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Brassicas
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Colorful cauliflowers
‘Graffiti’ (top left), ‘Amazing’ (right) and ‘Cheddar’ cauliflower. Photo courtesy of Mark Hutton.

Articles

The so-called "cabbage family" – actually the species Brassica oleracea – has given us several botanical monstrosities we enjoy as food, but none I think is quite so outré as the kohlrabi.

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Collards. Until a few years ago, this big, paddle-leafed member of the cabbage family – Brassica oleracea, Acephala group – was considered strictly Southern in the United States, but, as the song says, “the times, they are a changin’.”

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Colorful cauliflowersThe Maine climate is great for producing brassicas. At the 2007 Farmer-to-Farmer Conference, Mark Hutton of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Highmoor Farm in Monmouth and Jason Kafka of Checkerberry Farm in Parkman covered production methods for organic growers.

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Red Russian kaleIn Maine, kale comes into its own in autumn. Healthy and tall even in November, it barely shivers when ice and snow decorate leaves and stems. In fact, cold weather seems to improve its flavor without deleting nutrition.

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Turnip and rutabagaAccording to William Woys Weaver, “At one time Americans were as enthusiastic about turnips as they now are about tomatoes …. ” He surmises that the shift in popularity has to do with the many food choices now available in winter; the fact that we no longer depend on root cellar vegetables; and the fact that soup cookery has fallen out of fashion, the turnip having been a cornerstone of many older soup recipes.

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Dave Colson of New Leaf Farm in Durham, Maine, shared his expertise in growing cole crops at a MOFGA-sponsored talk at the Maine Agricultural Trades Show in January. He pointed out that broccoli and cauliflower can diversify the type of labor required on a farm, because each plant can be harvested only once, as opposed to salad mixes, which are harvested frequently.

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