Why? Because they look just like the picture on the pack. Never before have our brassicas looked so much like the commercial varieties. Rarely does anything we grow resemble what you might find on a supermarket shelf. But, and it’s partly our fault because we’re growing a classic-looking variety, this year our broccoli harvest, most of it, is virtually indistinguishable from the mainstream.
Until you eat it that is. I am finding it almost impossible not to overcook the stuff. It’s got a great flavour, it is incredibly tender, and we know there’s not a thing been used on it that I would count as poison. Maybe the work we did on our soil last year has paid off. Maybe we just got it in early enough, or the season has been that little bit more forgiving. Or maybe it’s a sign that if you can find the right balance between the breeds you grow, the soil you nurture and the time you harvest, then your crop can be big and showy and still have all the micronutrients that properly grown vegetables should have.
We’ve expanded into new varieties in the paddocks, I have to say. Sadie and I adopted a Guernsey cow we’ve named Elsie, and a Dairy Shorthorn, an old, rare breed that’s good for both milk and meat, which we’ve called Alice. They hang out together in our old hay paddock, quietly chomping down the long grass, and fixing me with their big, soft brown eyes. I’m a sucker for a dairy cow, and I have to say, I’m totally enamoured of the butterscotch coloured Elsie. Trained to a halter, she’s calm in the paddock, and well handled. Alice, on the other hand, I’m just getting to know. She’s a bit more flighty, slightly nervous around the bucket, but is getting used to being handled more by the day. I adore her russet colour, her strong nature.
Both cows are in calf, due over the next two months or so. Our hope is to try and milk them. Both have come from dairies, but it’s Elsie that I rest my hopes on with this first calf.
It’s been a dry autumn; so the farm is looking pretty nice. There’s been enough rain to turn things green, but not so much rain that the pig paddocks turn to slop. We even had to turn the pump on in the vegie garden for an hour, which would be unheard of at this stage in an average year.
There’s not a lot you can plant at this time of year. The garlic is in. So are the broad beans. It’s too late to plant carrots. Our earlier attempts at them were met with some pretty veracious slugs, so we won’t have any that ‘over-winter’. Carrots that sit in the ground over winter gain an extraordinary sweetness. Instead the carrots we’re eating now will be the last of ours until summer.
Our apples are all finished, too. Including the ones I had snuck into the fridge to help keep them fresh. Even Elsie and Alice will have to get bought apples as a treat now, though they do rather enjoy a cabbage leaf or two. And just as good as cabbage leaves are broccoli leaves. And thanks to good fortune or good stewardship, I have quite a few of those, too.