Monday, 18 February 2013

Curried cauliflower (Κουνουπίδι με κάρυ)

When you grow your own vegetables, there will be many times when you realise you cannot keep up with the growth rate of your own garden. Even if you live in a country where the cool climate isn't conducive to gardening, what you plant will often ripen at the same time, so that for a long time you will have nothing to harvest, and suddenly you find yourself giving it away.

When you allow ripened/mature crops to keep growing in your garden, you are allowing the soil to keep feeding them, which isn't good for the soil. It works in a similar way to obesity: the soil's nutrients are sucked up by the overgrown crops, so that the plants start to spoil in some way, and the soil becomes poorer. The best thing to do is to harvest crops when they are ready and store them appropriately.

Photo: only the head of the broccoli is harvested - i watched this field full of brocs in the past 2-3 weeks forming florets (like ours have done) and just flowering away (unlike ours because we pick them) because no one here understands the value of these delicious morsels
Only the broccoli head is harvested. I watched this field  (and at least two more) full of broccoli over the past 2-3 weeks forming new broccoli heads, similar to the sprouting broccoli variety, but they were never harvested because few people here attach value to these delicious morsels.

We plant too many broccoli and cauliflower to eat them all ourselves, so I often give away or swap produce with friends (one gives me freshly laid eggs from her chickens). But the plants still grow too quickly to be used at their prime. This is especially noticeable with the cauliflower and broccoli plants: the heads are now blossoming. This doesn't render them inedible - they just become more fibrous and less tasty.

At any rate, growing plants in your garden is different from growing plants for the market. In your own garden, you won't use the same kinds of chemicals that are used for market-grown produce. Overgrown market-grown produce doesn't sell, but garden-grown produce is still useable. It may simply need a longer cooking time than what you would normally cook it for if it hadn't been allowed to overgrow.

Our cauliflower is looking a bit like this at the moment:

Very pretty, still tasty, but not what you'd expect a grower to be selling you! The long flower-like stems are not the tastiest specimens, but they can still be used for cooking, although they will need a longer cooking time. They are too fibrous to eat raw.

About a week ago, I picked one that hadn't quite got to the blossom stage:

From this photo, you can see that it was ready to get to the flowering (and seeding) stage. I simply chopped off all the small sprouting parts and left the head as it is. In today's meal - a curry, to use the imported canned coconut milk I bought a while ago to try - I have used only the little sprouts. The remaining cauliflower is still waiting for its time to be used in some way.

I based my curried cauliflower dish on a recipe I found on the internet, which uses whole spices rather than curry powder. I could only get runny coconut milk, and I didn't use a whole garlic head, as stated in the recipe. The cumin seeds lent a nutty flavour to the dish (nicer than cumin powder). To thicken the stew, I mixed in a little bit of flour at the end of the cooking time. Coconut milk is a great addition to stew, lending today's meal a very foreign aroma.

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