17 Sept 2014

Serendipity Summer

Autumn is the new summer, to borrow and misquote a piece of fashion nonsense.  Days like today and yesterday are my kind of weather: the sun is shining but it's warm, not hot, I've got washing drying in a warm breeze outside and there's a gentle buzzing of bees in the shrubbery and gardens. It's left me hopeful for an extension to summer, a boon after the chilly and wet end to August.

Having recently said that the veg patch was all leaf but little produce, I may have to eat my words - as well as lots of fresh garden veg.  It seems that the watering issue was at fault. A few days of torrential rain, some cooler weather and suddenly we have the right conditions for growing happy veg.  I brought home an armful of beans, courgettes, tomatoes and raspberries last night (just before it got dark at 7.30, a sure sign of the changing seasons).  A stroll round the garden at lunchtime today showed what I missed.

3 huge courgettes, 3 small finger courgettes, more beans, sungold and yellow pear tomatoes, a few more raspberries and lovely fresh leaves (spinach, rocket, chard and beetroot) and radishes for salad. Which reminds me, I'd better sow some more lettuce as only two of the Marvel of 4 Seasons has grown. I'm leaving those two to get a bit bigger before I start picking.

The seedpods of orach aka mountain spinach (Atriplex rubra) have turned golden with only one plant left with the lovely bright pink discs lighting up the veg patch. Spiders and their webs are everywhere, caution is needed when picking salad leaves so as not to disturb them.

Yesterday was made even better by discovering several crab apples trees.  I suspected what they were, took a photo and posted that to Twitter and Instagram asking for help with identification. Jules, the Suburban Veg Gardener (@embergate) confirmed in the affirmative. Slicing one of the fruits in half at home sealed the deal - yes, definitely crab apples and definitely going foraging soon for rosehips and crab apples to make jelly and, perhaps, also some rosehip syrup to ward off winter colds. 

The green apples were growing on the other side of the Heath path and are sweet apples of some sort.
That delight will have to wait until the end of next week as I'm driving up to Leeds this coming weekend, popping my son up to university where he'll be studying music production.  Before I hear the cry of #emptynester, although it will initially feel strange (on my own after nearly two decades) and I'll miss him (obviously), I'll be making the most of any free time to visit more gardens, knowing that he'll be having a great time.  I've heard that Leeds is Party Central for students so I'm sure my boy won't be missing home too much! (Although, possibly the washing, ironing and cooking services provided at home  … ) 

9 Sept 2014

My bio-diverse garden: Southern Shield Bugs

There's a bookshelf in the design studios at college where unwanted books can be left for others. It was there I found a small pocket sized paperback of Bob Flowerdew's Planting Companions earlier this year. As I garden organically, I do consider Bob one of my gardening heroes. He advises that tomatoes benefit considerably from being grown with asparagus*. After reading it, I thought I was being so clever when I set six of my tomato plants out into ring culture pots within the asparagus bed. As the bed designated for growing asparagus is just one metre square, the crowns are positioned like the dots on a five-dice. The tomato plant pots formed a circle around the central asparagus plant.

As mentioned in my August end of month post, with hindsight, this left them too close together for the fruit to ripen in a timely fashion, until I stripped the lower leaves off. (Although, in a sense, the method does work as I had enormous plants.) By mid-august I noticed that there was a colony of what appeared to be tiny living dots enjoying the warmth at the top of one of the lower trusses. I thought they might be just hatched spiderlings.

See the mottling on the top of the tomatoes? I assume that's bug damage.

I don't mind spiders and they don't do any harm so I left them alone.  As the insects got bigger though I could see that they were, in fact, beetles of some sort.  Time to investigate.

My old friend Google told me that the bugs are Nezara viridula, more commonly known as the Southern Green Shield bug.  These differ from the more alliteratively named Palomena prasina, bugs that do little harm to the garden.  Nezara viridula have arrived in London in the last decade, believed to have travelled over from Africa via Europe, and can be found on tomatoes, raspberries, beans, mallow (Lavatera), Verbena and Caryopteris.  No wonder they're happy in my garden. They also favour allotments; bean growers beware. If handled, however accidentally, they emit a pungent odour.

All shield bugs are sap suckers (not as bad as aphids though) but the Southern Shield bug can cause minor damage to beans, tomatoes, etc by causing the fruit to distort. They're not considered a pest by the RHS as they're most numerous at the end of the season when fruiting is coming to an end.

