The brassica family is a big one in the veg world with the likes of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, kale, turnips, swede, and Chinese cabbages all playing a part. As it’s such a big family, we thought it was worth bundling them all together for a few top tips…
Why grow them?
They have a good reputation for providing plenty of vitamin C and they have properties that many believe can prevent cancer cells from building. To keep all the goodness in when you cook them, try steaming or stir-frying. Boiling them takes out a lot of the nutritious value. We’re particularly fond of broccoli and cabbages stir-fried with a little freshly chopped garlic, red chilli and ginger with a squeeze of lime and a drop or two of soy sauce. Delicious!
They are easy to grow in the UK and can all be looked after in much the same way. Choose a nice sunny site with deep, moisture retentive soil (a raised bed is ideal for brassicas) and plant them 30-40cm apart. When you plant them, we’d advise not giving them any water for a few days. This encourages them to put their roots down nice and deep which will make them stronger as they grow.
During dry spells water them regularly, to make sure they don’t dry out, but other than that you’re best to leave them to their own devices. With their nice deep roots they won’t have too much trouble finding the water that they need.
What to look out for:
You’ll need to protect them from frosts when it’s chilly – some horticultural fleece loosely draped over them should do the trick. And we highly recommend putting a brassica collar around the base of the baby plants to protect against cabbage root fly which is a real pain! You can buy these collars from a garden centre or cut a 15cm circle out of cardboard or old carpet, make an incision from the outside edge to the centre of the disc and lay it around the base of the stem. The reason for doing this is to prevent the cabbage root fly from laying their eggs here. If the eggs are laid and hatch, the maggots bury down into the roots and slowly destroy your lovely brassicas. And probably the first you’ll see of it is slow growth and a wilting plant.
Cavolo Nero – loads of nutrition in just a few leaves
Red Cabbage – so good looking and really tasty
Pak Choi – brilliant in stir fries