Showing posts with label vegetables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetables. Show all posts

3 May 2017

Red Valerian at the allotment

Red Valerian aka Centranthus ruber.  I was excited to read recently that this plant is edible - some say gorgeous flavour, others that the taste is bitter. I've just treated myself to Mark Diacono's latest tome The New Kitchen Garden (an excellent informative read, by the way) and he reckons that the leaves have a taste reminiscent of broad beans.  In my opinion that would make them rather yummy.

It's a perennial that is happy to self seed itself around and can be evergreen in a mild climate.  This one was photographed on a path near to my shared allotment and has come into flower in the last week. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers which might make them a good sacrificial plant to grow near brassicas but, if you want fresh greens for salads, etc, you'll have to cut the flowers off to stimulate new growth.  (Or perhaps have some for flowers and more for eating?)

Mark writes that while the new shoots are good to eat in spring and young leaves can be picked throughout the year, it's best to keep the plant watered in a dry spell to prevent leaves becoming bitter. As we've had some good rain in the past couple of days, I feel I'll be tempted to have a nibble next time I'm at the allotment and will definitely be encouraging a few of these plants to grow on the plot. I noticed that a few white ones seem to have made their way into the veg patch borders as well. Very serendipitous!

I'd be interested to know if anyone has tried (or would try) eating this plant
or do you prefer to leave it as a flower?  
Or perhaps are not fussed about valerian at all?

7 Jul 2015

The food growing garden in June

Now there's a beautiful sight - bug free broad bean tops!

You've got to love June for the lushness of the garden!  I'm finding lots to sigh with pleasure over, despite June having been a completely manic month for me: going to shows (GrowLondon and Hampton Court), normal working life, son home from uni, masses of emergency watering needed (not of the boy. Although … ) and, at the beginning of the month, I was away in Hampshire for a couple of weeks because my elderly Mum was hospitalised after a fall, now safely back home with my dad.

There hasn't been a lot of time for gardening so I can thank my perennial veg and early sowings for food on the table. I've recently let the asparagus grow into fronds as I turned towards artichokes for a meal time treat. (Yes, I'm now a dab hand at cooking artichokes which is not as fiddly as it seems.) Kales and mange tout have been abundant and the broad bean pods are filling out nicely. In fact, they've filled out so quickly with regular watering and sunshine that I may pop down to the garden in a moment to see if any are ready for picking. Like everyone else, I've found black aphids to be prolific this year. Not every plant was affected but as I felt the need for some deep watering last Friday after days of tropical heat, I linked up the four hosepipes needed to reach the garden, connected these to a far away tap and squirted and squished the aphids on my beans into extinction.  Then it rained all night. Sod's Law and all that. It was still worth the effort to have clean, bug-free beans. (Plus, the tops are delicious lightly steamed with butter, salt and a grind of pepper.)

With the warm/hot weather, it's been even more of a joy to while away the still-long evenings in the cool of the garden. There's a lot to catch up on but I've gradually been moving plants off my balcony and into the ground. Timing has been crucial for this; when I took the beans and achocha down to transplant, it was too windy.  When I took the tomatoes down, the soil was like dust. When I planted out flowers, there was just enough light rain to bring the slugs out.  The usual run of the mill stuff we gardeners face.

Unbelievably, I still have more tomatoes to go out (multiple plants of 10 varieties - that's what happens when old seed stock is used up) and a courgette which I hope won't be too pot bound to grow successfully. The autumn Cavolo Nero in pots is ready to go out, which is just as well as one of the current Cavolos is in flower.  I'm not wasting these flowers, they're delicious in a salad (if they make it that far - I usually munch on them as I garden.)

I also want to sow seeds for more beetroot, peas and chard as the last lot have finished. It feels as though the gardening year is running away but it's only just July so there's still plenty of opportunity for planting and sowing.  And, in a few weeks, I hope to be eating potatoes, broad and french beans, the first of my cherry tomatoes and, by mid-August, even sweet corn.  The preserving jars are being made ready … :o)  (I have a great recipe for pickled beans which I'll post when the french beans are ready.)

