Showing posts with label Kale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kale. Show all posts

1 Aug 2021

The good and bad of my veg patch this week

Curly kale plant growing
Last kale standing
(and yes it is surrounded by self seeded forget me nots that will need to be moved, eventually)

Honestly, there are times when I wonder why I grow veg. With my small veg patch, my efforts are hardly a step towards self-sufficiency, especially when plants give up the good fight against pests, predators and precipitation (rain). (I do love a bit of alliteration.) But, then again, I’m an optimist by nature and have learned to roll with the heartache of seeing weeks of nurturing wiped out.

As we’ve come to expect in this very British of summers, variable weather conditions have favoured slugs and snails this past week, although I must say that lovely rain has left all the greenery looking very lush, even if my kales and cabbages have all but disappeared. Luckily I have a few spares waiting in the wings; veg growing is nothing if not a learning curve.

Yesterday was one of the brighter, yet chillier, days (perfect weather!) so I was able to grab a few photos in the evening as I inspected the patch after work. 

Green tomatoes ripening on plant

Ah! The waiting game as tomatoes gradually ripen ... they would get there quicker if grown in the warmth of a polytunnel or greenhouse but I don't have that luxury. Mine are chosen for their ability to be grown outdoors - hellooo again, British weather! Dare I keep my fingers crossed and hope for another blight free year?
These tiny tomatoes in my photo above are Mr Happy from Mr Fothergill’s children’s seed range and were destined for my niece’s young family to grow. Lockdown dictated otherwise and the plants stayed with me. I just love the name though - and if they ripen, I will indeed be Miss Happy! 

Single green plum on tree
Plum. Singular.
Readers may recall my very reluctant plum tree - yes, it’s still standing. Very close scrutiny joyfully revealed one solitary large plum dangling in the branches. Whoop!  Now don’t get too excited, this should be ripening by now but the tree is sending me a message - it’s reminding me that it’s the perfect time for pruning stone fruit trees, and that's long overdue here. One more for the weekend agenda, then. (I seem to be constantly chopping things down or digging things up recently - life as a gardener!)

And speaking of digging things up, the broad bean plants can come out; these were a major fail this year. I’ve never had a problem with broad beans but this year the pods refused to swell - probably the unexpected heatwave and not enough watering. The delicious primavera risotto that I make with home grown broad beans, asparagus and peas will have to wait until next year.

Turning resolutely away from the disasters, let’s look at my raspberry patch. I mulched around the canes with some of my Hotbin compost earlier year and, together with regular bouts of heavy rainfall, the difference is noticeable. The first clusters of large firm fruits have ripened - even though they're an autumn fruiting variety - several small handfuls have (in time honoured tradition) been picked and eaten straightaway and I’m hopeful of a steady crop in the weeks ahead. This variety, by the way, is Polka.

So, not all bad news then ... 

This week I'll be filling gaps in the veg patch by sowing 

  • two varieties of spinach - a hardy winter cropping variety that can be sown from now until the end of September, plus a vigorous summer variety for baby leaves. 
  • chard - can be sown again, now we're past midsummer. This sowing will give me baby leaves for salads and larger leaves in autumn and winter. Pink Passion for colour and Fordhook Giant for flavour. 
  • Coriander - delicious in salsas, salads and the lentil dhal that I make regularly. I'll be sowing this now until the end of August and hope the plants mature in time for some seeds after the pretty flowers. 
  • Plain leaved parsley - this is a last chance sowing as the window for outdoor sowing is March to July, although the temperatures now are not dissimilar to those in April. I chop flat leaved parsley into just about all savoury food so like to have some on the balcony and in the veg patch. 
  • Carrots - I sowed another batch of carrots last week; this time I used Extremo (Mr. Fothergills), a variety which crops over winter. I've not grown carrots over winter before but am really quite excited at the prospect of harvesting carrots in the colder months ... allegedly until April, if what I read comes true. 

