Ahhh sunshine, where have you been hiding this last month. So lovely to see you again! Clear blue sky for what seems like the first time in ages, but more importantly it has stopped raining at least for the time being. What a relief for those living here in West Yorkshire who have suffered with the floods, there have been problems all round the Calder valley. Thankfully we've not been affected either by the flooding or the subsequent power cuts, the allotments behind my house have been a bit like a pond in places but our house is raised up.
I walked over to my allotment yesterday to get some fresh air and to pick some vegetables for our roast dinner. I grow enough sprouts to have some for Christmas and a few other meals and that is enough for me. I never used to like them much at all but do like them now. This year I had a go at growing two varieties. Just three plants of each. An F1 variety called 'Titus' and one called 'Ruby Crunch'. Both from Marshalls. Some of the sprouts on 'Titus' had blown or gone over a bit and there was a mixture of sizes, some very big and some small. I think some of the sprouts should have been harvested earlier. Growing F1 hybrids is supposed to help to get more even sprouts but I think the growing conditions have made the growth a bit erratic this year with some dry spells and then a long warm autumn. In fact sprouts are supposed to be up to a third bigger this winter due to the long mild autumn. Have other growers found this? Those on 'Ruby Crunch' were probably more even in size. This is a variety with red/purple sprouts and Marshall's claim it as a dual purpose Brussels sprout as it also produces a red cabbage at the top of the stem. Mine did have a lot of greenery at the top which I used as cabbage but it was quite loose in growth. Maybe it should have been left for longer. This is the first year that I've really properly grown a purple sprout successfully. I found that they had a lot less of a tight button than the green variety and they did look very weird. Like little brains!! Here they are all picked and peeled.
I guess the real verdict is in the taste. Well we weren't sure but found the purple variety a little bit bitter compared to the green one. Hmmm so not sure whether to try that again.
Its been a good year for Brassica's for me. Calabrese was good over the summer, I grew the variety called 'Marathon' which is always reliable. I grew a mixture of Kale varieties which are still going strong. I also had good success with red cabbage, I grew a pointed cabbage called 'Kalibos', less so with the green cabbage 'Primo'. Wish I'd tried cauliflower this year, it might have been a good year. I was less successful with Kohl rabi, I struggle to get nice round balls as the slugs always seem to take a chunk out of them. But I did get some to harvest. I grew my main crops under enviromesh this year, which really helped with the cabbage white butterfly so I would definitely recommend it. There were no sneaky caterpillars in amongst my Calabrese which can be very off-putting!! It is also effective against the pigeons, though I still have a bit of a problem with cabbage whitefly but much less so for the ones grown under the mesh. The thing that was the biggest Brassica pest was slugs and snails. I would say that you need to be really diligent with weeding under the covers as I wasn't for my cabbages and the green ones got ripped to shreds. It can create a lovely haven for slugs and snails. It was clear when picking the sprouts and cabbage that slugs and snails are still active on my plot. We really need some cold weather to see some off!
So what to grow next year, well think I will stick to my tried and tested Calabrese and Kales, and the Cabbage 'Kalibos' was great. But our local garden centre was recently selling off seeds for 50p a packet and so I got another couple of curiosities, a Brussels sprout variety called 'Flower Sprout' from Suttons, which is a cross between a Brussels sprout and a Kale! It develops like a sprout with buttons along the stem but then these are like frilly kales. A bit bonkers yes but will give it a try. I also bought a packet of seed of Cauliflower 'Di Sicillia Violetta' from Suttons in the same sale, this is a vibrant purple variety. Maybe I should have learnt my lesson with the purple sprout. Are you growing any curiosities next year?