The strawberries have not been good. Oh, there's been plenty of fruit but it's all been small and disappointing. I don't think there's anything wrong with the varieties I'm growing, it's the lack of water. Until I can properly sort that out, I'm thinking of giving up on strawberries.  Raspberries, on the other hand, never fail to please!  My autumn raspberries have been fruiting for the past few weeks - they have a tendency to start in June and fruit until November.  It starts with just a little bowlful now and again to which I can now add blueberries and honeyberries … and cherries if I can find a way of making sour cherries more palatable.  I've been reading that sour cherries are best for cooking as the levels of sweetness can be adjusted.  Some research and practise is needed, obviously, after last year's major fail of a cherry crumble.

And, to end on a high note - I have seen pears!  Admittedly only two or three but, hey, that's a start.  And enough to earn the trees a reprieve. If only there was also some plums …    I'm going to a summer fruit pruning workshop at Wisley this coming weekend and you know I'll be reporting back with my findings!

28 Mar 2014

Let's get ready to {c}rumble

Pudding.  Surely one of the most evocative words in the English language.  At this time of year, if a pudding is to be provided from the garden then rhubarb is one way to go.  So when a neighbour says that she has lots of rhubarb on her allotment garden* and to help myself, I don't need asking twice!

I liked the look of a Danish rhubarb cake seen in the Guardian a couple of weekends ago but found that, unusually for me, I didn't have enough plain flour for the recipe. But I did have just enough to make a crumble topping, following a recipe from my Sarah Raven cookbook**. This recipe also has ground hazelnuts in it, as well as oats, which was rather nice.

The rhubarb plant I picked from is several years in the ground now so has stood well over the mild winter, whereas my veg patch rhubarb plants are still just getting going.  It looks like my friend's plant is ready to be split - there are several points (crowns) where the stems emerge.  It's also good to mulch or feed rhubarb in the spring as this will result in better stems - chicken or comfrey pellets will do, or compost or well-rotted manure, but leave the crowns clear.

If you have room to grow several rhubarb plants, it's a good idea to deliberately choose varieties that crop at different times; I noticed that the Capel Manor kitchen gardeners are currently picking stems from a well established Timperley Early with stems from 'Victoria' and 'Royal Albert' at about 4 inches and 'Stockbridge Arrow' crowns just peeking above the soil level.

I'd borrowed a copy of the RHS Good Fruit and Veg Guide from the college library.  I hadn't heard of either Albert or Stockbridge Arrow so wanted to see if the RHS rated them.  They weren't listed in the book but I was pleased to see that both varieties that I grow - Champagne and Glaskins Perpetual - have earned a mention.  The RHS describes the Champagne rhubarb cultivars to be generally early with sweet tender stems, whilst Glaskins P has a fair flavour but crops over a long period.  I picked stems from my Glaskins rhubarb in early November last year but that's certainly unusual; it will be interesting to see how it does in the months ahead.

There are two more plants that have piqued my interest from the RHS guide:  'Grandad's Favourite' (great name!) is described as a mid-season variety with excellent flavour, while the stems of  'Fulton's Strawberry Surprise' are tender and well-flavoured.  This last one also has an RHS Award of Garden Merit.  Ones to look out for at plant sales if looking to start a rhubarb patch.

* When the flats were built, a small piece of land next to the railway was fenced off for allotment gardens, each typically measuring about 3 x 6 metres. Individual tenants could adopt a plot for growing fruit and veg. They didn't have to be pretty, just well maintained and productive.  In recent years, a growing number of tenants have turned these spaces into private leisure gardens so most are now grassed over (or worse, buried under gravel) and get used on a handful of weekends in the summer.  Three plots are still used for the intended purpose, my friend's plot being one of them. She's also one of the original York Rise Growers.  Nuff said.

** The crumble topping can be found in this Telegraph article.  I whizzed up all ingredients in one of those hand-held blender chopping pots, having partially stewed my rhubarb on the stove top with butter and sugar. (Yes, butter. As instructed in the Guardian recipes. Nice.) Popped into little dishes and cooked for 20 minutes in the oven. Just enough time to make some Bird's lumpy custard. Honestly, I'm not usually that bad at making custard! It still tasted delicious.)

