let the broccoli harvest begin!

we plant broccoli in the garden for the spring and fall seasons.  it is one of the few plants that we purchase without considering the variety.  whether it is a hybrid or an heirloom, we aren’t concerned; we just want healthy plants to give us a head start since both spring and fall are pretty short seasons here in nashville.  this is especially true for the spring season.  while this past winter seemed like it would never end and as cool as the spring was, the cold weather crops began bolting quickly.  we were late getting plants into the ground because of the unusually colder weather and by the time we got things going, the days began getting longer and some plants began bolting.

 but as cold as it was, the plants survived.  we weren’t sure that they would produce heads-they seemed to be taking longer.  however, the heads finally began to emerge and we are now enjoying the harvest.  luckily, the plants are all on a different schedule and we can count on a staggered harvest to extend the season.  the funny thing about broccoli, it doesn’t produce just one head.  if you cut off the large head at the top of the plant, it will produce smaller heads along the stalk below the cut.  not many people realize how much produce a broccoli plant can yield.  if you let the side stalks(heads) develop, they will be about a quarter of the size of the top head.  but wait, it doesn’t stop there!  the leaves are also edible; you can cut them off when you pull out the plants at the end of the second harvest.  blanch the leaves in boiling water, drain them and then saute them with some onions and garlic in olive oil and give them a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

 this guy, right here, he is the captain-he runs the ship.  he also catches squirrels and chases birds.  if i am outside working in the garden he is likely to be right there with me.

 we discovered that he has been sleeping in the broccoli bed during the hottest part of the day.  it is so much cooler under all of those leaves and he lays under the plants while we are at work and he has to stay outside.  i am not sure what he will do when we pull the plants to make way for the hot season veggies.

the dreaded armyworm.  we found just one in the heads we picked and that is pretty good.  we do not treat our plants with anything that isn’t considered safe for use in organic gardens.  quite often, we resort to hand picking the insects and dropping them into soapy water.  for a few treatment suggestions, follow this link.

 one of my favorite ways to eat broccoli is raw in salads or even just plain with a little dip of homemade ranch dressing.  for the heads we picked, we decided to mix up a batch of broccoli nut salad, a popular southern potluck staple.  my husband mixed it up with some red and yellow carrots, red onions and candied walnuts.  the dressing is similar to a sweet coleslaw dressing and is made from mayonnaise, honey and cider vinegar.  if allowed to sit for several hours before serving, the vegetables become a little tender.

broccoli nut salad
 makes about 6 cups
4 cups broccoli florets, cut to bite size -chop the smaller stems and use them too
2 carrots, peeled and grated-we used a red and a yellow carrot for color
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
3/4 cup candied walnuts, chopped-we used trader joe’s
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons wild flower honey
1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
combine the broccoli, carrots, red onion and walnuts in a mixing bowl and toss to combine.  in a smaller bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, honey 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and sea salt until it is smooth.  if it is tangy enough for you, great and if not, add the other tablespoon of vinegar and mix it in.  pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture and stir to combine.  chill the salad a few hours or even overnight before serving.  make this often!
a little bit of broccoli heaven; the perfect picnic or potluck salad!