Getting Ready For The Coming Year

It’s time to get your growing on!

I’m just starting to awaken from my winter hibernation partly prompted by some seed swaps.

This year it’s proving difficult to source seeds from some suppliers.

Two of my favourites – the Seed Cooperative and Tamar Organics – are only open for online orders for a limited time each week.

But I did manage to include Costata Romana courgette and Blue Solaise leek seeds in a big order I did before Christmas for mainly flower and ornamental grass seed.

This year I’m adding a cut flower garden to the mix – it seems to be quite the rage at the moment. I’ve used a plan from “The Cut Flower Patch” by Louise Curley which includes sweet peas (this year I’m growing a variety called Jilly in addition to saved seed from my multicoloured ones), miniature sunflowers called Vanilla Ice, cosmos, dahlias, larkspur, ammi visnaga, a couple of sorts of cornflowers, a stunning chrysanthemum called Ruby Mound and so on… the list is too long!

There’s also a great podcast called Lets Grow Girls which I recommend for more information about growing cut flowers.

Sweet peas and first carrots from last year

I mentioned swaps but because of Covid the annual Norwich event’s had to go online as mass gatherings are, of course, forbidden.

A Facebook group of seed swappers in Norwich has yielded a couple of very kind offers for seed potatoes including some Duke of York, first earlies, which I’ve always wanted to try and some savoy cabbage seed.

Another appeal prompted a friend of mine in Northampton to offer some celeriac seed. Thanks Sally!

So life is bountiful as ever and the recent human contact albeit online has got my gardening whiskers twitching.

Last year I grew a couple of varieties of broad beans – this year I’m sticking with the decorative ones

I can’t wait to get started – this coming week it’s sweet peas, crimson flowered broad beans, broccoli raab, spinach which did very well last year, radish, fennel, coriander, dill and chillies!












Borlotti and Squash Soup

I’ve made it my mission to use up my home grown dried borlotti beans!

They’re my favourite bean. They’re eye-catching.

Dried Borlotti Pods
Dried Borlotti Pods

And they dry and store really well.

Beans drying on a tray
They quickly return to their former plumpness after soaking for about six hours.
Dried and soaked beans
Dried  (l) and soaked beans (r)

I based this soup on a Diana Henry recipe but I only put in half the winter squash/pumpkin and used arborio rice instead of farro or spelt – because that was all I had to hand. I guess you could also use cooked pearl barley instead.

I used half of one of my Turk’s Turban  squash. It’s the first time I’ve cooked with one and I was shocked to find out how impenetrable the skin is.

Usually I leave my favourite thin skinned Hokkaido squash unpeeled but this rogue needed pre baking in the oven for ten or so minutes before I could cut the skin off and render it edible!

It tastes delicious though and I may grow them again as they are pretty and a good size for a small household.

I added twigs of thyme and a couple of bay leaves to flavour the soup which I then removed.

Diana suggests sage leaves fried in a little olive oil or fresh chopped parsley.

Borlotti and Squash Soup
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins

A substantial rich soup in the Italian style.

Course: Main Course
Servings: 4 people
Author: Cath
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery finely chopped
  • 450 grams pumpkin or winter squash, discard the seeds and peel if the skin is tough before cutting into small cubes
  • 1 tin drained borlotti beans or 300g of cooked borlottis
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1 litre vegetable stock I use marigold bouillon powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 50 grams arborio rice or spelt grain or farro
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley or eight whole sage leaves fried until crisp in olive oil
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and add finely chopped onion, pumpkin cubes and diced celery. Cook until the vegetables have a little colour then add a splash of water and some salt and pepper - cover the pan and let the vegetables cook over a low heat for five minutes.

  2. Add the tomato purée, stock, rice (or spelt grain/farro) and bay leaves. Simmer for about 20 minutes (or until the grains are cooked), adding the beans five minutes before the end. Check for seasoning.

  3. If using sage, fry the leaves whole in a little olive oil - be careful they crisp up quickly and can burn easily. Then add to soup. If you prefer parsley add it directly to the soup. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top.

Recipe Notes




Smothered Kale and Peas with Garlic

This is the best kale recipe I’ve come up with!

The light, bright sweetness of the peas perfectly complements the dark, slightly bitter taste of the kale.

It’s very easy and will become a staple this winter, I think.

I have grown three different types of kale; ‘Peacock White’, ‘Red Sutherland’ and dark green Tuscan kale otherwise known as ‘Cavolo Nero’.

I used the latter for this dish.

I always wash well – two or three times in clean water.

And I always strip the leaf from the stem before steaming.

I steam the kale in a large pan with just the water that’s clinging to it after washing it.

I cover the pan and then after a couple of minutes turn the kale to make sure the leaves at the top are on the bottom and get cooked evenly.

I remove after about three or four minutes and drain into a colander in the sink.

Then when it’s cooler and I’m able to handle it, I squeeze all the remaining moisture from the kale with my hands – I now have a ball of kale that I finely slice or chop.


I then heat two tablespoons of olive oil and add two cloves of finely sliced garlic stirring until they start to turn a pale golden colour.

Add 200g of the finely chopped or sliced steamed kale and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Then add 150g of peas (I used organic frozen ones) and a cup of stock.

Partially cover and cook until most of the stock has evaporated or boiled away.



Easy No Peel Apple Sauce

There are huge numbers of windfalls under two of the apple trees.

I can’t bear them going to waste so I decided to cook, puree and freeze them.

I’ve just realised there’s a much easier way to process them that avoids peeling and coring them.

Scrub the windfalls vigorously

Wash the fruit well, quarter and remove any blemishes.

Then bung everything in a big pan with two or three cupfuls of water and steam the apples with the lid on.

After about twenty minutes they are cooked through but they still hold their shape and haven’t disintegrated.

Ladle them into a mouli/food mill with a slotted spoon (to drain any excess liquid) and push through with the rotating handle and blade.

The soft apple is separated from the skin and cores.

Wonderfully easy.

I’ve frozen the first two bucketfuls.

Tomorrow I’ll bottle a similar amount.

Good for breakfast on top of porridge or apple pie.

I have also seen cake recipes where apple sauce is called for as a healthy alternative to fat.