13 Sept 2013

Broad Beans - Top of the Pods

Picked beans

The weekend before last, during a big garden tidy up, the last of the dried broad bean pods were cut for seed and the plants dug up and added to the compost. It's been a strange year for broad beans as they're usually cleared well before now but I was harvesting beans until end of July (maybe I sowed later) and there's even a couple of plants that are resprouting having been earlier hacked in half by kids playing sword-fighting with my canes. (Grrr.) This year I grew two varieties of broad bean; the Karmazyn beans from last year and a crimson flowered heritage bean for colour.

Shelled beans

cooked and peeled
Heritage beans on left, Karmazyn on the right. 

Karmazyn is a variety with white flowers, green pods and pink beans. The beans are rounded, heart shaped and sit apart in the pod so there's usually no more than 4 or 5 to a pod. (The heritage pods are firmer and smaller.)  Once shelled and deskinned, the young Karmazyn beans are the most beautiful bright green. Last year's end of season pods contained inedible but useful beans that were dried and saved as seeds for this year and all germinated from an early March sowing.

I sow my broad beans in spring (rather than autumn) so when I bought some Heritage red flowering bean seeds earlier this year, I was still in time to sow those as well. I wanted to grow them alongside the Karmazyn to see if there's a difference, other than flower colour. There were subtle differences,  mainly in the taste, with the Karmazyn beans being sweeter and nuttier. (Some of my seeds were given to a friend working at the local City Farm and he agreed about the taste, finding it very pleasant.) The heritage crimson beans had a more pronounced bean flavour and were slightly harder and more floury in texture after cooking. As a recent convert to liking broad beans, I prefer the Karmazyn beans.

The plants all grew vigorously to the same height.  Karmazyn were slightly quicker off the mark but perhaps they'd adapted to my growing conditions as they were grown from saved seed.  A few of the crimson flowered beans didn't germinate whereas, like last year, the Karmazyn beans all grew. The flowers have been so beautiful:

White flowers for pink beans

Crimson heritage bean flowers

and, strangely, also from the crimson heritage beans, striped pink flowers ... lovely!

Pink striped bean flower

In 2012 the beans weren't troubled at all by black aphids; I put this down to the nasturtiums that I grew around the edge of the bed. This year, one or two plants were heavily invaded (temporarily, as I was on squish alert) despite some lovely Milkmaid nasturtiums appearing by their sides.


As the pods started to plump up, I pinched off all the tops so that the plants put their energy into the pods.  I steamed the tops with a few of the de-podded beans for supper -  they were delicious with just a trickle of butter and grinding of salt and pepper.  Well worth remembering for next time as I've composted the tops in the past.

I've managed to save a couple of large bags of parboiled beans for the freezer but I'm already looking forward to  next year's crop.  My Veg Planner advises that broad beans can be sown in October and November and then again in January.  I usually sow in early spring, i.e. late Feb/early March, but this year, I'll give an autumn sowing a go, protect the seedlings over winter with cloche protection, and see if that makes for an early harvest next year.

Broad beans 25th June
My little patch of broad beans in June this year.

23 Jul 2013

The beans, the cherries and the plague of ants

Beans and cherries

On Sunday evening I went to pick a few broad beans, as you do. 30 degrees of daily sunshine and enough water to stop the plants keeling over has given the beans a big boost and, in one week, they've gone from smallish pods to fat beans.  In short, they needed harvesting and I picked about 2 lbs (almost a kilo) of pods - more than I need so they'll be blanched and frozen. The plants are attracting a lot of blackfly now (despite being underplanted with nasturtiums) so I won't be sorry when the last few pods have ripened and I can clear the bed for winter veg.

Cherries ripe
Plenty left to ripen (or get eaten by birds) after I'd filled my basket.
It's the same story with the Morello cherries.  There are more cherries on the tree than in previous years. Yesterday evening I noticed that quite a lot were looking very tasty.  They had turned a lovely deep shade of lipstick red and I can't believe that the birds haven't stripped the trees already.  There's been a fair amount of maintenance work being done on the flats at the moment so perhaps the increase in busy-ness has kept them away.  Whatever the reason, I've seized the opportunity to start gathering the ripest ones and came away with 2.5 lbs of cherries yesterday.  I added these to the basket and left it on top of the border wall while I went back and forth with the watering can for an hour.

