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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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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Italian Borlotti Bean Soup

I love borlotti beans

They’re good in an Italian soup with or without pasta.

You can also cook them in stock, garlic and olive oil – reducing the liquid until it becomes an unctuous sauce – then finish it off with loads of chopped fresh parsley.

And Marcella Hazan – one of the doyennes of Italian food writers – uses them to make a fantastic pasta sauce flavoured with rosemary (she calls them cranberry beans).

Fiery red pods

They’re a great thing to grow as they can be cooked straight after being shelled from the fiery red pod – the Italians call them lingua di fuoco or tongue of fire. The fresh beans are a delicate pale green laced with pink markings (the pods are discarded and composted).

They also store well – if you pick them right at the end of the season as the pods are turning crisp and papery on the climbing vine – revealing pink and burgundy beans that look like miniature exotic birds eggs.

Beans drying on a tray
I lay them out on a tray to dry and then store in dry jars to use throughout the winter

When you want to use them you soak them overnight and cook like any other dried bean or pulse. They are a welcome and hearty staple throughout the winter.

Dried and soaked beans
These homegrown dried beans double in size once they’ve been soaked

Save and sow

And as I make this soup with the last of my collected, dried and stored beans I’m saving about to sow thirty or forty of them to sow for this year’s crop. 

They will take a couple of weeks to germinate – I sow in compost in 1 1/2 inch square modules and wait until the last frosts before planting out along a row of bamboo cane supports for them to scramble up.

Like other beans they are a good nitrogen fixer improving your soil for the crop that follows them.

Borlotti Bean Soup


Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 125 g diced onion
  • 125 g diced carrot
  • 125 g diced celery
  • 170 g tomatoes chopped
  • 180 g dried borlotti beans, soaked and cooked until soft or 450 g tinned drained beans
  • 750 ml vegetable stock or more if needed
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. Saute onion, carrot and celery with a little salt on a gentle heat for about ten minutes in a large saucepan.  Sometimes I add a little crushed garlic or if I have no celery I will use leeks. Stir occasionally.

  2. Add tomatoes (you can use fresh skinned tomatoes or tinned ones with their juice) and cook for a further ten minutes stirring occasionally.

  3. Add cooked borlotti beans and bean cooking liquid topped up with stock (I use Marigold Bouillon powder with water).  I usually make sure there's at least two inches of liquid above the beans and vegetables in the pan.

    You can add fresh uncooked borlotti beans instead at this point if you have them (about 1kg in weight in their pods - then shell and discard pods and compost them). Or add some tinned beans like red kidneys.

  4. Simmer for half an hour with the lid on.

  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary - you can also take out a few of the beans (a couple of tablespoons and mash them and add back into the pan)

  6. At this point you can add a couple or three handfuls of dried small pasta shapes like orzo or macaroni and cook for a further 10 or 15 minutes making sure there's enough liquid to absorb the extra ingredients. 

    I usually don't bother.

  7. I chop lots of fresh parsley - a couple of tablespoons and add five minutes before I serve.

 

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