So what's to be done?  Nothing. (Except (note to future me … ) space your plants out a bit more so that there is more air circulating and less hiding places.) Shield bugs will not do sufficient damage to warrant pest control. The adults overwinter and lay eggs on the underside of leaves in the spring so if you don't want them on your plants, check and remove.  Although that would be a shame as, in my humble opinion, they are all part of the garden's rich tapestry. And rather fascinating to watch.

The science bit: Asparagus roots kill trichodorus, a nematode that attacks tomatoes and in return tomato leaf spray will keep asparagus beetle at bay. Tomatoes also enjoy the company of parsley, basil and nasturtiums and they may be protective of gooseberries.  Certainly my gooseberry bush, growing next door to the tomatoes, appears very healthy. Case closed (for now).

And if there's any doubt:

Southern Green Shield bug

UK native Common Green Shield bug

7 Sept 2014

Here we go September; Bye-bye August

I'm pleased August is over; it was too hot and too dry (unbelievably for the UK) and September is always so wonderfully lush - the penultimate hurrah of the season.  Without a tap in the veg garden here, the plants have had to struggle without water while we had nearly a month of no rain. My water butts ran dry in the first week; after that, the plants were on their own apart from a few daily cans of water going onto the tomatoes and asparagus beds. A friend on the top floor used to lower a hosepipe connected to the water supply in her flat. Since having new taps, the connector doesn't fit so I've been carrying water from my bathroom, two blocks and four flights of stairs away.

Shallow-rooted raspberry canes have really struggled with the lack of water and it shows in their leaves. Even the courgettes stopped fruiting and any courgettes that had formed simply yellowed on the plant. (They have slightly perked up since the rains came. The plants, that is, not the yellowing courgettes.) Not quite the bountiful harvest that I'd hoped for. I am thankful not to have to deal with gluts of beans and courgettes but a few more would have been nice - especially since the courgette chutney I made turned out to be delicious. I've a feeling those jars won't last long enough.

Just when I was completely despairing at the lack of water and I'd been out to buy a fourth hosepipe so that I could connect them up to reach the nearest tap (over 200 metres away), the wind picked up, the skies turned grey and it practically didn't stop raining for the last week of the month! Buckets left out to catch any rainfall filled overnight (or within an afternoon's rainfall).  I got caught out in a sudden shower a couple of weeks back and even my waterproof was soaked within minutes and my shoes waterlogged as the drains were unable to cope with the downpour causing huge lakes to form on the roads.  At least the garden was finally getting watered and seeds sowed between showers popped up within 48 hours!

Curly parsley and feverfew in the herb bed.

UK weather is notoriously variable but this past month has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous with  very little inbetween. At one point, I set out in sunshine and was being rained on by the time I reached the end of the road; as I turned around for home, hailstones of ice pounded down on me and I returned home as thunder and lightning rumbled across the skies. Just a normal British day? For a while, yes.

So how are things in the garden? Truthfully, only rosy-ish. It all looks very lush and green but there's very little to eat apart from masses of herbs and a handful of fruit. The greenery is supplied by giant rhubarb and courgette leaves, nasturtiums and herbs.

I've taken off all the lower leaves of the tomato plants so that the fruit can ripen. My mistake was to grow them grouped together in the asparagus bed. I'd read that toms and asparagus are ideal companion plants so thought it worth a try. In hindsight, I feel tomatoes are better grown in a row, spaced well apart where they see the sun. I'll still have a few tomatoes when they ripen but certainly haven't had plants dripping with trusses. Possibly the water thing again and I've lost a few branches to the strong winds we (also) had in August. The Indigo Rose black tomato, which I know many other bloggers have been growing, seems to have very late ripening fruit; heavy rains have split quite a few and the remaining trusses are only just turning now, at the beginning of September. I'll leave these as long as possible to see what flavour develops. Let's give them a fair trial.

Clockwise from left: Indigo Rose, Maskotka, Yellow Pear, Sungold.

The artichoke looks dead but I'm thrilled to see that there are new shoots coming up at the base. (I had been wondering whether it had suffered a premature death.) The bush beans are slowly starting to produce, a handful here and there, but nothing like the glut I was expecting - and the plants are still attracting black aphids. (I won't be sad to see the back of those come winter.) I haven't had any strawberries to speak of this year but ten raspberry canes have been producing a small bowlful about twice a week. Tall beans and cucamelons have been non-starters with the lack of water - or maybe I was tempting fate by installing an enormous 2 metre arch for them to scramble up.

