This time of year the last crop we can reliably eat from the field is the one we don't even have to plant: 'Deitrich's Wild Broccoli Raab' turnip greens!
These plants are huge (note my feet, in relatively wide boots, planted shoulders-width apart). They are unperturbed by frost or snow. Indeed, their taste improves after some good freezing!
This plant, like most in the field, is a volunteer. It will thrive through the winter, then send up delicious broccoli raab flower spikes a month before anything else at the farm or in the garden starts to emerge (beating out rhubarb, asparagus, ramps, etc). We keep selecting seeds from the best plants, and culling the worst ones before they can bloom, in order to improve the population and make it an even better crop. (It's already one of our best sellers and one of our absolute favorite crops, but there's always room for improvement!) We believe the original population came about when one or another Italian turnip varieties grown for greens escaped from cultivation many decades ago. Over time the plants developed certain wild characteristics (spiky, almost prickly foliage when raw, at least in the first year; stronger taste; much more diversity between individual plants; impressive winter hardiness), without losing its best domesticated qualities (including high productivity, good taste, and non-shattering, easily harvested seeds). Since we have done and continue to make selections (differentiating our population from other feral turnip populations nearby), we pledged this variety through the Open Source Seed Initiative (@osseeds ), which aims to create a large commons of public domain seed varieties that can be freely shared and worked with, and never patented or otherwise removed from the public domain. They're doing great work -- and we look forward to continuing to work with them in the future!
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