Tony Bray of Kambah says the Romanesco broccoli is the best thing he's ever grown.
"And I'm a horticulturist, it's botanical perfection."
The brassica's spectacular lime green hemispherical head creates spirals known as a Fibonacci number.
Bray was so proud of last season's Romanesco he took a photographed of it which is framed in his living room. He then steamed it and said the flavour is nutty.
I wrote about Tony Bray and his pumpkins and pumpkin soup recipe with its secret ingredient (a cup of chopped stinging nettle) in Kitchen Garden back in May 2009. Last week he got in touch. Following the article, he had requests from all over Australia for saved seeds of his special pumpkin.
In a joint effort with Judy, a friend of Bray's in Tuggeranong, they developed an upright corrugated tin garden bed, 2m x 1m x 1m high, from Bunnings. It was easily constructed. Instead of filling it with soil, Bray incorporated the concept of the "No Dig Garden", initiated in Australia by Esther Deans in the 1970s, and filled it with ordinary oaten or wheaten straw. A layer of compost about 20cm from the surface was topped off with soil in which to germinate seeds.
Judy bought the "Romanesco" broccoli as a seedling from Bunnings in Tuggeranong and it has produced a magnificent pyramidal chartreuse head. She also planted seedlings of mini broccoli and space saver Mini Ball Cabbage from the Healthy Living Vegetable Collection which have provided an amazing crop of healthy disease free and insect pest free vegies. Last season her Apollo tomato plant filled half the garden bed and it produced hundreds of tomatoes.
Bray says one of the main reasons for the success is location, as the bed is situated next to the house and a water tank with a concrete driveway to the garage in front of the bed. He thinks the heat absorbed during the day stays under the bed even when the nights are cold.
The bed is covered with netting, an idea of Judy's husband. It was easy to erect and has been effective in preventing white butterfly and aphid invasion. No pesticides are used.
The layer of compost well below the surface stimulates the roots to grow vigorously downwards.
Additional nutrients include liquid organic fertiliser (Five In One) which can also be purchased as composted product in bags.
The growing technique is virtually hydroponic with the added benefit of the straw as a support system for the roots and an open growing medium. When Bray dug out a root on a zucchini plant in his own no dig bed, it was eight metres in length. With a friend, he has also built a similar raised bed using free wooden pallets from Fyshwick.
Romanesco broccoli/cauliflower can be splashed with olive oil and roasted whole then given a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or the florets can be sauteed with garlic as a side dish. It can also be par-boiled then added to fettuccine with capers or anchovy fillets, halved Kalamata olives, Italian parsley and parmesan or pecorino and a splash of white wine vinegar or try it served in southern Italian style with raisins, pine nuts and saffron.
Dr Darren Peacock, of the National Trust of South Australia, says, "as this year's citrus hangs heavy on the trees, it is time to have a go at winning word-wide fame in the annual Australian Marmalade Awards run by the Trust ... marmalade is one of the most challenging home-made preserves to create balancing sweet and sour flavours and achieving the right texture, with just enough peel."
The 2019 Australian Marmalade Competition is open until Friday, September 20. You can post (or take to Adelaide) your jars of marmalade to Beaumont House, 631 Glynburn Road, Beaumont, SA, 5066, where they will be stored in preparation for judging by a panel of experts.
The competition has two sections, one for home-made entries and one for small artisan producers. There are categories for all levels of skills including Gardener's Marmalade (using your own fruit) and Heritage Marmalade (using an old family recipe).
South Australia's well known preserve maker, Beerenberg Farm, will produce a limited commercial run to the recipe of the champion marmalade maker. Winners will be announced on October 13. Entry forms are available online at nationaltrust.org.au/marmalade or email marmaladenationaltrustsa.org.au
KItchen Garden readers know we have had a number of marmalade makers, both male and female, whose preserves have been featured in Good Food this year. I have tasted cumquat marmalade, Seville orange marmalade and lemon marmalade, all delicious.