By mid-August I noticed that every time I went to the garden, I found apples with one bite taken out of them before being tossed aside. Grrrrrr. To curb my frustration and thwart the miscreants, I decided to pick all the remaining fruit. The taste was okay (another 3 to 4 weeks would have been preferable)  and at least I have a few for purée, crumbles and chutney. They'll go nicely with my green tomatoes and courgette.

Kale 'Cavolo Nero'
Bush beans (delicious flat pods that will turn into red kidney beans if left)
Physalis (Cape Gooseberry/ground cherries)
Spring onions
Courgettes (the small newer leaves are delicious too, cooked and eaten as greens)
Nasturtium leaves and flowers
Herbs: parsley, rosemary, bay, oregano, thyme, lovage, lemon verbena

Looking forward - sown or planted out:
Plants of Romanesco cauliflower, broccoli and okra from seeds sown back in May and potted on.
I put wool slug pellets around them and cages over the top to deter pigeons. They've doubled in size in the past week.
Chilli plants, still ripening but turning the most amazing colours!

Spinach 'Nile' and Spinach 'Picasso',
Ruby Chard,
Cavolo Nero,
Celtuce (a cross between celery and lettuce)
French Breakfast radish
Rocket (aka Arugula)
Lettuce (Marvel of Four Seasons and Salad Bowl)
Shimonita spring onions
Carrots (fingers crossed for some baby carrots before winter)
Beetroot (for overwintering)

Jobs to do:
Be vigilant! I squished some grey aphids off the broccoli yesterday and have seen butterfly eggs on a neighbour's cabbage leaves so netting the beds is the next step.
Chop back the strawberry top growth and pot up a few of the runners from Mara des Bois plants. These will replace the plants I was donated several years ago.
Move plants. I planted the lovage and pineapple sage too close to each other so one will have to be moved.
Make more chutney and jam. The rhubarb that I'm growing is Glaskins Perpetual. It has a reputation for  having a much longer season that other varieties and is looking really healthy. I'll try taking a few more stems for the freezer and for preserves - I've found a nice sounding recipe for Rhubarb, Rose and Cardamom jam. Very exotic!
Sow more spinach. I can never have enough of the stuff and the seeds sown last month are now being harvested as baby leaves.
Weeding! The dry weather gave me a month off this chore, now it's back to reality.

This post was destined for the monthly Garden Share Collective but I missed the link-in deadline. The other posts can be read here on Lizzie's Strayed from the Table blog.

31 Aug 2014

Edible urban: Foraging / preserving the taste of summer

City fruit. There's a surprising amount of it about on trees and shrubs in the street, parks, gardens and abandoned areas, just waiting to be turned into jams, jellies, sauces, chutneys and wine. Living near Hampstead Heath, I can also add woodlands and hedgerows to that list.  Autumn abundance seems to have arrived early this year; masses of rowan berries, rose hips and haws are ripening in the streets. Large juicy blackberries lurked (past tense, the children have surprisingly long arms!) just out of reach on the nearby railway line and I was almost caught on the hop with elderberries.

I love the slightly exotic look of elderberries: red stems and glossy black fruits, they are the Morticia Adams of the hedgerow. Toxic (as in severe tummy upset) when raw but delicious and edible when cooked into cordials, jams and wine. I was after a few to make some elderberry cordial. I swear the berries weren't ripe a couple of weeks ago but suddenly I was seeing stems stripped bare. Time to start picking if I wanted some!

Last Sunday's weather was good but forecast to change within the next 24 hours so, tucking a couple of carrier bags into my pockets and my camera over my shoulder, I headed off towards the heath hedgerows.  There weren't that many elderberries to be had (I had about 300g of berries after de-stemming and picking out the green ones) but I found a long row of blackthorn bushes covered with sloes, loads of bramble berries and the motherlode of rose hips. Perfect for a Hedgerow Jelly.

The rule for hedgerow jelly is to gather only-just-ripe fruit on a dry day. Make the jam straightaway or freeze the fruit until needed. Use any mix of the fruit you find (sloes, hips, haws, bullaces, damsons, berries) and match it 50:50 with sharp apples (cooking or crab apples).  Soft fruit usually have low levels of pectin and acid, apples have high levels so the apples are needed to ensure a good set.

