So I have a confession…
I have not worked in the vegetable garden at all this Christmas break.
I know, very bad. But I was juggling work, university work and working in the pig run to prevent it from resembling the battle of the Somme over winter. Those are my only excuses.
Despite my lack of care, the garden has looked after itself pretty well (the grass is thriving in all of the beds it should not be in…)
It has been so long since I worked over there regularly that I had actually forgotten what I still had planted and left to harvest. I had forgotten the kale, the rest of the sprouts and carrots, the tree cabbage… all I thought we had left were potatoes. So I made a big effort and harvested and prepared lots of our produce during the week.
Carrots: these are the last of the carrots sown this year. They were under horticultural fleece and managed to survive some of the freezing temperatures we had suddenly. Not one has rotted so thank goodness we are on sandy soil. They were delicious and not a lot of damage or forking going on. We even had one gorgeous proper sized carrot!
Think they are ‘Flyaway’ carrots.
Celeriac: first homegrown celeriac harvested from this crop. I know, lazy. But it was in really good condition, a good size, and tasted really good. I like to boil mine but roasting them makes an excellent replacement/accompaniment to roasted parsnips as they apparently taste the same. I have also eaten it raw, grated with apple, in a salad and that is surprisingly good too.
Brussel Sprouts – the left over small ones from Christmas finished up. They did really well and packed a punch to the taste-buds.
Kale – the kale is still alive and doing pretty well despite the various slug/pigeon/ cabbage white attacks it had this year. I do love kale boiled and it goes great in stews, on top of pizzas, in casseroles or stir fries. Kale is brilliant because it fills in the cold ‘hungry gap’ aka, winter, when most other things aren’t available.
Garlic – I sneak up a bulb every time I need it. Garlic is still prolific in our garden from years of growing it.
Potatoes – Too. Many. Luckily, they taste really good and are in pretty good condition.
All of this dinner was homegrown, except the lentils. Self-sufficient and proud of my little garden for doing so well all on its own.
Christmas is one of the busiest times in the kitchen, but it doesn’t mean you can’t pop out to the garden too… especially to harvest things.
Christmas cooking can be like the climax of the harvested year. You can give your jams away as presents, eat redcurrant and cranberry jelly and sauce with your Christmas meal. Harvested chestnuts or other nuts can be used in desserts. Dried cranberries or raisins are great for puds. And of course, anything that is still green at this time of year can be added to your wreath or house for festive cheer.
But you don’t have to stop there… what about the main Christmas meal?
For future thinking, here are some traditional Christmas dinner things you could plan to grow for next Christmas:
Christmas is a holiday, a time of celebration and of having fun with loved ones. To me, it is also a time to be creative and original, to do what I love by going back and cooking from scratch, a way of tying up my year of cooking and growing. This year we will be having our own cabbage, beans, pumpkin, celeriac, beetroot, carrots, potatoes and Brussel Sprouts, not to forget homegrown redcurrant jelly and homemade cranberry sauce… What a way to celebrate an end to 2018!
What do you grow/dream of growing for Christmas time? Let us know.
For Christmas baking recipes, check out Beagle Baking (https://bellasbakingsite.wordpress.com/home/)
Just type ‘Christmas’ into the search bar and it will show you some festive treats.
And then, after all that food, just follow Rainbow’s advice:
It is time to do the annual check list of how this year when in the vegetable garden.
It was an unusually cold, uneventful spring this year – we basically skipped it and went straight from winter to summer. But boy, what a summer it was! Major heatwave and no rain for weeks on end. It was glorious, even if it did mean a lot of watering all day long…
But how did this all impact on the plants?
Lettuce – started off really good but struggled with the hot weather in the heatwave and bolted. We bought loose leaf lettuce plants from Sainsbury’s and planted them out and they did pretty well despite the weather. When they bolted, the ducks and chickens loved them.
Spinach – bad year for spinach, not a lot germinating, probably because my seeds were too old. I bought some new ones at the end of the season and got a few to grow, but it was too late by then. Oh well, next year!
Rocket – very good rocket growth this year. Planted some at the beginning of the season and at the end and both batches lasted ages – the last batch has only just gone thanks to Jack Frost.
Radishes – they love sun and were whopping sizes.
Carrots – started off very badly. I sowed them in early March and they did not germinate at all. Sowed some in June/July, thinking it wouldn’t work, and we got a beautiful crop. Some really big ones too!
Celery – I wasn’t going to grow celery this year but a neighbour gave us some spare plug-plants so I used them. They grew pretty well, but were not very tasty. I think they needed more watering a care.
Celeriac – again, wasn’t planning on growing more, but were given plug plants. They seem to be surviving, along with last years crop I never got out of the ground… at least the pigs will be happy…
Cauliflower – didn’t come to anything, as usual!
Peas – had some really good crops but the pea plants themselves died off really quickly. I think it was too dry and they needed more care and watering. Mixed bag with the germination rates.
Beetroot – did fantastically well. I only planted one batch and we still have three buried in the ground to get through. Bolthardy is amazing.
