Posts Tagged Quick Maturing

Growing Sprouting Seed

If you haven’t got a garden, or the time to wait for salad crops to mature in the ground, or despite your best efforts your lettuces have succumbed to a scorching summer, hungry wildlife or your summer holiday away; sprouting seeds will fill the gap.


Sprouted seeds are packed full of energy, are highly nutritious and are very easy to grow in your own kitchen, you don’t even need a garden.  They take only a few days and no special equipment to grow yet provide delicious, almost instant satisfaction, and dinner on the plate.

Seeds are just plants waiting to happen, dry they are in a dormant state and only need to be filled with water to become a living entity. Seeds sprout fastest in a warm light airy place, out of direct sunlight, with an ambient temperature of 18-22 Celsius, which is pretty much the condition of most kitchens. All you need is a large glass jar with a screw top lid and water. You can use a purpose made sprouter, there are many inexpensive types available, or you can make your own by piercing the lid of a jam jar to make drainage holes or securing a square of muslin over the top of the jar with an elastic band.

Method
Firstly soak the seeds in a large jar filled with cool water, as directed for each seed type. Empty out the water and flush with more fresh water to rinse then drain thoroughly. Rinse and drain the jar twice a day, until the seeds have sprouted and are ready to eat.You can decide for yourself at what stage you like them best, as soon as the seed has fattened up from its first soaking it can be eaten or it can be left to grow on until it has full size sprouts.

Storage
When the sprouted seeds are at their peak rinse, drain and empty into a paper lined plastic box or glass jar, seal and store in the lower part of a fridge. The temperature in the fridge will halt growth and the sprouts can be stored for several days in prime condition before being eaten.

What to sprout
Some of my favourite sprouted seeds are also the most commonly available to buy.
Alfalfa (Luzerne in French) Soak seeds for 4 hours. Alfalfa will be ready to eat in 3-7 days
Crisp sweet flavour like fresh peas, delicious raw in salads or sandwich fillings.  Rich in amino acids which are very important for the metabolism and helps lower cholesterol. Rich in phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B1, C, D, E, K.
Mung Bean (Haricot mungo in French) Soak seeds for 12 hours will germinate ready to eat in 5-8 days. Delicious raw in rice noodle and oriental style soups & salads, stir fried or used as stuffing for spring rolls. These are the ‘beansprouts’ most commonly found in oriental shops and restaurants. Commercially they are hulled and grown in darkness and under weight pressure to achieve the dense white crisp sprouts we are familiar with.
Chick Peas (Pois chiches in French) Soak 4 tbsp peas for 8-12 hours ready to eat in 3-6 days
Lentils (Lentilles in French) Soak seeds for 8 hours will germinate ready to eat in 5-8 days

You can find seeds specifically for sprouting, from health food shops and some seed companies. You can also experiment with all manner of vegetable and herb seeds that can be sprouted and are delicious; including pumpkins, peas, sunflowers, broccoli, leeks, onions, and chives. For more information and inspiration on what and how to sprout visit Sprout People or  Primal Seeds.

Originally Posted  on Mas du Diable 16/8/2007:

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Broccoli Raab

Cima di Rapa, Brassica Rapa generally classified in the Ruvo Group, is a fast growing brassica closely related to turnips and oriental greens. In Italy this vegetable is called Cima di Rapa and is also known as: turnip tops, broccoletto, broccoli de rabe, sprouting turnip tops, turnip mustard or rapini. It is grown primarily for the leaves, edible stem and the small bud clusters. The taste is light and mustardy with an interesting broccoli like nutty sweetness.  These winter and spring greens are hugely popular in Northern Italy, with both gardeners and cooks. In Italy most home gardeners seem to grow it and it is the star of a number of classic Italian dishes including Orecchiete e Cima di Rapa , pasta primavera, potato and spring greens pie, otherwise the greens are simply pan fried in olive oil with a little garlic or chilli pepper to taste.

Varieties
Varieties are named by the number of days they take to mature, I’ve found varieties named 40, 60, 90 or 120.
Harvest
To harvest, simply cut the budding shoots just before the flowers open at ground level or at a level where the stem is starting to get woody. Harvest until shoots are too small and tough. If the weather remains cool, you can expect a second and possibly third cutting from each plant.
Nutrition & Use
A versatile cooking green Broccoli raab can be boiled, steamed, sautéed, or fried. It can be used in soups, stir-fries, pies or in any dish you might use other cooking greens. Like most brassicas Broccoli raab is pretty healthy stuff. Rich in vitamins and minerals particularly Vitamins A and C, iron, folate, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Cultivation
Sow in drills, lightly cover with soil and keep well watered then thin to ideal spacing as they grow. Best suited to the cooler months and in my garden it grows well undercover from a November sowing, or from an autumn or early spring sowing outdoors.
Season & Temperature In Italy Cima di Rapa is considered a late winter and early spring vegetable.
Sow Jul-Oct

Sow Undercover November

Harvest Nov-March
Spacing Rows 25-30cm apart, plants 10-15cm apart in the row.
Crops in 5-6 weeks 40-120 days depending on the variety.

Seed Life

More info
Growing Rapini

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Chinese Greens

Leafy green brassicas of the turnip family, which were developed in the far east and collectively referred to as: Chinese Cabbage, Oriental greens or  Chinese brassicas. This group of plants really deserve their place in any kitchen garden because they are fast growing, versatile in the kitchen and nutritious, easy to cultivate and they taste delicious. I am keen to experiment with more leafy veg in this family but here are some of my favourites so far.