Back at home my gathered fruit was lightly rinsed (drop of vinegar added) and dried - I like to know that there are no critters lurking. (And there were. We're dealing with nature here. There will be life, lots of it, in the hedgerows. Some people may not like that.) Blackberries were picked over for any insects and grubs, elderberries were taken off the stalks and green berries discarded, rose hips were topped, tailed and then blitzed whole in a food processor. This gave me around a kilo of fruit which I matched with another kilo of cooking apples. Crab apples would have been my first choice but I was unable to find any … for now. Apparently crab apples add a lovely rosy glow to a jelly, something I'd like to see.

After adding water and stewing the fruit to draw out the pectin and juices, I popped the fruit into my new jelly bag to strain overnight. Previously I've faffed about with muslin cloths and ingenious methods of suspending the fruit over a bowl; a tiny accident put a stop to that - it involved some rosehips, a cloth suspended on high, a bowl filled with juice and a plank of wood over the bath followed by a bit of redecorating.  This jelly bag, for me, is progress.

I had about 1.5 litres of juice the following morning. I thought it was delicious at this stage, if ever so slightly tart. But, onwards. Into the pan it went, brought to the boil, sugar added (not quite as much as the recipe suggested) and brought to a rolling boil until setting point (104 C) was reached. I don't trust the cold saucer test so have a cook's thermometer.  About 15 minutes later (using that time to sterilise the jars and lids), I had jelly, of sorts. It still looked very liquid when I poured it into the jars despite the required temperature being reached. Oh well, I thought, it can be reboiled to thicken if needed. And, actually, as it cooled, it set. A bit on the soft side, but I quite like that. We live and learn.

A bit more:
1, I wish I'd put even less sugar in the jam but then, would it have set? Would there be less flavour? I need to better understand the science behind jam making.
2, I was able to blitz my rosehips, seeds and all, because the fruit was being strained so the pips and their surrounding hairs were filtered out. The hairs are an extreme irritant, used in making itching powder!
3, Try to use fruit growing away from the road for less of those kerbside fumes.
4, I'm convinced that jam making, like baking bread and cakes, fulfils some deeply subliminal primeval urge. Despite there being absolutely no need whatsoever to make my own preserves, there is something so satisfying in the process.
5, I haven't gone Polaroid-mad, I've been amusing myself with an app that makes photos look like polaroids. Useful for cards, labels, recipes, etc. Find Pola (for Mac) here.

Finally (hurrah!), passing on some useful information. I've found a brilliant website for preserving, Rosie Makes Jam.  Rosemary Jameson founder of the Guild of Jam Makers, has a plethora of inspiring recipes on her site (Beetroot and Elderberry chutney, anyone?) and links to her shop where she sells jars, etc. My favourite is the ingredient calculator that converts the recipe to the amounts available. Invaluable.

22 Aug 2014

There's still time ...

… to sow a few seeds before late summer turns into autumn.

Having planted out my winter veg and cleared the last of the peas, I really want something else to look forward to.  I remember the first year my friends and I started the veg patch: by the time we were ready to sow anything, it was mid-August. It was a warm month and, not knowing any better, we sowed what we had in our seed boxes.  As a reward for our optimism, we were helping ourselves to lettuce leaves before the year end although the beets were small and the spring onions spindly.  We protected the crops with fleece over a snowy winter and were eating fresh from the garden in early April. It was a lesson that, strangely, has not been repeated until now.

A couple of weeks ago, a quick trawl through my seed box showed what was possible.  I pulled out seeds that could be sown until late July, others that were best sown in August for a late autumn or early spring crop, and even more seeds to be sown in September to germinate ready for next year.

I've sowed ruby chard, two types of spinach, some radishes, rocket, parsley, shimonita onions, some quick growing baby carrots and several rows of lettuce - a butterhead 'Marvel of Four Seasons' and 'Salad Bowl', a cos type.  And just in case we have a nice slow decline into winter, some beetroot for baby beets.  When I checked today, the warm rain of the past few days has coaxed all of the seeds into life.  I'll keep a watch for first frosts and then have to fleece the beds but the plants will be off to a good start by then.

There's also plenty of flowers best sown in the autumn for strong early plants next year.  My photo above shows a selection of what I'll be sowing: poppies, hollyhocks, wallflowers, nigella, calendula, honesty. (As well as more tulips.) My spring-sown flowers didn't do well this year and I'm planning for better next year.