Cabbages – I was too late to sow brassicas so we bought some plug plants from the garden centre. The savoys and spring cabbages did not do very well and ended up going to the poultry, but the red cabbages… I am now converted. Beautiful, huge, delicious and a few more left to get through…
Brussel Sprouts – ran out of time to sow seeds but were given plug plants. They are huge and delicious. Producing really well despite my lack of feeding and weeding this year.
Sweetcorn -OMG. Best sweetcorn harvest ever. So big, yellow and yum. Really big cobs! So exciting.
Pumpkins – amazing crop, some big and small ones, each plant produced lots.
Courgettes – really good. Mixture of types of courgettes grown this year, including Defender, Golden Zucchini, Grisdella etc. All produced lots, really yummy. Cucurbits do love sun.
Cucumbers – didn’t do great, but did fine. Needed more watering and care. Only got a few Passandras and Femspot varieties, I think.
Tomatoes: did pretty well, but again needed more care. Got a few outdoors and indoors this year thanks to the sunshine.
Broccoli – ran out of time to sow so bought plug plants. Did pretty well – lots of small florets rather than big ones. Probably more water needed?
Aubergines – plug plant bought as my seeds did not germinate. I think harvested one? A few grew but did not develop into edible stage.
Sweet Pepper – plug plant as seeds did not germinate. Got quite a few small but delicious ones.
Runner-beans – very good harvest. So many grew after my fears none would germinate due to the hot weather. Roots left in ground from previous years grew again. Got an amazing supply and was still harvesting in November!
Chickpeas – only one plant survived out of the billions of seeds planted. Didn’t develop anything. Will have to try again another year.
Onions – did not do great. Not very big. Needed more water probably.
Garlic – as good as always!
Potatoes – amazing as always! Bought some early Charlottes and Red Duke of York and a main crop Kingsman. Planted some old ones we chitted out from previous batches. Lots of growth and some incredible sizes.
Parsley – good supply from previous year’s sowing.
Chervil – ”
Chicory – ”
Strawberries – great year. Lots of lovely delicious red gems. Made lots of strawberry jam.
Raspberries – very good year. There were some to be picked in late November still. Lots of raspberry jam.
Pears – didn’t get any because fox ate them all.
Grapes – only got one batch because birds ate them all.
Cherries – birds ate them all but the Morello was laden.
Damsons – good supply from one tree. Made one pot of damson jam which was delish.
Apples – very good harvest from all trees. First Bramley harvest, was yummy.
Quince – diseased so didn’t produce anything.
Mulberry – no produce.
Medlar – produced but did not develop and then eaten by birds.
Blueberries – good crop.
Redcurrants – very good crop.
Jostaberries – a lot stolen but birds but good crop.
Blackcurrants – ”
Gooseberries – no crop.
Chives – very good crop as always.
Parsnips – no actual parsnips but great flowers growing.
Plums – lots of Victorias and Green Gages. Made some good plum crumbles.
Sweet Potatoes – disaster. Didn’t cut off vines so no root growth.
I think that is all…. thanks for the year 2018. It was busy, juggling with university, heatwaves, water leak fears, drought fears, and now freezing weather, but what a lovely time we had! Looking forward to another summer of playing in the sun in the garden.
Merry Christmas everyone from the Kitchen Garden in advance. And just to finish it off, what a good year for space2grow – one year ago it was established and it has so far one 3 Bloom awards, has been given sponsorship and its volunteers and supporters are rocketing, including santa…
space2grow just celebrated its 1st birthday. We had a buffet in the therapy cabin where we had homemade apple crumbles, pies, rice dishes, and a delicious potato and leek soup with homegrown produce.
A year ago there were six of us looking at a bare acre in wet September. Now, we have nearly 40 volunteers that come to work as part of a relief from mental health problems, ranging from addictions to depression, as well as people who just like to get some fresh air and be part of a community project.
Not only did we celebrate the charity’s birthday but we were also celebrating the award we received last week. Despite being less than a year old, space2grow entered into the South East in Bloom Awards, not expecting to succeed in anything at all, but we were surprised with a 3rd category award – there were five levels of achievement with the first being “Emerging” and the fifth (highest) being “Established and excellent”. Somehow we won an award in the third category called “Advancing”.
Well done space2grow.
Just look at that red cabbage… homegrown and harvested from the plot yesterday.
It was the first time I have ever grown red cabbages before and I thought it was so beautiful, I decided to eat some. I went from cabbage hater, to ‘green cabbages are ok’ to ‘wow, red cabbages are good cooked too!’
Why should we eat cabbages?
89g of raw cabbage contains –
Vitamin B6 and folate are essential for many important processes in the body, including energy metabolism and the normal functioning of the nervous system. Cabbage is especially high in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that may protect against heart disease, certain cancers and vision loss. While both green and red cabbage are excellent sources vic C, red cabbage contains about 30% more. One cup (89 grams) of chopped red cabbage packs in 85% of the recommended intake for vitamin C, which is the same amount found in a small orange. So I might avoid Fresher’s flu…
Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage contain many different antioxidants that have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation. Sulforaphane, kaempferol and other antioxidants found in brassicas are likely responsible for their anti-inflammatory effect.