Pak Choi or Bok Choy Brassica rapa var chinensis
This delightful vegetable has crisp, juicy stalks with a light, but lovely, flavour and only a hint of mustard.
Known to have been cultivated in China, since the 5th century, there are many variations of this old vegetable; ranging in height from 10cm to 60cm, leaves can be the classic spoon-shaped or thin stemmed, the leaves are pale to dark green and the stalks range from white to green. Quick growing, pak choi can be picked at the baby stage in 4 weeks, mature stage in 5-8 weeks and can be cut to grow again for a second or more harvest. In the kitchen it can be stir-fried, added to soups, used in salads, pickled, steamed or boiled and dressed as a side vegetable or cooked salad. The flowering shoots are also edible and are used like broccoli.
Varieties: Canton Dwarf is the one I seed save and grow. Short spoon shape with crisp white stems. Green Revolution small spoon shape with light green crisp stems, Mei Qing Choi small spoon shape with crisp light green stems.

Rosette pak choi, Yukina February 2008 undercover

Tatsoi or Rosette pak choi Brassica rapa var rosularis
A loose-heading prostrate rosette plant with dark green, almost black, crinkled leaves and crisp white to yellowy green stems. It has slightly mustardy leaves and a strong brassica flavour. Given enough room and cool conditions the plants will form beautiful wide prostrate rosettes, as the weather starts to warm in spring the leaves tend to grow upright. The whole plant may be harvested at once or the leaves can be picked continuously for several weeks. It can also be cut to grow again for a second or more harvest. In the kitchen it can be stir fried, used in soups or lightly boiled then dressed and served at room temperature as a side vegetable or salad. It has a more robust flavour than Pak Choi and can take a strong dressing.
Varieties: Yukina yellowy pale green stems and dark green slightly crinkled leaves. Tah Tsai a very old variety from China, pale green stems and dark green slightly crinkled leaves.

Chinese Cabbage, Green Tower February 2007 undercover

Chinese Cabbage Brassica rapa var pekinensis
Sometimes known as Chinese leaves or nappa cabbage, there are two main types of Chinese cabbage; a tall loose hearting leaf variety and a tall cylindrical cabbage where the leaves fold-in to form a dense head. Both have wide white ribs and pale green leaves. The second variety is the one most commonly found in supermarkets. Be carefull when buying chinese cabbage seeds I’ve found that often the picture or description may be of the more commonly known dense form even though the variety is a loose heading form.
Varieties: Michili has an elongated loose semi-heading shape that resembles romaine lettuce with light green leaves with broad white ribs. Green Tower a loose heading variety.

Image Mizuna showing its clump form and beautiful serrated leaves February 2008 undercover

Mizuna Brassica rapa var nipposinica or var japonica
Mizuna has green serrated leaves on slender white stems, the leaves are delicate enough to eat raw and have a slightly pungent mustardy flavour. The plants are very forgiving and vigorous. Mizuna will grow on poorer soils, is cold resistant and of all the oriental brassicas it can cope best with the hot dry conditions of our summers. It is quick to mature and picking can start in as little as 8 weeks. Normally, with good spacing the plant will form bushy clumps but it can also be closely spaced and cut young to regrow after cutting.
In the kitchen Leaves and stems can be used raw in salads and make a great addition to a mixed winter leaf salad. They are also great cooked; lightly boiled & dressed to serve at room temperature as a side vegetable, or cooked in stir-fries or soups, the young flowering stems can be used like broccoli. In Japan Mizuna is salt pickled.

PLANNING A HARVEST
Lush oriental brassicas perform best in cooler weather preferring temperatures between 15-20 Celsius. These are my sowing dates according to how they grow best in a Mediterranean climate, dates may be adjusted for cooler climates. They can be sown in cell trays and transplanted or sown directly and thinned out. Mature plants will not stand long before bolting so i find it best to sow in succession and to grow small amounts at a time for harvesting between November and April. Seed catalogues often suggest sowing oriental brassicas in April-May but they simply will not stand the temperatures in mid summer here so I grow them as follows.

Vegetable Sow Harvest Spacing
Mizuna March
April
Sept-Oct
(Oct-Nov)
April-May
May-June
Nov-Dec
(Jan-March)
Sow direct 1cm deep or in cells and TP
10-15 cm apart
Rows 25-35cm apart.
Tatsoi (Jan)
Sept-Oct
Oct
(Nov)
Mar-April
Oct-Nov
(Nov-Dec)
(Jan-March)
Sow direct 1cm deep or in cells and TP
45cm apart for rosette 15-30cm blocks for CCA
Rows 45cm apart.
Pak Choi (January)
Sept-Oct
(November)
March-April
Oct – Dec
(Jan-March)
TP Sow direct 1cm deep or in cells and TP 15cm apart.
Rows 20-40cm apart.
Chinese Cabbage Sept-Oct
(Oct-Nov)
Nov-Dec
(Jan-March)
Sow direct 1.5cm deep or TP to 25cm apart.Rows 30cm apart.

Key ( ) means sown/grown undercover. CCA means cut & come again TP means Transplant

Note
I  have tried Komatsuna and Choy Sum but neither performed well and I was not that keen on eating them either, but perhaps I should give them another go now that I have a polytunnel and know how to get the best from other plants in the same family.

Further Reading
Oriental Vegetables; The Complete Guide for the Gardening Cook Joy Larkom

Original post 9/3/2008: Oriental Brassicas

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