My bedtime reading at the moment is Charles Dowding's book 'How to Grow Winter Vegetables'. It's an excellent informative read from a very experienced grower and one that I would recommend for anyone wanting to keep their plot going through the winter months. (I haven't been asked to promote this! It's a book I bought last year and am only just getting round to reading.)

I'm going to prune the plum trees this weekend. Stoned fruit trees need to have any essential pruning done in the summer months, preferably after fruiting. Leaving it much later (as in I should probably have done it already) will leave the pruning wounds vulnerable to possible airborne viruses; doing it now gives the cuts time to heal over before the tree goes into dormancy. I'm going to take a few branches out of the centre to let in light and air, hopefully with better fruiting results next year. And if there's time leftover, I'll be tidying and weeding some space for my next seed sowing session.

Like I said, there's still time to sow. :)

21 Aug 2014

Edible Garden: Nasturtium capers

As we're bang in the middle of the preserving season, jars and bottles are easily bought (if you haven't been carefully storing recycled jars all year), so it's apt timing to think of how summer flavours can be saved for the winter months. Leaving aside the hedgerow harvests for a moment (elderberries, blackberries, bullaces /sloes and rose hips seen on a recent walk), I've been tackling garden produce.

Nasturtium flowers (Tropaeolum) are still growing yet this is the time that lots of fruit (aka seedpods) are dropping into the soil ready to sprout into new plants next year. There's only so many nasturtium seedlings that a garden needs so I've been picking off a few pods before they can fall, destined for the kitchen to be transformed into Tropa-capers (rather than proper capers).

True capers are the flower buds of the caper shrub (Capparis spinosa) and, once pickled, are a popular ingredient in Italian cooking, especially in pizzas, salads and pasta sauces.  Here in the UK, capers are traditionally used to make Tartare Sauce, among other things, which is commonly eaten as a garnish for fish and is particularly nice with salmon. (Although watercress sauce is even better.  But I digress.) Capers are relatively expensive to buy but I read that nasturtium seedpods develop a very similar taste and texture to capers when pickled.

And so I embarked on nasturtium experiment number two. This time my inspiration was drawn from Alex Mitchell's book 'The Rurbanite'  - and I have to mention that I'm listed in the book as Alex came over when writing it, had a chat over a cup of tea and a look round the veg patch. As this was several years ago, I'm inordinately proud of being credited in the back pages as 'Veg Grower'. 

'Empress of India' seedpod from a lovely deep crimson flower.

Anyway … capers. With the help of a friend and some small curious boys, I gathered 200g of seedpods and soaked them overnight (24 hrs) in a light salt solution; this gets rid of bugs and bacteria. A teaspoon of salt to 200ml of tap water will do it. Pick only the green seedpods (or, from a red flowered plant, they may have red markings as in the above photo). The older, yellower seedpods tend to be dry and past their best.  (Update: In the comments below, Michelle from Veg Plotting says that the smaller pods are best, the bigger ones having developed the texture of cardboard.)

Having soaked and drained them, I divided them into 2 sterilised jars and topped this up with cold white wine vinegar to cover them.  At this stage, you can decide whether to add herbs or not. I chose to add bay leaves round the edge (decorative and flavoursome) and a swirl of fennel and a couple of lemon verbena leaves on the top as that's what I had to hand. Tarragon leaves are also recommended. How easy is that?

Naturally, I had to go and get some more for the blog photo! ;) 

Now I just have to leave them for a couple of weeks to let the flavours develop and then I have a whole year to use the jar up. If I'm honest, the last time I bought a jar of capers, they sat at the back of the cupboard until their use by date when I kicked myself for wasting money while throwing them in the bin.  I'd needed them for a recipe which I then couldn't find again. If the same happens again, this time it will only have cost me the vinegar - a small comfort.

By the way, if you don't like the taste of vinegar, the smaller fresh seedpods can be washed and added direct to salads, pasta or pizza.  They have a peppery taste and crunchy texture.  But don't try and store them fresh as they'll quickly go soft and, left in water, will start to smell in a most off-putting way.

As a complete procrastination from doing other rather dull things this morning, I've used the top photo to create a jar label, thinking to pretty the jar up for a gift. (I have a neighbour who says she adores eating capers; I want to see what she thinks of these.) I tried tying with a ribbon but prefer the rustic look of a length of Nutscene garden twine. This is the result.

