Garlic update. And the winner is…

Albigensian Wight and Solent Wight are by far my favourite from the home grown garlics so next year these are what I plan to grow.  Both had nice big bulbs earlier than the rest (even though Solent is a late variety) and both are soft necked so keep well, in fact from the first year I planted garlic we still have 2 bulbs of Solent Wight left and they are a still OK, although with so much nice fresh garlic now ready it’s unlikely we will eat them, I will probably stuff them into the next chicken I cook as I can’t face throwing them out.

For more information on how I grow garlic check out this post. 

Recently, the spare bed wasn’t very inviting for guests to stay (but keept the Vampires away!) as it looked like this:


I had brought some of the garlic indoors from the greenhouse as with all the recent rain I wanted to make sure everything was spread out properly for drying and our spare room has one wall of glass so gets pretty hot.  


Last weekend I took it all down and plaited the soft necked and tied the hard necked into bundles.  I was a bit short of string so they aren’t tied very nicely, but you get the idea, I will buy some raffia at some point and tidy them up.  I plait the same way as I used to try and french plait my hair when I was a teenager – badly!  I see there are lots of on-line instructions for this if you just google it.  I am not opting out here, honestly, but my method is a bit make-it-up-as-you-go-along and there are lots of great tutorials on how to do it properly.  The rest have just been trimmed, very roughly, and will be used first.


So, with last year’s all indoors and stored in a cool out of sunlight spot I deiced to pre-order for sowing this Autumn.  I have ordered:

Albigensian Wight – Softneck

Solent Wight – Softneck

and, just for fun, a set of wild garlic to plant under the trees.  All have been ordered from The Garlic Farm and should be delivered from September onwards.  I see that they have included smaller planting Starter Packs which is great as I struggled to plant up their full size ‘Garlic Lover’s Growing Pack’ and I have a decent sized garden.

Whilst in pre-order mode I have also ordered 

Shallot – Longer

Red Onion – Garnet

from good old Thompson and Morgan for dispatch December onwards.

Finally, whilst in ‘order’ mode I wanted to mention that there are seed and plant sales on everywhere so it’s a great time to go and buy your seeds.

You say tomato and I say…well tomato as well actually…


Tigarella and Sungold tomatoes

Tigarella and Sungold tomatoes

It’s tomato time in the garden.  Apart from courgettes (which I have to confess, I am struggling to keep up with) they are the main produce at the moment.  Little note for next year – 8 plants is not enough, most of the recipes I like to use need a minimum of 1, ideally 2kg at a time so I need a couple of extra plants.  This year I have grown:

in Greenhouse – ‘Brandywine’ x 2, ‘Tigerella’ x 2

Outside – ‘Sungold’ x 2, ‘San Marzone’ x 2

See this post for more details of the planting.

Anyhow, the Sungold started to ripen a few weeks ago, they ripen a few at a time, as all tomatoes do so are perfect for picking the odd few for the kids.  The Tigerella were next, followed by Brandywine (San Marzone are just starting to go red).  I have picked 3.5 kg so far.  1kg has been made into a thick puree for the freezer for pizzas, 2kg was made into ketchup today and the others have been eaten fresh.

I have a confession, I don’t eat raw tomatoes.  It’s the only thing I don’t eat, can’t stand them, I had hoped growing them might help but it hasn’t.  I like them cooked and love them in sauces so this is where most of them end up.  I am told that the home grown taste so much better than shop bought, my Mother loves Brandywine, she says they taste ‘like the tomatoes I eat on holiday’.


Brandywine - yep, they grown quite large!

Brandywine - yep, they grown quite large!

Most of the tomato things I make start out as tomatoes sliced in half and roasted in the oven for about 1 hr (on about 180 degrees) drizzled with a good glug of olive oil, some salt and pepper and whatever else seems appropriate (usually some sliced onions/shallots and basil).  Once cooked I push them through a sieve to create a nice tomato paste.  I freeze this for a base for soups later in the year, or pasta sauce.  For pizza sauce I simmer the paste up until it’s quite thick and freeze in small containers.  I read once that garlic gives a musty taste once frozen so I usually leave this out and add it when I am making up the food.


We taste trailed ketchup recipes last year and decided HFW does the best in his River Cottage Cookbook (also in the River Cottage Handbook No2 – ‘Preserves’), so I made a batch of that today.  It is quite a lot of work for 2 jars of ketchup but it does taste amazing and it’s quite fun to make your own.  The other recipe I have enjoyed making in the past is ‘De Kas tomato jam’ from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook.  It’s her adaptation of a recipe from De Kas restaurant in Amsterdam and is a sort of sweet pickle that you eat on crostini.  It has vanilla and sugar and tastes much nicer than it sounds.  The only thing is it doesn’t keep for more than a couple of months so I froze some last year and that seemed to work.


Finally, our monthly Farmers Market in the village has had a re-vamp and includes lots of new stalls (I believe new people run it).  Today we had a flower man with lovely zinnias, salvias and dehlias and a stall selling homemade soaps and some fantastic camomile lotion which I bought for Charlie’s sometimes sore skin.  As always I bought sausages for the kids and some cupcakes from the ‘cupcake lady’ – I am sure she has a real name but this is what the boys call her.  Yummy!

