The summer’s in full swing, and the established plants are finally being fully productive. I was starting to wonder if some of them were just going to sit there inertly, but we’re truly moving into harvest season now. The main work in the last few days has been keeping everything sufficiently watered, and keeping the plants in pots frequently fed.
It’s the best time of the year in this kitchen garden, and at long last there’s a feeling of plenty rather than simply waiting and wondering if it’s ever going to happen. It’s working, finally, and there’s plenty to eat. I’ve also been having lunch in the garden on days that I work from home, with meals going from plot to plate and back again in the space of a few minutes. Pick, prep, eat.
Although many veggies were no-shows, the French beans, borlotto beans and assorted courgettes are producing heavily. The Zephyr F1 squashes that were so prolific last month now seem to have tailed off, and have been superseded by the giant climbing Tromboncino (AKA Tromba di Albenga) and a few Jemmer and Defender courgettes. Amazingly we still aren’t bored of beans or courgettes, perhaps because there are different varieties of each and I’m stocking the freezer with the excess as we go along so there’s no overkill on the weekly menu.
The compact butternut squash plants, by comparison, have dropped most of their fruitlets and now each have only one butternut per vine. It’s a pretty poor turnout so they’d better taste amazing or they’ve basically failed their audition.
We have plenty of soft herbs this month after a very slow and rather lame start, and the repotted rosemary and sage plants are making lots of extra leaves too. These are making meals more interesting, and there’s been enough surplus to start off some flavoured oils and vinegars to enjoy over the winter, as well as picking a few sprigs and hanging them up to dry for later use.
The little kitchen garden’s giving us boxes and boxes of tomatoes from the bushy container plants, and it looks like many more will be ripening over the next couple of days. The first cordons are becoming ready as well, and I savoured the first bite of a Gardener’s Delight tomato with my lunch today. No supermarket tomato ever tasted that good. We’ve had some amazing salads, and plus a couple of different zingy salsas with the home grown chillies. I’ll post a new salsa recipe soon, one I made with our first tomatillos.
Other salad ingredients that’ve been doing brilliantly include lots of juicy spring onions and crisp cucumbers. I’ve even made a big jar of refrigerator pickles with dill and green coriander seeds – a nice way to get one last thing out of a bolted pot of herbs, and make the most of the almost-glut of Konsa cucumbers that have been romping away in the sunshine. We love pickles in this house, and the hardest part is waiting for them to mature properly over the next few days without tucking into the jar early. Patience, patience, I know. Mmmmmm, pickles.
We’re down to two small patches of lettuce (tiny Tom Thumb and red Amaze) after the start of the warm weather made everything else bolt. Although I have done some sequential sowing and re-sowings, it seems to have taken ages for things to get started so I’ve resorted to growing cress on the windowsill and taking the occasional baby leaf off the recently planted out chard seedlings. There’ll be some baby leaf mizuna to plunder by the weekend too, although I want to let most of it grow on for autumn and winter dinners.
Other recent sowings and plantings include: Dwarf Green kale, Chinese broccoli, perpetual spinach leaf beet, Ruby chard, kohl rabi, Purple Top Milan turnip, Spring cabbage, cavolo nero, winter and summer radishes, silver beet, pak choi and choi sum. Not all of it has germinated or fully taken root yet and some of the seeds were pretty ancient so I have no idea what we’ll end up with. I might sow up some more autumn and winter plants in modules at the weekend if there’s time, so they can have time to grow on for a while before planting out in a few weeks.
Garden pests don’t seem to be as bad as they were last week, and a sprinkling of organic slug pellets appears to have protected those salad seedlings and new sowings. One thing I don’t like the look of is a few tiny green caterpillars abseiling out of the cherry tree on threads in the last couple of days, and it seems as though they might be winter moths of some sort. If that’s the case then I’m probably going to have to get a grease band or organic glue for the trunk of the tree next month and that will blow my budget for the year… The damage is mainly cosmetic so I could leave it, but it might spread to other plants and wouldn’t be fair on neighbouring gardens.
Meanwhile, preserving and processing seems to be the order of the day now. I’m not going to put any more courgette dishes or rhubarb into the freezer during 2016 because there’s an opportunity-cost to overdoing it with any single ingredient, but there’s still room for some extra blanched fine French beans and other veggies. I’m also stockpiling raspberries for a jam-making session, and looking at recipes for pickled nasturtium seeds (poor man’s capers), oven dried tomatoes, chilli relish and various pickles and chutneys. They’re like sunshine in a jar and I can hardly wait to get started on those.
Do you have any favourite jams, conserves, pickles or chutneys etc? Nothing with courgettes as the main ingredient, please, I don’t crave them in the wintery months…