Thursday, October 9, 2008

Winter Brassicas Well on Their Way

July 21 was the date that I sowed the seeds of most of the brassicas for my winter garden. They all went into 6-packs until they grew a few true leaves, then I potted them up into 4-inch pots until I got the garden bed prepared.

The soil was amended with crab meal, sulfate of potash, humic acid, and compost. At planting time I added Sustane fertilizer and the flowering plants got some alfalfa pellets as well. I got the plants into the bed early in September.

Here's what you see above:

Spigariello foglia liscia, bottom left, from Seeds From Italy (their description) - Small, narrow and bushy leaves on a medium sized plant. This is the smooth leaf version. Has many small broccoli tops that will resprout when cut. It is a broccoli, with a taste between broccoli & kale. @ 70+ days to maturity. Exc taste. Often used with soups in Southern Italy though is good with pasta or as a side dish.

Piracicaba, upper left, from Fedco Seeds (their catalog blurb) - (56 days) Open-pollinated. Pronounced peer-a-SEA-cuh-buh. “I couldn’t stop eating them” was the refrain of my wife Eli Rogosa and our trials maven Nikos Kavanya when I asked if they were serious about adding this funny-looking brassica with its even funnier name. Turns out Piracicaba is a city and river in Brazil famous for its beautiful waterfalls, and home of the university where this cultivar was developed. About halfway between a heading broccoli and a broccoli raab, these succulent tender small green heads with very large beads make delightful raw eating. Very loose heads, lots of side shoots, sweet stalks. Even the fairly large leaves make excellent greens. Garden writer Barbara Damrosch found it equally delicious steamed. NY State trialers report it is best as a fall crop with relatively good frost tolerance, although it was bred to withstand heat and has produced heads at temperatures in the 90s in trials in California. Already a hit with customers, it became even more popular thanks to Damrosch’s wonderful column about it in an October 2006 Washington Post.

Romanesco Broccoli, center row, Franchi seeds but I don't remember from what source. Here's a description from Seeds From Italy: It is more of a cauliflower than a broccoli. From Rome. Light green and long pointed heads with incredible swirls that form amazing shapes. Sweet nut like taste. Requires fertile soil and frequent even watering to grow well. 90 days. Best for fall planting. Does not form side shoots.

A few years ago I grew a Romanesco head that weighed more than 5 pounds!

Penca Povoa Verde Portuguese Cabbage, bottom right. Franchi Seeds from Seeds of Italy. A non-heading type of cabbage. Very little information available about it but it seems to be used for stuffing. I grew another type of Portuguese Cabbage last year that was very good in soup. I'm looking forward to trying this variety.

Cavolo Nero Toscano Braschetta, top right. I got the seeds from an Italian member of the Seed Savers Exchange a few years ago. He claimed that this was the "true" strain of Cavolo Nero and it is indeed different from the strains that I've grown from domestically sourced seeds. His latest offering claims to be the really "true" strain. Regardless, I have liked every Cavolo Nero that I've ever grown or purchased.

Beyond the brassicas under the floating row cover are Scarlet Nantes carrots and Chioggia beets. I have to cover the emerging seedlings to keep the birds from enjoying the tender young sprouts.

Other things that I've sown for winter harvests are Olive Leaf rapini, Vit mache, Golden Chard, snow peas (don't remember the variety), Tonda di Parigi carrot, and Super Sugar Snap peas. The pots are going to be sown with wild Olive Leaf and domesticated Runway arugulas. And I have White Icicle and Red Fuoco radish seeds to sow in the bed.

Oh, I can't forget the favas. I won't be harvesting them until the spring but they will be going in as I start pulling out the summer vegetables - probably some time in late November. I would like to find a spot where I can put some in early. I'm planting the few Crimson fava seeds that I saved from the past season. If that's a bust again (planted too late this spring) then I hope that Copia will be offering them again through the Seed Savers ExchangeYearbook. My main planting of favas is going to be Superaguadulce (Morocco Strain), Bavicchi seeds from Gourmet Seed International.


  1. I'm considering growing fava beans, and am trawling Northern California blogs to try to figure out when to plant 'em.

    Any advice would be happily welcomed.

  2. HI Lisa and Robb,
    I usually try to get my favas sown some time in November but I have sown them in December and January a number times. The problem with sowing them in December or January is that the seeds may rot in the the cold wet soil. I can generally get away with Dec/Jan sowings because my beds are raised very high and don't get too soggy. The November sowings mature only slightly ahead of Dec/Jan sowings in my garden. They can be sown as early as October but I doubt that that would give much of a jump on the harvest so they would be taking up garden space for a long time. They can also be sown as late as February or March. I haven't tried Feb/Mar sowing but I think that they would mature just a bit later than the fall/winter sown seeds. I had a volunter come up this year in late June which grew really quickly and set pods in late August, but I'm not sure how well it would have done if we hadn't had such an unusually cold summer this year. If you live in a foggier part of the Bay Area you might be able to sow the seeds just about any time of the year.


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