Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
April, 2011
Regional Report

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Lacinato kale is bolting but still edible.

Still Eating Bolting Veggies -- To A Point

Disappointed that some of your overwintering leafy veggies are bolting already? You can indeed continue to eat from those plants, at least to a certain point, and some much longer than others. Here are some tips to get that extra couple of weeks of harvest.

Some of the plants that we've been eating from since last October, especially the romaines, have already reached the inedible state where I pull them up and replant with new seedlings. The butterheads and bibb-types that I started from seed and transplanted at the same time as the romaines are continuing to be sweet and luscious. However, I still taste a leaf from each plant before I harvest the outer leaves, just to make sure I'll still enjoy the full salad. There's nothing worse than hitting a bitter leaf among the already-dressed greens to turn enjoyment into a dare to eat any more! Your personal tastebuds will determine when that threshold of bitterness has been reached, since some of us would love a whole salad of radicchio, and others of us can barely tolerate one crunch. So, your tasting that leaf will alert you to either pick the outer leaves (leaving only the 3 or 4 inch-size ones to continue growing) or pull the whole plant.

Even if the lettuce is borderline bitter, you can achieve another harvest or two by leaching out the bitterness by submerging the lettuce for 10 minutes or so in water, dumping the water, refilling the bin, and resubmerging for another 10 minutes. This enables the leaves to exchange water for the bitter compounds. It also crisps up the leaves nicely, so I use this technique for all lettuce harvests -- it just has this additional benefit for the borderline-bitter ones.

Cilantro and Parsley, Kale, Tatsoi and Bok Choi
These don't turn bitter, but as the stems lengthen, the foliage becomes more and more sparse. Some of the still tender, topmost stems can be harvested since they haven't turned woody yet. Enjoy the blossoms, too!

As soon as you see the center stalk and its swollen tip that will become the flower, pull the leek, cut off the roots, slice lengthwise, and remove the center stalk. Once this stalk is removed, the rest of the raw leek is fine to use either whole or chopped. But don't even think about using that center stalk. Even though it may slice as easily as the surrounding leaves, when cooked, its cellulose becomes unchewable, and you'll be picking out its inedible bits from your stew.

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