By: Justin Russell | December 13, 2013
I'm harvesting cabbages and broccoli at the moment. Yes, that's right. In December. Admittedly, this is late in the season even for me. I always sow a late winter crop of brassicas, which are usually ready by November. But a mid-December harvest has turned a few heads in my part of the world - it's not winter, they keep reminding me.
In a temperate climate it's actually not that hard to get a late brassica harvest. In places like Tassie, no one bats an eyelid. But in Queensland, even a cooler district, people seem to wonder how I conjured up such a feat. The secret is to keep the plants well fed and watered, and to provide some protection from cabbage white butterflies either in the form of netting, or organic approved Bacillus thuringiensis (BT, sold as Dipel). Aphids can also be issue, but are easily controlled with a horticultural oil spray.
The reason for my late harvest is that I want to make summer slaws. As a kid I never really understood coleslaw. It was a sloppy concoction that was slapped onto your plate at church potlucks and school camps. But in the last few years, I've really developed a taste for slaws using ingredients picked fresh from the garden dressed in a light sauce.
My favourite is an apple walnut coleslaw. At the moment I'm using the heirloom cabbage variety Golden Acre as the base ingredient, but red cabbage also works well (cabbage is the "cole" part of a slaw). Of course slaw doesn't have to be made with cabbage. Bok choy works a treat, as does wombok.
Any vegie with a bit of crunch can be used. But cabbage is traditional and I like using it. So to finely shredded cabbage I add roughly chopped, locally grown walnuts, fat and sweet, and grated apples. In December, the low-chill variety Anna is in season and combines beautifully with the other ingredients.
A decent egg mayonnaise is vital for the dressing, and to add a burst of flavour, a splash of sweet apple (or cider) vinegar never goes astray. I buy mine from an artisan vinegar maker at Stanthorpe, on the Granite Belt. One final tip: Keep the dressing relatively light - sloppy slaw gives late harvested cabbage a very bad name.