Friday, 24 April 2009

Home Grown Harvest - The Hard Way

Well - I don't know if it's a disaster or a triumph. The spinach, as mentioned in my last post, was going great guns on the kitchen windowsill. There's not a huge amount of advice on the back of the packet about when to plant out - in fact it disregards the process entirely - so MCD went for it, and planted out about half of the seedlings into the veg garden. So severely traumatised where they by the experience, they've all fallen over, and he now thinks they might be dying. So i am fiercely protecting the half left in the seed tray - they need to toughen up a little more I think, but at what stage do you plant out - does anyone know? How tall should they be? And further to the seed packets - a little rant. I wanted to grow Cavolo nero - or Tuscan black cabbage as you might know it. Quite distinctive and completely addictive with anchovies or chilli and garlic.... When we were buying our seed packets from the local garden centre, how can you tell if you're buying the right thing when the packet quite clearly shows an image of cavolo nero, but calls it curly kale - something else entirely - and if you haven't got that much space, it does make quite a difference. Who is making these decisions and why - where are they getting the information and is it even worth complaining when they might bamboozle you with a whole load of Latin genus and sub-genus jargon. Here in the office, we're starting to feel the whole world of vegetable naming (think swede/turnip or any of the various lettuces) is starting to become a bit like the world of fish - endlessly confusing with anyone sticking any old name on they fancy, be it right or not... Vis a vis sainsburys and their pollack/colin fiasco. Not that I'm sure anyone has the slightest problem with pollack, but we were under the impression - from holidays in France - that colin is hake - but then the only person to know all this absolutely and lay down the law was Alan Davidson - and he's no longer here. However, on a happier note the basil is coming through, it seems to like the terracotta pots as they're nice and deep, and the afore-mentioned cavolo nero seems to benefit from a little more water than we thought. In the garden, the broad beans are coming up thick and fast and we can start to see the tops of the onions and even a sprinkling of rocket. It's looking good...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Home Grown Harvest - The Hard Way

The cavolo nero has been planted - and according to the packet, we should leave it in the seed tray till June. But given that in a week - in a week! - it's a couple of inches already, it'll be Day of the Brassica Triffids on the kitchen windowsill by the end of May. Any ideas on whether it can go out a bit sooner...? The spinach and rocket are - ahem - rocketing along - perfect for summer salads. Rocket is particularly good tossed through those Mediterranean bread salads like Panzanella or Fattoush. Don't spoil them by using tasteless tomatoes. Although the little sproutlings won't be ready by this weekend, we'll be having our first BBQ of the year with a similar accompaniment. I also plan to barbecue asparagus - now gloriously in season - until golden and wilted, then with a little lemon juice and shaved Parmesan. Or even some semi-melted potted shrimps for a delicate Spring lunch - why not?. Check out Focus On... Asparagus for details of asparagus events, menus and celebrations around the country. And if any of you have managed to get hold of some wild garlic, I've been snipping it over the first Jersey Royals, sometimes simply boiled or boiled and then lightly smashed with a rolling pin and roasted in hot oil until sticky. An amazing combination...

Friday, 17 April 2009

Home-Grown Harvests - the hard way

So we've finally got it. A veg plot - almost an allotment if you will - courtesy of my fabulous father who turned up unexpectedly and unannounced a couple of miserable rainy wednesdays ago to build my husband a surprise raised bed for his birthday. Well, i say it was meant to be a surprise - I was working from home and my husband (henceforth MCD) was made redundant not an hour later - so in the end we all built it together - well i supplied bacon and mushrooms sandwiches and coffee, and MCD was allowed towards the end to dig the compost in - but only after the tree trunks had been removed, the 3 feet deep concrete drilled through (that wasn't part of the plan) and 4 or 5 tonnes of soil worked in to our frankly nutritionless mud. All in the pouring rain. And with birthday banners to boot.
But still - it's done and is a thing of joy and beauty. We've got potatoes, broad beans, onions, rocket planted out in serried ranks - with cavolo nero, rocket, runner beans, sorrel and lettuces all straggling through on the kitchen windowsill till they're old enough to look after themselves.
I shall be posting on a regular (hopefully weekly!) basis on how we're doing. We're complete novices - it's my parents with the green up to their elbows (They're in the Yellow Book of Gardens for Goodness' sake - how can we compete?) but we are embracing the grow-your-own zeitgeist with open-armed and unalloyed naive enthusiasm. After all last year we had a stonking crop of tomatoes. But it's hard work - we don't know what we're doing AT ALL - and Alan Titchmarsh is a godsend, but MCD isn't one much for reading, so the theory comes via me - and i'm not the one at home doing it all (Gardening leave need not be a euphemism...).
Any hints, suggestions, even - god forbid - questions, i shall try to answer them or direct you to the lovely Alan at the allotment blog on the observer. He really does know it all. Hopefully in a year's time - so will we.