Basket of cherries

I thought that was it for the day, bar washing and bagging my haul but fate had one more trick in store for me.

Back indoors again, I put the basket down and noticed an ant creep out from underneath.  I squished it. Then another appeared ... then several. I lifted the basket - there was about 70 ants scuttling underneath!  I put the basket down and slapped at the ants with my hands, lifted it and slapped at the next plague of ants, and so on. A bit pointless to keep putting the basket down so finally my brain engaged and I put the basket in the sink and filled it with water.  As the ants struggled up to the top of the basket I was able to squish 'em.  So that whiled away the hour that I should have been podding my beans.  I can't bear ants indoors (or on me) so I had to give the kitchen (and basket) a good clean when I was sure I'd got them all; there must have been over 200 ants so I can only assume that I put the basket down near an ants' nest in the garden.  I've learned my lesson - gather the harvest and come straight home with it!!

Now I have to decide what to use my cherries for: a clafouti, jam or some cherry and almond muffins.  They're Morello cherries so quite sharp.  It'll probably be jam or compote, giving a taste of summer in the middle of winter and enough over to give a taste to neighbours.

26 Mar 2013

Spaghetti squash: a good winter veg

Prepping squash
An ice-cream scoop is the perfect tool for removing squash seeds.
Snow clinging to the roof tiles suggests a lunch of warming soups and squashes rather than salad. I haven't got any winter veg growing to fill the 'hungry gap' (last year's downpours rotted my perennial caulis, slugs got the rest) but what I do have, stored from last Autumn, are my spaghetti squashes, also known as my Squashed Pyjamas. They were one of my trophy veg last year because, after a very slow start, a couple of weeks of late summer sunshine revived their spirits and they grew almost daily, greening up the spaces between the fruit trees and producing several torpedo sized squashes before the season end. These were duly stored on a high shelf in my kitchen, probably not the most appropriate spot but it seems to have worked.

I retrieved one of the smaller squashes from its lofty perch at lunchtime on Sunday and prepped it for the oven with spices and herbs. (And my pruning saw - the rind is hard.) It was delicious.  A simple meal of good home-grown veggie nosh.  And with the added bonus of a snack bowl of edible seeds, also oven roasted - although I pulled out a few for resowing before they went into the oven.

I'm waiting for the weather to warm up to a regular 5C before I start sowing any seeds, meanwhile taking the opportunity to finalise what I'll grow in the veg patch this year. These squashes have definitely earned their place, albeit a rather large one as they need a lot of room.  Last year I started them off in 3 inch pots (set the seed on its side) and found they quickly needed potting on. Treat them like courgettes and plant them out in late May or early June in a sunny spot, keep them well-watered and well-fed (plenty of organic matter before planting preferably) and have bee friendly plants nearby to guide the bees in the right direction for pollinating the flowers.

Squash Pyjamas is less "floury" than butternut squash and more tasty than marrow. When cooked, the flesh shreds easily into strings, hence 'spaghetti' squash.  I cut mine in half, drizzled olive oil over the top, added a sprinkle of dried herbs, some smoked paprika, salt and pepper and then an extra smidgeon of butter on the top - and then roasted it for an hour at 180C.  A few slices of bacon would have only increased the pleasure. The seeds were washed of all squash flesh, dried and tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with the same herbs and seasoning as the squash and roasted for 15 minutes.  These make a very, very nice crunchy snack.

Eating squash

I bought my Squash Pyjama seeds from More Veg, a good investment at 3 seeds for 75p. In a good summer, this should yield at least 15 squashes - 5 per plant. Even in last year's washout weather, I still had 6 squashes from the two seeds that I grew; both germinated and I left the third seed as a standby which, as it turns out, was not needed.  The supplied seeds are not F1 so I presume  I can resow my seeds saved from the best plant, in which case my initial investment is even more of a bargain!  And don't forget, if we get a good summer and the squashes fruit prolifically as promised, I can also take a few of the edible flowers to add to salads or stuff them before deep frying, as per zucchini fritters.

