After the mayhem of Christmas & New Year, it was a pleasure to be able to escape to the allotment for a few hours last weekend. And even more pleasurable to witness what awaited me in the poly tunnel: a ready-to-harvest crop of wintergreens.
Despite the inclement weather, the transplanted seedlings have grown into strong, healthy plants that are now large enough to be picked. I took the ‘cut and come again’ approach as you would with lettuce at this stage. I am hopeful that this will encourage new growth and extend the picking season. I suspect that at some point I will uproot whole plants if they continue expanding at current rates.
The only plants not ready for harvest were the spinach. The first lot of seedlings only produced a couple of plants and these are very slow growing in comparison to the brassica varieties. Perhaps they will still do well a bit later on.
I only harvested from the plants with the largest leaves, but could have taken a couple from each for a larger haul. With the Mizuna I took a small clump. The harvest (clockwise from top left) is: Mizuna, Pak Choi, Fuyuna and Choy Sum (flower heads).
I only wanted to lightly cook the greens, and as there wasn’t enough to make a main dish, I fried them in a hot wok in a little seasame oil, sprinkling tamari over them in the final moments of cooking. I then added them to a bowl of hot, spicy celery and potato soup (because its still winter and its too cold for salad!).
Any type of vegetable soup will work – perhaps make the most of the opportunity to showcase your fresh winter greens by using up some of those left over root veggies you have: potatoes, carrots, celeriac, parsnips. You can also add a little cheese after serving; we used vegan blue ‘cheese’, which complimented the soup perfectly. Alternatively, the greens would be a perfect addition to a stir-fry or as a steamed vegetable accompaniment.
At the end of October I thinned out the seedlings as ruthlessly as I could. This meant removing around half to make plenty of room for the remaining plants to continue growing. I always feel a sense of brutality at pulling up perfectly healthy plants, but we made the most of the thinned out seedlings as a delicious addition to a bowl of hot noodles. In particular the brassica seedlings will thank me for this activity, as brassicas are notoriously fussy about not having their roots disturbed too much and disliking competition from neighbouring roots.
In fact, next time I would consider sowing directly into a seed bed of well sieved soil in the poly, rather than having to transplant the seedlings. The brassica’s above ground healthy looks belie their pathetic, weedy looking root system. I worry that they can’t support their top-heavy heads, but they have survived the transplant so far.
Even with minimal trips to the poly tunnel this month the capillary matting worked really well, and there’s been some bright days allowing the seedlings to put on some growth, particularly the Mizuna which you can see in the foreground of the picture of transplanted seedlings.
I was able to plant out the seedlings at the weekend, ensuring the soil they were planted into was finely raked and moist. The poly tunnel has been well manured over the growing season and is relatively fertile. I have added some organic slug pellets, which I know are under scrutiny as to whether they are truly organic, but as they are being used undercover, I hope that any contaminated pests will not be accessed by birds or wildlife.
I will continue my infrequent visits to the seedlings to water and check for pest damage, although in the first few days of transplanting I will make sure they are watered every 2-3 days. Once they have had a chance to establish themselves, I may also make a further thinning out – if I can bear it!