Yay! We’ve reached March! Despite the fact that – at least in the UK – March can actually be more miserable than February (more wind, more rain), it does have one huge advantage – promise. With every newly-hatched chartreuse bud, with every daffodil held tight in its green jacket, with every brave nosing through of still-chilled soil, Spring marches ever closer (yes, that pun was intended, however bad).
Today as I topped up the chicken feeders and filled the garden bird feeders it didn’t dawn on me that I had stepped out sans outer garment. Although the temperature is single digit, the air is still and the sun on my back was warm and inviting. I lingered in my shirt sleeves, surveying our modest garden for signs of promise: the delphiniums are well and truly up from their long nap; the Lenten roses in full flower, their cerise cups nodding companionably below one of my favourite winter plants, the blue tit-attracting mahonia Japonica; our various lavenders are bristling with new life and the promise of heady summer scent. And of course the weeds have a head start on all of the above, poking cheekily through paving cracks and spreading blatantly through still-dormant areas of the garden. At least I know what I’ll be doing, trowel in hand, next weekend.
What about you: is your garden springing to attention? What’s up first for you (besides weeds)? Of course you Antipodeans are slowly heading towards Autumn, but I’d still like to know what heralds your Spring. Hopefully by the next post I may have even had a quick lunch (as much for my always-hungry hens as the temperature) in the garden. Let me know when you’ve had your first Spring picnic, and what you ate.
Speaking of eating, there are now some early spring vegetables to join the winter ones still languishing in produce bins across the land. Tender leeks, squeaky-pink rhubarb and uber-useful spring onions are in full swing, with celeriac, cauliflower, chicory, salsify and shallots all vying for a place in our hearts, and on our plates. But March is primo mese for stupendously nutritious purple sprouting broccoli (aren’t translation websites great?).
I adore the stuff – love the bishopric colour, love the minerally, sharp taste, really love the bang of nutrients in every bite: ‘anti-cancer phytonutrients’ sulforaphane (gives it the nip) and proanthocyanidins (gives it the amazing colour); vitamin C; fibre, including the little-discussed fibre calcium pectate – a cholesterol modulator; energy-giving B5 and iron; antioxidant beta-carotene; insulin-regulating chromium, and the eye-health phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin.
This purple, long-legged variety of broccoli is Roman in origin and has been grown in the UK since the early 18th century, although its fine slim stalks and loose, flowery head are only now finding wider favour. When buying, look for crisp straight stalks that snap rather than bend when broken. And don’t chuck away the stalks: Young sprouting broccoli has a fine stalk suitable for eating without fiddly peeling or, indeed, throwing away. It is best eaten slightly crunchy (light cooking enhances the anti-cancer compounds), and either steamed or quickly stir fried so as to preserve some of the colour and most of the nutrients. Cooked purple sprouting broccoli will always be mainly green, but it is a vibrant, spring-like green, with a hint of purple if you are lucky.
Incidentally I am featuring this recipe as part of the #greenslove March bloghop, celebrating all things green and edible. Please click on the link to see what else is sauteeing, baking, boiling and mixing with my fellow veg loving food bloggers. Some fantastic recipes already up! My other favourite green recipes on food to glow are: Tamarind and Shittake Tofu with Kale ‘Seaweed‘, Kale-Berry Smoothie, Kale and Italian Sausage Frittata, Spiced Kale Chips, Linguine with Cavolo Nero Sauce, Sweet Potato and Black Kale Open Tart with Pear and Cranberry Slaw, and probably more but perhaps explore for yourself. This recipe is also linking up with Family Friendly Fridays on Fabulicious Food, so be sure and check out all of the family friendly recipes over at Ren’s beautiful site.
This recipe is my version of a relatively common dish. You can also make this without any pasta at all, in which case it makes a superior side for grilled fish or any main protein dish. Pootling around on the Internet I found this delicious-looking James Martin recipe for kung pao broccoli and tofu, which looks super yummy and right up my spicy street; and this more challenging one from Sat Bains, innocently titled ‘organic salmon and brassicas’. Interesting but not for the time poor. I sometimes have purple sprouting broccoli cold in an Asian-ish noodle salad, with plenty of plum vinegar, chili, soy sauce and crunchy shredded veg. Tonight we are having it steamed, alongside this Fish Pie recipe (topped with phyllo rather than potatoes).
Before I get on to the recipe I must, on behalf of my better half and Miss R, say thanks to the wonderful Issy and Nick for a fabulous birthday weekend spent eating, drinking and pottering in and around their rather fabulous Scottish Borders bolt-hole: hope you have recovered from your introduction to southern grits and hot sauce!