“They’re little trees.”
As a young mother trying to talk her children into eating their vegetables, that’s how Lynn Pugh of Cane Creek Farm tried to sell her children on trying broccoli.
These days, Pugh is growing broccolini, an even more tree-like vegetable. Their elegant thin stalks topped with small florets make garden variety broccoli look like a wild mutant vegetable.
Pugh’s 17-acre Cane Creek Farm in Cumming is named after the creek that borders the property. She’s been farming there since 2003. Jennifer Martinez, who has worked at the farm for several years, has just this year taken on the job of full-time farm manager. In addition to offering a community-supported agriculture program or CSA, the farm hosts lunch-and-learn events, organic growing courses and summer farm camp for children.
As for broccolini, Pugh says it’s one of her favorite vegetables. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s been pretty successful at growing it. “The hardest thing is getting the harvesting right,” Pugh said. “It grows quickly and you have to harvest it quickly because those florets go to flower much more quickly than broccoli. The florets are fine when they’re in flower, but you really want to catch them before that.”
She’s been growing broccolini since 2011, generally starting with transplants. When she was researching it as a crop, she learned that it’s a hybrid, developed in 1993 by a Japanese seed company as a cross between American broccoli and Chinese broccoli or gai lan. “Broccolini” is actually the registered name of that hybrid. Since then other hybrids have been created and she grows “Happy Rich.”
This year, Pugh started her seeds in February and got the transplants in around mid-March. She expects to be harvesting broccolini in May and perhaps into June. “It’s kind of like okra. You have to harvest it regularly to get those florets at just the right stage. It likes cool weather so we plant it in the spring and into the fall.”
She put in two 100-foot rows which will offer her enough broccolini for her CSA customers to have broccolini for three or four weeks.
To help her CSA customers deal with what might be an unfamiliar vegetable, she provides recipes in her weekly newsletter and does a little face-to-face education when they arrive to pick up their box.
“It’s a wonderful vegetable. I really like it. It’s sweeter and milder than broccoli and has a nice, thin edible skin. It will remind you in texture of asparagus. My favorite way to enjoy it is just to steam it and then serve it with a little butter, salt and lemon juice. But there are lots of recipes and it’s really good in stir fry.”
Pugh also promotes its ease of preparation. “You don’t have to peel it. You don’t have to cut it up. Just wash it off, put it in the pan and cook until it’s bright green. Then enjoy it!”
Savannah Haseler’s Broccolini Salad over Polenta
Haseler is chef at Decatur’s Twain’s Brew Pub and has a passion for working with local produce. She demonstrated this recipe at the Decatur Farmers Market in late March. She combined broccolini with another late spring vegetable, sweet little white hakurei turnips. Pecan oil from Oliver Farms is now available locally at the Freedom and Peachtree Road farmers markets or at the Preserving Place, Cook’s Warehouse and Strippaggio.
Polenta is a thick porridge of cooked cornmeal. You can use any grind of cornmeal but Riverview Farms sells its polenta-grind cornmeal at six local farmers markets from Decatur to Buckhead. Just don’t use instant polenta.
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup sliced green onions (about 3)
1 quart water
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup polenta
1 bunch broccolini, chopped (about 1/2 pound)
1 bunch hakeuri turnips, thinly sliced (about 3/4 pound)
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves
3 tablespoons pecan oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add green onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine water, garlic, butter and salt. Bring to a simmer and slowly stir in polenta. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until polenta is tender. Keep warm.
While polenta is cooking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water nearby. When water is boiling, add broccolini and cook 1 minute or until it turns bright green. Strain it out of the boiling water and put into ice water. Let rest until cool and then remove and drain. Add sliced turnips and cook 1 minute. Strain them out of the boiling water and put in ice water. Let rest until cool and then remove and drain. Reserve turnip greens for another use.
In a large bowl, stir together ricotta, parsley, pecan oil, dill and lemon juice and zest. Add broccolini and turnips and taste for seasoning. Stir reserved green onions into polenta, then divide polenta between serving plates. Top with broccolini and turnip salad. Serves: 6
Per serving: 233 calories (percent of calories from fat, 47), 6 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 12 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 16 milligrams cholesterol, 432 milligrams sodium.