Cime di Rapa

My wife and I really like Purple Sprouting Broccoli and grow it at the allotment. However, we can’t grow it all year round and refuse to pay for the imported crops out of season. Earlier in the year I discovered an alternative – Cime di Rapa. This is basically a variety of broccoli (despite the name referring to turnips) and although not known in this country is widely grown and eaten in Italy. One of the key advantages if this brassica is its speed of growth – different varieties range from 30-90 days from seed to harvest. The fantastic Franchi Seeds sell a number of varieties (I grew Cime di Rapa Quarantina, a 40 days variety).

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I sowed the seeds with 10cm gaps between each station (sowing a few seeds at each stop). Once sowed Cime di Rapa does pretty well left to its own devices. I’ve thinned some of the rows to get larger plants; but as the leaves alone can be eaten as greens, this is not necessarily needed. When the plants are at a reasonable size the flower heads can be picked and used as you would Purple Sprouting Broccoli. In Italy, it’s often eaten a part of a pasta dish, Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa is one of Puglia’s signature dishes.

I’ve used the Cime di Rapa as an accompaniment to Pork Chops stuffed with sage and bacon. The greens were treated very simply; steamed, then tossed in garlic infused olive oil and finished off with a squeeze of lemon juice. The slightly bitter flavours contrasting brilliantly with the sweet pork meat. The wilted greens also make a great bruschetta topping.

Writing this post has reminded me – I’m off to the plot in a moment to sow some more Cime di Rapa.

What to do with a spare wellie?

Having small children we have inevitably have a supply of old small Wellington boots. What is it with children and wellies? Or perhaps it’s just my children? Every time we buy a pair of wellies we try to buy a decent pair, so they don’t wear out. Then inevitably they do just that, or the children’s feet grow! Anyway, this leaves us with a fare share of wellies to recycle. What to do with them? Well, one use I’ve come up with is to use them as planters.

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First you need to drill drainage holes through the soles of the wellingtons. Then put some polystyrene or other crocs in the bottom to help with drainage. Fill the boots with compost and then plant your plants in the top. I’ve planted nasturtiums and marigolds this year. They need a good water and will need to be regularly watered, like all containers. But they’ll do fine!

To liven up the fence at the plot I hung the wellies on the fence panels using cup hooks. It’s always nice to be met by flowers as we enter the plot.

The Great Cucumber Monster

On a walk back from the school run one day I noticed someone had thrown out a wooden parasol. It got my attention, but I had no use for a broken sun shade. A trawl later through Pinterest (it was wet) led me to a photo of a cucumber frame made from an old parasol. Ever keen to reuse rather than recycle I returned from next morning’s school run with a broken parasol and hot-footed it over to the plot. A quarter of an hour later the allotment had its very own cucumber frame! No cucumbers, but a great piece of reclaimed garden architecture.

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Fired up by cucumber enthusiasm I bought seeds, sowed and raised plants to populate frame. The standard parasol has eight spurs and so I duly planted eight cucumber plants. After a few weeks the plants started to ramble up the wood and I repeatedly tied them to the spurs to tame the evergrowing eight armed cucumber monster!

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Eight cucumber plants produce a lot of cucumbers and nearly everyone we know now has an almost unlimited supply if cucumbers.

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Now to investigate cucumber recipes as there seems no end to the supply – and I’ve got another plant growing in the greenhouse!