Coffee and kale

As part of my crusade to use natural pest control methods in the garden, I’m drying coffee grounds to mix with crushed eggshells. I’ve read that this makes an effective barrier against slugs and I’m planning to use it around my tender lettuce plants when they go outside. I’m drying the coffee in a seed tray lined with kitchen towel or – even better – the piles of free advertising junk we get through the post. When the grounds are dry, the paper goes on the compost heap and the coffee into my collecting bucket. It’s the first time in 20 years that we haven’t had any laying hens, another job we must get on to soon. I miss them badly and we aren’t eating as many eggs as we normally would but I’m hoping there will be enough shell in the mix to make the slug thugs think twice. The polytunnel is beginning to take on the nutty aroma of a Costa shop which I’m hoping slugs are not in the habit of frequenting! Has anyone else has tried this –  and does it work?

It smells lovely – but what will the slug thugs think?


At last we’ve had a couple of days of spring weather with the temperature in the mid-teens and no rain or snow. The veg patch is still too wet to dig so I’ve been catching up with jobs in the flower garden.

The beginnings of my new flower garden.

Most of the autumn-planted perennials seem to have come through the winter unscathed and are starting to push up new shoots. The soil still feels cold and it’s hard to believe I dug these borders in 30 degrees of dusty heat last summer. I popped in a few plants which have overwintered in pots and will fill the gaps with sprinklings of cottage garden annual seeds next month.

Time to get planting and fill some gaps.

I’m particularly interested to see how two small rose bushes do: I found them last summer swamped by a grapevine that was threatening to take over the garden. They have spent the winter in the polytunnel, putting down new roots and sending up new growth. Apart from a few drifts of daffies, they are the only evidence I’ve found of there ever having been a flower garden here and it’s good to save something from the garden’s past. The vine was pruned earlier in the winter and Roger has built a post and wire support to train it along. I’ve planted a late-flowering purple clematis to scramble through it and I’m hoping they will make a vibrant backdrop for the perennials.

We have eaten the last of the black kale or ‘cavolo nero’, a sad day as it has done brilliantly all winter and stayed remarkably tender and tasty.

The end of the kale – what a sad day! (One or two cabbages to go, though.)

The recipe below has become our favourite way of cooking it, it works just as well with cabbage or a mix of the two. Apologies for the rough quantities, it’s definitely one to adjust to your own taste. I hope you enjoy it!

  • ·         Kale and/or cabbage
  • ·         2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ·         Large knob of butter
  • ·         Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ·         White wine
  • ·         Crème fraîche (we use this because it’s cheap and plentiful in France, I ‘m sure double cream would work just as well)

Wash the leaves, shake off the excess moisture and shred finely. In a saucepan or large lidded frying pan melt the butter gently with the olive oil. Add the shredded leaves and stir until coated and glossy. Cover with a tightly-fitting lid and leave to cook for a couple of minutes; the leaves need to steam rather than fry. Remove lid and add a splash of white wine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir well. Replace lid and steam until the leaves are tender – this only takes a few minutes. Stir in a good dollop of crème fraîche, allow to heat through and serve immediately.

Finally, a huge THANK YOU to all at for my seed voucher. What a lovely surprise so early in my blogging ‘career’, I feel a bit of a fraud, really! I was like a child in a sweet shop deciding how to spend it: so many delicious things in front of me, what to choose?!

Spring posy for the kitchen table.



2 thoughts on “Coffee and kale

  1. Slugs! What are us poor gardeners to do? I tried coffee, but it just got wet and did nothing. Maybe the eggshells mixed in will work better. I also tried putting garlic bulbs in the greenhouse, still did nothing. I think I will try making one of these garlic sprays for the greenhouse this year, and outside I will try beer slops in pots sunk into the ground. I hope that something works, but I suspect that nothing really does. Let us know how you get on with it.


    • Thanks for that, Rachel. I won’t stop drinking the ‘cafe arabica’ just yet, then – but won’t hold my breath either! I’ll use beer traps anyway and maybe have a go at the garlic spray which sounds interesting. I just want to avoid those nasty (but useful) little blue pellets if I can. Fantastic photo on the vegblogs homepage, by the way!



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