Outside the back door

chinese broccoli flowering

I'm still standing, yeah yeah yeah

It may be the 1st of November but this Chinese broccoli is looking very enthusiastic and the cardoons are sprouting like nobody’s business. I am tempted by Robin’s tweet to pick a few stems and see if I can turn them into food. I always thought you had to tie the plant up in brown paper and blanch the stems for many weeks and I have just left them to be gloriously ornamental and make flowers for the bees.


How do you cook these Robin?

This week’s task is to plant the new garlic and replant some of the giant singles that we raised earlier in the year by mistake. I’ve been eyeing up DocFugawe’s winter garden which is a long way away in Oregon and thinking that we should have tried some of those good looking greens he has, but it’s probably too late to sow new stuff now. We’ll have to make do with the chard and the broccoli.

My last handful of beans and friends

There is also a row of teeny tiny leek babies which need transplanting. If I write this down here, I might actually do it this week. Promises, promises.

garden cucumbers

Not garlic but cucumbers! A gifted plant produced enough baby cucumbers for a whole jar of pickles!

I have learnt that garlic needs to have a month at a cold temperature in order to divide into cloves – if you plant it and it doesn’t get that cold month, then you just get one big bulb. We have a whole bunch of those which we have been eating, and they are fine. The bonus of getting that wrong is that you can apparently re plant them at the right time of the year and then they will turn into properly divided big garlics in due course.

birch trees

I'll wake up one morning and the leaves will all be gone

Sola resurgit vita

11 thoughts on “Outside the back door

  1. drfugawe

    Your Chinese broccoli is beautiful – I think it’s what we call Gai Lan, and once you make the first cut on it, it will continue to put out more and more side shoots. Cut it down low on the stalks as you can eat it a lot of that stalk. But if you let it open too many of the buds, the stalks will get fibrous/tough. Those leaves are good too.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Thanks for the tip about cutting it, I will do some little harvesting today and cross my fingers that it keeps going for a while Doc!

      The first purple sprouting broccoli is in the greengrocers at the moment, that’s the one with all the little heads that has so much more flavour than regular commercial calabrese.

  2. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    I am so happy to learn that about garlic – I didn’t know, and I suspect we’re going to get single clove garlic from our first attempts this year. At the moment, they’re not even forming big bases. On one of our local gardening shows, they even suggested starting the garlic in the fridge, although I didn’t know why until I read your post.

    Re the broccoli – two days ago we pulled up a huge sprouting broc plant that had gone to seed. The leaves all went to the chooks, but we peeled the big central stem and chopped it up finely and added it to pasta soup. It was very nice, even more so because it wasn’t wasted! :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Garlic does take a good while to grow. Apparently that is why you shouldn’t store garlic for eating in a cold place either, it triggers the vernalization, I think that’s the right word, anyway it starts to sprout. It’s good to break the rules from time to time and then you learn why the rules are there, and occasionally you get something that is unexpected and a bonus. I quite like the big singles. They are very hard to peel but garlic is garlic :)

  3. Robin

    We’re looking to get our garlic in next weekend (weather permitting). Apart from the necessity of ‘vernalisation’ it’s just great in Jan/Feb to see something growing on the plot – garlic, onions and (mmmm) broad beans….
    Can’t guarantee the cardoon thing – it may have been just a fluke.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Not growing broad beans next year, too much excitement with the blackfly and the harlequin ladybirds and our veg bed is so small. We have to only grow what we really can’t buy easily. I love broad beans but… :)

      It’s no good saying you can’t guarantee the cardoon thing ;) I might try swaddling one of the plants in brown paper and see if the stems blanch. Haven’t got a clue really, me !

      1. Robin

        We tried preparing cardoons once years ago (memories of delicious plate of cardoons poached in milk made by a friend in Italy) and it was not nice – hence the surprise the other day.

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          Just did a little search, good piece here on preparing and cooking cardoons…

          I had no idea they were so invasive though! My plants are very well behaved and I have no self sown ones anywhere in the garden, unlike the alchemilla mollis and the borage which pop up all over the place. Speaking of plants, I saw that the Isle of Wight Garlic farm will ship you wild garlic bulbs… now that would be a great ground cover plant, completely taking over.. :)

          1. Robin

            Invasive and promiscuous – we have a number (OK – a lot) of artichokes on our plot and every so often we find self sown seedlings that can’t be identified as either cardoon or artichoke – but some strange hybrid.

  4. heidiannie

    I am speechless at your green thumb. Or do you call them brown fingers in England?
    Your garden is still producing and such beautiful plants.
    30 degrees F here this morning. Everything frosted and looking quite forlorn.

  5. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Air temperature is about 15 C today, really mild again. We’ve been clearing out one of the perennial beds, clematis climbing where they shouldn’t and so on. The south-west of England is mild and wet, benefits from the Gulf Stream and though we do get frosts and periods of snow, it’s not usually till January or later sometimes.

    I don’t have very green thumbs, I am a random and occasional gardener, wish I was better at it and could manage a proper allotment, but I know I am too lazy Heidi :)

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