The Garden in June

I’ve planted out my squash, courgettes and beans.

A colleague gave me the courgette seeds. He says – despite their ugly appearance – they are the best tasting he’s ever grown. The variety is Rugosa Fruilana.

The winter squash are mainly Uchiki Kuri. These bright orange onion squash are perfect for small families or single people. They also store well.

Japanese Hokkaido Pumpkins
Japanese Hokkaido Pumpkins aka Uchiki Kuri

The other three are leftover seed – Candy Roaster and  Hungarian Blue. They’ve been plonked on the remains of the old compost heap in the far corner of the garden.

I have winter cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli and kaibroc which still need a cage erected to protect them from the pigeons and cabbage white butterflies.

I will also sow some Cavolo Nero/Black Kale soon for winter.

I’ve had amazing 100% germination rates for borlotti beans from seed saved by my friend Di. I’ve also sowed some May Beans that I cadged from the Garden Organic heritage seed library via the Norfolk Organic Group.

Climbing beans ready to be planted out

I’m also growing Violet de cosse, Czar runners and Greek Gigantes beans – all climbers. The first producing purple french beans. The other two mainly butter type beans for drying.

I swore I wouldn’t grow tomatoes this year – too much trouble watering them but somehow I have ended up with a dozen or so – from friends. Green Derby, Roma and Baby Plum. They’ll go outside once the broad beans are finished against the warm wall.

Lemon Verbena, Purple Sage and French Tarragon

My cuttings have done well. Easy if you follow a YouTube video. Next up are pelargoniums.

More ruby chard, parsnip and beetroot seed has been sown.

Celeriac seedlings have gone in.

They’ll need regular watering if they are to come to anything.

The real success story are the globe artichokes – last year they were just getting established and yielded only a few. But they’re prolific right now and quite early. A joy to eat with a thick mustard vinaigrette.

 

Soon it’ll be time to sow winter veg like endive, mustard greens and lettuce as well as red chicory.

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A New No Dig Bed

We had a very productive day on Saturday making a new “no dig” bed with old flattened out bike boxes covered with an inch or two (up to 5cm) very rough homemade compost.

It’s where the old asparagus bed was and the ground has been “rested” for about 3 years.

I’m going to put a new strawberry bed on part of it.

I was lucky to have help from Rebekah for the first part of the day.

We were fortunate the weather had warmed up again after a few days of hard frosts.

I pegged out one of my late father’s old lines and neatened the edges where the grass had started encroaching into the veg garden.

It was just the right length and I had visions of him using it years ago when he first laid it out.

I used a semi circular edger and composted the grass/weeds that I gathered.

The spade was not for digging – honest! It just helped me to edge the grass sward. In the foreground to the right you can see parsley which is self seeding and germinating like mad

I also laid compost around the rhubarb and the rest of the fruit bushes that were missed out last year when I ran out of homemade mulch.

I mixed in some potash from the wood ash from our fireplace to lay around the redcurrants – apparently they like it!

As do overwintering onions which will have to wait their turn until I’ve had a few more fires.

I have inverted an old metal dustbin over one of the rhubarb crowns to force a few pale pink spears for an earlier harvest like I did last year.

Rhubarb
Last year’s champagne pink rhubarb which was forced. Once the bin is removed it quickly reverts to a dark green and red. The hazel behind it has been coppiced and the soil around it has been covered in cardboard to stop weeds and mulched with compost

I’m also weeding the gravel path with a flat shovel/spade – using it almost like a hoe to sever the weeds off at the roots. But I’ll have to be careful to avoid the beautiful clumps of chives which thrive in the edges next to the rhubarb. They spring back year after year then die back to nothing in winter.

This what the chives will be like in three months time – just about to break into spiky round purple flowers

The brick edging is also getting the same treatment – it should look very smart in a couple of weeks time.

I guess you could say this time of year is about preparation – my Dad always said a garden’s made in winter!

This includes going through old seeds, discarding some and keeping others.

I have ordered some new ones including two varieties of beans, “Greek Gigantes” and “Czar”. The former is for drying and keeping as a giant butter bean and the latter can be eaten as a runner bean or also dried for storage for winter soups and stews.

I’m going for celeriac this year and a new variety of beetroot, “Sanguina”.

I would like to plant a persimmon tree but I’m not sure which variety yet.

One of the enduring images I’ve retained of the late autumn landscape in Japan is the orange globes hanging on the bare branches of a tree that had shed its leaves — against a piercing blue sky.

Recently I bought some seed potatoes “Sarpo Mira” – a blight resistant variety from a lovely old fashioned ironmongers and DIY shop in Stalham. I might also plant red skinned “Mozart” as they were so good last year. They will need chitting on a windowsill before planting in April.

I’m planning go to the Norwich Seed Swap in a couple or three weeks time which yielded some great finds last year.

