Courgette Glut

When I was 14 I went to stay with a French family called the Plassards.

They had five children aged between 21 and 11.

They lived during the summer in a large country house on the edge of Paris with their parents and grandparents.

Their mother, Huguette, was a good cook in the French classical manner.

She made a warm courgette salad by steaming or boiling them whole.

She then halved them lengthwise and dressed them with a strong mustard vinaigrette while still warm.

The quantities are as follows:

1tsp Dijon mustard mixed well with 1tbsp red wine vinegar, a pinch of salt and two pinches of sugar.

Then add 3 tbsp of olive oil and emulsify well.

Make sure the courgettes are cooked but still firm.

Spear them with a fork to test.

Then dress with the sauce and eat while still warm.

This year I’ve planted two yellow Athena Polka courgette plants and two Green Defenders.

They’re not over-productive but we’ve had a steady supply for the past six weeks.

We’ve had courgette soup, courgette, lemon and basil linguine and I’ve even made a courgette and walnut cake.

Tonight I’m going make warm courgette salad.

It’ll transport me back to the summer of 1976 and the two weeks I spent with Monique and her rambunctious family, playing “ping pong” in the garden and listening to her eldest brother, Bernard, playing old time sheet music on a piano in the barn loft.

Courgettes are in front of the potatoes and a tepee of Czar runner beans



Soft fruit failure

Usually this bush would be dripping in jewel like redcurrants

This year we’ve had a series of “disasters” with our strawberries, gooseberries,
raspberries, and redcurrants.

I badly pruned the goosegobs and redcurrants – cutting back the wood which would have borne the fruit!

Luckily we still have six pounds of frozen redcurrants to use from last year’s prolific harvest.

The strawberry plants were grazed by deer early in the season and never recovered.

I must protect them next year.

And I fear the same has happened to our raspberries which have never been heavy croppers but have given a pitiful yield this year.

No fruit at all on the raspberry canes

But on the bright side the pears, apples, quince and damsons look promising.

There are lots of damsons that should be ready to pick in a month’s time

And I’ve planted a new jostaberry which still looks like a stick in the ground but hopefully will branch out next year.

And in other news – despite white onion rot – my cuisse de poulet shallots are looking good.

Shallots grown from seed

Fingers crossed they make it to harvest time.





Sowing for winter

I’ve just sown Florence fennel, half a dozen varieties of lettuce and two plants new to me – Kailan, a kind of Chinese sprouting broccoli and Celtuse, an heirloom lettuce whose stems, when it bolts, are edible.

Lettuce seeds before pricking out
Lettuce seedlings sown tightly together before being pricked out

I’ve also sown some Palla Rossa chicory and some frizzy endive, called Wallone.

They pair up well with the lettuce to provide colourful leaves for winter salads.

The mizuna I was given has flowered as has the rocket – it’s too hot for them and they should be sown earlier or later in the cooler months so they don’t bolt, flower and run to seed – so I’m growing some more in modules to plant out at the end of August.

Some more dwarf green beans are on the go, again in modules, for a late crop which will probably need fleecing in October.

The carrots I sowed in spring have done well – no sign of carrot fly.

Carrot thinings with some of my glorious sweet peas from saved seed – best year ever for them

They’re cheek by jowl with my Chicken Thigh Shallots (cuisse de poulet is the variety I grew from seed) which so far show no signs of white onion rot!! Fingers crossed that continues.

I also interplanted my red cabbage with carrots and the white kale has a line of beetroot between the rows.

Alex and I weeded them today.

We also built a structure for the Crown Prince squash on the compost heap!

That was fun.

We filled up a “new” compost bin I scrounged for free off a village Facebook page.

There were two but I gave the other to Alex as she said she needed one.

Tomorrow Mum’s gardener, Sarah is coming.

I was going to ask her to help me plant my new Myoga plant but I think I will pot it on first and wait until it gets a bit bigger and tougher before finding it’s forever home!

