Brassicas are a main fall and winter crop at Cowlick Cottage. We plant a wide selection, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, turnips and Brussels sprouts. All of the brassicas are extremely nutritious, containing calcium, fiber, potassium, vitamins C and B6, and phytochemicals. They are also delicious, and with their beautiful leaves and sprouts, they are gorgeous in the garden, adding texture, color and drama.
It’s a good idea to raise your brassicas from fresh seed from a trusted source, because transplants can carry soil-borne diseases that can cause serious problems, like the dreaded club root. You don’t want club root. However, if you buy transplants, avoid big box stores and pick up some organic transplants from a local nursery.
Luckily, brassicas are pretty dependable to grow from seed. It’s still too hot here for sowing outside, but I have a couple of hundred seedlings planted inside in organic seed compost, sprouting under grow lights and near sunlit windows. They are everywhere! Once it is cool enough and the seedlings have 4-5 leaves, hardened off and ready to be transplanted, I will direct sow more of each type in the garden. This will extend our harvest through winter.
Brassicas prefer to be planted in a sunny site in rich, well-draining soil. Before planting, dig plenty of aged compost into the bed and spread some composted chicken manure on the soil. Because they are primarily leafy vegetables, brassicas like plenty of nitrogen, so don’t be shy! Plant deeply and firmly to encourage strong root growth, and water well until established. Most, if not all brassicas, taste best after a light frost, which brings out their natural sweetness. Many varieties of brassicas have long growing seasons, but you can interplant them with faster growing varieties like turnips, radishes and kohlrabi.
Broccoli: Romanesco – A gorgeous artisan broccoli with heads reminiscent of an Escher design, Waltham 29, Calabrese Green Sprouting – A long lasting type that grows sprouts rather than heads and is great for dipping in butter.
Cabbage: Savoy Perfection, Nero di Toscana – Stunning in the garden, with its long, spearlike blue-hued leaves.
Cauliflower: Self-Blanche – Cauliflower can be a bit picky, so we’ll see how this does!
Collards: Georgia Southern – The queen of collards in these parts.
Kale: Blue Vates Scotch-Curled, Russian Red – Beautiful red-hued leaves and delicious in soups and stews.