Lately I’ve been struck by how differently everyone approaches vegetables. When I was being trained for the diabetes prevention lifestyle program one of the trainers said that some people just don’t like fruits and vegetables. I was shocked. How can one NOT like vegetables? Then again, my sister-in-law doesn’t like chocolate cake, so I suppose anything is possible.
One of the things I love most about being part of a CSA is the challenge of figuring out what to do with the more unusual items. Of course, my definition of unusual has changed quite a bit over the years! A coworker brought in some extra garden produce and I had THREE people ask me what one of the items was . . . it was a cucumber. “But it doesn’t look like a cucumber,” one of them said. I suppose it was a bit shorter and rounder than most of the cucumbers that you see in the store, but it definitely looked like a cucumber to me! I explained that cucumbers come in all shapes and sizes and that I even grew lemon cucumbers this year. They look like lemons and are the perfect size for a snack.
So despite being considered by my office as the resident vegetable expert, even I come across new things once in awhile. Last week when I received brussels sprouts tops, I was pretty excited. “We’ve always wanted to offer Brussels’ sprout tops as part of the CSA share, but never quite remembered,” explained one of our farmers. “This year, we decided to add them to the share at the last moment. If it is sitting in the fridge now awaiting inspiration, consider using them in any recipe where you would use kale.”
I did some Googling, and surprisingly didn’t find a whole lot other than some articles from the UK. Those United Kingdom chaps seem to have a lot of great recipes for some reason. Lots of people mentioned that they harvest the tops when it looks like a freeze is coming on and the sprouts haven’t gotten very big. I did find this tip from Cedar Circle Farm:
Pruning Tricks If any of the lower leaves of the plant show any yellowing, at once strip them off. (By the way: the younger, tender leaves can be cooked up much like collards or turnip greens, if that’s your idea of a good time.) Some growers remove all leaves to accelerate harvest, but that practice is not essential in the home garden, and not practical for us on the farm. Some believe that the sprouts develop better if the lowermost six to eight leaves are removed from the sides of the stalk as the sprouts develop. Two or three additional leaves can be removed each week, but several of the largest, healthiest, fully expanded upper leaves should always be left intact on top to continue feeding the plant. Another practice is topping, or cutting off the growing tip of the plant when the sprouts are present but immature. See photo above for an example of where to cut. Some sources say that is not critical for home growers, but others swear that it is utterly essential for good production. Late August to mid September, or 3 weeks before the first harvest, is the best time to prune the tops in our region. The reason for doing it is to send the remaining energy of the plant in to sizing up your sprouts rather the in to creating new leaf growth. We do prune the tops of our sprouts in September
Cedar Circle is in Vermont, so it must be a similar growing season to Michigan because sure enough, it’s early September and the tops have appeared in my CSA share from Groundswell Community Farm!
I decided to take our farmer’s advice and use it like I would kale. I made the adobo chicken from the Wildtree Primal Goodness Freezer Meal Workshop and instead of making asparagus as a side dish, I simply sauteed the leaves of the tops with a little garlic oil and rancher steak rub. It turned out quite delicious! The flavor was much more mild than kale but the texture about the same.
It was fun trying something new! If you’d like to try your own vegetable adventure, consider joining a CSA. In the West Michigan area, support our sponsor: http://groundswellfarm.org/member-signup-form/
Shares go through mid-December. You can also visit them at the following farmers markets:
- Fulton St. Market in GR, Saturdays
- Holland Farmers’ Market, Saturdays & Wednesdays
- Grand Haven Farmers’ Market, Saturdays