Onions and Shallots…

Onions and shallots are new to me and I am impressed enough to make space for them next year.  I bought shallots (‘Longer’) as sets earlier this year (which just look like small shallots) and they were sent out in Feb/March I think.  I planted them in rows between the carrots with about 7/8 sets per row (my beds are 120cm wide) and the tops just poking out, in theory planting onions/garlic/shallots/spring onions with carrots helps keep carrot root fly away but as I net my carrot bed with enviromesh over hoops this isn’t really a problem.  I was given some red onion sets by my neighbor so I just put these in a few rows dotted about the raised beds where there was space.

That was it, I did nothing else and last week I had these lovely shallots ready to dig up, I love that each single ‘set’ grows into a cluster of new shallots.


The tops fell/bent over a while ago and I have had them covered and drying out under long cloches (with sides open to give good ventilation) as we have had a lot of rain recently.  I decided to make picked shallots with some and the rest have been dug up and put into the greenhouse to continue to dry as I am a little worried they may start to rot of left outdoors.  They are a lovely pink colour once peeled and look rather pretty pickled in red wine vinegar (a recipe from The River Cottage Handbook No 2 – Preserves, a book I love).


My husband asked if I was planning to make Onion Marmalade (he is a big fan, the ladies from the WI used to sell it at our local Farmers Market but they don’t have a stall there any more) so I dug up the red onions and used the super fantastic slicing attachment on my Kitchen Aid to slice.  Cheating I know but as I had great success finely slicing my orange peel for marmalade using this earlier I knew it would work.


I did have to fish out a few bits that had to be hand sliced but it took a fraction of the time and as I have very little (time that is) I was happy.  

Along with another batch of strawberry jam I am having to relocate my pickle/jam cupboard as there is no room left and there is still ketchup, picked cucumber and apple and mint jelly to come to name but a few.  I wonder what everyone will be getting for Christmas from us this year – ha, ha!

July Flowers…

The July borders are a bit of a let down to be honest.  The only real patch of interest are some bright touches of red provided by Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ (which I confess to love, hence the new header) and some Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’.  Both look nice though against the dark brown Smoke Bush and acid green Alchemilla Mollis.  I will avoid photographing the rest of the borders as I have cut most back and it looks a bit sparse to say the least, I have invested in new seeds from Sarah Raven to get some added colour for next year for planting in Autumn.


The cutting garden is still doing it’s thing and producing one of my favourite vases of the year, a mix of Helianthus Annus/Sunflower ‘Red Sun’, Amaranthus Caudatus ‘Viridis’ and the forming seed heads of Ammi Majus (which is basically posh Cow Parsley).  I have ordered seeds for Helianthus ‘Chianti’ for next year which should be be an even darker sunflower and hope to grown dill, for the flowers to go with it.  The trick is to pinch out the tips when the plants are about 15/20cm tall in order to get lots of medium sized heads instead of one massive one if you are growing these for the house.


My final photo is of the pots by the bench in the vegetable patch as they are looking rather nice at the moment:


Here I grow Viola Tricolour ‘Heartsease’ which I grow to both look pretty and to decorate salads (as they are an edible flower) and behind are the lovely bright pink Verbena ‘Sissinghurst’ which I understood last year would probably not survive the winter so I put the pots in the greenhouse and all of them have made it – hurrah!

Jam, Jelly and July eating…


The fruit just keeps coming.  I have made redcurrant jelly, gooseberry and thyme jelly and gooseberry jam.  As you can see above, I use improvised methods for straining my jelly (I am on my last few muslin clothes bought when my eldest son was born – he is now 4 – let me stress, all clean and new and never used to mop up baby goo).  I have to leave little notes to my husband (who frequently returns home form work very late) not to move, prod or squeeze the jelly bag so the juice stays clear.  I am pleased with my jam/jelly/chutney cupboard at the moment, I know not to make too much of anything as it’s usually me who eats it, with the exception of jam where the boys help me out.


The garden has been throwing up more courgettes than we can eat.  The four plants are plenty for us as a family and have grown well in their potato grow bags.  I am pleased I decided to grow yellow and green as they look very pretty together.  Tonight for dinner we are having spaghetti with courgette, mint and feta which is one of my favourite simple dishes.  It’s pretty easy, you slice and fry the courgettes in oil, so that they get a bit of colour but still have a bit of bite (if i am feelign lazy, I toss them in olive oil, lay them on a tray and bake in a very hot oven for a few minutes) then toss with warm cooked pasta and a little feta and sliced mint.  Season well and squeeze over some lemon.  Sounds boring but really tastes scrummy.


I dug up the last of the new potatoes last week as the tops were looking a bit shabby.  They keep well if you leave them to dry for a few minutes in the sun/wind and then put them in the fridge, with the soil still on and wash when needed.  We had family here for dinner last night and I cooked Sarah Raven’s recipe for smashed new potatoes which went down a treat.  It gave me an opportunity to roast a whole head of the new garlic to then be squeezed out into a paste and added to the potatoes.  It’s still a bit green but can happily be used at this stage.  I also cooked her tomato focaccia bread with some of the just ready cherry tomatoes (sungold), I really recommend her book ‘Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook’ it has some great recipes.

Other things going well in the garden at the moment are shallots, red onions, spring onions, carrots, the fantastic sputnik like kohlrabi (which I have yet to cook), beetroot and the first of the tomatoes.  All in all a pretty productive time.