Posts Tagged ‘purple sprouting broccoli’


Perennial 'everlasting cabbage' protected from the cabbage white butterfly by garden netting over a frame of canes, bottles and pegs alongside a pot of mixed lettuce.

Perennial ‘everlasting cabbage’ protected from the cabbage white butterfly by garden netting over a frame of canes, bottles and pegs alongside a pot of mixed lettuce.

Last year I thought I would save time netting my cabbages and just inspect the underside of my brassica plants for cabbage white butterfly eggs. They are easy enough to spot, I thought, being a bright yellow colour in clumps against the cabbage green leaves. Lack of inspection time and too many leaves to inspect meant enough eggs hatched out to render my cabbage a skeleton of stalks!

Over winter, however, my trusty everlasting cabbage plants and purple sprouting broccoli recovered and grew new leaves. Now they are big and bushy once more. To prevent the tragedy of caterpillars devouring the leaves again, I have taken protective action and the cabbage is now covered with netting to keep out the cabbage white butterfly. The broccoli has recently finished and has been removed to make way for beetroot and chard.

For less than 5 euro, I bought green garden netting. First I constructed a frame of bamboos with upturned plastic bottles on top of each cane. This prevents the netting from being ripped when it is draped over the structure all around the cabbage plants. Any leaves that were in contact with the edge of the netting, I harvested. If any leaf surface is accessible to the butterfly, she will lay. If even the slightest gap in the netting exists, she will get in to the cabbage plants also. The length of netting was first draped over the cabbage from north to south. When this was secured to the ground on each side, another length of netting was draped over the bush from east to west. Again, by threading the base of the netting through a bamboo cane on the ground, the base of the netting could be pegged at the bottom to prevent any gaps being created. Clothes pegs were then handy to close off any gaps at the corners. The pegs attached easily to the bamboo uprights. I hope the photograph makes all this reasonably clear.

The cabbage white butterfly lays eggs in May/June this year. In a normal year laying could start in April. During August / September, she lays again, so don’t be caught out in the autumn! More details in the book Trevor’s Kitchen Garden, pages 49, 110, 113, 212. I’ve seen the book in many good garden centres and bookshops recently including the Book Centre in Wexford. To check where the book is available, contact the publisher



Murrayfield is unlikely to become allotments for growing fruit and veg anytime soon. That does not mean there are not comparisons between Irish rugby players being good at kicking and crops being ripe for picking. The older players ripened last summer and autumn in gardening terms, and the younger lads have a little time to go yet before they are fully ripe. For growers of fruit and veg, this conundrum of ‘too old or too young’ is known as the ‘hungry gap’.

In the case of my small garden, the chard is hanging in to give me and guests fine leaves for tasty meals. (See picture.) However the yield is becoming patchier as the plant is past its prime. The garlic cloves planted last November are about 10cm high but will not be ripe until late July this year. Fearing a ‘hungry gap’, I can see that the purple sprouting broccoli and everlasting cabbage are looking good for the next couple of months. However, June and July will be sparse for harvesting anything substantial, apart from rhubarb under the rowan trees and the early spuds now growing in bags inside the sliding door of the breakfast room. Those spuds should be ready to harvest in June.

The bounty of Nature can be useful during the ‘hungry gap’. For example, the spring growth  of stinging nettles makes handy ingredients for delicious soups, steamed as a veg or fried and tossed in spaghetti. (Nettle recipe on p.33 of ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’, Lamb’s lettuce seeds itself each year in the garden and is prolific for the next couple of months. However, the hungry period is a challenge in the garden as the leaves available tend to be small and fiddly requiring more preparation time picking and cooking.

Irish rugby seems to be in a bit of a ‘hungry gap’ too, at the moment. Hopefully a few proverbial ‘green stinging nettles’ can be selected for the next match against the old warm weather loving

Pat O'Mara, Orchard Manager at Seed Savers, Scarriff, Co. Clare, ( cutting chard for dinner while a guest in 'Trevor's Kitchen Garden' before teaching a Sonairte course in fruit pruning up the road in Laytown. (

Pat O’Mara, Orchard Manager at Seed Savers, Scarriff, Co. Clare, ( cutting chard for dinner while a guest in ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ before teaching a Sonairte course in fruit pruning up the road in Laytown. (

‘French beans’!


Pea, beetroot, sunflower, courgette, leek seeds all thriving on one of the greenhouse side shelves.

Last year, I had no greenhouse, this year I do. The compact 6 by 6 foot structure has two side shelves at chest height which hold seed sowing trays and pots, thus increasing the range of plants in the garden I can bring on from seed at any one time.

