Pesto with a twist

The twenty or so basil plants I sowed from seed earlier this summer are getting a bit leggy and so I tipped them out – nipping off the top two or four big leaves down to the next set of leaves on the stalk.

They were crying out to be pulverised into pesto – I do it every year and freeze it to be used over winter.

Basil doesn’t like to be cold and wet so pour water into the tray or saucer which the pot is standing in so it can draw water up into the pot

You can make pesto with vegan parmesan – Violife is quite a good brand.

But I think pesto tastes just as good, if not better, without the “cheese”.

I added some mint and lemon juice to lift the flavour.


This vegan pesto has a little mint and lemon juice to make it sparkle.

Servings: 6 people
Author: Cath
  • 100 g fresh basil leaves
  • 100 g pine nuts
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 10 g mint leaves
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Wash your basil and mint leaves with no large pieces of stalk remaining and spin dry in a salad spinner.

  2. Add basil and mint leaves to pine nuts in a blender or food processor along with all the other ingredients; the crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil.

  3. Blend until fairly homogeneous.

  4. Add salt to taste.

In other news:

  • The pumpkins and winter squash have been harvested. I leave a little of the vine either side of the stalk which should be looking brown and woody. Try to keep the stalk intact on the gourd – otherwise it’ll be prone to rot.   The other way to tell if they’re ready is if they sound hollow when tapped lightly. They should last between three and six months. Here’s a good website with some nice recipes on it.

    Hungarian Blue, North Georgia Candy Roaster (the big pink banana shaped ones) and Hokkaido pumpkins
  • I used fleece to cover lettuce and oriental mustards earlier this week. I blagged a tray of chard and more mustard seedlings from the allotment project where I volunteer – they’ll go in also under cover tomorrow.
  • My pak choi’s been decimated by something in the greenhouse. That’s a lesson to plant stuff out as soon as it’s ready. I left it too long and too late!
  • The last of the tomatoes are being brought in to sit on the windowsill to ripen – today I made ratatouille with the last aubergine, a couple of red peppers I grew from a plant given to me by a work colleague. I also made borlotti beans with garlic again. Here’s what they sound like when they squeak as they’re brought to the boil!
  • A lot of spent plants including courgettes and beans are going onto the compost heap. I’ve also been adding old used compost from my indoor aubergines, tomatoes and cucumbers which are pretty much finished now. The plants go on too. I’ve been layering with old cardboard boxes to introduce a little brown and air into the heap.
  • The chillies are still producing. I have picked two thirds of them and will make another batch of spicy jam soon maybe with the addition of some apple or pear and some basil or coriander.
  • I’ve been saving seeds of summer savory and basil – just pick the dried flower heads and pop them in a brown paper bag and shake them. Chilli seeds are also pretty easy to save.
  • Apples and pears are still abundant – I am thinking of having an apple day this Saturday with cake and apple bobbing. If I can find a juicer or press to borrow there will also be juice!
  • The cabbage cage needs dismantling and re erecting over the Purple Sprouting Broccoli which has outgrown the 4ft high tunnels over them. I’ll then put the tunnels over the red cabbage.
  • The pink veined swiss chard is still looking very healthy as are the leeks although some of them are producing flower heads and running to seed. The fennel I planted out a month ago looks as if it’s also going to bolt – not getting enough light where it is.

Future Orchard Cork

In my last post I told you I’d been to Cork to sing and meet up with old friends and bumped into a ceramicist called Martha Cashman.

Martha in turn took me to see Elaine Garde who has set up a community orchard.

She lives on the other side of the valley from where I was staying with my friend Pauline.



And it was Elaine who supplied us with a lovely veg box that included apple juice, homemade wild garlic pesto, pickled beetroot and rhubarb compote

When we rolled up Elaine had been picking blackberries with her gorgeous hound, Finnegan.

Listen to this podcast to find out more about Future Orchard



Elaine, Martha and Finnegan with a great haul of blackberries

An Artist’s Tale

I’ve just spent a week in Cork, Ireland.

The first three or four days were devoted to hanging out with old friends and singing loudly.

The last couple I spent forging new connections.

One of them was ceramicist, Martha Cashman.

Martha’s porcelain sculptures have photos, seeds and materials incorporated into them. Listen to the podcast to find out why the land and growing are so important to her.

Martha and I cooked for each other and a group of friends.

She also introduced me to the founder of a community orchard near where I was staying, called Elaine Garde.

I interviewed both women.

Images above courtesy the artist.

Here’s the first podcast – an interview with Martha.

I hope you enjoy it.

This piece is a tribute to Martha’s Uncle Mick who was a blacksmith and farrier.

Images above courtesy Martha Cashman










Wildlife garden podcast


Alasdair Fraser coppicing wood
Alasdair Fraser at the gate to Tomas’s Pightle – the wildlife meadow he’s created with his partner Caroline Fernandez and their son Tomas

This meadow, tucked off a main road in this village near Norwich, was used to grow Christmas trees and before that it was a strawberry field until Alasdair, Caroline and Tomas moved here 10 years ago.

There’s also a vegetable and fruit garden with a long dutch greenhouse set back behind their house.

Dutch greenhouse and pond
The garden is comprised of two areas: one to grow food; the other a wildlife area of woody margins and grassland
Caroline in the greenhouse which will be full of tomatoes, aubergines and other salads in a few months time









“It’s all joined up by places where we can sit and enjoy it,” Alasdair says.

There are a few rustic home-made benches around the garden and by the nine metre wide pond.

Here the edges are planted up with bog and marsh species designed to provide a constant source of nectar and pollen throughout the summer beginning with marsh marigold and ending with watermint. There’s purple and yellow loosestrife and the nodding graceful great burnet which gives its name to the six spot burnet moth.

Beneficial insects like drone flies help pollinate not just in the meadow but in the adjacent vegetable garden.

To find out more – listen to this interview with Alasdair Fraser – who also works at the nature reserve RSPB Strumpshaw Fen


Alasdair Fraser’s top five tips for creating a wildlife rich garden:

  • Create a woodland edge/field habitat OR a woodland glade/grassland/pond (unless you’re already blessed with a heath or acid grassland as a garden) – it mimics a garden shrubbery and lawn but adds value for wildlife
  • Choose an indicator of success – not just birds but butterflies and bees. Do an annual count and monitor the variety of species
  • Design, manage and tend – but accept some unruliness   e.g. leave and enjoy dead stems.
  • Buy the best seeds and plants you can afford and position boldly in groups of 3 or 5
  • Have a wet area at least 0.5m deep, lined with the thickest liner you can afford.  Feed it from your roof down pipe or top up with rain water from a water butt

Recommended reading :  Chris Baines’ ” How to Make a Wildlife Garden” now republished as the RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening