20 May 2009

The Sanctuary and the Sting

The Flea Beetles are out and devouring. We have a hard time with Flea Beetles, especially the brassica eating variety. This area used to be a Brussels Sprouts growing region, and the last agricultural use these fields were put to was 15 years ago, growing Brussels Sprouts. And of course, they used lots of sprays to combat the flea beetles and cabbage moths. And of course, all that did was to proliferate the most resistant individuals. So even 15 years of these fields being sown to pasture, and cropped for hay, we still have a mighty infestation of flea beetles at the slightest hint of something good for them to eat.

The over wintered kale that had survived under mulch was just beginning to sprout. The flea beetles took care of them, no more sprouts. They mowed down an entire row of radish just germinating. I have only one organic method that seems to work. A 50/50 mixture of molasses and warm water sprayed on all surfaces of the plants will keep the flea beetles off, but it must be applied after each rain. I use it to get crops like radish, beets, chard and turnips up and going strong enough to handle some flea beetle damage, but it takes too long to spray all of my larger transplants of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts because you have to cover the bottom sides of the leaves as well as the top. So I have decided to starve them out. These transplants can wait until mid-June before we put them in the ground. Last year, I put them out at about this stage, then covered them with row cover. But the flea beetles must have hatched under the row cover and managed to finish off a few of them before I noticed they were inside. So this year, they have a Brassica sanctuary in one of the Freezer Cold Frames. By the time they go in the ground, they will be strong enough to withstand the Flea Beetles.

The stinging nettle is growing like gangbusters, so we tried a recipe from a wild edible plant book for Creamed Nettles. I harvested these with scissors to avoid a lot of stings, but a few stings never hurt. Once they are steamed, they do not sting. Let them cool slightly and dice them on a cutting board. Make a basic white sauce, with any variation of herb or spice you enjoy, and mix with the cooked nettles.

I like to use yellow pea flower to make the cream sauce, and spiced with nutmeg and black pepper.

Served with Roasted Purple Potatoes with Creamy Tomato Sauce, and Whole Wheat Caraway Bread and Goat's Butter. They were just delicious, very much like spinach, and also full of vitamins and minerals. And nettles grow like weeds!