Now I'm wondering if the young leaves can also be eaten, as you can with very young courgette leaves...

24 May 2012

Borage: it's almost Pimms O'Clock

Borage flower

Borage flowers are one of the unmistakeable signs of summer.  Borage is one of the prettiest summer herbs with both edible and medicinal uses and easy to grow from seed. Once pollinated, the flowers develop large black seeds (the size of peppercorns) - be quick to gather these if you don't have the space to let the plant self-seed.

Growers of the herb know that the flowers can be frozen in ice-cubes and used to glam up summer drinks; they have a slightly sweet cucumber flavour that goes particularly well with Pimms, that quintessential English drink favoured by Wimbledon devotees. In her book 'Good Enough to Eat', Jekka McVicar suggests sprinkling the flowers into a salad, crystallising for decoration on cakes or adding to chilled summer soups; she has a nice recipe for mixing the flowers (stamen and pistils removed) with creme fraiche and layering this with a fruit purée for a lovely summer pudding.

purple borage flower

The whole plant is edible: freshly picked young leaves have a salty cucumber taste and can be eaten as part of a salad, or with cream cheese and tomatoes in sandwiches. They're very bristly so are best chopped finely and mixed with other leaves if you're going to use them for this.  Both leaves and flowers can be used to make a nice refreshing tea which is said to have a slightly diuretic effect (not dissimilar to normal tea or coffee).

This is the same plant which is elsewhere known as Starflower (you can see why) and whose seeds have a high concentration of Gamma Linoleic Acid, a valuable oil used to regulate female hormones.  For me though, it's best use is as a companion plant.  Bees absolutely love it so it's a great herb to grow next to your beans for an increased yield. It's also attractive to blackfly which could be off putting unless you grow some as sacrificial plants.

I have a tray of borage, grown from seed, ready to go out into the veg patch but, just in case those didn't work out, I also have two bought borage plants growing on my balcony. A few days ago I noticed that these had produced clusters of buds:

Borage bud

24 hours of sunshine later and warmer temperatures have coaxed the flowers out, first pink then turning a beautiful deep blue.

Bright blue borage flowers

I have gardener Naomi Schillinger to thank for these seeds.  I admired the borage growing in her garden last summer and she swiftly removed a handful of seeds and popped them in an envelope for me.  Naomi has done marvellous work with her neighbours' front gardens and the tree pits in her local streets;  check out her inspirational blog or if you can get to North London, she's participating in the Chelsea Fringe.

The broad beans are also beginning to flower and I'm on blackfly watch for the broad beans in the veg patch.  I spotted a couple on one of the plants this afternoon but I'm afraid that aphids are building in numbers elsewhere - I just hope that the ladybirds can keep up with the feast!  For some reason, I thought that my pink Karmazyn beans would produce pink or red flowers but, no... Unless something dramatic is about to happen to these creamy buds!

Broad bean flowers

4 Dec 2011

Walking in a winter wonderland

The veg patch in early December.  As mentioned in yesterday's post, the slow onset of wintry weather has been kind to my veg garden (if not to me - I'm suffering with the beginnings of a winter cold today).

December strawberry
As seen on 2nd December - the last strawberry of the year?
Looking back to this time last year, it seems that I'd run out of things to say (!) and had suspended blogging activity. That probably means that all was quiet on the veg front and I remember that I didn't grow any veg through the winter - even my garlic and onion sets were planted out in the spring.  I recall heavy snowfall over south east England making it challenging to get to a family christening in Kent in early December.  I managed to drive there but was amazed at the sight of snow drifts in Central London and the Kent countryside under a blanket of thick snow!  This year is different.  My chilly, sunny, "winter" walk around the veg garden on Friday showed my echinacea (and primulas) flowering; if that wasn't crazy enough, I also found this just blushing strawberry (a one off feast for the slugs, I expect).

In the herb bed, fresh herbs are still available: sage, parsley, oregano, lemon thyme, fennel.  Nice to be able to put off buying fresh herbs in the shops, although most home-grown herbs can be dried, or frozen in ice cubes, for use in soups and stews throughout the winter. I should really make time to do this.

