I wanted to show you how gorgeous my Seakale is at the moment. As a rule I generally don’t let things flower in the vegetable garden unless I’m planning to collect seed from them. And this would have applied to my Seakale too but it ran to seed so fast and the flowers just popped open overnight in the recent heat wave that I literally couldn’t stop it.
I’m glad that I didn’t because the display of flowers is just lovely. They are bold, extremely white and look like, I think, tiny fried eggs. They’re quirky and at the moment brighten up the gloomiest part of the garden.
The downside is that because the plant ran to see so quickly I didn’t get chance to harvest the forced Seakale under the pot. Now that I know its foibles next year I’ll keep a sharper eye on it!
It’s been a long process but I finally have some blanched Chicory to show you. My, somewhat Herculean effort, started back in November when I lifted the Chicory plants I had been growing during last summer.
Then I stored them in damp sand (sometimes a little too damp) over the worst of the winter weather.
After this I planted them into deep buckets, put a pot over the top to block out the light and put them in a frost free and dark shed. There they have been happily growing (albeit painfully slowly) until now.
I harvested the Chicory today as the leaves were starting to fan out instead of stay tight. I was a little worried that the tips of the leaves were too yellow but brought them in anyway. Once washed and dressed I needn’t have worried about the yellow leaves as they were the best tasting part. They were absolutely devine. A complex taste really. Totally fresh and dewey with a hint of that Chicory bitterness towards the base of the leaf.
I liked it. We all liked it. I think I would have to dedicate a bigger patch of the garden to growing Chicory and fill more pots in the shed to make the enterprise worth while. As it was all my work ended in one lunch. The effort far outweighed the end product.
But… this is true of a lot of kitchen gardening. Mostly, for me anyway, it’s about the experience of growing something unusual and tasting something as nature intended, at its freshest possible moment. I think I’ve achieved both my goals here. And I’m already planning where I will sow this year’s batch of Chicory.
Houston we have a problem. The Chicory that I put into storage last month is starting to sprout. Now, that is not supposed to happen.
I can only assume that the mild weather we’ve been having has confused them into sprouting, or possibly the sand was too wet that I stored them in. Either way they have come out of storage early and are now in their final forcing positions – in a bucket of compost with another pot over the top to block out the light.
This is a little earlier than I was planning but I’ve got no option as I can’t have them happily growing in their horizontal positions!
There will be a part three to this story. Hopefully with some nice photos of my lovely blanched Chicory. Hopefully.
It dug up my Chicory plants yesterday and put them in storage in preparation for forcing them later on. The plants were getting quite large but it’s best to lift them at this time of year before the frosts get to them.
I lifted about seven or eight but not all of them were big enough to use. They need to be between 2.5cm and 5cm wide at the crown. Any smaller and they won’t produce good chicons (the pearly white chicory that has that lovely subtle, bitter taste). Any bigger and they might produce two smaller heads instead of one large one.
I cut off the green tops and filled a box with wet sand. Then laid about six out, making sure they were not touching each other. And finally covered them with more sand and stored them in my dry, frost-free shed. I also made sure to put a wooden tag in the sand to remind me what was in there. I’m storing carrots too so I don’t want to get them mixed up!
Part 2 comes in Feb when I’ll be digging them up and forcing them in pots.
I’m so excited about doing this. Every year I try to do something in the garden that I’ve never done before. Well, otherwise I get a bit bored to be honest. Last year it was growing Seakale which I did without a hitch (although I’ve yet to force it). This year it’s Chicory.
I do grow things year on year and I’m happy when I know exactly what I’m doing with a certain vegetable or fruit but the excitement comes from learning a new technique and figuring out how to do it well.
I’m not sure if I’ll produce any edible Chicory from these. But if I don’t I will spend many a happy hour figuring out how to do it next year!
I harvested the last of my forced Rhubarb today. It’s time to take the forcer off and let the plant regain its strength. It feels strange to be coming to the end of a crop already when Spring is just beginning but forcing really weakens a plant so I can only do it for a limited period of time.
But wow the Rhubarb has been good. I’ve fallen in love with Rhubarb crumble again. Particularly, Jamie’s Rhubarb and Sticky Stem Ginger Crumble. I’ll be making that this afternoon and serving it hot with creme fraiche tonight. Can’t wait!
Today I planted my Seakale. Seakale is one of those vegetables that you see on TV programmes about what the Victorian’s grew in their huge walled kitchen gardens. But it’s not the kind of vegetable that people actually grow. But I’ve always wanted to grow it and now’s my chance.
I checked out where I should plant it. A sunny position is best where it can be left undisturbed. I didn’t have a spot in full sun so we’ll have to see how it does in part shade. The soil should be deep, rich, sandy, ideal pH7. It also likes good drainage. And they should be planted 15 – 17 inches apart.
Forced Seakale is really the crop that you want. And as I understand it I need to leave it a year before I can start forcing it.
The only problem I can see is that I might have to invest in a neat little Seakale forcer to add to my forcing pot gallery.
My forced Rhubarb is ready – hooray! How do I know? Well as you can see the forcing has been a success and the forcing pot works a treat. Each of the crowns has sprouted and the leaves are nearly to the top of the forcing pot.
Percy Thrower says to remove the forcing pot now and harvest the Rhubarb because if I leave it on any longer I might exhaust the plant. I can’t force the plant again for two years as it needs time to recover so I’m hoping this harvest is worth it!