There’s a bit more compost to come  – this is maturing under the makeshift cardboard cover and should be ready in a month or so

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spanish Inspired Pumpkin and Bean Stew

I have a new cook book called Vegan Recipes from Spain which I actually bought from a wonderful bookshop in Norwich called the Book Hive  and not through Amazon!

I bought it because it has a lot of recipes featuring veg I grow in the garden – but surprisingly it didn’t have any pumpkin or squash recipes.

I was in search of a good recipe because some of my pumpkins are going mouldy and need using!

I cut away the affected parts – mostly around the stem – and roasted the rest in thick slices with the skin on.

I then cut them up in chunks and froze them for use in soups or stews.

But I kept some back and still needed a decent recipe for lunch today for my friend Dianne.

So I made this up.

I had a good look through the Vegan Recipes from Spain book and worked out what kind of spices I might use.

Last week I made a Spanish style lentil and squash soup with roasted garlic and sweet paprika. It was good but a little bland.

So I decided to increase the amount of spices I would use in this stew.

I used about a quarter of one of the half a dozen Hungarian Blue pumpkins I grew this summer.

I love the slightly antiseptic taste of saffron which is quintessentially Spanish.

Along with the paprika it gives the stew a great depth of flavour.

I should have used my own borlotti beans which are dried and stored every year but this was all last minute and I didn’t have time to soak them.

I had a couple of tetra packs of organic white beans in the cupboard which I ended up using instead.

The bright colours lifted our mood this grey January day.

It was all I had hoped for and more!

The rest of the pumpkin is in the freezer and will be brought out when I need to make this again – maybe with the borlottis next time round.

I will grow the Hungarian Blue variety again this season.

They are so delicious – not too sweet yet not at all bland.

They also hold their shape well.

Spanish Inspired Pumpkin and Bean Stew
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins
 
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: Pumpkin
Servings: 6 people
Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • 750 g roasted pumpkin (skin left on)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 15 strands saffron, soaked in a little hot water
  • 2 tsps sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sharp paprika
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cans cannellini beans or other white beans (460g drained net weight)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 500 ml vegetable stock (2 tsp of bouillon powder added to hot water)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 30 or 40 whole sage leaves
Instructions
  1. Toss in a little olive oil and roast pumpkin between 40 mins and 1 hour or until soft (but not mushy). Then cut into 1 inch cubes (2.5 cm square). Place to one side for use later on

  2. Fry onion & garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan on medium to high heat until transparent and turning pale golden

  3. Add sweet and sharp paprika and stir for a minute or so

  4. Add tomatoes, drained cannellini beans, stock and saffron with its soaking water. Add cubed roasted pumpkin pieces and cook for 40 minutes on a low simmer or in the oven on a low heat

  5. Season to taste with salt 

  6. Rub a little olive oil into sage leaves and either fry (it doesn't take long on the top of the stove) or roast in oven until crispy - about 5 to 10 minutes 

  7. Add chopped parsley to the stew and stir in then top with sage and serve with basmati rice or couscous or cooked bulghur wheat

 

 

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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.

Pesto

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

Servings: 6 people
Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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.
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Borlotti beans with garlic

This season has been a disaster for beans!

The drought really put a stopper on fertilisation of flowers and so I had very few pods develop.

That applied to all sorts of beans including my absolute favourite – borlottis.

I’ve just harvested what few I did have and I’ve taken down the bean poles to be stored away until next year.

I’ve written a little about growing and storing them before.

But here is another recipe that is brilliant – real comfort food.

The beans are cooked for a long time on a low heat and turn a beautiful pinkish brown.

Serve with polenta and “sausages” and some greens.

Or mash them slightly and thin down with some more stock or water to make a pasta sauce with finely shopped rosemary or sage.

Borlotti Beans with Garlic and Parsley

Real Italian comfort food. The beans are rich, creamy and almost velvety.

Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • 375 gr fresh borlottis or 125g dried and soaked beans
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • 4 or 5 decent sprigs parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400 ml water
  • 1 heaped tsp marigold bouillon powder or half a veg stock cube
Instructions
  1. Rinse beans and cover with water in a medium sized pan with a lid.

  2. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the roughly crushed and chopped 3 cloves of garlic (I use the heel of my hand on the flat of my knife on the unpeeled clove to crush then remove loosened skin and chop - see image in main article)

  3. Cover with lid and bring to the boil add bouillon or stock cube then simmer on a very low heat for an hour or until beans are well done. Stir occasionally. 

  4. Some of the liquid will have been absorbed by the beans and some will have evaporated during cooking.

  5. There should be a thickish sauce in the bottom of the pan - you can mash a few of the beans and stir in to create this if it hasn't happened naturally.

  6. Stir and add salt and lots and lots of finely chopped parsley. You could also top with crisp fried sage leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

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