22 Nov 2017

Soupe du jour

Brrrr! Ooh, I'm feeling the chill today - probably because I've not been darting around outdoors.  Instead, I've been sitting indoors trying to write this morning but thoughts of a bowl of tasty warming soup kept popping into my head. And then I thought, why not share?

22 Mar 2017

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - Spring Harvest

~ Just add rice ~

Walking through the veg patch yesterday evening, I could see that strong winds had, yet again, done for my purple sprouting broccoli so I had to nip in and try to prop it up without having any string on me.  (Note to gardening self - always have a bit of twine in your pockets.)

There were a number of PSB stalks ready for cutting (luckily I had a pocket knife in my garden bag) to which I quickly added some yellow chard, Cavalo Nero kale, pink stems of Red Champagne rhubarb, plus a few salad leaves of wild rocket, sorrel, baby chard and baby beetroot.  And, just like that, I had the makings of a nice supper.  I just added some Camargue and Wild Rice to the cooked veg, and some stem ginger and yogurt to the rhubarb.  My first (almost) all veg patch supper* of the year.

Can I just say what good value the wild rocket has been this winter? I eat salad with everything, even breakfast if I'm having eggs, and these leaves have stood over winter as a really good cut and come again crop.

* Leaves of chard and kale were finely sliced and stir fried in olive oil with shallots, garlic, chilli and grated ginger; the stems were steamed with the broccoli stalks while the rice cooked. I usually add a dressing of tamari soy sauce to spice things up a bit as well.  The rhubarb stems were roasted for a short time in the oven then mixed with chopped stem ginger and plonked on top of yogurt.  I'm no chef but I like tasty fresh food!

8 Dec 2015

It's brassicas out there

It would be gratifying to be able to write about the garden in December with vibrant photos but, truth be told, there's not a lot going on.  Oh sure, the rivers of curly kale are not about to dry up any time soon, Cavolo Nero is still the champion producer of leaves for supper after nearly nine months in the ground (I don't pick every day so it has a chance to catch up) although it's looking more like a palm tree every day, calabrese heads are plumping up and the purple sprouts are looking so good I'm almost loathe to pick them.  So it's all about the brassicas at the moment.  My winter chard is a total fail, the failure being that I didn't make time to sow any seeds, ditto spinach and overwintering broad beans. As the forecast harsh winter hasn't yet materialised, I may chance a few of those seeds under cloches; I seriously doubt it will come to much but what's to lose?

I was gardening in the dark on Friday evening, as you do when stuff has kept you indoors for most of the day - and it was actually very pleasant.  Comfortably mild with a stiff breeze and plenty of light from nearby flats to light my way - one real benefit of city gardening is that it's never pitch black.  Taking my cue from plant biologist Professor Ken Thompson, I decided to cut down my raspberry canes now; the Autumn Bliss are definitely going and will be dug up next week as I need to clear the space for the veg patch redesign - my winter project.  Most of my raised beds have rotted to the point of falling apart and I've been given four new scaffolding boards (whoop whoop!) and a pile of new old-style bricks to make some paths. There's gonna be a whole lot of digging going on.  And, come spring time, lots of tulips and daffodils to start off my new cut flower patch area, if I ever get the bulbs planted … although I probably won't actually pick any of the spring flowers as I like everyone to enjoy the view.  That's the plan, let's see if there's enough available time.

I might have just lied when I said that the garden was all brassicas.  The globe artichoke that I grew from a seed (I love saying that) looks like it will need splitting. The plant started new growth in the autumn and I can see there are three plants there now.  It was huge in the summer and had to be thwacked out of the way to get past it so I'm going to try and move it. I'm not sure how easy they are to lift and divide - has anyone successfully done that or do you leave yours to get monstrously huge? Do tell, please.

