A GROWING CONCERN: For March veggie madness, make Brassica the star of your team

SO NEXT SUNDAY, March Madness starts and that following Tuesday is the beginning of spring and the start of gardening for a lot of us.

We have seen the cost of food going up in the grocery stores, so with that said, let me revisit a three-week series on just how wonderful our weather is here on the Peninsula for veggies!

Here comes our March Madness as we break down and analyze the various brackets. In the vegetable garden division of play, our own competing “Brassica.” The contending members of this botanical Brassica are composed of very familiar team names indeed: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga and turnips.

I want to take today and the next two weeks to go over the “cole crop” division, as Brassica are commonly called.

Any of these individual members do extremely well here on the Peninsula. One of them would win the title of best kitchen garden plant if given a chance in your garden.

In fact, most of you know I preach how the weather and climate of the Olympic Peninsula is perfect, the best for gardening in the entire U.S. If you want to maximize the advantages that our unique weather offers to gardeners, you would certainly feature the genus Brassica in your produce garden lineup as permanent starters.

Our weather here is not only perfect, but perfectly suited for the Brassica group of plants. Not too long ago, Sequim Dungeness Valley produced a majority of seed for many members of the Brassica genus, and even today, we see the fields of cole crops all around the Olympic Peninsula.

The reason: Our weather here is so ideal for Brassica because of our lack — actually, total absence — of evening temperatures in the 80s or 90s, which causes this genus to bolt, meaning the head flowers instantly and prematurely.

Because our evening temperatures never reach even 80 degrees, this plant thrives and its love of cool evenings (days as well) means we can plant and sow very early and harvest extremely late (November or December), making this garden genus harvestable for nine to 10 months (all year-round in cold frames).

OK, it’s the perfect plant for here and my garden, but what exactly is Brassica and where did it come from?

Brassica is a genus in the mustard family (Brassiceae) of plants and consists of more than 30 wild species and numerous hybrids along with a number of weeds and escapees from cultivation. One needs only to drive around Sequim or till up soil in that area to see this escapee and weed phenomenon.

I am pushing this vegetable genus now because Brassica contains more agricultural crops than any other edible genus and grows remarkably well over an extended duration of time on the Peninsula. This genus is native throughout the planet, being found as indigenous plants in Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean, and is grown as produce worldwide.

Brassica derives from the Latin caulis, which means stem or cabbage, and all Brassica share the trait of a strong stem with either a bulb type or dense head production.

These plants are cultivated worldwide because of their high nutritional value and can easily be steamed, stir fried, boiled, microwaved, stuffed, pureed or enjoyed raw.

For storage, they freeze very well, with turnips, rutabagas and kohlrabi wintering over nicely in root cellars, too.

Finally, many species now have been developed for use as fall, winter and spring ornamentals and for their decorative and frilled/ruffled foliage, which is ideally suited as a garnish on the dinner plate.

But perhaps the best virtue of the Brassica bracket is how well suited for rotation planting they are: Two, three, four or five of each plant planted in the ground (or sown) every 10 days can provide for a bountiful harvest of vitamin-rich and flavorful produce uninterrupted for many months.

So once again, mull over your likes and usages of turnip, bok choy, rutabaga, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, mustard and collards, because in the next two weeks, we will offer a plant-by-plant analysis of each in this all-star lineup.

A gardening March Madness like no other! And please remember … stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

More in Life

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during Saturday’s annual plant sale and raffle at the floral barn at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles. The sale, hosted by the Port Angeles Garden Club, was a fundraiser for club projects and scholarships, and it featured a wide variety of plants for the upcoming growing season and beyond. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Plant sale at Clallam County Fairgrounds

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during… Continue reading

The 2024 Community Service Awards winners gather before Thursday's awards ceremony at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. This year's recipients were, seated from left, Steph Ellyas and Lyn Fiveash, and standing from left, Gordon Taylor, Don Zanon, Carol Labbe and Betsy Reed Schultz. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Six honored for community service efforts

Volunteers provide energy for trails, respite care

Photo by Karen Griffiths

Cutline: A fundraiser for WAG and Open starts Today at 11 a.m. with an English and jumping fun show, followed tomorrow with a Western Games show at Kari Payne’s 4-L arena off Blue Mountain Road, 95 S. McCrorie Rd. Port Angeles.  Fox-Bell Farm owner Shelby Vaughan, and her assistants Sophie Feik and Kaia Lestage (holding Marley) will be there to host. Shown is Tatar Trots, 10. a horse Shelby got from OPEN five years ago when he was a feral, unhandled stallion and, now, after castrating and training,  he’s a docile horse who enjoys teaching kids how to ride.


(Rescue dog Rocky laying down if he’s shown in photo)
HORSEPLAY: Rescue program gives horses new life

SHELBY VAUGHAN WAS born into the rescue mindset. She grew up on… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: For garden chores, keep the spring in your step

SO THE DREAM Playground build is going wonderfully. Thank you for those… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Be a gracious and hospitable host

NOTICE OUR ROAD traffic is getting busier? Yep. We are beginning our… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and Tie up your Camel” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and… Continue reading

Unitarian speaker slated in Port Angeles

Phoenix Biggs will present “Singing of Honor… Continue reading

Jaiden Dokken, at Jeanette Best Gallery in Port Townsend, is Northwind Art’s new exhibits coordinator. (Northwind Art)
Poet laureate takes on new role with Northwind Art

Artist, poet and educator Jaiden Dokken is Northwind Art’s… Continue reading

Author John Vaillant stands in front of the iconic tower at Port Angeles City Pier. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Author visits Peninsula for Writer in Residence program

Vaillant awarded Shaughnessy Cohen Prize

A GROWING CONCERN: Volunteers a dream for playground

YOU, MY LOYAL readers, have been excellent the couple of times I… Continue reading

Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

Joanna Gabriel will present the lesson at 11 a.m.… Continue reading