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By Mike Clark
I did a wee bit of tidying up in the vegetable patch tonight, just before it got dark.
The hardy white cabbages look pretty disgusting on the outside Ė all brown and slimy. But peel off the outer leaves, and they are fresh, crisp and succulent.
The late sprouts are beginning to regrow, but there are still some good tight sprouts to be picked. And when they are done, the fresh tops can be used like spring greens. And alongside the sprouts, the curly kale has come through the winter admirably. This is one of my favourite winter vegetables. It is traditionally boiled senseless, but is far better lightly boiled for ten minutes or less, and eaten while still slightly crispy.
Better still, is to use some young kale leaves, shredded, in a salad. It adds a freshness and a crisp texture to the shop-bought limp lettuce we are subjected to at this time of year.
I still have carrots and beetroot in the ground Ė I donít believe in lifting and storing. Okay, so the slugs have their percentage. But those that remain are all the sweeter, juicier and tastier for remaining where nature intended. And donít be put off by the idea that if slugs puncture a beetroot, it will ďbleedĒ when boiling. Not in my experience.
And by the way, beetroot retain their flavour much better if stored in the fridge in their skins after boiling. Donít peel them until youíre ready to eat them.
I had the last of my spring onions tonight. Most varieties stand well through the winter, and donít mind a bit of frost. Eat them before it gets too mild, though, or theyíll start to run to seed.
The leeks were finished a couple of weeks ago, but only because I didnít have enough. Late varieties should stand well into the spring, and nothing quite compares with home-made leek and tattie soup.
Which youíll want to garnish with parsley, of course. From late sowings, I have a plentiful supply of both plain-leaved and curly.
Now, add to all this the winter cauliflower which are just beginning to head, and the spring cabbage, planted out in September, which are slowly coming to life, and you will realise there is no excuse for shutting down your garden in winter.
There is no month of the year in which your garden cannot produce some fresh, healthy vegetables.
By the way, the first half dozen early tatties are in the ground. Iíll be earthing them up regularly, as soon as they dare to peek above the surface, because a covering of soil will prevent frost damage.
Borecole - Darkibor F1
I had the first earlies (Red Duke of York) on the 21st of June last year. If I beat that this year, youíll be the first to know.
If I donít, tatties will not be mentioned in this column for a long while.
© Mike Clark 2003