I will, however, definitely be moving my Glaskins perpetual rhubarb (also grown from a seed, heheh); it's only just stopped producing huge leaves in the last few weeks and is growing in the middle of my planned flower patch so will only be tolerated in the future if it's contained in a corner or even another part of the garden - perhaps next to the Red Champagne rhubarb which I planted when the Glaskin's was still relatively manageable.

Frosty temperatures in November brought an end to my cheery nasturtiums; a few of them struggled on but I've pulled out most of them now, they look so awful when wilted by frost.  Thank goodness for scabious and nicotiana, both still flowering and making me smile along with one solitary echinacea, a few roses, heuchera's coral bells and, soon I hope, snowdrops.

Winter is such a good time to make plans and this keeps me connected with nature and the garden. How's winter shaping up for you and your garden?

Thank you to everyone who congratulated me on my GMG award - as usual, all your lovely comments brought a smile to my face and left me feeling perky all day. Caro xx

25 Sept 2015

Three ingredients for a quick and easy warm autumn salad

I'm a big fan of warm salads and love kale for its many nutritional benefits (as well as being really tasty!) so this recipe is an autumn go-to, especially as I have most of the ingredients growing in the garden. (Pine nuts and pumpkin seeds being the exception.)

I make this Warm Carrot, Apple + Crispy Kale salad for supper regularly, adding a few freshly picked lettuce leaves from my balcony around the edge for added garden goodness. (It's also very good over basmati rice.)  It takes next to no time and - oh my goodness! - is spoon licking good.

It's so yummy that I usually scrape every last morsel from the roasting pan- but confess that I love the taste of aniseed so have tweaked the recipe to include fennel seeds (also growing in the garden and dried for winter use at the end of the year).

When I first made the dish, I added pumpkin seeds and pine nuts instead of the suggested mixed seeds (they were all I had) and I used fresh plump fennel seeds from the garden instead of dried.  I also used my whirly apple corer gadget to make rings which I sliced instead of laboriously peeling and making matchsticks out of an apple. (I love a bit of time saving, especially when hungry.)

I've also made it with extra heat by adding finely chopped red chillies and some finely chopped fresh ginger batons, and served with a poached egg on top.  I've also topped with grated cheddar, added chunks of feta cheese and sprinkled the egg with dried chillies ... although not all at once. I think this is one of those dishes that can be chopped and changed, quantities and ingredients, to suit.

Confession - there are, of course, more than just three ingredients in this recipe but I've focused on the main ones because they're available from the garden in the Autumn.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Warm carrot, apple + crispy kale salad 

(Prep 15 mins, cook 15-20 mins) (Roughly, serves 2 or 1 greedy person 😉)

Carrots - 3 med-large, peeled and cut into 6cm batons
Kale (curly or Cavolo Nero) - 4 good sized stalks
Apples - 3 medium (I grow Braeburn)3 teaspoons of fresh fennel seeds (or 1tsp dried fennel seeds)
2 Tbsp oil (olive, rapeseed, etc)
50g mixed seeds or nuts (I use 25g pumpkin seeds + 25g pine nuts)
A good drizzle of olive oil
Tamari soy sauce (optional or use ordinary soy sauce)
Seasoning (salt + pepper)

1.  Preheat oven to 180C, gas 4. Place carrots in a bowl and toss with the rapeseed oil and fennel seeds to coat.  Spread them out on a large roasting tin and roast for 5 minutes, then add the mixed seeds (or whatever you're using) and roast for a further 2-3 minutes until toasted and golden.
2. Add the chopped kale leaves (stalks discarded), toss with the carrots and seeds.  I drizzled more olive oil over the kale at this stage plus a drizzle of Tamari soy sauce and a grinding of black pepper.  Roast for a further 6 minutes until beginning to crisp.
3. Add the sliced apple rings, toss with other ingredients and pop back in the oven for two minutes.
4. Remove from oven, dish up and eat - on it's own, with a salad or as a side for a bigger meal. 

Do you like the sound of this recipe?  (Download the pdf here.)
Have you got any go-to favourites for your autumn garden produce? Share, please! 

