Big, Beautiful Broccoli!

At long last, we have broccoli!

And not just any broccoli, either. This is the biggest, best broccoli we've ever grown — and we did it from seed! 

It may be hard for me to express just how excited we are by this crop, but I'll try to explain. We haven't had much luck with broccoli since we moved here four years ago. Our first fall attempt never amounted to much because we started it too late, and in the summers it was demolished by turkeys, skunks, and groundhogs before we could harvest it for ourselves. 

So this year we smartened up and put chicken wire fencing around the cole plots immediately after setting out the transplants. And you know what? It worked. Appropriate predator protection plus a long, cool, wet spring worked together to produce some excellent brassica crops this year. 

Now that we're into a sudden stretch of summer heat, we are working to protect our broccoli in a different way:

Hot weather can cause broccoli to open up and send up its yellow flowers, which kind of ruins it (although it doesn't taste bad, the texture is all wrong). To keep ours shaded, we pulled up the leaves around the head and held them in place with a clothespin. This won't make it last forever, but it buys us a little extra time to let the heads get nice and big without bolting. 

So far, so good:

To celebrate, we all had a delicious bite of it raw (which the kids love, and have missed for the past four years — they know that no other broccoli is an sweet and juicy as this). Then Kirk used the rest of that head for a stir fry:

While the chicken thighs were cooking, he chopped up some mushrooms, the rest of the broccoli, some green onions (we have those too now!), ginger, and garlic (the earliest variety is also ready!) to add to the mix. 

After adding that first round of veg, snap peas and cilantro from the garden were prepped and thrown in at the end. Our snap peas this year are (mostly) a variety called "Shiraz," after their beautiful purple color. We are loving how easy it is to harvest these — we can find them on the vine with no trouble at all, and that helps us to pick them while they are still young and tasty. They retain their color if you don't cook them too long, so that's why they are added to the stir fry only for the last minute or so of cooking. 

We were very, very excited about this meal. It feels like such a long time since we've been able to just walk out into the garden and pick dinner. But … aah. Now it's July, and the lean times are done. We're heading into the best part of the gardening year, and things are looking great. And delicious!


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