Monday, July 20, 2020

Portugese Kale

 

Portugese Kale - Brassica oleracea var. costata
Looking for a new and nutritious vegetable to plant in the garden?  Try Portuguese kale, also known as Portuguese cabbage or couve tronchuda.   It is a common and important food in the Portuguese diet and is found only in Portugal or in regions with a strong Portuguese influence like Hawai`i.  It’s different from the traditional round cabbage. Looking more like collards, these plants are leafier, having round leaves with thick, white ribs and grow to 2 ft. or more across.

Portuguese kale has a delicious, mild sweet flavor. It is an essential ingredient for the authentic caldo verde, a winter staple and favorite soup in Portugal. In most recipes, the broth is thickened with mashed potatoes,  beans or pasta, and spiced up with onions and garlic, linguica or smoked pork loin. The large leaves are quite flexible and when blanched are easy to wrap around meat, rice or vegetable fillings.

Because this cabbage forms only a very loose head, it’s convenient to pick only the outside leaves a few at a time. If crowded, it becomes leggy and produces fewer and smaller leaves.  The plant can tolerate a coastal exposure so it will grow  near the beach or along the cliffs.


Finding seed – many times it is listed under ethnic vegetables as Portuguese cabbage or Portuguese kale. Try Kitchen Garden Seeds (www.kitchengardenseeds.com, 860-567-6086) and Redwood City Seeds (www.ecoseeds.com, 650-325-7333).

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Hummingbirds and Pollination





 

About 25% of plants are wind pollinated. The rest rely on pollinators: bees, bats, beetles, butterflies and yes, hummingbirds, as well as some other birds. During the day hummingbirds feed about every 10 minutes and consume up to 2/3 of their body weight from the nectar of plants; they can service 20 flowers per minute. The wings of hummingbirds beat up to 55 beats per second and allow these tiny birds to fly at speeds up to 50 mph. They can hover and even fly backwards or upside down. 

Hummingbirds are primarily attracted to tubular flowers. They are stimulated by color, especially the color red. Clumps of bright red, orange and pink flowers are more visible to them than other colors. Plants with red, tubular shaped flowers are an excellent choice in the garden to attract hummingbirds. Other plants that attract these birds are gladiolus, honeysuckle, iris, lupine, nasturtium, petunia, and cosmos. 

Recently, I was asked if hummingbirds pollinate vegetables. I am having difficulty finding specific vegetables that they pollinate. That’s probably because there are not many vegetables with red, tubular shaped flowers, which attract the hummingbirds.  

Lastly, the Islands of Hawaii have no hummingbirds, but a one inch moth is often mistaken for this tiny pollinator. The hummingbird moth has grey beating wings with a quiet humming sound. Unlike like other moths, this fellow is diurnal and uses his long proboscis to ingest nectar from plants and flowers.  Hawaii's hummingbird moth is also a pollinator! 

Photo: University of Maine