Ever wonder where the term “Cole Slaw” comes from? Turns out it is made from one of the “Cole” crops which are plants from the mustard family. Those include: mustard, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collards, kale, turnips, cauliflower and watercress.Ever wonder where the term “Cole Slaw” comes from? Turns out it is made from one of the “Cole” crops which are plants from the mustard family. Those include: mustard, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collards, kale, turnips, cauliflower and watercress.
These are all cool season crops that can be planted in fall and harvested in early spring or planted in early spring and harvested in early summer. Some are more sensitive to heat or cold than others. Lets take a look at each.
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-Everyone is familiar with cabbage. There are early producing varieties and late varieties. Smooth head varieties and Savoyed varieties. Most varieties can withstand temperatures in the teens. Harvest when the tight outer leaves of the main head begin to curl back on themselves. Cabbage can be stored in the same hole it was dug from by placing it “head” first into the ground with the roots sticking up during the cold moths. Just dig it out when needed. Obviously it can be stored in the crisper in the bottom of the fridge. You can also make it into kraut and can it.
If you want to save seed, either plant an early maturing variety in early spring and when you harvest the head, cut an “x” into the stalk and it will send up shoots and they will flower. Technically it is a biennial and means it takes two seasons to make seed. I have left heads on and allowed them to go to seed the next year. You can also harvest in late fall, remove the roots and store them in damp sawdust. Replant the roots in spring and allow to send up shoots that will flower and set seed.
- There are varieties that set one nice spear and sprouting varieties grow that multiple florets that can be cut continuously. Even varieties that have one big spear will send up shoots and create several more smaller spears. Broccoli fairs well in 60 degree weather but can tolerate frost if it hasn't created a spear. Often cold weather makes them sweeter. If the spears get frost on them, they will likely rot. Harvest the spears while the little buds are all tightly together. It doesn't take long before they spread out and grow stems with pretty yellow flowers all over them. Store at 32 degrees for up to 2 weeks or blanch and freeze it. Make sure you soak it it cold water to encourage the caterpillars to come out of hiding. There's nothing like some surprise protein in your broccoli and cheese.
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Save seed by allowing the flowers to grow and set seed after you have harvested the main spear.
- There are several varieties, some yellow, white, some that are crossed with broccoli and create mesmerizing patterns (Veronica). Timing is crucial with cauliflower, heads, aka curds, will not form in hot dry weather. Harvest when curds are tight. You may need to tie up the larger outer leaves around the curds to blanch them. Store at 32 degrees for up to 2 weeks or add them to relish recipes and can them.
Allow spring plants to flower and set seed.
- I am particularly fond of Siberian Red Kale. I like to add it to fresh from the garden salads. Bold are cold hardy but choose collards for warmer temperatures. Kale is frost tolerant and can withstand a little drought. Both can usually overwinter. Harvest when leaves get big as desired. Store in the fridge. I like to cut it up and run it through the salad spinner and place in plastic bags for up to a week or more. You can make it last longer in the fall if you cut out the heart with the plant and store in a plastic bag. To save seed, allow the plant to mature, grow flowers and set seed.
This is an interesting plant. You can eat the leaves (as with all the cole crops, yes, broccoli leaves are good) as well as the swollen stem of the plant. It kinda looks like an above ground turnip with cabbage like leaves. There are white, red and purple varieties. It prefers cooler temperatures. Harvest the leaves and/or the bulbous stem when it is 3-5 inches in diameter. Don't let it get too big or it will get a woody texture. Store in the fridge for a couple weeks.
Allow it to grow flowers and set seeds to harvest seeds for the next year.
- There are leaf producing turnips (7 Top) and root producing turnips (Purple Top). Leaves can be eaten from either. Mustard is is a leaf crop (unless you harvest the seed for ground mustard). Rutabagas look a lot like turnips but taste more sweet with a yellow flesh and store well. Harvest after a couple hard frosts. Store in the fridge for a couple weeks.
- Last but not least, every kids favorite, baby cabbage heads. Grow just like fall crop cabbage. Plant in summer and as the tiny cabbages take shape, cut the leaf stalks away. The tiny cabbages will start out at the base and make their way up. To encourage more uniform size of each sprout, cut of the top of the plant. Allow them to get hit with a frost for an even more flavorful treat. Harvest a few at a time or wait for them all. Like the others, store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Let them overwinter (they probably wont make it in northern climates) and they will produce seed the next year.
You may can all of these crops but there's nothing like the fresh version. They can also be frozen with differing results.
The number one pest for most of the brassicas is the cabbage looper. Moths lay their eggs and the caterpillars will devastate your crop before you know it. I recommend spraying with Bacillus Thuringiensis, aka BT. It is a bacteria that kills the caterpillars.
Your climate may be different so adjust accordingly. If you plan to save seeds it is imperative that you don't use hybrid varieties and that you separate them by a half mile or take other common measures to prevent cross-pollination. If you live next to a canola field, good luck, rape is in the same family. The seeds are in slender pods a few inches long and look like, yep, you guessed it, mustard seed. Some are black, brown, yellow and variations in between.
Don't take all these different varieties of crops for granted. They are easy to grow and are high in vitamin C and other nutrients. They are also an excellent way to use your garden over the winter instead of letting it sit fallow.
Now, go grow some cole crops.
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