Late-season brassicas

Late-season brassicas

Feb 27, 2024Calixta Killander

Greetings from a wet and mild February farm. The spring radishes are showing signs of popping their heads above the soil soon, while the growing team have been making improvements to the hardening off area – an important zone where plants spend time adjusting to the outdoor climate after leaving their comfortable propagation room.

Routine care of the perennial plants this week has included weeding and pruning our cane fruits, including blackberries and raspberries that feel like a distant dream on dreary February days! The perennial herbs in the field that we moved a few weeks ago are growing and looking happy, while this will be our first year of a significant artichoke crop – they're looking great out there.

The warm weather has prompted our purple sprouting broccoli to spring into life and it's looking absolutely stunning out in the field as we type. We're also harvesting the lesser-known kale sprouts - the flowering shoots of our cavolo nero plants, which are equally delicious and in peak season right now. 

We're surprised to see the brassica shoots come this early – we'd usually expect them mid-March. We've spent lots of time observing over the years that we've been farming this land and recording what weeks things usually happen – and the patterns of nature are definitely shifting in some alarming ways as the climate changes.

Still, the brassica shoots are a great crop that provides plentiful food and these late-season crops are a valuable source of food as we enter the hungry gap.

Michael is one of our growers and responsible for our brassicas in winter, while he'll turn his attention to the peppers, aubergines and chillies as we move into summer. He's also been a key player in our essential infrastructure and maintenance work over the past few months, winterproofing and improving our irrigation systems when he's not busy harvesting.

Michael's journey to Flourish is particularly interesting as he's spent most of his working life as a chef. He says: "Having worked across both fine dining and street food, the lockdowns of 2020 led to me looking at food in a different light and getting interested in growing. I got an allotment and the more I learned about food, the more I realised I was unhappy with the quality of what we serve people."

Michael started researching regenerative agriculture and the links between our current food system and global warming. He took the leap to come aboard back in May 2023 - right in the thick of the spring season, which he recalls as quite an intense time! 

Most winter veg crops are brassicas and they’re a significant proportion of what we grow here. Contrary to popular belief they're a difficult crop to grow well – they can have a heavy disease burden, attract a variety of pests, and are nutrient hungry – needing good fertility to yield well. Growing them well commercially is not easy.

At this stage, the kales and collards are looking fantastic and still giving us their beautiful green leaves, but different succession sowings ensure that, as the weather warms and the plants respond by sending up their shoots, with stalks becoming more tender, we're able to harvest the flowering kales as well as spigarellio.

Once the plants fully go to flower, we leave them in the soil, as they're beneficial for pollinators, plus we can eat brassica flowers in early spring salads, and by leaving living roots in the ground we protect the soil rather than leaving it bare for long periods.

Thanks for reading and supporting our work,

Team Flourish

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