How to save broccoli seeds

Broccoli is the mainstay of our vegetable dishes throughout winter, and so saving broccoli seed for the following year is an important chore each summer. While this is a simple enough task, plants saved for seed production do take up extra space in the garden through springtime when the major summer crops are all jostling for garden space. All one needs to do is to leave the best broccoli plants unpicked, as it is the immature flower head itself that we have been eating. Two things happen as broccoli goes to seed; small yellow flowers break out all over the broccoli head, then the head itself shoots up to several metres tall, attracting bees and other pollinators with a rich supply of nectar.


There are two styles of broccoli plant; those that produce a single large head then shut down, and ‘sprouting broccoli’ that produces many small florets that reshoot over and over again after picking. It is the latter type that we favour, as they produce for longer and the small heads are easy to harvest and to prepare. After experimenting with various varieties, we have settled on ‘purple sprouting broccoli’ as best suited to our soil type, climate and palate.

DSCN0048After flowering and pollination finish, broccoli – like most members of the brassica family – form long dried pods resembling upright miniature peas called ‘siliques’ that house about a dozen individual seeds. These are arrayed along the stalks that stand above the original plant. Once the seeds inside the siliques have turned from green to brown, cut off the stalks and lay them on the ground or hang them by their heels in the shed to dry further.DSCN0051 When the whole shoot is no longer green but hard and woody, place the heads over a bucket and simply don your heavy-duty leather gardening gloves and rub the seed heads between your two hands to release the small spherical seeds from the siliques. These will fall to the bottom of the bucket. The dry stalks are picked out and returned to the garden as mulch, or thrown onto the shredding heap.

Pour the seed into a small shallow dish, then blow gently on it (while standing outside in the breeze and gently swirling the dish) to remove all the small bits of dried twigs and rubbish. Put the cleaned seed into a jar, label it, then add it to your seed collection.  DSCN0056 DSCN0058






Egyptian Walking Onion

Also known as Tree Onions, Perennial Onions, etc.This is a groovy kind of plant to have in the garden. I received bulblets from a gardening friend in Tassie.

Plant the bulblets about 1-2cm deep in the soil. Water, watch. They grow like 'normal' onions at first. Then they develop bulblets at the end of their stalks.
When this set of bulbets gets heavier, they will bend over, then take root in the soil. Hence the 'walking onion'. This way you will have little onions all over the garden (if you let them) and forever.
If that's not groovy, what is?!

How to make sauerkraut and cortido (Latin American sauerkraut)

It’s cabbage-picking time at last; after six months of tender care, this takes only minutes for the gardener, while generating hours of work for the cook.

DSCN0006 We preserve most of our cabbages as ‘sauerkraut’ (literally, in German, ‘sour cabbage’) or its spicier Latin American cousin – cortido. This preserving happens via a process called ‘lacto-fermentation’ that allows vegetables (such as cabbage, green tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers, beets, turnips, herbs, eggplant, onion, pumpkin and carrot) to be preserved for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria that are found on the surface of all living things.

Sauerkraut has been known in Europe since Roman times, though the Chinese were fermenting cabbage 6000 years ago. Sauerkraut is a great source of Vitamin C and who knows what else; the Roman emperor Tiberius was reputed to carry a barrel of sauerkraut with him during his long voyages to the Middle East because the Romans knew the lactic acid it contained protected them from intestinal infections [from the book ‘Nourishing Traditions’ by Sally Fallon].

The lacto-fermentation process uses whey from raw milk rather than vinegar as the preservative.

Once the cabbages are picked and the tough outer leaves peeled away, the sweet and tender inner core is grated (in this household) very finely using a German ‘cabbage slicer’ (Krautreibe) held inside a stainless-steel bucket. Our wooden slicer was likely given to the cook’s mother on her wedding day, which makes it almost sixty years old – and its still sharp, just like my mother-in-law!


For regular sauerkraut (on the right, below), we add sea salt, whey (from cheese making, yogurt or sour milk), and optional chopped herbs such as society garlic, spring onions and chives. For cortido (on the left, below), add instead of herbs grated carrot, finely sliced onions, dried oregano and red pepper flakes.


And now comes the hard part (the gardener’s contribution to the process); the ingredients are pounded in the bottom of the bucket using a wooden pounder to break down the cell walls of the cabbage and release the juices. This takes 10-15 minutes per bucketful – the juices can be seen at the bottom of the bucket.

DSCN0032 The resultant mix is squeezed down into wide-mouthed jars, to allow the juices to cover the mix to the top of the jar. These jars of sauerkraut are then stored in our cellar (or somewhere else that is cool but not cold), and will be good for the next year while a new crop of cabbage is grown.


We grow a traditional German cabbage DSCN0011– called ‘Filderspitzkraut’ (‘pointy field cabbage’) – for making sauerkraut; this is a large conical cabbage weighing in at a colossal 5-10 kg. I’m quietly distributing seeds for this special cabbage to other seed-savers, who then go on to embarrass me by producing even larger specimens than my own!

Red Dutch cabbage – grown during summer rather than winter – can also be used to make sauerkraut.