25 August 2010

Planting Garlic and Purple-tinted Cauliflower

I love cauliflower! Yum! This is my first time growing it and one is almost ready to harvest.  This is 'Snowball Improved', an organic cultivar, seeds were from Green Harvest. I sowed the seeds in punnets in mid-March and transplanted them about six weeks later in early May.  As I have previously mentioned, we have had a VERY cold winter so these grew slowly. Everything just had a sudden growth period a couple of weeks ago with a bit of warmer weather (meanwhile, it's back to winter - it hailed yesterday).  Apparently the purple tint is normal.  In the past, farmers would blanch cauliflower by keeping it covered (like celery or rhubard). Cauliflower and all other brassicas (cabbage family) contain anthocyanins that can help protect the cells from sun damage. Sometimes the purple tint is a heat response.  I'm guessing this was a response to sunny weather after months of cold and grey.   Plants are amazing, they make their own sunscreen!  The purple cauliflowers that are available would have orginally been selected from plants that had a strong purple tint.  Anthocyanins are also antioxidants - the same ones found in blueberries.

Planting Garlic
In a temperate climate like Melbourne, garlic can be planted all year.  A couple of weeks ago I decided to plant the remaining garlic from my last crop early in the year.  Here's a step-by-step on how to plant garlic:

1. Choose garlic is still firm and has no sign of disease or insect damage.  Break them into individual cloves - each of these is a bulb, similar to a tulip bulb and will grow a new plant.  Keep the papery outer layer on - it will protect the bulb while it's in its early growth stages.  The bulbs don't have to be sprouting but they will grow more quickly if they are.

2. Dig a hole about the depth of your index finger and place the bulb with the flat bit facing down and the sprouting or pointy end facing up.  There is no need to fertilize. The bulb itself is chock full of nutrients for the young plant to use until it develops a root system.  Again, amazing plants...bulbs come with their own food ready to use (that's why it's important that the cloves aren't dried out.)
3. Fill the hole and gently pat down the soil. This is me being good and wearing gloves. In the summer I usually don't.
That's it! Easy! Here's how they looked today, two weeks later:
And some that have been in for a few months, over winter:
I'll pick them when the leaves turn yellow later this year.  With my last batch, I harvested a mix of plants in various stages of leaf yellowing.  I found that the ones that completely died back had some black fungal damage, so I'll harvest them all a bit earlier this time.  Garlic needs to be cured by gently wiping off any dirt, removing the roots and most of the stem (unless you are going to make a garlic braid) and leaving them in a dark ventilated place for a couple of weeks.  I left them on my shady back porch hanging from the railing last time and that seemed to work well.

I'm going to a 1930's to 50's hair and makeup workshop over the weekend, so hopefully I'll have some pics of me looking very vintage in the next post! Have fun in the garden, Mel.

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