The Joy of Gardening: Eating What You Grow

It’s a remarkable experience eating something you grow yourself. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

I grow vegetables on a small-scale, and suffer the same garden failures we all do: pests, frost, heatwaves, drought. It’s a wonder anything gets on the table.

It’s human nature to persevere, however, and when success follows…wow!

We ate fresh broccoli from the garden today. Six beautifully formed plants, six perfect heads of broccoli. Those remarkable greens moved from garden to kitchen to table in under an hour.  Broccoli never tasted so sweet.

Cream of the Broccoli Crop

Cream of the Broccoli Crop

Broccoli Fresh from the Plant

Broccoli Fresh from the Plant

Basket of Freshly Picked Broccoli

Basket of Freshly Picked Broccoli

Broccoli Sauteed in Garlic and Olive Oil

Broccoli sautéed in Garlic and Olive Oil

My Husband’s Recipe

  • Two heads of broccoli
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of lemon juice
  • handful of slivered almonds

Heat oil on medium.  Add garlic and broccoli; salt and pepper to taste

Cover for 2 to 5 minutes or until broccoli is tender

Add a dash of lemon juice and a handful of slivered almonds

Cover and cook for one more minute.

Serve immediately

A Broccoli We Will Grow

What do you think?  Catchy song title, eh?


Okay, I’ll stick to growing instead. I’m happy to report that the broccoli is doing well, growing and showing signs of decent production.  I snapped off one large leaf with a cluster of pests (yuck), but the plants look healthy. The leaves are a nice, dark green and small heads are forming on all six plants.

Broccoli Head

Broccoli Head

I grew broccoli last year, but it bolted early.  I managed just a few small heads. Since the cauliflower is looking worse by the day, I’ve set my sights on the great green veg.

I enjoy eating broccoli in a number of ways:

  • Steamed till tender but still crunchy,
  • sautéed with almonds (my husbands yummy recipe),
  • and blended in soup

It’s hard not to feel virtuous when munching on this cruciferous darling

Broccoli contains more vitamin C than oranges, ounce for ounce.  It has a much calcium as a glass of milk, and contains folate, important for the production and maintenance of new cells.  It’s an excellent source of iron as well as fiber.

Broccoli Plants

Broccoli Plants

It will be an excellent source of pride as well, if I can get past these next few weeks. Fingers crossed for cooperative weather, and a pest-free, bolt-free crop.

Broccoli Leaves

Broccoli Leaves

Further Reading:

A Broccoli We Will Grow

Birdhouse Gourd

Birdhouse Gourd

We enjoyed cauliflower and broccoli at the table tonight, though neither of them came from my garden. I hope that changes soon. All the plants are looking healthy and perky from the recent rain. Last week I saw a green worm and what looked like eggs, but apparently a bird came along and had them for lunch. There isn’t a single trace of whatever it was, though chewed leaves are in abundance.

After a life of eating mostly from the grocery store, I get pretty excited at the prospect of real vegetables growing out back. I wasn’t raised eating either of these vegetables, but have grown to love them both. I prefer my broccoli steamed or in soup and my cauliflower raw.

The pair of birdhouse gourds are still hanging on, but it won’t be long now. I’ve seen some amazing examples of painted gourds on the web. Time to start pinning ideas.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and Cauliflower, November 9th

Broccoli and cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower, December 17th (six weeks later)

It looks like at least one of the radishes survived the kitty onslaught, or it could be an herb that I don’t yet recognize.  I love the mystery of it all.  And yes, those are pumpkin plants in the lower box, a self-seeded crop growing away in mid-December.  Go figure?

Second Chances

There is no accounting for taste.  It’s one of life’s mysteries.  I’ve raised two sons in one household with identical  food choices, but only one of them  loves fruits and vegetables.  I continue to re-introduce different foods, he continues to eschew most of them.   Broccoli is not on his short list.  He says it’s too bland.

Today, he turned a corner!  He invited a young friend to stop by to see the new garden.  Together they swept gravel from the path.  With joy and pride he trimmed small florets of broccoli to send home with his mate.   He then nibbled on one of the organic florets and pronounced: “I like it because it is bland.”   Three cheers for second chances and the power of a garden.

The Broccoli Bolted


It didn’t run down the street or anything like that, but in garden parlance, it bolted.  This can happen for a variety of reasons, I’m just surprised that it happened so fast.

My vegetable plot is tiny so every plant counts.  With only four plants, I certainly wasn’t producing much more than a meal’s worth of this delicious green. Things were looking promising until this week, when each plant took a different turn.

Two of the four remaining plants flowered.  Yes, yes, it’s pretty and all but now it’s no longer edible.   One of the plants suddenly shot up tall and straight.  My husband asked, optimistically if was broccoli rabe, a distant and reviled cousin, seeking to explain the unusual appearance.

Tomorrow I’ll harvest the sturdier stalks and will  hope to get some additional florets from what remains.  According to this Growing Broccoli Guide I should:

Cut fall heads with less stem attached, leaving as much of the plant intact as possible to produce smaller side shoots or “florets,” which you can harvest until a hard freeze. When you bring broccoli indoors, soak the heads in lightly salted water (1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) of salt per gallon (4 l)) for 30 minutes before cooking or storing. This will drive out any cabbage worms hiding in the heads. Broccoli will keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for 7 to 10 days and can be eaten fresh, and it freezes well for future use.

Next year I’ll try a different winter crop.  In another twenty years, I’ll have this gardening thing down.

Too Flowery....

Too tall...

Just Right!

Broccoli is In!

I’m a fair-weather gardener. I like to plant spring through summer, enjoying what survives the onslaught of snails, squirrels, rats and tobacco worms.  Seasonal favorites include pumpkins and tomatoes, along with a row of towering sunflowers.

We added a few raised beds two years ago, and since then I can’t stand to see all that bare soil.  Even with my tiny plot, I’m aware of the benefits of cover crops: less erosion, for starters, and if properly planted, cover crops like fava beans will enrich the soil with nitrogen for next season’s plantings.  Last year’s fava beans were tilled back into the soil, and we followed with a bumper pumpkin crop.

This year’s cover crop is Broccoli.  I wasn’t raised eating this delicious green.  I was in my twenties before tasting it on a flight to Vancouver.  It’s now one of my favorites.  I’ll eat it raw but love it steamed or in soups.

This week, my lush, green plants started to yield tiny florets.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching things grow.

The Power of Broccoli:  nutrition, selection, storage and history

Recipe: Sesame Steamed Broccoli

Recipe: Creamy Vegan Broccoli Soup*

*I made this recipe a few weeks ago with organic broccoli from a local market.  It was delicious!

Mid-Autumn Garden

Broccoli in the Ground

My plan was to start broccoli from seed this year, but I temporarily misplaced the seeds when they fell behind the recycling bin. I planted starter-plants instead to give the garden a head start, next to the still-flowering tomato plants. In Canada the tomatoes would have been toast by now, but they continue to produce through the first “frost” here in sunny San Jose.

Last year we planted fava beans, then tilled them into the vegetable bed before they produced any beans. I learned that the small white nitrogen nodules that appear around the roots enrich the soil. The plants themselves act as a cover crop, reducing erosion from rain and wind. This year, the broccoli will act as a covering winter crop, but will hopefully produce some greens for the dinner table as well. Three out of four of my family members will actually eat broccoli, not bad in our household of picky eaters.

Winter gardens are easier to tend in a variety of ways: fewer weeds, fewer garden pests and if the weather cooperates, scattered showers throughout the growing season.

We’ll see how it grows!

Flowering Tomatoes

Tomato Plants Gone Wild