10 May 2015

Growing winter greens; eat your garden all year round

Red Russian kale, more tender than usual curly kales and almost ornamental in looks.

It might seem a bit soon to be thinking about winter but here's a quick reminder for anyone wanting to grow brassicas (Purple Sprouting broccoli, calabrese, romanesco cauliflower, Cavolo Nero or other kales) for eating from autumn through to spring next year: Start your seeds off now.  (Having said that, mine were started three weeks ago.)

I've sown my seeds into space-saving peat-free jiffy's, those little discs that plump up with water into planting modules. I can get 16 onto an Ikea plastic plate which then acts as a drip tray. Once they've got their first true leaves, I repot each module straight into a 3inch square pot of soil based compost and that's where they stay for the next few months, usually on my balcony where I can keep them well watered, yet hardened off.

In late July/early August, I'll plant the little brassicas out into the beds that the peas and beans have vacated (see note below), five to a one square metre bed, each plant next to a stake or cane that will support it as it grows. Because they'll grow relatively slowly, I'll underplant each brassica with a row of chard or spinach. With luck and good weather, I'll be picking baby leaves from these rows before winter but, even so, the plants will establish a good root system and grow away quickly when the soil warms in spring and lighter days return.

As winter approaches, I'll mulch around the base of each plant for a bit of protection and to put some nutrients back into the soil. Last year I grew autumn broccoli, christmas broccoli, early spring broccoli, etc and managed to pick floret stems or leaves from the garden throughout winter.  Cavolo Nero and Russian Kale stand well throughout even the coldest weather and my last broccoli plant will feed me until mid-May.  A little bit of cash spent on seeds has saved me a small fortune at the supermarket plus the quality of fresh, organic home-grown produce is outstanding. I can get quite snooty eyeing up (and passing by) the veg in the supermarket!

Brassicas like PSB have got a reputation for growing really large. To be honest, yes they do - but, by the time I plant my potted brassicas out, there's very little else growing apart from herbs - or you can tuck the small brassicas in among late peas.  Give it a try as I firmly believe that growing good veg is achievable by everyone, whether starting out or more experienced, and the joy of picking your own veg right through winter will put a smile on your face even in the darkest, coldest months! (If you're anything like me.)

Top to bottom:
Calabrese, October
Calabrese, early December
Purple Sprouting Broccoli, early December
PSB, early February
Cavolo Nero kale, early February

And there's a bonus - at the end of their growth, the last florets will burst into flower giving a much needed food source for bees. It's a win:win situation.

Note: Peas and beans fix nitrogen back into the soil through nodules on their roots so it's best to cut off the old plants at soil level when clearing the bed; the remaining roots continue to deposit nitrogen into the soil as they decompose, giving a lovely feed of nutrients to the next plants in the bed, i.e. your brassicas.

Apologies to readers of this blog who are already very well informed about growing winter greens - I've posted this as there was interest in the subject after one of my late winter blogs.  I'm hoping that this information will help at least one more person to grow their own PSB this winter!

A postscript:
I buy brassica seeds in small packets from More Veg as I don't have to fill an allotment with plants so just a few plants does me. (I'm growing 10 for late summer/winter/spring and have 4 currently growing in the garden.)
Carol Klein recommends the following varieties in her book Grown Your Own Veg: Arcardia for late summer; Fiesta for early autumn; Rudolph, early maturing purple spears for midwinter. Also Belstar, Red Arrow (both long season plants) and Trixie, high yielding and compact.  Out of these, I'm growing Rudolph (as well as Red Admiral, Calabrese Green Sprouting and Summer Purple broccoli plus Cavolo Nero, Curly Red and Red Russian kales). 

3 Jun 2012

June, so soon?

I'm hugely relieved to have an extra day off work this weekend.  Dare I say that I won't be celebrating? Much as I think Her Maj is a wonderful, decent, long-suffering and hard-working woman, I have too much to do to make time for jollifications and revelry (never mind the ensuing hangover!).

