The Kitchen Garden: a sow-sow month

PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 February 2016

Strip out the stems and mid ribs

Strip out the stems and mid ribs


February is an odd month in the vegetable garden, says Linda Duffin – you’re still dealing with hard, icy ground and winter temperatures, but you’re keen to get ahead before the mad hurly-burly of spring planting.

The humble kale has become quite trendyThe humble kale has become quite trendy

My late father-in-law always used to sow his tomato seeds on Valentine’s Day, which seems appropriate when you remember that the tomato used to be known as the love apple. Fond as he was of them, he did it because it was an easy-to-remember date, rather than any belief in their aphrodisiac qualities.

It is a tradition we have continued and February also sees us sowing peppers, chillies and aubergines. We start them off indoors on a heated pad, though a sunny windowsill works too. Then they are transferred, still in their seed trays, to an unheated greenhouse until they are big enough to plant out in the greenhouse beds. If you don’t have a greenhouse or cold frame with both ample light and frost protection,

you’re probably better off waiting, otherwise they could get too leggy or worse, be killed by the cold.

This is also a good time to sow brassicas – cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and the various broccolis. Again, we start them off in the warm before moving them to the greenhouse or a cold frame. It is still too soon to plant new potatoes, but early varieties can be chitted now for a head start. Put them in trays or old egg boxes in a cool, light place and they will soon start to sprout. Remember to take them out of the nets they are packed in or you will curse yourself later when you try to disentangle the shoots and half of them snap off (guilty as charged).

Sesame prawn toast with kale seaweedSesame prawn toast with kale seaweed

And of course you can continue to harvest whatever you have left in the veg patch. One vegetable that can weather almost any conditions is kale. It has become very trendy in the last few years, but it’s one of those love-it-or-hate it veg. If you fall into the latter category, I hope to convert you with this recipe for Chinese

New Year.

Sesame Prawn Toast with Kale Seaweed

Serves 4 as a starter


For the prawn toast:

250g raw prawns, cleaned

1 tspn fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tbsp spring onions, very finely chopped

1 tbsp light soy sauce

½ tspn salt

1 tspnsesame oil

2 tbsp beaten egg

4-5 slices of dryish white bread, crusts removed

4 tbsp sesame seeds, oil for frying

For the kale seaweed:

2-3 big handfuls of kale

1 tspn salt

1-2 tspn caster sugar,

pinch of five spice powder



Put the prawns in a food processor with the ginger, spring onion, soy sauce, salt, sesame oil and beaten egg and blitz to a paste.

Cut the bread into rectangles, four to a slice, and press the prawn paste onto one side, mounding it towards the centre.

Put the sesame seeds on a plate and press the prawn side of the bread into the seeds. Put about three inches of vegetable oil in a deep pan on a medium heat and fry the toasts in batches.

Cook prawn-side down for 2-3 minutes then turn them until both sides are golden.

Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

For the seaweed, pre-heat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. Strip the stems and coarse central ribs from the kale and discard.Chop the leaves finely.

Spread them in a thin layer in an oven tin, drizzle with a little oil and toss. Cook for about six minutes, but check every two minutes. They should be crisp and dark green. Stir through the salt, sugar and

five spice.

Linda Duffin blogs as Mrs Portly

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