By the way I picked some kale for supper as we had the covers back while we were weeding.

I’m not sure what I’ll make with it yet.

But a white cannelini bean and white kale stew/soup is crying out to be made.

And finally today I saw a tiny iridescent turquoise beetle while I was pruning back the silver birch.

We also see greater spotted and green woodpeckers, the swallows have fledged and are fattening themselves up for their epic journey back to South Africa and Jonathan who mows the lawns and cuts the hedges took this photograph of a White Admiral in our garden!




Squashed In

I’m growing winter squash on top of one of the compost heaps.

The two Crown Prince plants seem to love the protected, sunny site with unlimited access to rich nutrients.

I’m growing my other smaller squash (Hokkaido) up a trellis –  also an experiment.

Two failed but there are six or seven more that have thrived despite being rolled on by pheasants trying to make shallow scrapes in the soil to nest.

My courgettes are just beginning to fruit – they take a good month to get established once they’ve been planted out but should now romp away.

The unknown variety of dwarf green beans are in flower so I have high hopes of harvesting them soon.

I’m looking forward to my favourite green bean and cashew curry for lunch!

I’ve mounded up my potatoes (Sarpo Mira, Sarpo Axona, Charlotte and Pink Fir Apple) with extra compost to stop light getting to the tubers and turning them green – I took Charles Dowding’s advice and just tipped a two litre pot filled with homemade rough compost over the base of the haulms or stems of each plant.

They should be ready in a month or so.

Finally we’ve been eating the artichokes dipped in olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Here’s a link to a very informative video by Sarah Raven showing you when to harvest and how to cook and eat artichokes.

We have two varieties in our garden.

Gros Vert de Laon is a traditional French heirloom variety producing the largest hearts of any artichoke.

The others are the smaller Green Globe artichokes.

Both have been grown from slips that my friends Julie and Cilla gave me about three years ago.

Apparently after you’ve harvested them you can cut the plants to the ground, leaves and all, and expect them to crop again six to eight weeks later.

I might try that with a couple of the plants to see if it really works!



Weeding is as important as a drop of rain.

That’s what an old Norfolk boy, Pinky, told me when I got my first allotment fifteen years ago.

The white kale – from seed sent to me by my old friends Loz and Kirsten – is doing really well

Today Alex and I weeded the white kale and red cabbage – interplanted with carrots and beetroot.

We also hoed the other beds.

The Hokkaido squash are looking good, as are the leeks edging the bed.

I love using my oscillating copper hoe – it only disturbs the top couple of centimetres of soil and introduces a bit of air to the mix.

We planted out seven lemon crystal cucumber plants.

A jostaberry, which I bought for a couple of quid at East Anglian Potato Day back in February, is now in residence at the bottom of the garden.

It’s a cross between gooseberry and blackcurrant.

I can’t wait to try it.

I pruned my outdoor tomatoes which again has given the plants some more air and space around them.

The tomatoes like the protected site between the warm brick wall and the flowering asparagus

Good I think.

Congestion and overcrowding are not a good thing as they encourage disease.

Crimson flowered broad beans are not very productive – only three or four per pod – but they’re extremely tasty

I’ve harvested all my broad beans and have cut the plants down at the base – leaving the nitrogen bearing roots in the ground.  

The coriander plants have also been pulled up – they’re drying indoors with the seeds on.

I’d like to save them as they’re a brilliant variety that are slow to bolt.

I had to pull up a few young sprouting broccoli that were badly stunted by aphids. 

The other brassica cage after we’d pulled up the diseased PSB. We left the self sown rocket.

I washed the less affected ones with water gently rubbing off the grey woolly insects.

So today was a very productive day of tidying, tending, staking and tieing in wayward young plants to give them their best chance of success.

The next couple of days I’ll be sowing florence fennel, endive, chicory, lettuce and a late row of parsnips.

I’ll also be planting out some large well developed Swiss chard seedlings, hoping they don’t get decimated by whatever attacked the last lot I put in when they were much smaller.