Monday 28 June 2010

Strawberry spinach

Chenopodium capitatum, of the family of weed goosefoot and the seed quinoa, is a pretty little plant that produces edible leaves (to be eaten as spinach - cooked, or raw but in moderation) and red berries at each leaf node, which American Indians used as a dye, and when ripe should taste like wild strawberries.

I have tested the leaves, which bulked up my salad for work very nicely and look forward to try the berries!

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday 23 June 2010

GO experiments update

The salad cardboard collars are regaining ground as slugs have annihilated one unprotected head.

Tree spinach have got leafminers, though.


Although I had to spend the last two evenings behind a watering hose (which you know I hate) the heat has pushed all the crops and last night I had salad made with my own strawberry spinach and broadbeans, followed by a handful of sift fruits.

Oh the joys of reaping...

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday 22 June 2010

How I came to make elderflower cordial

Wood pigeons like to land on the gooseberry bush, all staked and netted as it is, in search of fruit, but they only manage to break branches and make all the berries fall on the ground. I recovered a good bowl-full, but they are too hard to eat yet and too few for jam-making, so I thought I would cook them somehow, and like I discovered last year, elderflower cordial is an ingredient in most of the recipes... so I set about making some.

I made some last year too and I enjoyed drinking it over the summer.

There's plenty of recipes out there, with roughly the same ingredients but in wildly differing quantities: difficult to decide which is best, especially with regards to the use of chemical preservatives: citric acid use varies from 2 tsp to 75 g!

I have decided to try a variation on the BBC's recipe as follows:

  • elderflower heads
  • 500 g organic caster sugar
  • 1 unwaxed orange
  • 1,5 unwaxed lemons
  • 1,5 l boiling water
  • 50 g citric acid
I have not tasted it yet but it has been infusing for a day and smell deliciously citrussy, maybe a bit too much for an elderflower concoction...

PS Argh it IS DEFINITELY too citrussy, and not quite enough sugar! Why didn't I use last year's recipe in the first place?!?

PPS doubling the sugar and halving the citric acid does the trick
-- Post From My iPhone

Monday 21 June 2010

I can't believe...

... I did forget all about borage's use! It is true that at the time when I was writing about it last year my mind was set on my degree, still... Borage can be used in salads and stir fries, and I have been pulling it, because it was taking over the asparagus bed!

I will try some tonight: all the plant outside the soil is edible: stems (fried in batter in Spain), leaves and flowers!

I might find it as exciting to use as I did mint: I am now making mint tea every day - dried & fresh leaves make a slightly different taste, both fresh and naturally sweet, though!

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday 20 June 2010

Guess the plant!

Guess what the seedling is...

a clue: it started off as the seed leaves you can see in the background.

Another clue in the next picture: does the minute husk-like fleck remind you of anything I wrote recently?

Friday 18 June 2010

Broadbeans and rhododendrons

After a couple of handfuls of rocket over the last few weeks and three or four asparagus spears, last night I picked the first decent crop of the year: my broadbeans (you can see the lovely flowers and how they looked last week)! They are still smallish, but enough to make a lovely pasta sauce.

I also harvested mint, sage and oregano as their flavour is best before flowering, and flower buds are just forming.

Pity it is impossible to reproduce the exhilarating bouquet of scents and the amazing variety of textures and shades of green.

While veg start cropping outside, inside the greenhouse something magical is underway.

A step back. I sort of like rhododendrons, pretty stunning colours if you manage to grow and keep them alive. Not generally overexcited about them though.

This spring, however, having a walk alongside a garden, I was struck by the most delicious sweet fragrance, which came from white rhododendron flowers, the slightest tinge of pink to the ample petals. Something possessed me and I wanted the plant, at all costs! If that is the instinct that drove botanist explorers to carry over plant specimens from any corner of the world I understand it: it was pretty powerful...

However, I would never consciously damage a plant, particularly someone else's. On some of the branches I could see a few remaining bunches of old, empty and dried seedpods. No harm done if I pick a couple, surely? I did it with very little hope. Their time was long gone.

Once home, a few husk-like flecks came out of the pods' folds. The flecks were minuscule, they could at best be underdeveloped leftovers from proper seeds. No image online of rhododendron's seeds to compare them to. Only very discouraging instructions on how to grow rhododendrons from seed.

Still under the spell of that plant's beauty, I decided to sow anyway.

One seedling came out. Minuscule. I thought weed but nurtured it anyway, just in case. More tiny, wormlike seedlings. Now I think that's the genuine article.

With a bit of luck, a few years down the line I will find out that one of them looks and smells like "mum".

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday 16 June 2010

What I won't do for my veg...

Last night I arrived on the plot with the mission to sow some more seeds, as I do not have much time to get the next generation of veg ready to plant out.

However, on opening the shed I realised I had no working clothes! Going home and back was out of the question: too tired I would have succumbed to the lure of the sofa... so I looked around for inspiration... and decided to don a bin bag!

Not quite the style, but I was sitting in the greenhouse so no shocked neighbours either :)

And, though not comfortable, it was worthwhile: I sowed salad, brassicas, beans and peas of several species besides carrots.

I hope to get better results especially with brassica by not sowing directly in the ground. Time will tell.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday 10 June 2010

Garden Organic experiments

I had not been at the allotment for a couple of days and I should know how it works by now: rain and warmish weather are good! Still I was surprised but how fast vegetation is growing. Especially weeds. But I found another sage seedling, and a bronze fennel one. I wish I could express the joy that stirred in me, despite the miserable greyness of the sky and the drizzle.

Not going so well for my Garden Organic experiments. As I have mentioned already, I enrolled in 3 of them.
  1. Monitoring butterflies at the allotment - I was lucky if I saw five in the last couple of months. And a couple of moths. Pretty much depressing.
  2. Trying tree spinach as a crop. Germination was very staggered, to the point that the earliest plants are now out and some 20cm tall while the latest are still tiny seedlings. And not growing very fast, but steady. Not so depressing.
  3. Growing lettuce under protection of a supposedly anti-slug cardboard collar. The lettuce is growing healthily and slugs and snails have not been very active this season. However, while the collars seemed to have a marginal effect at the seedling stage (only 1 non protected lettuce was slightly damaged), now that the leaves have outgrown the cardbord I found a slug on a protected lettuce - damage would have come to very much the same extent as a non protected lettuce if I had not picked the slimy creature and squashed in the usual manner.
I have taken more pictures of the allotment as it comes into its own, and will shortly post them to the Flickr set "Allotment in spring".

P.S. GO experiments photos now available on Flickr 

Friday 4 June 2010

Ghost of previous crops...

My potato picking technique must be rubbish. Either that or potato is such a terrible weed that it is difficult to imagine how famine may ever have occured. Or both. This I say because I have potato shoots sprouting up everywhere, among strawberries, broadbeans, garlic and even cardoon, in the greenhouse and outside.

I also found a tomato seedling among the artichokes, though, which is much of a rarer find, and makes me happier. And my bronze fennel has self seeded, together with the sage, adding to my evergrowing collection of past crops' persisters: strawberries, raspberries, borage, onions, leeks and all. It's like previous crops have left a ghost behind!

Everything is growing everywhere, which is not tidy, but I am sure insects like it: we have a lot of tiny bumblebees and I have seen the biggest native ladybird ever. No butterflies, though.

A flurry of activity, at this time of the year with sowing, planting out and potting on , and a few "earlies" are starting to appear: a couple of strawberries, some rocket... but still no main crops.

-- Post From My iPhone