Help yourself to the label if you want, it's here as a printable pdf. (Please let me know if this doesn't work!)

Update:  Nasturtiums are genetically related to watercress.  Think of the strong peppery taste of those leaves and you'll have an approximation of the taste of nasturtium pods. Hmm, I'm now wondering if I could  make nasturtium soup (as watercress soup is one of my favourites). 

16 Aug 2014

Edible Gardens: Medicinal and edible uses for Nasturtiums

It's not so much that I love to grow nasturtiums (I do) but that they love to grow for me. Every year, around this time, they seem to take over their corner of the garden, stretching multiple stems out to sprawl among the veg, growing through netting and up poles (with help). By now the stems can be over four feet long and covered with flowers and then fat 3-part seedpods. These seedpods are so numerous that it's impossible to prevent them sinking quietly into the soil where they decompose to provide next year's flood tide of nasturtiums. It's a self-perpetuating cycle. I seem to have inadvertently ended up with quite a few prolific self-seeders in the garden (orach, fennel, linaria, aquilegia) and nasturtiums rank highly among these.

Luckily, nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is a bit of a wonder plant - I've been discovering that it's not just a pretty face but really earns its keep in the edible garden. Because of its antibacterial, antiseptic and antibiotic qualities, it has many medicinal uses; an infusion of the leaves can help treat respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis, flu and colds (probably best taken with honey). Additionally, because it's antiseptic, a poultice of the leaves can be applied to wounds; admittedly unlikely to be useful to urban or suburban dwellers but, well, you never know.

Back in the kitchen, I already knew that the young lilypad-like leaves can add a peppery bite to salads or be used when making pesto. The flowers, being edible, can make a tasty addition to salads, a summer fruit bowl or jug of party drinks. Or get creative and top a pizza with them for a girlie teenage sleepover party? I can't guarantee the reaction but it just might be cool enough to be acceptable.

Florally speaking, I've found that newly-opened flowers, freshly picked, will last for up to a week in a glass (or vase!) of water - make a sweet country garden arrangement by adding  herbs such as fennel, lovage or mint which also last well in water.  It helps that in the garden they're a bee magnet and I grow nasturtiums in every shade from deep red through orange to cream.  My favourites are a glamorous showstopper called 'Black Velvet' and its alter-ego 'Milkmaid'.  But it was to the orange ones that I turned when I decided to make nasturtium vinegar last month. I'm quite partial to honey and mustard dressing or, let's face it, a big dollop of mayonnaise (yes, from a jar). But, flicking through Pam-the-Jam's preserve book for the River Cottage series, I couldn't resist the lure of discovering another use for all the nasturtiums in the garden - flavoured vinegar.

Packed and ready to go ...

The method is simple enough: a wide-necked jar packed full of flowers, a small palmful of seed pods, a few peppercorns, some salt and a couple of chopped shallots. Cover with white wine vinegar (obviously, use a good one), seal and leave on a sunny windowsill for about a month, giving it a little shake every so often.

Patiently admire its translucent beauty for 30 days ...

… then strain into a clean jar and add fresh flowers.

I started a jar off in July and my vinegar project is now complete, with the now-pink vinegar strained into a clean jar with a few extra flowers added.  The taste is subtle but pleasing.  The original recipe suggests using it in a dressing made with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 100ml nasturtium vinegar and 200ml olive oil. Mmmm, yum - a delicious way to bring a fresh tang to your salads.

Thinking ahead:  I'm a big fan of presents with a bit of thought and effort behind them. In a beautiful bottle or jar, with a ribbon and hand-written label, I think a bottle of nasturtium vinegar would make a simple and unusual present for a keen cook.  Nasturtiums will start to slow down by the end of this month - although they won't keel over until the first frosts - so this is a project that's best started now. It's also a great project to do with children, especially if they're the ones growing the nasturtiums next year.

In the photo below, you'll see a couple of jars of 'capers' from nasturtium seed pods. Right now is an excellent time to be gathering these - and a useful way of reducing the tide of seedlings next year.  More about these in the next post.

Herbed nasturtium capers, nasturtium vinegar and a pretty vase for the kitchen windowsill.
(The physalis in the front were just picked from my Cape Gooseberry plant and are my treat to myself!)

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