Saturday 30 July 2011

A bone to pick

Leeks are one crop I have grown every year (for 20 years).  That's an indication of how easy they are to grow not of any skill on my part. You just sow them in spring in a pot at home and then plonk them into their holes in the vegetable patch around this time of year.  In return for this, and a bit of weeding, you get winter veg that carries on throughout spring. Unlike other alliums they are not too fussy, not subject to major diseases or susceptible to pests. Some years they do better than others but this year I thought I would be a bit kinder to them and apply a dressing of "fish blood and bonemeal" fertiliser when planting them out. Sadly the resident fox family had other ideas and spent the night digging up the leeks I had planted during the day! Of course they don't like leeks, just the fertiliser. After repairs I'm sure I'll still get a reasonable crop.

I don't normally comment on the BBC Gardeners World programme, but I have to say that Monty Don infuriated me last night.  First he showed how to grow leeks, the same way as I do (althought mysteriously straight after cutting back transplanted irises  he failed to top and tail his leek seedlings in a similar manner (so they didn't sit well in their holes)) he then went on to plant out groups of leeks grown in root trainers without thinning them out at all.  This sure looks like a case of a new product being used for unsuitable purposes just because it is new. I wonder if he will show the viewer how the two methods compare next spring! My prediction, the clumps of leeks will be poor compared to the  individually planted plants.

Also have to mention that my new weed "Great Mullein" featured large in several of the London Gardens Carol Klein visited. What a coincidence!

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Sorrel - unapologetically

There's one herb in particular that has been thriving in my new herb bed - Sorrel (French or Garden)

It's like a large dock leaf but has a fantastic sharp lemon flavour.

Also thriving is its little sister Buckler Sorrel

"Buckler" comes from the shield shape of the leaves which are a fraction of the size of French /Garden Sorrel.  This is the sorrel to add raw to salads whereas the larger variety is best cooked as a soup or sauce. If like me you like a bit of acidity to offset fatty meat, gravy, or bland foods like potato then sorrel is for you. Sorrel is packed with vitamin C, but most books do carry a warning that you can overdose on oxalic acid which can lead to kidney stones - so don't go too overboard about it.

If I had to choose I'd have to admit to having a soft spot for the less extreme Buckler Sorrel. It's beautiful and tasty! 

Sunday 24 July 2011

Peas and Beans, Cabbage and Greens...

Dry spring, wet summer, bad news for some crops but seems to suit others.  


and in particular broad beans

and the brassicas are looking happy.

...aside from the slugs and snails who are having a field day.

Won't be long before the runners and french beans are on stream.

Friday 15 July 2011


Borage flowers are so photogenic. Their five pointed petals are much loved in heraldic design, and they are also said to signify courage.

Borage Flower

The only problem is that the plants are a bit straggley and unkempt. They also self seed aggressively.  The flowers tend to point down to the ground and there are precious few recipes that call for borage. (Pimms No 1 is reputed to include borage in it's secret botanic blend). I have read of them being used as a supplement to ravioli filling, but the mature leaf is a fearsome tough thing so either young leaves or finely chopped ones would be required.

Borage plant

Archeitecturally it is a treat. Here are the hairy flower heads before the flowers emerge.

Flower head clusters

The other wonderfull thing about borage plants is that they are bee magnets. I always leave a couple of them to flower each year.

On the subject of weeds with few uses, here's an update on the spike from the Great Mullein plant:

Mullein - still reaching for the sky

And here is a mystery solved.  I allowed some nastutiums to grow alongside the brassicas in my nusery bed.  The other day it looked as if the dreaded cabbage white had devasatated them overnight!  On inspection there weren't any caterpillars in in sight.

Nasturtium carnage!
Then I remembered that in addition to torrential rain we had also had a hailstorm the other day.  I even took photos to prove we had hail in mid July:
The culprits - hailstones

Here's another borage snap - for courage.

Friday 8 July 2011

Thirteen + 2

The challenge. "Enough strawberries to feed 13 adults at one sitting"

Of course strawberries ripen in stages and we have already been eating starwberries for a couple of weeks,  so there is a careful line to tread between overpicking and underpicking. 

Come the big day I went to the allotments at 8:30, the first visitor of the day.  On approaching the plot two squirrels, each with a large strawberry in mouth,  scampered off.  The vermin had clearly found a point of entry.  I was more than a little concerned  -  but here's the haul : 

The plastic punnets contain my new varieties Cambridge Favourite and Florence the remainder are the "old" Honeoye.

Back home:

There was plenty, and some over for the Pimms