By Lauren Bonar Swezey, Sunset special projects editor

In spite of our recent soggy weather, the test garden is looking fabulous these days. The vegetables are thriving - and so are the weeds! Lucky for us, the chickens LOVE almost any kind of weed we feed them.

The beds are overflowing with cool-season annuals that Ryan, our test garden coordinator, planted last fall after we tore out the warm-season crops that we trialed for the One-Block Feast (we'll plant the final One-Block Feast crops this spring). Here in the West, vegetable gardening goes on 24/7 (all you New Yorkers and Chicagoans, read it and weep). It paid off to prepare the soil with plenty of compost before planting. Ifit was compacted and clayey, we probably would have had a healthy crop of rotting seedlings thanks to the recent deluges.

Even though we got a late start (we began planting in late October instead of September), we've been harvesting 'Italian' arugula for awhile now. It's great in salads. The girls loveit too!

Here you see them just getting a taste of it. Within seconds, they had pecked it down to the ribs...

which, you'll note, I'm holding in my tender little hand. Now I know what it's like to be hen-pecked!

I just harvested our first Romanesco broccoli head, a type of cauliflower that originated in Italy in the 16th century.

We started with nursery-grown seedlings, set them out in the well-composted soil, and have not done a thing to the plants since—not even watered them. They were so easy! And the crop is two to four weeks ahead of our cauliflower and broccoli, which makes Romanesco a good type to grow for an early harvest. The flavor is supposed to be nutty and mild - I can't wait to try it!

Thanks to the recent span of sunny weather, everything else is looking great...

the Chinese cabbage is starting to head up and we're ready to begin plucking leaves from the Romaine and looseleaf lettuces. For the freshest salad, pick a handful of leaves, add a little spicy arugula, and then dress it lightly with a high-quality olive oil and vinegar.

I'm outta here. It's time to go home and start cooking.

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