May 30, 2012

The brassica family

Many of the greens I grow come from the huge brassica family.  By no means is this 'family tree' of brassica's complete.  It's mainly the greens I have grown, the greens I'd like to grow, and some other branches that are substantial/important.  Have I gotten anything wrong?  Anything you would like to see added? 

tree picture

May 27, 2012


I have been staring at pages and pages of numbers for the past few days.  Since most of my plants have gone to the compost pile I don't have much to excite me  . . .  except trays full of basil!

Aren't they cute?  This picture is from months ago.  Basil does not grow very quickly, especially when it is not very warm out.  I wouldn't really call it a 'wintergreen.'  It definitely falls into the summer herb category.  

I planted these on March 20th and have been watching and measuring them ever since.  They were started in a tray of composted and transplanted into a plug tray or a tray of compost when they had two leaves.   I doubt this is the preferred method of planting.  When I was seeding them they all fell into the soil and leaving them there seemed better than rooting around trying to get them out.  Transplanting worked just fine, and none of the seedlings seemed to suffer.

Basil is a nice, symmetric plant.  In my notes I referred to their growth by how many sets of leaves the plant had.  The picture above shows three sets of leaves on 36 day old plants.

By this time they were plugs with nice root systems.  To give them more space to grow I re-planted them in either trays of compost (left) or pots of various sizes (right).  (Growing basil is not really an organized experiment, so everything I do is just to see what happens.)

Then I left them alone for a while.  I was busy measuring and weighing all the real wintergreens.  In May I noticed this:


And this!

Oh no!  Unhappy plants!  Picture number one is from basil in a 6-pack (the kind of pot you buy pansy's in.)  Number two is the tray of plants that I transplanted directly and didn't put into a plug tray.  Confused?  Really all the matters is that the basil plants were getting stressed out because they had used up all the nutrients in the compost.  I stuck them in a new tray full of compost and they are much happier.

This week I'm wrapping up all my greenhouse experiments for the summer.   I've already planted seven basil plants in the garden.  The rest will go to other people's gardens, or towards making pesto (the real kind, not the brassica kind).   I just read that basil can be propagated by cutting, so there will definitely be some basils in water on my window sill.   Probably you'll here about it soon. 

May 23, 2012

Graphing the growth rate of greens

I have now measured 14,400 leaves and weighed 8,505 grams of harvested greens, so it's about time to make some graphs out of all that data. (8.5 kg is almost 20 pounds, which is ALOT of greens.  You could make many, many salads.)

I love making graphs.  Partly because they get to be colorful, but mostly because they take a whole bunch of numbers and organize them.  The graphs below took 12,200 numbers to make. Think about that for a while.

(The y-axis is leaf length in cm.  I forgot to label it.)
This graph shows the growth rate of each variety of green that I planted on 3/20.  I didn't start measuring until the plants had harvestable leaves, which was around the 12th/13th of April.  If you remember my overview of this experiment post at the beginning of April I was hoping to see the growth rate level off.  From this graph you can see that did not happen.  The greens just kept growing and growing.  I had to stop measuring leaf length, not because I ran out of greens, but because the greens ran out of nutrients and looked ugly.  (As shown in the stressed out greens post.)  The little black x's mark the best harvests. 

(The y-axis is harvest weight in grams.  I forgot to label it.)
The graph of harvest weights shows a general trend of continued growth for most varieties.  Toyko benkana and Outrageous lettuce have weird, unexplainable dips in harvest weight near the end.  I don't know what happened to cause that, but it does show why I have to do experiments a few times.

These two graphs aren't everything.  Now that I'm done measuring and harvesting four times a week I'll be using this data (all 14,400 numbers) to extrapolate things like: potential harvest weight, optimal harvesting time and how much money it cost to do all this.  Pretty cool stuff eh?

May 21, 2012

tat soi florets for dinner

Since the winter (when I started saving mizuna seeds) I learned that you can eat all brassica florets.  After I read that I felt a bit stupid.  What did I think brocoli was?  Not a very tasty flower in the brassica family that is a staple in my refrigerator? 

  When I threw out all the flats of over-the-hill greens a few weeks ago I save a few of tat soi because they were just starting to flower.  Oh boy, do they taste good!  Like sweet broccoli, and with no sharpness that broccoli sometimes has.  I quickly learned that you have to pick the florets when they are small, otherwise they get tough and fibrous.

