Late Summer Harvest…

We have just been away for two weeks and arrived back last night.  After unpacking the car and getting the kids into bed, I couldn’t hold out any longer on going to inspect the vegetable patch.  Oh, OK, actually I pretty much dashed over there as soon as we opened the car door for a quick peek.

It was as I expected, despite quite a lot of rain, a large amount of the garden has gone past it’s best.  In some cases (the cucumbers, squash and courgettes) have suffered badly from powdery mildew and sadly most of the tomatoes have early blight and have definitely given up the will.  I trashed quite a few plants, saving any crops that I could.  The greenhouse is now stuffed with green tomatoes, some will ripen if left for a few days, others are destined for chutney later in the week.

The 100’s & 1000’s tomato plants (of which I have 2) have produced masses of little tomatoes, mostly about the size of a Malteser.  I have stripped one, trimmed and cleaned the fruit, which I will freeze later tonight.  The second plant is still OK, so I’ve left it be and given it a good water and feed.

We still have plenty of corn to eat, I cooked some this afternoon as a little treat.  I am amazed that my oldest (5 years old) loves it as he wont eat the tinned or frozen kind, to the point that the dinner ladies at his school know not to serve him the pasta or fish pie, if it has hidden corn inside.  In my mind it proves how different fresh corn on the cob tastes, the sweetness and crunch are amazing and it’s definitely worth giving up the space.

I decided to remove the melons and bring them indoors, hopefully they will ripen in the sun (we took two on holiday to Yorkshire with us and they did just that).  Sadly the leaves were so badly damaged with mildew I didn’t see much benefit to leaving them outside.  We have a similar problem with the squash, I would normally bring it into the greenhouse anyway around late summer, to ripen and harden ready for storing for the Winter, something I will do in the coming days.

Still cropping in the garden are kale, beetroot, spring onions, barlotto beans, alpine strawberries, french beans (just a few, planted as an afterthought a while ago), salad (although new seed will be sown for the Winter next week), sweet corn and blackberries.  I plan to give the garden a general clear out and start getting the next wave of crops on the go over the next week or so, here’s hoping for decent weather 🙂

Not so slow sloes…

I’ve been braving the nettles that border our land to check frequently on the sloes.  We are lucky to have a bank of bushes all along one side (which we share with our 3 neighbours); in fact we are generally lucky, in that we live surrounded by overgrown abandoned orchard trees that provide large amounts of apples, cherries, crab apples, sloes, elderberries and brambles.

The sloes are still a little hard, but the trees are quite diseased and they always ripen early down here, if you aren’t quick off the mark they are all eaten or shriveled so I decided to just go for it and make the gin.  I use a 2 Litre jar and to that I add:

600g sloes (washed & pricked all over with a cocktail stick)

500g sugar

900ml gin

That’s it.  I leave it on the darker window sill for a few weeks, turn every so often and when I remember drain and sieve into clean bottles, then drink.

Super easy.

Sunny side up…

This is what happens if you don’t nip the tips out of your growing sunflowers when they are about 20 cm tall

they grow tall, produce large flower heads, one per stalk.

The other stalks have produced many smaller sized heads for use as cutting flowers, as planned.  Sadly, I still haven’t managed to grow the dark chocolate red colour they are supposed to be but they are lovely all the same.

I’m cheating now and using last years vase photo as I was hoping to cut a bunch for a garden party we are having this weekend but as we go away shortly after, I’m not sure I have the heart, knowing they wont be admired for very long before being abandoned.

Think I’ll leave them in the garden to look pretty and feed the birds later in the year as the seeds form instead.

Tomato Puree…

The tomatoes are coming thick and fast.  I am very happy with the selection I chose:

Sungold

Brandywine

San Marzone

100′s & 1000′s

Tigerella (as above)

I believe I’ve mentioned this before but the only thing I don’t eat are raw tomatoes (actually mushy peas as well, can’t stand the texture, hold scary childhood memories for me but that’s another story).  I am happy with them cooked, even simply roasted whole (in the case of cherry toms) but raw they make me cringe, it’s something about the acidity I and is more common than you’d think, I meet lots of people with same ‘issue’.  So, as per last year, the majority of our tomatoes end up as a thick puree in the freezer for use on pizzas and as a base for pasta sauce.  I simple roast them, cut in half and drizzled with olive oil and a little seasoning, then when they are really soft I push them through a sieve to remove the seeds and skin.  I then often boil the puree down to thicken it before freezing in small containers.

Sounds like a faff I know but homemade pizza goes down very well in this house and the simplicity of a ready, delicious homemade sauce to spread on top makes it all the nicer.

I do also feed tomatoes raw to anyone who will eat them, my Mother and Aunt have taste tested the beefeater ‘Brandywine‘ variety many times sliced and served with a little dressing and seasoning, they taste like, “tomatoes do on holiday” apparently…I believe them, don’t need to try them myself 😉

Field Mushrooms…

We have just spent a hurried weekend in Yorkshire, visiting family for a wedding and I was attempting to photograph the view from my mother’s garden

(with my iPhone, hence the terrible photo) when I noticed all the little white specs in the front field

I took the boys for a super quick ‘mushrooming’ session before jumping in the car and heading home.  I have been picking field mushrooms since I was a child, I am perfectly aware of exactly what a safe, edible, field mushroom looks like but after doing the Mushroom course at River Cottage (which I highly recommend) some time ago I have become a little paranoid and found myself inspecting each ‘shroom’ before the boys but it into the basket – how daft!

On our return, I turned the hoard into mushroom pasta from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook, I have to admit I wont cook this recipe again with hand-picked field mushrooms as you basically cook them in white wine for 10 mins (along with a softened onion and garlic before adding creme fraiche and parsley, lemon zest and juice) and I am a firm believer that mushrooms are best fried in a hot pan, in small batches (so they don’t steam) with seasoning, parsley and maybe some grated garlic.  Still, I was restricted to the contents of our cupboard and it seemed a good idea at the time.

I am now even more excited about out planned holiday in the Dales, as there will be plenty of mushrooms and general hedgerow edibles to collect, I promise to leave the preserving pan behind though 🙂

July Eating…

It would appear I am slipping well behind with my blog posts, the above photo was taken back in mid June, after I had removed the outer skin of my first garlic, having left them for a few weeks to dry out in the greenhouse.  They are now plaited and hanging in my kitchen (better than last years solution!)

I have since pulled all remaining garlic and shallots, which are a bit weeny this year, quite frankly due to lack of water but they are still tasty and will keep us going for some time.

The beetroot from both the first (planted in gutters in the greenhouse) sowing and the second from May is ready.  I pretty much always boil or roast them,  then slice and eat with Feta cheese, Marjoram and an olive oil and balsamic dressing.  I really should try something new but I do like beetroot this way.

The first of the tomatoes are ready, there seems very little difference between the ones grown in the greenhouse and outside, all are cropping at a similar time, which rather surprises me.

The Alpine strawberries are still providing lots of little treats, you have to be quick though

as C is a strawberry addict.

We are also eating cucumbers, spring onions, courgettes, red onions and salad at an alarming rate.  I confess that already a few cucumbers have ended up in the bin, despite the fact we eat at least one a day (well, C does).

My blog is not the only neglected thing around here, the garden itself is in desperate need of attention, there is little point starting any new planting as we are away here and there and the total lack of rain here means new crops are quite high maintenance until they get going.  So, I guess there may be a few gaps in a couple of months but for now I will simply enjoy eating our lovely ready produce.