Anybody out there ever catch the t.v. show Manic Organic?  It was on cable, I think in the Fall 2008, I can’t remember which station.  Anyway, it was an innovative and highly enjoyable program.   In it, an organic market gardener from Ontario, Antony John, takes you, in one half hour, from the planting, to the growing, to the harvesting, and finally the cooking and eating of various vegetables.  I had never seen anything like it before (nor since): a gardening show that brings you all the way from the seed to the plate.  Really, a combination gardening and cooking show.  Unfortunately, I think they only made one season of it.  I have to say though, that watching it was highly influential in how I think about kitchen gardening.  The Manic Organic helped me shift how I think about my garden planning, from just planting veggies and then figuring out what to make with them, to actually thinking about what I’d like to eat, and then planning the garden that would deliver the ingredients for those dishes.

Every year I like to try growing something I have never grown before, and this spring (actually this winter while pouring over seed catalogues), I decided to try broccoli raab.  Now I don’t eat it myself, ever since my first pregnancy I have had an aversion to broccoli.  But my husband likes it, he always orders pasta with broccoli raab and sausage, so I figured I’d give it a try.  It’s an early spring (and fall) vegetable, so I started the seeds when I did my lettuce, onions, and cabbage.  Since I was new to it, I just started one 3 inch square pot of them.  It grew pretty quickly, and about 2 months ago I planted it into my cold frame, about 12 seedlings directly out of the one pot into a space about 1’x2’.  At the same time I planted about the same area with broccoli raab seeds.  About 2 weeks ago one of the plants started to form the little florets, so I harvested at, and a couple more came in the following week.  Not enough to make a meal so I stashed them in the fridge.  Then last week they all seemed to be coming into bud, and since I needed the space (and quite frankly they were blocking my cabbage, which I actually do like to eat) I decided to harvest them all.  Interestingly enough, the plants I had grown directly from seed were about 1/3 of the size of the ones started indoors, but they were budding up as well.

One of the techniques I’ve found to be incredibly useful for storing greens before cooking is to put them in a big bowl of water, making sure that the stems are submerged (like cut flowers).  This works great with chard and lettuce, I have kept them both looking good on the countertop for at least 2 days after harvesting.  It works especially well if you are harvesting in the morning (when they are at their peak) to cook that evening.  Plus, it takes a lot less time when you are in the middle of gardening to just throw them in a bowl of water in the kitchen and run back out into the garden, then washing and refrigerating.  The broccoli raab really responded well to this treatment, they actually continued to grow.  And the comparison between those on the counter and those in the fridge?  No contest.  So a full 2 ½ days after harvest, I trimmed them up and sautéed them in a pan with sliced garlic and olive oil.  DH said they were delicious, and I like to think he would be honest with me.  The pasta with broccoli raab and sausage didn’t happen, but having the broccoli raab right there on the counter made sure that I didn’t forget to cook them at all (I needed the bowl for something else).  If I’d left them in the garden I’m sure they would have wound up just going to flower.

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