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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Naughtiness produces garden-based dessert

I pulled my last batch of stalks from the rhubarb plants to make the final rhubarb cake of the season

Living on one’s own, a person can get up to all sorts of mischief. My own particular brand of naughtiness is usually of the foodie kind.

This month, I pulled my last batch of stalks from the rhubarb plants to make the final rhubarb cake of the season. At the same time, the Fall Gold raspberries were producing their delectable, fragrant berries.

One evening, hankering after something sweet, I cut a piece of the cake, which I halved and arranged on a plate with a small dollop of coconut-based, vanilla bean ice cream in between. On top went the golden berries, drizzled with chocolate sauce. Quick, garden-based (mostly) and richly satisfying.

Glorious cauliflower. I don’t grow cauliflowers every year, but I succumbed to the enticement of an “exclusive” cauliflower listing in the catalogue from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, which arrived in December. Early Snow is described as the “first early” white cauliflower, good for both spring and fall growing and earlier as well as more consistent and dependable than the standard early cauliflower — Snow Crown.

I’ve grown Snow Crown many times over the years and always found it produced good heads, without any extra fussing over the plants. In high heat, however, the heads tended to turn pinkish. The colouring does not affect the eating quality.

I decided to grow both varieties, to compare them. I set out the transplants in April, in a plot together with two varieties of cabbage.

I wondered whether the young transplants would survive mid-May’s high heat. Surprisingly, they did, though almost all the plants of one cabbage variety melted into the ground in the heat, while the intrepid Caraflex survived.

Both Snow Crown and Early Snow are hybrid varieties. For those who prefer to grow open-pollinated plants, I can heartily recommend Amazing. The name describes well this excellent, easy-growing cauliflower.

I cut the first fully developed heads in the first week of this month. Early snow was visually perfect while Snow Crown had become partially pink in the heat. Both were pleasantly flavoured, though Snow Crown was noticeably more tender.

I cut the heads into individual florets and used my son’s method for roasting them, placing them in a bowl with a drizzle of olive and a scattering of salt and paprika. I used smoked paprika. To coat the florets evenly with the oil and spice, I gently rolled everything together before placing them on a baking pan and roasting the florets for around 25 minutes at 375 F.

Chris roasts his for 15 to 20 minutes at 425 F, but I opted for a lower temperature.

The next time I’ll try garam masala as the flavouring, or maybe just cumin. There are almost limitless possible spicing variations.

Tonight I’ll make a simple cheese sauce to drizzle over lightly steamed cauliflower florets.

I already have my next cauliflower-growing adventure planned. Johnny’s Selected Seeds lists a “green stem” cauliflower described as sweeter and more tender than standard types. Popular in Asia, this type is also known as sweet-stem cauliflower.

… and a robin in a pear tree. When Mel and Irene lived next door, I had many occasions to admire a pear tree that grew next to a patio at the back of their house. In September, the tree became so laden with fruit that the branch tips bent down to the patio concrete.

Jim lives there now. When we met on the street this month, he told me about a robins’ nest almost within reach in the tree. He was able to lift his camera phone up high enough to capture a picture of three baby birds in the nest.

It was curious, because I’d recently had a nuthatch nest right beside my front door, in a potted fern. Jim has a theory that these birds are choosing to nest where predators are least likely to prowl, close to human activity. True or not, the nesting adds much to the enchantment of a garden.


Plant sales. The Friends of Government House Gardens Society are hosting sales of well-rooted perennials in the Plant Nursery, across from the Tea Room at Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave. in Victoria, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Sales payable by debit or credit cards only.