Today is officially the first day of Autumn. For us, and maybe for quite a few other people around NZ at present, it still feels very much like the middle of summer, with more than our share of hot and dry weather! We're only just starting to get a hint of a chill in the air early in the morning. More water would be good!
This week we are focusing on some of varieties that can be sown now that are GREEN.
GREEN! Isn't everything in the garden green? Or at least partly green?
Well, yes....so we have selected some varieties that can be sown now that are not only green but are also really good plants to get growing in your garden because of the health benefits of growing, harvesting and eating your own vegetables. There's nothing more likely to make you feel smug and happy with your gardening than being able to fill the children's dinner plates with just-picked vegetables that are full of nutrients and have been harvested just a few steps away from the kitchen! So....how about sowing some of the following varieties now....
If you are keen to grow broad beans, we wrote a blog post about growing them last year (Click here to go to that blog post). We had a wonderful crop of broad beans this year and I tried out the recipe for mint and broad bean bruschetta - it was really good. Broad beans are high in protein and calories (341Calories in 100g) and folates (which are necessary for cell-division in the body). They also provide a source of vitamin B6 and thiamin and are a good source of minerals - containing iron, copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. We have two dwarf varieties (Dwarf Early Green and Dutch White Seeded) and one tall variety (Superaguadulce), so you can select a variety that suits your garden.
Broccoli is one of the few vegetables that my children both eat without complaining. That fact alone makes it a favourite vegetable to grow - I sowed some last week, and am keeping the seedlings on the front porch, where the white cabbage butterflies don't go! "Broccoli" in Italian means "little sprout" (cute). It is one of the most nutritious vegetables, being an excellent source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, fibre and folate. Broccoli is also a good source of calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin E and potassium. If you like broccoli, check out the options for different types....Broccoli Prescoe Romanesco is visually stunning, and you can also choose to grow heading broccoli, broccoli tender stems, or sprouting broccoli - or all of them! We've just sown Broccoli de Cicco - yum!
Brussels Sprouts are an excellent source of B group vitamins, vitamins C and E, fibre and folate. They also supply small but significant amounts of calcium, iron, potassium and phosphorus. We know that brussels sprouts are not always on everyone's list of favourite veges, so we thought you might like to try the following recipe for a wonderful, earthy, caramalised flavour - very different from the boiled-to-death version some of us remember from our childhood...
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cayenne and Champagne Vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ tablespoons of olive oil
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A splash of champagne vinegar (or any type of white wine vinegar)
- Preheat the oven to 200oC.
- Cut the brussels sprouts in half and place them on a baking sheet.
- Toss the sprouts lightly with olive oil and salt and pepper. Sprinkle a pinch of cayenne pepper evenly over the sprouts.
- Put the baking sheet in the oven and roast the sprouts for 35-45 minutes, stirring half way through. The sprouts are done when they are brown and caramelized on the outside.
- Remove the pan from the oven and toss the sprouts lightly with champagne vinegar. Serve immediately.
Cabbage is another fantastic staple in the garden (coleslaw being even more popular with the children than broccoli!). At home we have been exploring the world of "ferments" and have recently made our first sauerkraut (well, first successful sauerkraut....the first attempt about two years ago ended in tears). It was interesting to find that I could fit a whole big head of cabbage in one Agee jar in sauerkraut form, and that the vitamin C value of cabbage is increased when made into saurkraut. As well as the more usual green cabbages, you could grow red cabbages or gorgeous crinkly savoy cabbages.
Peas like the cooler weather. There is nothing like picking your own peas fresh from the garden. Peas, like sweet corn, begin converting their sugars to starch as soon as they are picked, so the sweetest peas are the ones that go straight from your garden to the table (via the kitchen). Peas provide fibre, protein and are a good source of the B group vitamins vitamin C and folate. They also contain a range of minerals, particularly iron and copper. Delicious too! Sow Dwarf Peas or Climbing Peas in autumn when the soil temperatures are 8 - 24oC and harvest lovely fresh peas in 65-80 days.
Spinach is one of the most satisfying cool-weather crops to grow, producing large yields of vitamin-rich, dark green leaves that are excellent for salads and for cooking. Since both hot weather and long days trigger spinach to bolt quickly, spring and autumn are good times to sow spinach. Spinach is great in salads and is a delicious and nutritious addition to cooked dishes. The major nutrients in spinach are pro-vitamin A, vitamin C, vitmain K and folate. Spinach also provides calcium, iron and potassium. Popeye was right about spinach....
Miner's Lettuce was a new discovery for our family last year. This lovely little salad plant likes cool temperatures and it has very pretty, tender leaves. Miner's Lettuce is a hardy annual with its early leaves borne at the end of short stalks followed by quantities of heart-shaped leaf pairs each wrapped around a white flowered stem. The leaves look attractive in any salad and have a wild and fresh taste. I am defnitely growing these again this autumn!
We included some hints about growing leeks in a post we wrote about onions (click here to check it out). Leeks can be sown from now until the end of April. Choose a winter leek for growing through the cold weather. Leeks have excellent amounts of vitamin C and folate, and useful amounts of B vitamins, vitamin E, copper, potassium and iron.
We'd love to hear your plans for your autumn sowing....what are you planning to grow? Keep the comments coming! And what colour for autumn sowing do you think we will be covering in our next blog post??