Some of the opened seed packets (first used in 2009) I finished off by sowing the remaining seeds in them. I am pleasantly surprised that most have done really well. The 2009 Sugar Dwarf Sweet Green Mange Tout Pea (what a mouthful!) has given me a 100% germination on the tray of seeds sown, bought from the Organic Centre However Cosmos grown as  beautiful tall daisy like multi-coloured flowers gave very patchy results from the 2009 opened seed packet. But excellent germination from the Lettuce Baby Leaf Mix 2009 packet, not 100% mind you.

Folks with bigger gardens may want to do more direct sowing outdoors now. My small patches are all occupied still with last years plants like purple sprouting broccoli or simply with piles of organic matter, hedge clippings etc waitung for me to  shove in to the empty compost making brick box. Therefore almost all fruit, veg, herb and flower seeds are being sown in pots or trays in the greenhouse first, before transplanting outdoors in a couple of weeks.

The only direct sowing outdoors I have done is radish and carrot seed. Minimal root disturbance is the rule-of-thumb for all plants with ‘carrot-like’ roots. To withstand slug attacks, either use nemotodes, organic slug pellets, stand guard all night with a torch (not a serious suggestion!) or protect the seedbed by covering it with dry smashed up egg shells. A combination of these and other options seems to be working for me. I have not yet had to eat my own words, as written in the new book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden ( on the many proven ways of avoiding slug and snail predation. If you have bought a copy, I hope you are enjoying it. It is selling well which is good news for SEED the school gardening charity. The SEED organic centres are currently preparing an impressive garden and stand for the BLOOM festival over the June bank holiday.


The excitement of launching ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’, the book, is giving rise to interviews in print and broadcast media, with the result that the book is now at Number One in Hodges Figgis, the major Irish bookstore, at present. After me being on TV3 Ireland AM, Brian O’Connell of RTÉ came up on the train from Cork to take a look at me working in the garden, harvest some produce and then get me to cook it for his lunch. This episode was then broadcast on ‘Today PK’.

Leeks, garlic, various herbs and salad ingredients all went in to the salad and omelette combination. The piece de resistance for me was the purple sprouting broccoli. It could have gone horribly wrong as Brian did not like it raw. (I love it raw, but horses for courses!) However, once it had been washed, tossed in a knob of hot butter and lightly steamed for 4-5 minutes, it was melt in the mouth delicious, like the best prepared asparagus spears. Brian described it as ‘as different animal altogether’!

However, the purple sprouting broccoli is a mature legacy of last year’s seed sowing. It may give me ‘dinners’ up to the end of May, but after that, I need more fresh produce to be growing if I want to continue being fed from the garden. My next job is therefore, to sow those seeds for the new season veg, herbs and flowers which will be harvested after the broccoli is finished. Some like lettuce and radish will be harvestable in early summer. Others, like leek and the new broccoli will be ready for winter and spring 2013 use. I will have a video of these seed sowing techniques up for viewing on this website before long all going well.

Meanwhile, for those who have bought the book ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’, thank you. The proceeds are all going to SEED, the school garden and earth education charity. If it is gone from your local bookstore, it can be ordered from the publisher Enjoy the  read and may your new growing season be a good one!


Purple sprouting broccoli is a funny vegetable. From December on, it appears ready with its healthy leaf growth, to produce purple sprouts any day. Those leaves looked so healthy and appetising that I gave in to temptation and steamed a few for a couple of early spring dinners. What harm, I thought. Now I can see the reaction to my unorthodox  actions. The broccoli plants which I left alone are sprouting profusely, whereas the plants from which I nicked a few leaves are now slower at producing sprouts.

Nonetheless, those slightly de-leaved plants are now catching up and producing fine sprouts like the other plants. The lesson for me is as always, ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’. You can takes leaves OR sprouts, but not both. The other lesson, of course, is that broccoli leaves steamed are delicious, just like the sprouts from the same plant.


I used to think purple sprouting broccoli was a bit pretentious. Having grown it last year and enjoyed many a meal of succulent tasty attractive flowerheads ( for that is what the sprouts are), I now most humbly apologise for any offence caused. I now admit to being a dedicated fan of purple sprouting broccoli.

Any kind of green vegetable in January is a welcome addition to a meal. I had been pinching the odd leaf of one or two broccoli plants to steam as I would cabbage leaves. The plants which I left undisturbed are now sprouting forth attractive purple flowerheads. From last year I know these sprouts can be harvested, and more sprouts will growing their place to keep me sated for months to come. This is a plant which keeps on giving. It has quite a large footprint with the leaf cover it throws out. Now I realise that those leaves are the ‘solar panels’ it needs to grow those succulent sprouts. With low light levels in winter, the leaf cover has to be large enough to catch whatever light is around. The purple sprouting broccoli season has begun – long live it!