Early morning veg patch
~ End of May veg patch; this quarter looking very lush in the sunshine! ~

My feet seem to have hardly hit the ground in May; between work and garden, my cup has indeed runneth well over (leading to many post-midnight bedtimes, so exhausting...). I've been potting on seedlings in the mini-greenhouse or starting them off, weeding in the veg garden and harvesting cauliflower sprouts, kale, cabbage, herbs; transplanting raspberry runners, moving strawberry plants, topping up raised beds (and potatoes in sacks) and filling large pots for overflow veg, squishing or squirting blackfly on the broad beans and fruit trees, and, finally, sowing flower and radish seeds outside - and, of course, watering, watering, watering.  More or less the same as every other gardener, I imagine!

So, apologies if this is boring and more to aid my memory than blog interest, a quick recap of where we're at in the little London veg patch:

Chilli in window
Chillies, capsicum and bell pepper seeds sown into modules at the beginning of April, two to a module, all germinated successfully and (because I hate to waste a perfectly good plant) all potted on successfully in mid-May into J. Arthur Bower's seed and potting compost (recommended by Which? garden as the top compost in their trials last year).  Total: 3 Purple Beauty bell peppers, 3 Orange bell peppers, 4 Chilli Corno di Torro Rosso, 1 Hot Banana chilli, 2 Chilli Guindilla Roja and 3 Hamik capsicum.  One way or another, it will be a hot summer!

Coral poppyPurple podded peas have gone out a few days ago; courgettes, sweetcorn, popcorn, mangetout, kidney beans and dwarf french beans to follow before the weekend is out.  The Lazy Housewife bean (growing in the safety of my balcony at the moment) is about 3 feet tall, much to my relief.  Borage seedlings have been planted out under the fruit trees, several Violet de Provence artichokes have gone in at the back of the walled border (yum, looking forward to eating those!) and radish seedlings have appeared amongst the broad beans only days after the seeds were sown.

Nasturtiums (3 varieties) are growing well, californian poppy seedlings have been set amongst the herbs, orach, calendula and geums are adding a pop of colour to the sea of green veg, and a Coral poppy bought last year is now looking very gorgeous - can't wait until the flowers unfurl as this will be the first year of flowering!

Cabbage heart My efforts of last year are still rewarding me: Hearted cabbage is still waiting to be eaten and I'm picking tender kale leaves for lunch and for the freezer as those plants look as though they'll flower soon. I've discovered a fabulous River Cottage recipe for kale: simmer the leaves with finely chopped garlic until soft, drain and chop finely, pile onto toast and adorn with shavings of parmesan. Quick and delicious!  One word of caution though - caterpillars!  I carefully picked over the leaves, then left them in a sinkful of water.  After about 10 minutes I found 8 tiny caterpillars at the bottom of the sink. A further soak in a water/cupful of vinegar mix netted another 4 caterpillar babies. And I thought I had good eyesight!

The perennial cauliflowers are a story in themselves and I'll post about them this week.  They've now spectacularly sprouted, some have flowered and look beautiful, others were covered in grey aphids so have been chopped back to the ground - and are beginning to resprout!

My teenager just asked if he could help me in the garden (think Bob a Job week, accelerated to millenium rates of pay).  After a quick think about what still needs to be done, I've said yes; despite what felt at times like re-enacting the Labours of Hercules in May, there's still a border to clear, 2 walled beds to dig over, strawberries to move, seedlings to be planted, bean towers to be built and 2 raised beds to be constructed and filled.  Yes, I will be more than happy to have his help ... I might yet stand a chance of enjoying a chilled glass of wine while standing back to watch the veg grow on a warm summer evening!

Enjoy the Jubilee folks - I'm off to celebrate being in the garden!

Cavolo Nero and Red Orach
I love the colours of the kale and red orach next to each other! 
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