The terms "cold" and "cole" sound the same but have different meanings. "Cold" of course refers to temperature. "Cole" refers to any of various cool season plants belonging to the Cruciferae, also known as the Brassicaceae oleracae family, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, turnips and watercress. The word cole actually means 'stem'. Many of the vegetables in this category allow you to eat all or a portion of the stem.
All of these familiar garden crops can trace their history to a common ancestry of wild cabbage originating in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor area. The close kinship of these crops enable diversified usage of plant parts. For instance, Brussels sprout plants are grown by most gardeners for a miniature heads (sprouts) which develop in the axils of the leaves. However, the leaves of Brussels sprouts are considered by some to be milder and sweeter than those of the collard which is especially grown for leaf production. Most gardeners are familiar with the fact turnips can be grown for the greens (leaves) or for the turnip roots. Broccoli is mostly known for the consumption of the flower or head, but the stems can also be used. You frequently see them utilized in the produce section of stores in a pre-packaged product called Broccoli Slaw.
This group of cole crops enjoy cool seasons and are somewhat cold tolerant. Cabbage for instance can withstand frost down to 20 degrees or even 15 degrees F. Cauliflower and chard are more sensitive to cold than broccoli, collards, kale, kohlrabi, or mustard. A quality transplant is essential to crop success. Maturity of the plant also has much to do with the amount of cold which cole crops can survive. A good transplant is a minimum of 5-6 weeks old, sturdy with good color, and has been hardenened off. When broccoli plants have produced buds, even a light frost may cause considerable damage since clusters freeze, turn brown and ultimately rot.
The cole crops grow best at a monthly mean temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F. This occurs when temperatures are 80 degrees F. or less during the day and 60 degrees F. or less during the night. In most parts of South Dakota these ranges occur in May -July. Find out your area at Average Temperature.com. In order to produce the best quality of the slower maturing cole crops, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli should be planted in gardens after the last hard frost and after the ground temperature warms to 50 F. These crops can be directly seeded or transplanted into the garden area. Faster maturing cole crops such as collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, and turnips can be directly seeded into the garden as soon as the ground temperature allows. When you plant depends on where you live.
When you plant cole crops in the garden you are investing in a healthful life. With the cost of groceries escalating rapidly, planting your own garden can also be extremely economical. Vegetables contain essential elements for health, and what better way to control the quality of your produce then to grow it yourself?
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