Author Archives: AskTheFarmer

Collard (Brassica oleracea var acephala)

The collard plant (a type of Kale) is thought by botanists to have remained almost the same for about 2000 years. It is a loose-leaf non-heading wild cabbage that was the predecessors of today’s head cabbage. While the exact origin of wild cabbage is unknown, it is thought to be growing wild in Turkey and Greece long before recorded history.

Collards are loaded with beta-carotine (Vitamin A), Vitamin C, calcium and fibre so if you cook them without too much grease they are a great part of a healthy diet! Keep them well chilled to reduce bitterness. Some cooking tips:

  • Cook in a small amount of water, or steam them, to preserve their vitamin C content
  • Cook with the lid off to prevent the greens from turning a drab olive color
  • strain the cooking liquid and use it as a nutritious base for soups or stews.
  • combine greens with other vegetables and a whole grain for a healthful stir-fry dish
  • add them to soups and stews

Some great recipes in this book….

“Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the
form of perspiration.” ~ Lou Erickson

Time Demands

Take the week leading up to May 24 off from the day job as vacation each year. This is when the biggest amount of work falls and there are not enough hours in the day yet all the work is time sensitive and can’t be put off.

Radish (Raphanus sativus)

Radish (Raphanus sativus), which is related to turnip and mustard, is a great source of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium. Radishes come in a wide variety of colours, sizes and shapes as well as varying levels of spice.

The radish was domesticated in Europe in pre-Roman times. Citizens of Oaxaca, Mexico, have a festival called Noche de los Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) on December 23 where locals carve religious and popular figures out of radishes and display them in the town square.

The entire plant is edible including the leaves. The root is usually eaten raw but can also be steamed and roasted, and the leaves can be used in salads or soups, even added to
homemade juices. The seed pods are the best part of radishes and are becoming more popular with foodies. The pods can be steamed or eaten raw in salads for a truly delightful, crisy crunchy burst of green taste!

Growing naturally: Radishes are very hardy and vigorous and can compete very well with smaller weeds, in fact, you can use radishes as a cover crop under other crops. Radishes generally mature quickly and can be ready in just a few weeks; be sure to harvest them before they get “corky”, to preserve that fresh crunchy texture and keep the hottness to a reasonable level – oh yes, radishes can become very spicy indeed! Radishes will bolt in warmer weather and once they do focus on harvesting the seed pods not the radishes themselves, as they will have gone corky. Radishes do best in lighter soils that drain well and don’t contain high amounts of nitrogen, which can cause them the grow too much leafy top growth and direct less energy to the roots, in turn attracting non benficial insects to the plants to feast on all the tender greenery. It’s easy to damage your radishes when weeding around them – a mulch of straw helps reduce the need to weed although it can attract worms that leave unsightly shallow tunnels across the surface of the radish. The roots often split open if the plant becomes too thirsty then gets a sudden soaking, so try to moderate the peaks and valleys of water applications.

This is an affiliate link and if you decide to buy it, I will make a small commission. It’s a delightful book I wanted to share with you, full of interesting radish recipes.
A Book of Radish Recipes: Official Cookbook of The Loyal Kingdom of Radish

Eggplant (Solanum melongena)

Eggplant was originally domesticated in India and descends from a wild nightshade called a thorn apple. The first known written record of the eggplant is found in a Chinese agricultural treatise completed in CE 544 but is not mentioned in English literature until it appears in an English botany book in 1597. Eggplants can be found in white, yellow, green, and varied shades of purple as well as with white stripes.
Eggplant is low in fat, protien and carbohydrates, but also is not very high in vitamins and minerals.

The cut surface quickly browns like an apple once cut. The fruit can absorb large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, but salting will reduce the amount of oil absorbed. It can be stewed, deep fried or deep fried in batter, pickled, stuffed and baked, braised, steamed, roasted and peeled ( for example for making baba ganoush, which is like an eggplant hummus with a very smoky flavour)

NOTE: Eggplant leaves and flowers can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities due to the presence of solanine. Additionally, on average, 9 kg (20 lbs) of eggplant will contain about the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette.

Growing Naturally:
Eggplant’s first blossoms often do not set fruit so to improve fruit setting you can hand pollinate. Flowers are both female and male, and may be self-pollinated or cross-pollinated. They are very frost sensitive.

5 Farming Myths

Myth 1. What you don’t know won’t hurt you.

Chemicals are all around us daily, and we can’t always do anything about that, but what you grow is totally yours to control. Manufactured chemicals can often make plants appear very healthy but there can be harmful residues and currently unknown health or environmental impacts could result from their use. We just don’t know. Are you willing to gamble?

Myth 2. Pesticides are targeted to the specific pest and don’t hurt the other bugs and soil organisms.

Applying almost any sort of substance that attempts to kill one kind of insect has collateral damage and harms others as well. Birds may consume insects already poisoned but not yet dead. Applicator error can result in spray drift, thus impacting a wider area than planned. The balance of fungi, bacteria, microorganisms, worms etc. in the soil is usually negatively impacted during any pesticide application just like our bodies are when we take an antibiotic.

Myth 3.You have to apply pesticides to get any harvest and make any money

Manufactured inputs cost you money. You have to go to the store and buy them. Many garden chemicals are made from petroleum based products, which are generally expensive to purchase and expensive to the environment when we extract them for our use. Pesticides must be appropriately stored and disposed of, and require equipment to apply, generating more costs.

Myth 4.You need heavy machinery to manage the hard work of farming

Using natural farming methods like no till help to keep alive non-mechanized farming techniques and knowledge that were commonly known not long ago in our history but have declined in recent years with the onset of huge mechanized farms. You can manage your soil so that you never till, it is never uncovered and isn’t full of weeds. But that’s another post 🙂

Myth 5. You must aerate soil by tillage or it will compact

When you first till you artificially introduce a large influx of oxygen and rotting cut up roots, which will support a sudden wave of growth in the microorganisms which thrive on these inputs, and then potentially a die off of that population surge once the soil settles. This can throw the balance of all soil life out of whack. Compaction is really caused by leaving soil uncovered because no roots exist to provide the structure soil requires to channel water effectively while leaving tiny air spaces open. Compaction is also caused by driving on the soil with heavy machinery to do the tillage in the first place.

“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” ~ Gertrude Jekyll ~

Costmary (Tanacetum balsamita)

Costmary (Tanacetum balsamita) is a European perennial which was once used medicinally and then came to be popular in culinary recipes. It was once called Bible leaf, as people used leaves to mark their place in their Bible. The leaves have a bitter, minty taste and it also has a strong odour. You may need time to develop a taste for it so use it sparingly until it grows on you!