March has a hard time deciding whether it should hold onto winter or embrace the warm glow of spring. All of us in Bend have been caught in the middle of that conflict; snow storms one day, sunny and 50 the next. Yet in all this ambient fluctuation, the biological clock in plants is saying “time to grow”. As this month has set in, farmers are beginning to see their rows turn varying shades of green. We consumers see the same effect on out dinner plates and in meal planning. Just this week Groundwork Organics was able to deliver some beautifully tender kale sprouts, a harbinger of the season to come. This transitional period is a unique time, and the crops that emerge, like kale sprouts, are only available for a short time before plants want to take off. This particular seasonal rarity is a unique hybrid between two brassica cultivars: Red Russian kale and brussel sprouts. Brussel sprouts are a cultivated variety of Brassica oleracea, selected and bred for large axillary bud growth; the sprout we eat. Kale is cut from the same cloth, but for a different purpose; a B. oleracea bred for its large edible leaves. Since the two are of the same species, their genetics can be hybridized through cross breeding. The result is a plant with the growth habit of brussel sprouts, but with little red streaked rosettes of kale leaves instead of round buds. It is a beautiful plant, with a unique flavor that combines the best of both varieties.
As more greens emerge from the fields, so shifts our cooking from hearty roots, to fresh salads on warm days or roasted greens for colder ones. Since those pages in cook books might not be earmarked yet, I have a good one to start out with: