Showing posts with label salad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label salad. Show all posts

6 Jan 2022

So that was 2021

2021 has been an eventful, challenging and fun year ... but it hasn't all been about the veg...

Hampstead Heath ponds frozen over in February

Well, there she goes ... goodbye to 2021; a bittersweet year but one that I will remember fondly. That may seem a strange thing to say, given that the country was in lockdown for the first part of the year, and held to ransom by the coronavirus pandemic, but I was one of the lucky ones who remained in excellent health and was grateful for vaccines when offered. 

So, for me, conversely, lockdown was a time of freedom; freedom to improve my run across Hampstead Heath, to potter in the garden in the morning sun, to walk by the Thames and its tributaries, and to explore the Greater London area. 

30 Mar 2020

Sowing seeds for a salad garden

The internet and social media are full of tales of people turning to gardening, and food growing in particular, during the lockdown.  Most crops take a while to be ready for picking but one of the fastest and easiest to grow is salad, especially baby leaves, herbs and cut and come again. This post is anecdotal but with, I hope, some practical advice on how I get my salad garden underway, starting with my balcony and raised beds.

flowering broad bean plants
Just beautiful! Autumn sown broad beans flowering in the veg patch this week.

14 Aug 2018

Autumn sowing for winter leaves and spring flowers

Sowing seeds; autumn winter salad leaves
Time to get organised with some lists!

Sow, Grow, Eat, Repeat is one of my favourite hashtags as it's a reminder that despite the changing seasons, it's possible to carry on growing food throughout the year.  Yes, really. (What? You thought it was all over as the weather turns autumnal?) There are plenty of hardy vegetables that provide me with a good excuse to get outside in the garden, even in the middle of winter.  And what could be better than freshly picked produce brought back into the kitchen with a clear head and rosy cheeks?

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!

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! 

27 May 2013

Eat with your eyes

After spending a couple of hours sorting out my photos from the Chelsea Flower Show (post coming very soon!), I wandered down to the veg patch on this beautiful sunny day.  I've been a bit busy recently so I'm pleased to see that the garden is doing it's own thing and looking very lush without me (apart from a bit of watering and transplanting).

As I uprooted a couple of tiny orache seedlings, the word 'lunch' popped into my head.  I gathered a few more seedlings, added some white viola flowers and a few blue borage flowers, a pinch of herbs*  - feathery fennel, lime mint, celery leaf, lemon balm (a mistake), sweet cicely (yum) and golden oregano (because the colour is stunning).

Herbs 27May

Back upstairs, with the herbs and leaves being refreshed in a bowl of icy water, I picked a few outer leaves** from Lollo Rosso, Saladin and beetroot growing on my windowsills.

Windowsill Lettuce

On my tiny balcony, baby leaves of frilly red mustard, bijou lettuce, black peppermint, nasturtium (Blue Pepe, Empress of India and variegated Alaska, but sadly no flowers yet), coriander (yum), flat-leaved parsley and chives were collected and added to a wash bowl.

Balcony leaves & herbs

As I cleaned and finely chopped, little pebbles of Jersey Royal potatoes boiled in a pan, after which they were glazed with Spanish olive oil, Cornish sea salt and garden mint.  Many of these didn't make it to the plate - I adore warm new potatoes!

The leaves were drained, dumped into a clean tea-towel and dried by swinging said cloth back and forth. All was plonked on a plate, the flowers and a few herbs added over the top, more olive oil drizzled over the top, a squeeze of lemon and ....

Nearly there salad

... no, needs a bit more colour.  Into the fridge where I unearthed some cherry tomatoes and baby orange peppers.  Nice.

Salad finished

Yum.  Healthy.
Until I found the ice-cream.

* I wouldn't normally put this many herbs into one salad but was in the mood to experiment having just read Jono's post on Lemon Balm.  With hindsight, adding lemon balm to this salad was every kind of wrong. I only put a tiny bit in and yet it still dominated. It's probably best to use it sparingly by itself where it can take the floor and shine.  Parsley, cicely and chives on the other hand were delicious.

** I'm not yet brave enough to 'cut and come again', leaving the plant to reshoot.  For now, I'm happy to just pick the large outer leaves with the comfort of being able to see what's still to come.
Michelle over at Veg Plotting, who started the Salad Challenge, has written a great post on different ways of harvesting your home-grown salad.

27 Apr 2013

Salad Days are here again

The 52 Week Salad Challenge was pioneered last year by Michelle over at Veg Plotting. The challenge is to grow and eat home-grown salad for as many weeks as you can in the year, hopefully for a full year (even in winter!).  Participants in The Challenge share growing tips and blog posts once a month. I thought I'd missed the boat but the challenge is being run again this year (back by popular demand!) and apparently it's never too late to join in.

I didn't grow any salad last year (the less said about that, the better).  This year the idea of growing a variety of salad leaves has taken hold in my imagination, prompted by Michelle's challenge and Naomi's descriptions of the leaves she's growing.  So, in mid-March I sowed a few seeds in a windowsill propagator, topped it off with perlite and kept the container rotated towards the light.

First salad leaves sown mid-March

I'd intended to start by growing a few baby salad leaves from outdated seeds but, 4 weeks after sowing, they'd developed into such sturdy little plants that I've repotted quite a few for growing on outside in the garden.  These are beetroot leaves, Saladin (Cos type lettuce), Cavolo Nero kale, Lollo Rosso lettuce.

Transplanted first leaves

Having delved back into my seedbox, I've come up with what I hope will be an interesting mix of leaves for my challenge.

Buttercrunch - an all year round butterhead and Little Gem Cos (Pennard's Heritage seeds)
Mizuna - finely cut leaves, good flavour
Lamb's Lettuce - leaves with a delicate flavour
Bijou - A splash of colour from red frilly leaves.
Lobjoits Green Cos - a tall crisp lettuce, sweet and crisp.
Mixed red leaves, especially for containers.
Mustard - for oriental colour and bite!
Salad Rocket, Purple Choysum and Bull's Blood beetroot leaves (Jekka McVicar seeds)
Salad Burnet (cucumber flavoured herb), Broadleaf Sorrel (tangy leaves) (More Veg seeds)

Salad seed selection

I've never been averse to chucking a few baby spinach or orach leaves into a salad either.

I always grow nasturtiums, they look so pretty and are very effective at attracting aphids away from other veg;  the leaves and flowers are edible or can be made into pesto so I've grown extra this year.  So far I have Black Velvet, Blue Pepe, Empress of India and Tom Thumb Alaska. Most will go outside into the veg patch but a few are now earmarked for the salad challenge.

Nasturtium leaves

Carrots are another interesting one ... I wasn't going to bother with growing carrots this year although I enjoyed the Little Fingers carrots that I grew in pots last year but then I read that young carrot leaves can be eaten as a salad leaf so they're now back on the sowing plan.  I'm looking forward to seeing whether there is any truth in that and will let you know soon!

6 May 2012

On the salad menu...

Blue nasturtium seedlings

Despite the grey skies over the veg patch, close inspection reveals that things are surely happening. A little pootle around the patch yesterday evening revealed a glimpse of the glories to come in the months ahead.

Having grown Tom Thumb (orange) and Milkmaid (creamy white) nasturtiums last year (some of which are already creeping back again), I was very taken with the variety in the photo above called Blue Pepe; the colour combo of blue/purple/green leaves is a favourite and will be jazzed up with bright red flowers in due course. When I can, I love to grow veg that are one step removed from what's expected and these will do nicely! Entirely edible, too - I'm planning some fabulously stylish salads this year!

I've growing purple carrots, rocket, red crisphead lettuce, red orach, pink broad beans and bull's blood beets to add to the salad list - not only will my food be colourful and tasty, I'm giddily excited at the prospect of it all, which is the fun of growing your own! It's a bit late now but I wish I was taking part in VP's salad challenge!

18 Sept 2009

Off to the country…

I'm away to the countryside this weekend, to stay with my niece who is an aspiring Urban Farm Girl and who keeps chickens as pets.  So, in fair exchange for a few new laid eggs to bring home with me, I'm taking a medley of our freshly picked garden produce, notably some of our magnificent lettuce (pictured above), giant radishes and parsley - but not the beetroot this time because the radishes are currently winning in those size stakes.

But all the seed harvesting has sparked a few creative memories and I promise that when I get back, I'll make a little downloadable template for making your own seed packets to keep your seeds safe until next year.

28 Aug 2009

A tale of radish past…

radishes in glassJust because they're beautiful…

Having searched (and failed) to find suitable recipes to honour our glut of radishes, I bring you instead…
Radish Folklore! (gleaned from Garden Action)

Apparently in the old days, when people had time to sit around and discover these things,
(probably when I was just a girl), lovers of the humble radish believed that eating them would stimulate the appetite, and be good for hair and nails, teeth, gums and nerves. (This one I can vouch for, being slightly tubby with all my own teeth and of a cheerful disposition.)

Tradition would have it that they help to speed up recuperation from nervous exhaustion. (Those living life in the fast lane should take note.) Constipation is eased by eating radishes. (Well, one never knows, does one? …)

Ancient wisdom reveals that whooping cough, asthma, and bronchitis have also been treated with the radish. Chronic liver and gallbladder disease, including gallstone and kidney stone afflictions, have responded by eating the whole plant. (Oh, surely not! the leaves are so prickly! - perhaps if they're cooked first? I leave you to experiment, should the need arise.)

Or, how about some medieval medical advice for baldness (found on - love that name). In 1597, John Gerard wrote in The Herbal: "The root stamped with hony (sic) and the powder of a sheepes heart dried, causeth haire to grow in short space."

Oo, what we did before trichologists (… or Marmite. Remember that ad, UK viewers?)

26 Aug 2009

A Ripening of Radishes…

radish, Carltonware Lobster plate
I'm so excited to bring you this photo, not least because I've been allowed to use L's beautiful Carltonware Lobster plate. Look what we found in the Veg Patch this morning! And not just these, but a very satisfying bumper crop.

But there is a downside as I discovered when I skipped round to share the news with the group. I'm the only one that actually likes eating them. (Gasp!) It seems everyone loves the colour, the shape, the visual contrast they bring to a leafy salad. They just don't like putting them in their mouths. Who knew?

So, chalk this one up to experience. We should only grow what we want to eat. And I need to find either a) lots of radish recipes or b) a stall at the local farmers' market.

Can't resist! Another Dictionary Moment! The word 'radish' is derived from the Saxon, rude, rudo, or reod (ruddy), or from the Sanskrit rudhira, meaning blood, referring to the bright red colour of the vegetable. Sanskrit and Saxon? Now that's what I call interesting, but I may not actually be helping my cause here - all that talk of blood.

24 Aug 2009

Promiscuity on the Patch…

Sowing a variety of lettuce seeds for a bit of late summer salad is proving to be a promising investment. But concern for the appearance of our tender leaves is leading us to a bit of old style matchmaking. We need to marry them off before they're ruined by spending the night with too many pests. (My own sweet peppers were positively decimated overnight by a herd of hungry caterpillars.)

Which leads us down the aisle to companion planting, that old favourite of organic gardeners. Some time in the past, I've read that mint is a good companion for lettuce. Jekka McVicar, in her New Book of Herbs (my copy published in 2002, so now not so new), denounces mint as promiscuous, having cross-bred, inter-bred and generally misbehaved. And who can blame them when no-one can resist giving their verdant leaves a quick squeeze in order to release that glorious smell? But perhaps not what we want, although the leaves of Spearmint (mentha spicata) make lovely tea and add a certain 'je ne sais quoi' to a salad or dish of couscous.

Having researched a little further, it would seem that radishes or strawberries make the ideal partners for lettuce, which is good as we have plenty of those. But I still think we should give those naughty but nice little mint plants some space, even if we do have to contain them amongst the cabbages.

17 Aug 2009

Seeds of Change…

"…there is really no such thing as bad weather,
only different kinds of good weather."
~John Ruskin

I owe you all an apology. I may have left you with the impression that the game was up after the recent prolonged over-watering of the Veg Patch by Mother Nature. Admittedly we didn't check on any progress for a couple of days - let's face it, there would have been nothing to see anyway, whether the seeds were still there or not.

But! tra la la, happiness and optimism restored! Incredibly, only five days after sowing, plus the bountiful gift of water from the skies, tiny little leaves (oops no, let me guess … cotyledons?) appeared, followed a few days later by a micro forest of radish foliage. (Exciting times, indeed.)

I have since read via Garden Action that "[radishes] are an ideal vegetable for the amateur gardener. [They] require almost no attention once past the seedling stage - their main requirement is a reasonable supply of water."

Ooookaaay, right. Big tick in that box then.

5 Aug 2009

August planting for salad crops

sowing seedsJust the other day, after a very satisfying morning in the veg patch, we were discussing what could usefully go into the ground for eating in a couple of months. As we've had to wrestle giant roots into submission before getting started, our little patch is devoid of summer harvest. (Although we do have a few aubergines, peppers and lavender in a greenhouse waiting to be transplanted now that the ground is ready-ish.) As it's practically still July, we decided to give salad-y stuff a go and have now lovingly sowed lettuce, rocket, radish, beetroot, spring onions, and parsley into the raised beds, with the help of one of the children. This was more an act of bravado than seasoned experience but I'm pleased to see that Sarah Raven, writing for the Guardian, advocates August as being the ideal time for sowing a late summer salad. Yum. In fact, I'm inspired to go out and sow spinach and coriander as well (which I was going to leave until the end of the month).
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