Growing fresh vittles in Frisco, Colorado
Story and photos by Tom Castrigno
SUMMIT COUNTY — Heirloom are precious things, passed down through generations. In the vegetable world, heirlooms are varieties that kept their traits through generations of open pollination instead of being bred through grafts and cuttings of other vegetables.
Heirloom varieties such as tomatoes for example, were commonly grown in earlier periods of human history. Those varieties are not part of modern, large scale agriculture which supplies the food generally found in grocery stores. Today’s tomatoes are bred for their productivity, and ability to stand up to processing or resist pesticides.
The popularity of gowing heirloom varieties in home gardens has spread across North America and Europe over the last decade. Another heirloom vegetable is rapini, also known as Brocoli rabe. With a pleasing bitter flavor often lacking in the American diet, rapini is popular in Italian cuisine.
In our greenhouse plot over at Nancy’s Garden here in Frisco, we grew rapini with good success for our first crop. The leaves were abundant and we harvested them often as we waited for the crowns to develop.
The simplest way to prepare rapini is the steam or blanch it first, then sautee it in olive oil with garlic. A sprinkle of crushed red pepper gives the dish some spice. I like to finish it off at the table with a healthy topping of Romano cheese. Italians often serve rapini as a side dish, cooked with canelinni beans as an entrée, or stirred into risotto.
Potatoes are another heirloom crop growing at Nancy’s Garden. Plot holders Janet and John simply took some fingerling potatoes that had begun to sprout and buried them in one of the outdoor plots. Janet & John have been plot holders since the garden started in 2010. John said one of the challenges that popped up in the greenhouse this year are voles. The voles eat the roots of the plants as well as the tops and can kill plants. Filling in their tunnels is one way to deter voles. Using mice traps is another way John controls the vole population.
Since the planting season started early this year, we have sown a second round of rapinin. As the seedlings begin to break ground, the must be thinned out so they have room to grow and fully develop. Growing edible crops is always a fun experience, and heirloom varieties are expecially rewarding because they are often not available in grocery stores.
Tom Castrigno lives in Frisco, CO where he is known as The Mobile Chef. Learn some of his secrets for healthy eating and find great recipes on his blog at www.healthymealsmadeeasily.com/blog/. Learn more Mediterranean cooking and enjoy the many health benefits of this renowned cuisine here.