The combines stopped rolling here a couple of weeks ago and local radio is reporting a good wheat and barley harvest. It’s harvest time in the garden, too. First, the onions.
These are ‘Turbo’ grown from sets and although we lost a few to the wet spring, they’ve not done too badly. They have a good flavour and are strong enough to make grown men cry (I’ve seen it happen in the kitchen…). I’ve left the Unwins Exhibition giants in the ground as, unbelievably, they are still growing.
I’ve replanted part of the onion bed with asparagus. This is ‘Connovers Colossal’ from vegetable seeds.net which I planted in the spring; the plants have done well and I’ve had surplus to share around. I dug in plenty of well-rotted muck and compost: they are going to be in the ground for several years so I wanted to give them a nourishing start.
We’ve been lifting the ‘Charlotte’ potatoes as we’ve needed them but some had started to sprout so it was time for the lot to come out. We haven’t grown any maincrop this year as we didn’t have the ground dug in time but some of these are fairly hefty and will keep us going for several weeks to come.
Beetroot would never feature on Roger’s list of good things to eat but I love them so I planted a small row of ‘Plate d’Egypte’ for myself. They haven’t been the greatest of successes: it was old seed and germination was very sporadic (although I have since read that pre-soaking helps) and they’ve hated the hot, dry weather. Still, there are a dozen or so reasonable little roots which I shall enjoy… alone!
I’ve started to harvest the drying beans, the climbing borlotti ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ and the dwarf ‘Canadian Wonder.’ They are so pretty. I’m not bothered about them drying out totally to store as I prefer to freeze them. This probably sounds daft but it’s all down to laziness: I’m never organised enough to remember to soak and cook dried beans for a meal so grabbing a handful from the freezer and throwing them in is much simpler. I’ve had to revise my opinion of the ‘Canadian Wonder’, too. I didn’t rate the young green beans much but as a podding bean they are excellent, a real heavy cropper.
I’ve started to thin the row of ‘Little Gem’ lettuce, the ones I haven’t transplanted. Mixed with the more bitter leaves of endive and radicchio from the mesclun row (which goes on and on), basil, mint, cucumber, courgettes and this week’s stars – the outdoor peppers – they make a lovely fresh green salad for lunchtime. Under 10 minutes from garden to plate – that’s the kind of fast food I love!
The squashes are coming thick and fast, both in the tunnel and outdoors.
Our favourite way to cook the butternuts is to chop into large chunks – no need to peel – and roast in olive oil with whole spices (coriander, cumin, cinnamon stick, dried chillies and garlic are a great combination). This also works well with pumpkin and can be frozen to use in scrummy soups later on. My experimental chef came up with the idea of ‘squash tagine’ this week: basically, cooking a spiced Moroccan meat and veg mixture inside a squash rather than in the traditional cooking pot. The result was delicious – and no ‘tagine’ to wash either, as we’d eaten it!
On the fruit front, it’s been plums, plums, plums all the way. We have an unidentified small purple variety and a green ‘Reine Claude’; both are sweet and juicy, we’re eating as many fresh as we can and freezing the rest for puds.
Rolande gave us 3kg of shiny red plums which are sharper, so I’ve de-stoned and frozen the lot. They will be perfect for some jamming sessions in late autumn when ‘The Beast’ is lit again and the wasps have given up.
There is no let up in the heat here (it’s 31˚C today) and, more worryingly, there’s no rain in the forecast, either. Our neighbour’s pond, which backs onto our garden, has dropped by an incredible two metres. The ducks and trout are looking worried but there has been an influx of happy wading birds, including a pair of snowy-white Little Egrets which are beautiful to watch.
Talking of beauties, here’s another: a Jersey tiger moth. They’ve appeared in the veg patch in the last couple of weeks and the mint flowers seem to be a favourite nectar source. They are a striking black and white on top and tangerine underneath but when they fly, they reveal a flash of vivid red – they are quite stunning.
Finally, another welcome little insect: when I was picking peas, I noticed that the basil flowers are literally humming with honey bees. The bait hive I set up in spring hasn’t attracted a swarm this summer but I really don’t mind; we’ve had such a busy time here and in the UK that I would have been struggling to look after them properly. I’m just happy to be out there working with them in the garden, enjoying the sunshine and collecting a tasty harvest in my baskets! 🙂