Each time I walk across the overgrown grass toward the raised bed, I feel like one of those soon-to-be empty-nest parents. They grow up so fast.
Back in October, the first of the seedlings muscled their way from the soil to the surface. Just a few short weeks ago, I was thrilled to be harvesting the first handfuls of fresh spinach and kale. Then a few broccoli florets arrived — bite-sized pieces that I ate while wearing my bathrobe and standing near the fence.
This week I ate lightly sauteed spring greens for dinner. Then raw greens with lunch. On the weekend I ate greens for lunch and dinner. At a dinner party last Friday, you guessed it, the chef served kale with ginger and citrus. I copied that recipe and added a few shakes of crushed red pepper.
I’d be sick of the green stuff by now, but the seeds were planted by the Handsome Woodsman about a week before he died. When the plants have lived out their life cycle, they too will become a memory.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend planting broccoli in the Sacramento Valley. Our weather turns warm too quickly, which means the florets turn to flowers quickly. I like buying locally grown broccoli at the farmers market, but you need to eat it fast otherwise you’ll get flowers in your refrigerator crisper drawer.
Annual plants can be similar to salmon. Once they produce seeds (or spawn in the case of salmon) they figure their work is done and they die. That’s why we pinch off flowers from plants like coleus and basil that are enjoyed for their leaves.
I chatted with Danny Robinson this week, manager of the Gorrill Ranch along the Midway. Before farming rice and nuts in the hot, hot valley, he grew broccoli in the Salinas area, which is where we get cool-season crops including Brussels sprouts and lettuce.
However, if you love broccoli leaves, a taste for which I have recently acquired, by all means, stick some seeds in the ground at the start of the next rainy season.
Another note on winter greens: As soon as you discover that your plants are in high gear, the bugs discover your plants as well. Watch for eggs on the bottom of the leaves, particularly before you put them in your mouth. I like to submerge the leaves in a large bowl of water, swish them around, and repeat two more times. This is what I call “triple washed.”
In addition to the quick ginger/citrus saute, you can also enjoy oven-roasted kale.
Put leaves in a bowl, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Swish the leaves around to coat. Next, give a shake of sea salt and generous tablespoon of chili powder. Put in a preheated oven at 400 degrees and cook for 5 minutes. Move the kale around, then bake for another 5-8 minutes. You’ll need to watch closely because the leaves can turn to carbon flakes if you cook just a minute too long.
It’s not quite summer vegetable planting season, but if you already have some squash or tomatoes in the ground, you’re not alone.
It goes like this: It’s a sunny day and you happen to be in the nursery — again. There’s so much sun on your shoulder you can almost feel the Vitamin D soaking into your skin. You tell yourself you’re buying a single six-pack of annuals for that empty pot on the front porch.
Suddenly, your cart is filled with summer vegetable plants.
I know. I already have a zucchini plant in the raised bed. However, it’s really too early to go gung-ho. As of now, there’ still a 40 percent chance that we’ll have a frost (http://tinyurl.com/n5gf2b7). Those hot-season plants need hot weather, which will be here to stay in about a month.
If you’re really itching, plant another crop of kale and spinach, and enjoy it while it lasts.