Apologies for such a long silence; I’ve been concentrating on a big book project. Now it’s time for a little break. I have much I’ve been wanting to share with my blog readers. Here’s a start:
I finally figured out how to grow cucurbits in a garden infested with European brown snails, who had eaten nearly all my cucumber, melon, and squash plants to the ground since we moved into town. This year I started the plants in 4-inch pots, as usual. Then I cut the bottoms off several gallon-size nursery pots. (These pots, as you probably know, vary in thickness. The thin ones I cut with scissors, the thick ones with a box knife.) After setting each start in the ground, I fit a bottomless gallon pot over the top and pressed the cut edge into the soil. I sprinkled Sluggo (iron phosphate) over the top, so that some pellets landed in the pot and some on the soil around it.
This worked just as I’d hoped. The pellets around each pot got eaten quickly, but most of the plants remained untouched. In two cases in which the snails got into the pots, they were still inside, stuck to the wall, in the morning, and I was able to remove them before they finished consuming the plants. In a third case I found the snail sitting right outside the pot, looking as if it had a serious bellyache. It must have eaten a lot of Sluggo before it found my little melon plant. I ended its suffering.
The pots are helping with watering, too. They tell me where to aim the hose, and they retain the water, preventing runoff.
I’ve written before about eating kale buds. Although they are delicious, much better still, I’ve learned, are collard buds. Or collard tops, I should say, because the top six inches or so of the stems are so tender and mild that you oughtn’t leave them behind. If they are bearing any flowers or little leaves, don’t worry—you can eat everything.
My original Yellow Cabbage collard plants finally went to seed this past spring, after a year and a half in the ground and just about the same time that the collard plants I’d started late last summer got big enough to eat. Although we’d been eating collard through the winter, in April the tops were a special treat.
Collard tops are milder in flavor than either broccoli or kale buds, and they need little cooking. We steamed or boiled them briefly, and then we sautéd them or just tossed them with garlic-butter or garlic-oil.
Just the other day I cut down the last of my four old collard plants, the one I’d left so I could collect the seeds. A new plant, sprouted from the old stem, near the base, was already three feet tall. Maybe I didn’t need to start new collard seeds last summer!
I have never had great success with radishes, but I’ve found two varieties that I may plant every year from now on. In April we enjoyed long, red Candela di Fuoco radishes, which I’d planted in the fall. Mild, moist, and beautiful, these are the only radishes that have overwintered for me instead of bolting prematurely.
Now we’re eating Mino Early radish, from Kitazawa Seed Company. This is the first daikon I’ve managed to grow in the spring.
I promise I’ll write more soon.