Fruity Goodness…

As you can imagine, the Summer Holidays are already eating into my blogging time, I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago but here it finally is!

We have picked all the fruit in the garden now, except the thornless blackberry (OK, so not all the fruit then).

The most recent has been the redcurrants; the plant is on it’s third year and we managed about 3Kg fruit, which has been turned into a mixture of redcurrant jelly and currant shrub, a fruity, alcoholic cordial made to a recipe found in River Cottage Handbook No. 2 – Preserves.  It looks very pretty sitting in the kitchen steeping in it’s jar, as do all the other red preserves lined up and waiting for their labels.

(mental note: must clean the windows!)

The Cassis made from the blackcurrant bush has been sieved into sterilized bottles and we’ve made plenty of strawberry jam from the abundant berries we get here in Kent.  In fact, the boys helped me to make a batch as teachers presents.  We had great fun and so far they have gone down very well.

Sadly, the birds have stripped both my pink gooseberry bushes.  They’ve never touched them before but I noticed the bushes shaking rather vigorously the other day and on further investigation saw there were only a handful of fruits left; serves me right for not netting them, but the birds have been uninterested in past years.  It always amazed me how quickly a fruit bush can be stripped once a single bird has found it, in this case 2 days for a huge amount of fruit.

I really need to spend some proper time in the garden, it’s the last week of school/pre-school right now and it’s a little hectic.  We are still waiting on rain, I am surprised the border is surviving, it’s in it’s green phase at the moment, before the later flowers come into bloom but I’m a little worried about their survival in this dusty heat.

Finally, I am still trying to move us completely back into the living room after some recent floor laying.  The painting is a slow process, but I am thrilled to finally get the understairs cupboard finished and for the first time in 4 years our preserves and pickles have a proper home.  I used apple crates on their sides, fixed to the wall for a quick storage solution and I am super happy to get rid of some more of the plastic stacking boxes that clog up the hallways.  We just need doors now 🙂

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Salad Days…

There is still no sign of rain, we were due some ‘light showers’ today but no luck so far and I think it’s not going to happen now.  The watering is feeling quite labour intensive, I only do the vegetable patch and if it’s looking desperate the border but it’s still quite time consuming, however it was all worth it this weekend when we had our first major crops from the garden.

I planted a mix of salad leaves (including Mizuna, Mibuna and Mustard for a bit of zing) some time ago, both in the apple crates that line one side of the greenhouse and in-between the sweet corn and they are all doing well.

We have eaten plenty this weekend, spun in my fancy new ‘Chef’n’ salad spinner bought from Amazon (I am usually seen swinging leaves around wrapped in a tea towel at arms length, they do tend to get a bit bashed though!) and prettied up with some of the ViolaHeartsease‘ that I grow in pots.

I also ‘dug up’ one of the potato planters late last week, it had withered badly with early blight so I removed the foliage and removed any remaining tubers.  We had already lifted the sides and pulled a few out, they boys were very excited to dig about and see what they could find.  They taste so good we eat them simply with some seasoning and a little butter.

The cumbers are coming thick and fast so we tried a really nice Dill and Cucumber Salad from the Sarah Raven Garden Cookbook.  It’s a simple salad with peeled, thinly sliced cucumbers layered with seasoning and dill (which I also grow for the flowers mainly in my cutting beds) and a dressing made from 100ml rice vinager and 100g sugar (boiled together then cooled).  You let the cucumber and dill steep in the dressing for an hour before eating and it’s very, very good!

Right, I’m treating myself to a girly dose of Pride and Prejudice (filmed at Groombridge Place were we often take the boys) whilst M watches the football, I may even go for it and eat a Bendicks Bittermint 🙂

The overall picture…

I took these photos a week or so ago, even in that time a lot has grown but I am about to start the first big dig up (such as the garlic) so here they are, oh, and please excuse the mess, it’s as much as I can manage to water the vegetable patch in this heat, let alone tidy it.

Bed 1 is as it was planned in the cold Winter, when I dreamed of hot Summer days and what we would like to grow and eat.  It has Sweet Corn with salad crops between, a single row of Spring Onion and 5 plants of Alpine Strawberry (on their first year so only lightly cropping).

Bed 2 has a double row of Barlotto Beans, with some Red Onions between (I heard on Gardeners’ Question Time that you should never plant beans with onions – oops!), Garlic, Chard and again, Alpine Strawberries (on their third year and producing masses).

Bed 3 has Sugar Snaps (about to end) and Garlic, about to be pulled out to make way for Broccoli which is sitting in pots at the moment, wilting.

Bed 4 which I stole from the cutting flowers this year, is a bit messy but contains Parsnips, Kale, Beetroot, Pak Choi, Red Onions and Shallots.

Right, I need to dash out for another watering session as we’ve had yet another hot day without any sign of rain.

Cucumbers…

Every year the cucumbers sneak up on me and it wasn’t any different this time around.  I noticed early last week that a few cucumbers were forming on the ‘Burpless Tasty’ plants (the ‘La Diva’ are a little behind, but not by much) and thought it wouldn’t be long to wait for our first crop, then Mr C noticed on Friday there wasn’t just one, but two whopping great cucumbers ready for munching.  As his reward Mr C got to eat one (he loves them and ate the whole thing in one sitting) and I used the other to make a cucumber dressing for a posh picnic I was going to at Glynbourne with ‘the girls’.

Cucumber dressing is one I make a lot during the summer, we are growing 3 plants of each variety which is quite a lot as they tend to be prolific and apart from C no-one else likes to munch them whole and plain, it’s taken from the Wagamama cookbook and lasts about 7 days stored in the fridge.

225 ml rice vinegar

225 ml water

125 g sugar

2.5 cm piece of ginger root, peeled and sliced

1 clove of garlic peeled and sliced

Put all the above in a pan, bring to the boil then season with a pinch of salt and simmer gently for a couple of minutes until the sugar has dissolved.

Cool in the fridge.

Once cold add:

225g cucumber grated

6 spring onions sliced

1 or 2  large red chilli finely chopped (I removed the seeds).

I then eat it poured over salmon (often hot smoked fillets) and salad, usually with quite a few raw vegetables in such as red peppers and sliced carrots,  and often with some rice on the side.

I had hoped to take some photos of our lovely picnic but the light was very bright and I only had my iphone with me.  We went totally overboard (as most people do) and trollied folding table, chairs, 3 course meal, champagne, candles, flowers, coffee and chocolates, the works across the beautiful gardens whilst wearing a posh frock and some very high spiky heels.  It was worth it we had great fun although next year we might opt for a picnic rug, cushions and full afternoon tea, that it if my sister is kind enough to invite me again 🙂