December Herb collage
Clockwise from top left: sage, fennel, rosemary, oregano with thyme at back
A few other edible treats are keeping the garden alive:  chioggia beetroot, just a couple of sweetcorn cobs (yes, still!), horseradish root (really must dig all this up this year - it's a spreader and will regrow from the smallest root; I want to grow it in very large pots next year as it's a magnificent sight, very structural, but the roots can go very, very deep!) and, hopefully, a few Vivaldi and Charlotte spuds. The potatoes seem to have resprouted after I thought I'd emptied the tub in the summer.  Apparently I overlooked a tuber or two.  I've left them to grow because, well, you never know ... !

December Ready to eat collage
Clockwise from top left: sweetcorn, beetroot, potatoes, horseradish
And that's not all - this year I have my winter veg to look forward to!  I'm hoping for a few Tozer (purple) brussels sprouts before christmas (they're tiny at the moment) then, providing the weather isn't too severe, I'm looking forward to cauliflowers, kale and more sprouts in the springtime.  On a whim in early October, I bought some brassica seedlings then didn't have time to plant them out (this coincided with visits to my mum in hospital).  Not to waste a perfectly good plant, I've popped them into raised beds that I'd previously topped up with well-rotted horse muck or compost and we'll just have to hope for the best. All being well, this will give me some spring cabbages and PSB next year - and I also have a big box of seeds to think about over the coming months.  The winter doesn't seem so long when you still have veg growing!

18 Jul 2011

The Zucchini Chop

This is my first year of growing courgettes so I was thrilled to see the plants flourishing in the few short weeks after planting out, although the way their magnificent but prickly leaves overspill onto the paths through the patch is slightly daunting.

Veg Patch view, July 2011

As I watered around the veg patch on Friday evening, my Zimbabwean neighbour (who has a wealth of experience in veg growing) came over for a chat.  The common names of plants often differ between our countries and he was curious about the courgettes.  Having established what the plant was, he told me that in his country the whole plant would be eaten: flowers, stems, leaves, fruit.  Surely the leaves are too spiny for that?  Not at all, apparently they soften in cooking.  My plants, however, had been insufficiently watered (guilty as charged, although the weekend deluge will have rectified that) and the stems were too tough.  He demonstrated by cutting a lower leaf close to the stem and peeling back the strings.  The stalk was hollow and the flesh rigid; if it had been tender, he would have saved it from the compost heap and taken it home to be eaten, although the best leaves are further up the stem.  So, lesson one:  courgettes need lots of water.

There was further advice. "The plant is having to share the food between the fruit and the leaves. You do not need the leaves near the ground."  Well, that made sense to me.  So, knife in hand, I sliced where I was directed to and leaf after giant leaf came away.  Soil was revealed (enough to sow some quick radishes or shaded spinach), air could circulate around the plants, sweetcorn was rediscovered and an achievement shared.  Really, an enjoyable, companionable, useful and educational evening where another curve of the learning spiral was successfully negotiated.

This is the 'after' shot:

Courgette, pruned

If I'd thought about it, I should have used the same angle to take the photo. Sorry, but I hope this will illustrate nicely the after-effects of the (rather drastic) chop. Does anyone else do this? And has it worked for you? I'd love to know!

22 May 2011

Perplexed by Potatoes? How to Grow Your Food

... A Guide for Complete Beginners by Jon Clift and Amanda Cuthbert.  This is a(nother) new book aimed at novice food-growing gardeners and, after reviewing it, I give this book 9½ out of 10.

I love surprise packages and this little book - just 16cm square - arrived during the week from Green Books, an independent publisher in Devon. Green Books say it will be published this week, on 26th May, although Amazon apparently have had it since 7th April this year!

First impressions:  Lovely size and feel. Clear layout, distinct headings, plenty of photos for each plant, drawings where needed, e.g pinching out tomato side-shoots. It's a soft-back book, about the thickness of a monthly magazine, so (and I apologise if this seems sacrilegious treatment of a new book) it's tempting to roll it up and stuff it in a back pocket where it will happily sit until needed. As a gardener who stuffs everything in my pockets, this is a plus. I also like the matt feel of the pages which are printed on recycled paper.

