Tag Archives: modern gardener

First harvest of 2010: radishes

This year RB and I decided to try our hand at inter-cropping and catch-cropping in order to make the most of the space in our vegetable patch, and radishes were the perfect easy and quick choice. We planted our first catch crop of two rows about 6 weeks ago in what will be the sweetcorn bed, and they quickly reached maturity. We have harvested 16 and will pull up the rest for a dinner party we are having later.

I must confess I have never purchased radishes in my entire life, so I was a little bemused as to what we were going to do with them at maturity. In practice, they barely had the chance to make it back into the house! The crunchy texture and sweet-yet-peppery taste are wonderful and make a great addition to a salad or as a snack with hummus.

We have already planted the seeds for the next catch crop in a bean bed, and later we will inter crop in the runner bean bed. We are aiming to have radishes all summer long.

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New year, bigger vegetable garden

Hoorah, we have added 8 new raised beds to the vegetable patch! And when I say we, of course I mean RB who built them in December (read about how to build raised beds). Here is a photo of the whole patch of 20 beds in the snow.

We have used our snowy downtime to order seeds, and here is our final tally for the 2010 vegetable garden:

Wild Rocket
Fiorana Spinach
Golden Ball Onions
Potatoes – Mayan Gold, Charlotte, Golden Wonder
Green Globe Artichokes
Beetroot Sanguina
Yellow Carrot Jaune Obtuse de Doube
Fat Leek Monstrueux de Charentan
Burgess Vine Buttercup Squash
Summer Crookneck Squash
Striato di Napoli Courgette
Napia Red Pointy Pepper
King of the North Sweet Pepper
Nigels Outdoors Chilli
Red Top Radish
Double Standard Bicolour Sweetcorn
Garlic (planted in autumn)
Broad Beans
Runner Beans
Asparagus (planted in autumn)
Parsnips
Rhubarb
Calabrese Broccoli
Strawberries Cambridge Favourite (already in situ)
Red Iceberg Lettuce
Tomatoes – Rose de Berne, Gold Medal, Millefleur

Most of the seeds come from The Real Seed Catalogue which stock only non-hybrid seeds. It means you can safely save seeds from the plants which is a sustainable and common sense practice. You can’t seed save with F1 Hybrids. The Real Seed Catalogue urges all growers to seed save, and we like that kind of business ethos.

I am looking forward to a whopping return on this year’s vegetable garden economics!

Harvesting parsnips

RB and I harvested the first dozen of our parsnips last weekend. A few frosts are purported to improve the flavour of parsnips, so with a couple of cold spells behind us we decided to start harvesting.

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These parsnips took a bit more work to get out of the ground than carrots. We had to carefully dig away the dirt from the top third of each parsnip, enough to hold it and twist it out of its place. It is worth being careful as the parsnips can snap in place if tugged or bent in haste.

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Roast parsnips are a favourite, but our first batch went into a spicy soup for 10 people. We used Jamie Oliver’s recipe which incorporates Garam Masala, and it was a resounding hit. As the soup is fairly dense it also looks great with a little olive oil and fresh coriander decoration on top.

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Parsnips can be left in the ground until January, a great way to save room in the refrigerator and provide fresh home grown vegetables for the holidays.

This has to be one of the biggest winners of our vegetable garden this year – easy to sow, relatively low maintenance, and big reward when most of our kitchen garden has already stopped producing.

Autumn flower arrangement: gourds

There is something buried in our psyche that attracts us to anything in miniature, and the same goes for baby gourds. Not only are they ‘cute’, but they are infinitely interesting and exotic. RB and I were at a garden centre yesterday and found these little ornamental gourds (with the exception of the baby butternut, which was a runt from our own plot).

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They are a little on the pricey side, but with how long they will last they provide some visual value for money, not to mention a talking point – from a mini turk’s turban to the strange sputnik looking one. And whilst they are not strictly flowers they do make an excellent and colourful arrangement that will last during the busy holiday season.

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I have piled a few into the pot with a Cambria orchid.

You can grown these gourds yourself and I may give it a go next year. Seeds of some interesting varieties are carried at Unwins and Nicky’s Nursury.

Butternut squash tortellini

A few weeks ago RB and I harvested our butternut squash and have been very pleased with the taste. Having recently been to a cooking class I decided I had better put some of my new skills to use and make Ravioli – only a last minute decision turned them into tortellini.

Ravioli/tortellini do take time, but they aren’t as difficult as they may seem. You don’t need a pasta machine, although one helps – I made do with a rolling pin and good old-fashioned effort.

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Find a pasta dough recipe using ’00’ flour.

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Create your filling. Mine is on the right, made of butternut squash, garlic, salt and sage. On the left I mixed together the last of our home-grown vegetables as an accompaniment which I threw into the oven with olive oil and sea salt.

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I used a cookie cutter to cut the shapes and dotted them with filling. Make sure the surface is well floured to avoid sticking, and that your dough is SUPER thin. You should be able to read through it.

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Use a paint brush (or your fingers, as I did) to paint water on the edges before closing into the shape of your choice.

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Serve with sage gently cooked in butter. Et voilà!

Success with celery

When I was researching what to grow this year, I invariably came across celery being described as everything from difficult to grow to the devil’s food. That was enough to make me want to do give it a go.

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We decided on ‘Full White’ self-blanching celery from the Real Seed Company. We planted them in seed trays, transferring them individually to 10cm pots until the roots were well established and peeping out the bottom and then finally planting them out in their raised bed – the photograph above is shortly after planting them out into a block of 30 plants.

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The two biggest threats to celery are lack of water and slugs. We kept them fairly well-watered and benefited from regular rainfall, but planting them in a block seems to be the best help as the leaves shade the earth and minimise weeds. And as for slugs – we just ignored them. Yep, they were there, but their actual damage was minimal.

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Celery is key to a good vegetable stock, another benefit to our kitchen garden – no need to use those artificial stock cubes. We have also added it to salads and as part of bean stews. The flavour out of the ground is really spicy.

One thing is for sure though: two people don’t need 30 heads of celery! In fact, RB keeps harvesting them and we end up composting 90% of each head as it remains unused, even though in a little water they last a week.

Now that we have conquered growing celery, we may have a debate on our hands about how much we grow again next year, if any.

Cooking with our first tomatoes

We have finally harvested the first of our tomatoes, the Rose de Berne and Millefleur varieties. The Millefleur should really go red, but as they were so soft and juicy we couldn’t resist picking them yellow.

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We were in a bit of a hurry for supper, so we diced up the tomatoes with garlic and basil and then combined the mixture with some gently cooked through courgettes and onions from our garden.

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We then poured this over our favourite pasta, De Cecco fusilli, with cubes of fresh buffalo mozzarella.

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It was delicious!