The Cole Crops: Delicious, Nutritious, Beautiful Staples of the Cool-Season Garden
Vegetable Seed Production Contracted Vegetable Seed Multiply
There’s something great about planting broccoli and kale out in the garden. Perhaps because they are harbingers of cool weather, thriving in that 60 to 70 degrees Farenheit range that we humans find so comfortable. Or maybe because they just taste so darn good right out of the garden.
In any case, cole crops are staples of the cool-season garden. In late August, gardeners in North America are in the midst of planting them or preparing to plant.
“Cole crop” is an informal name given to certain members of the family Brassicaceae (the mustard family) that are important in agriculture and the home garden. They include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, turnip, and of course mustard greens.
Cole crops are well-known to be highly nutritious, providing copious amounts of vitamins and minerals and soluble fiber. They also contain several nutrients such as glucosinolates and flavonoids which are proven to have anti-cancer properties.
And let’s not forget their ornamental qualities. Kale is especially beautiful for texture and color in the garden. Some varieties of kale are bred for ornamental purposes, although still edible. However, the “garden variety” kale serves the purpose well enough. Varieties like Red Russian and Dinosaur kale are very tasty and make great additions to landscaping or garden beds.
If a kid doesn’t like broccoli, maybe he or she hasn’t tried it fresh from the garden. Backyard broccoli tastes simply amazing compared to store-bought, as is the case with tomatoes. They are also splendid ornamental plants, with rich blue-green leaves. After the main head is cut, side shoots appear for weeks. At the end of the season, let some go to flower for a honey bee bonanza.
Speaking of beneficial cole crops, mustard greens provide all sorts of benefits to the human and the garden ecosystem. They are packed full of the aforementioned vitamins and nutrients, and also show a significant ability to lower cholesterol if eaten on a regular basis. Mustard greens are useful as a cover crop to manage soil-borne pathogens and the flowers attract beneficial insects.
Kohlrabi is an interesting cole crop. The young leaves can be harvested and cooked like turnip greens. The bulb and stem is the main attraction, having an unusual shape and a delicate sweet flavor. Even the tubers can be eaten like turnips.
Brussels sprouts are a long-growing cole crop that also grabs your attention when they begin producing their miniature cabbages all along the main stem. The taste of brussels sprouts fresh off the plant is refreshingly sweet and a far cry from the frozen stuff we shunned as kids. These will need some fertilizing through the season as they grow a long time to maturity.
The thrill of cole crops is perpetually renewed. With the transition of summer to fall we look forward to once again enjoying the beauty and the amazing taste and nutrition of these garden favorites.