So far, so promising.  The main sections are The Basics, then Easy-to-Grow Veg, E2G Fruit and E2G Herbs, arranged alphabetically within their chapters.  Each plant has a symbol showing at a glance where/how it can be grown (useful for small space or container growers), excellent illustrative photos and clear information about what to do. Just 6 headings contain all you need to know answers:  Plant or seed? Planting/Sowing, How do *** grow? Looking after your ***, Harvesting, Now What?  For me, this is the winner. The information is straightforward, concise, to the point and very easy to understand. I've even picked up a tip or two myself and found myself wishing I'd had this book three years ago when I started the Veg Patch.

The downside:  There is no index, despite the pages being numbered. This is easily overcome with a few post-it type markers relating to the veg you're planting, although I couldn't find Spinach until I happened on Perpetual spinach! I'm also curious as to the choices of plants that were selected for the book;  parsnips and turnips but no pumpkins and squashes?  Broccoli but no cauliflower or brussels? The fruit section has nothing on strawberries which, in my view are easy to grow, a good investment (if you're shown how to peg out runners) and expensive to buy in the shops even at the height of the season.  Melon (from seed) would have been a nice addition, too. The herb section is very limited - no coriander, no chives, no oregano.  Sure, rosemary and sage are easy to grow but how often are they used by the average cook? (This is, after all, a book about growing food and I'd have thought that coriander and chives are frequently used by cooks, along with parsley and basil (featured). Any tips on the uses of various herbs would also have been a big plus point. And what about edible flowers?  Many people still want a pretty garden, albeit a useful one.  I think that was the appeal of Alys Fowler's garden, the randomness of finding lettuce among the marigolds and so forth.

And so, to summarise:  Bearing in mind this is a book for novice food growers, it should definitely take it's place as essential early reading.  (I wish I'd had the section on potatoes when I first grew them, as every gardener I asked had a different piece of advice about planting!) What I love about it is the accessibility; when I started growing veg, I wanted to get straight out into the garden, not be sitting indoors reading about it.  This book allows that possibility, even including three short chapters covering Before You Start, Useful Gardening Terms (so you don't feel like an idiot) and Common Problems.

Forget Dr Hessayon (for now), this book contains excellent clear advice, does not patronise the newbie gardener and I believe (and hope!) it will give beginners the confidence to get started (whether from seed or plant), to succeed and therefore keep going and to explore other varieties in the future.  I imagine the book will get scruffy pretty quickly, having a soft cover, but it's a reference book that belongs in the tool bag or greenhouse, as well as on a bookshelf.

I say again:   9½ out of 10
(And a bargain at only £6.95 cover price!)
Sold via Amazon or Green Books

And the tip I picked up?  I didn't know that basil will grow to 50 cm if you keep pinching off the growing tips ... or that outdoor grown basil (in a warm, sheltered spot) can be cut down to soil level before the first frosts, transplanted and brought indoors where it will throw up new shoots for winter eating.  Keep pinching off those growing tips though, else it will flower and become non-productive.

29 Mar 2011

Funny ...

Of the requests (mostly ignored) that I get for promotional links on this blog, this one got my attention - for all the wrong reasons.

Subject:  Congratulation : Your Blog Have Choose For Featured At Bed Comforter Sets !
This is Shiela (sic) from
We stumbled on your blog while searching for Bed Comforter Sets related information. We operate the largest Bed Comforter Sets website featuring more than 30,000 blogs. Our site averages 200,000 uniques visitors per month. Based on your blog's popularity and other factors, we have featured your blog at
We would be grateful if you could add our details to your blogs main page.

Hmm.  Now, what could I have said to that?  Perhaps:
Dear Shiela,
Thanks for your interest - I think you might have ever-so-slightly missed the point.  Nice bedlinen to comfort my raised beds? Now that really would spoil my veg rotten. ; )
Urban Veg Patch

On another (completely unrelated) note, here's a picture of a rather fetching asparagus shoot that I found in the vegpatch this morning.  Probably should have been picked before now but will be cooked by 7 tonight.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...