in my kitchen garden.

Greens winter saute in skillet

Spiced Spinach with Almonds

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

 2 pounds fresh spinach, trimmed

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup minced onion

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

5 tablespoons blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons currants

½ cup fresh ricotta cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

 Cooking the Spinach: Rinse the spinach in a sink full of cold water. Lift the leaves right from the water into an 8-quartpot, without shaking off any of the water clinging to them. Set the pot over medium heat, cover, and cook 5 minutes, or until the leaves are wilted but still a bright dark green.  Immediately turn the spinach into a colander.  Briefly run cold water over the spinach to cool it down and stop its cooking. Then squeeze out the excess moisture and coarsely chop.

 Finishing and Serving:  Have a serving bowl warming in a low oven.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté 8 minutes over medium to medium-high heat, or until golden brown.  Stir in the garlic and cook another minute.  Add the spinach, cinnamon, nutmeg, almonds, and currants. Stir while sautéing over medium heat 2 minutes, or until heated through and aromatic.  Stir in the ricotta and heat a few seconds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Turn the spinach mixture into the serving bowl and toss with the Parmesan.  Serve hot.