I ate most of the tat soi as snacks when working in the greenhouse, but some made it home for dinner one night.  I sautéed them with garlic and asparagus (from the store) and spring onions (from another research project at the farm).  I mixed the sauté with a piece of chopped bacon and middle eastern couscous (which I just discovered this year and are my favorite).  Then we ate it all up.

May 17, 2012

Saving seeds

A long time ago, February to be exact, I grew a whole lot 
of mizuna in plug trays.  Maybe you were as sick of hearing 
about mizuna, spinach and lettuce as I was by the end of it.  
Since I had so many plugs (small, baby plants with lots of roots) 
I planted some in bigger trays with the hope they would grow 
and I could eat them.  

Instead I forgot about them and they flowered!  
There are wild mustard flowers like this blooming 
all over the place in New Hampshire right now.  
I think they are pretty, especially along the highway.

I decided to save the seeds from the flowering mizuna.  
I've never successfully seed-saved before - 
I'm good at saving seed, but not finding them again.

So, I waited and waited for the plants to stop flowering.  
The interval between flower and seed was much longer than 
between mature plant and flower. 

Finally last week the seed pods were ready!  
(Actually, they weren't all ready, I was just tired of waiting.)  
If you look closely you can seed dark brown spots in 
the tan seed pods.  Those are the seeds.

I took the stalks home and collected the seeds.  
It was like shelling peas, only I didn't eat any.  
Now I have about a tablespoon of mizuna seeds.  
They are packaged, labeled and stored in a safe place 
that I will probably remember in the fall.  I thought about
planting them right away, but right now I have quite enough greens. 

May 16, 2012

See us grow!

Five varieties, three weeks.

May 13, 2012

Stuffing myself full of greens

If you remember, a few weeks ago I was lamenting that I have too many greens and was searching for new ways to eat them.  Coincidentally, a few nights ago there was a "Super nourishing greens cooking and wellness" class a few towns over.  (It was held at the Blue Moon Cafe.  I've never eaten there before, but the menu sounded amazing.)  Now I'm full of ideas how to use up all our greens.

Last night we had mustard green pesto for dinner.  I guess pesto isn't really that original.  For whatever reason I didn't think that I could use mustard greens to make it.  Maybe because no one else does?  Mustard greens (all five varieties!) have been the hardest to get rid of because they can't be put into a smoothie.  We tried, but it just didn't taste very good.

My mustard green pesto with sunflower seeds and LOTS of garlic tasted pretty good.  It didn't photograph so well, and just looked like green goop.  You'll just have to believe me when I say it tasted good.

May 10, 2012

Good bye plants!

All the stressed-out, old plants that don't taste good (or look very nice).

May 7, 2012

Beauty shots

All those cloudy days last week were good for taking pictures.  I took lots.  Not the kind of pictures that will someday be useful for presentations or paper writing, but the super-close-up kind. (Actually, I did take lots of 'useful' pictures too, someday maybe you'll see them.)  

Ruby streaks are my favorite green to photograph right now.  I love their bright green stems.

I have lots of data right now, but haven't done anything with it beside enter it into excel.  Once the semester is really over I'll have time to do something with it.

May 4, 2012

Baby plants for a rainy day

Today is grey and gloomy.  
I am waiting for the rain to let up just a little bit 
so I can run up to the greenhouse.  
These pictures are from only a week ago when it was sunny.  
(Ruby streaks, kale, defender lettuce.)

May 2, 2012

Stressed out greens

I came into the greenhouse on Monday to find I wasn't the only one stressed out this week.  I'm working on finishing lengthy term papers for the end of the semester.  The greens are stressed out because they are running out of nutrients.  In some varieties stress is shown by leaves turning purplish, in others the leaves bleach to bright yellow.  The tokyo bekana, kale, arugula and tat soi above are all brassicas that were first to reach harvestable size (Mizuna was as well, but I didn't take a picture of it looking stressed out).  So, it makes sense that they would use up all their nutrients first.  I am growing the greens in compost, which should provide all the nutrients needed.  If I were growing these to eat, or for sale I would have harvested them last week before they got stressed out.  

Happily, the lettuces still look good.  Most of the year I am not a supporter of lettuce - it is bland, or bitter and doesn't have as many nutrients as other greens.  At this time of year though, it is perfect!  All green and leafy tasting.  Lettuce is in the Aster family, along with dandelions.  I don't think they are close taxonomic relatives, but I do think that lettuce smells a bit like dandelions.