Cabbage is full of gut friendly insoluble fibre, a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down in the intestines. Insoluble fiber helps keep the digestive system healthy by adding bulk to stools and promoting regular bowel movements. Cabbage is also rich in soluble fibre which has been shown to increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. These bacteria perform important functions like protecting the immune system and producing critical nutrients like vitamins K2 and B12. Eating cabbage keeps your digestive system happy.
Red cabbage contains powerful compounds called anthocyanins. They give this vegetable its vibrant purple colour. Anthocyanins are plant pigments that belong to the flavonoid family. Many studies have found a link between eating foods rich in this pigment and a reduced risk of heart disease. Cabbage contains more than 36 different kinds of anthocyanins…
How to eat it?
Raw is probably best as most of the nutrients will be withheld that can sometimes leave during the cooking process. But I find raw cabbage icky. Steamed is the next best, followed by boiled, roasted, fried.
We boiled it and ate our red cabbage with lots of other homegrown produce for dinner – potatoes, sweetcorn, green Savoy cabbage, carrots, runner beans and courgette. It was beautiful and yummy and helped to ease my sore gut that had been suffering all day. See – homegrown produce is so good for you!
Update: one more pumpkin left to harvest… the other plants have all turned brown and died from powdery mildew so I cut their fruits off and took them inside to cure (more information here for those who are interested: Curing pumpkins). I’m leaving the last one on to make sure it ripens more and will take it away when the plant finally has to go.
Blight has hit the veg garden and the potatoes are starting to go – thank goodness it came so late this year as the main crop potatoes have managed to grow properly before the disease came. The tomatoes are going to suffer and I am expecting a lot of green ones to fall off soon but we did pretty well with the red tomatoes being grown outside this year in this once in a lifetime heatwave.
The autumn harvest of raspberries is being as wonderful as always. We had them last night for dessert along with homemade chocolate brownie ice cream and cookies and cream ice cream (recipes can be found on my Beagle Baking blog:
Last night was probably the coldest nigh in the South East in months. The sun is now no longer reaching parts of the veg garden and it is dark sometime around 8pm. Now is the time to find something to grow in the last few months of 2018.
So what can you try growing as the weather cools down and the light fades?
Harvested our first sweetcorn of 2018 yesterday, and I think it is our best yet.
Fully grown, yellow kernels, picked just at the right time. Not tough and old, but completely tender and sweet.
We grew our usual Swift F1 seeds this year. We started them off in tall yoghurt pots of compost indoors in May. Once they were big enough to handle and the frosts were over, we planted them outdoors into fertilised earth in direct sunlight. With the glorious sun in June and July along with a vigorous watering schedule, the actual sweetcorn plants grew huge, are tallest yet, going past my 5’3 at least.
Sweetcorn are pollinated by wind rather than insects. You want to get the dust from the tops of the plant onto the tassels below that will become the sweetcorn if pollinated. I did a lot of hand pollinating this year, due to the lack of wind, and thank goodness it seemed to work!
To check if the sweetcorn is ready to harvest, you wait until the tassels have become dark brown instead of white, basically died back. You then gently peel apart the green skin of the corn and insert a finger nail into one of the kernels – if the liquid comes out milky white, it is ready. If not, leave it for a couple of days before checking again.
Now this is important: harvest your sweetcorn only the you are about to cook it. As soon as you take that cob off the plant, its sugar starch degenerates rapidly, straight away. This means the taste of the cob decreases in yumminess very, very quickly. You are advised to bring a large pan of water to the boil before you pick your cob!
To cook the cob, remove the green outer leaves and tassels. Plop the whole cob into the boiling water and leave to boil for a couple of minutes. Remove and put to one side to cool. You can either serve sweetcorn whole as corn on the cob with some butter, or, standing the corn in a large bowl, using a knife, cut down the sides of the cob, scraping the kernels off. You can then serve the sweetcorn kernels without the cob or you can freeze them like this in plastic bags, as they will take up less space in your fridge. Cooking and freezing locks in the sugar starch and preserves the taste and goodness of the sweetcorn.
Does anyone else think of Pocahontas when they see sweetcorn with the green leaves still on?
That film’s got sot some cracking good songs.
Other fun news: made tomato passata last week and last night I used it to make homemade pizza.
That means that our dinner used homegrown onion, garlic, perpetual leaf spinach, oregano and tomatoes!
Shame the mozzarella and cheddar, olive oil and bread flour or yeast weren’t home produced… but at least the pizza base was homemade!
In my last post I got very excited about making my first preserved chopped tomatoes from our homegrown crop. I will end that little story by saying I used them in a homemade paneer curry last night and it was great – along with homegrown onion, garlic, coriander seeds and mustard seeds in it, and homegrown runner beans on the side, of course. Here is a link to my paneer recipe if you need it, part of my old cucumber post —> Cucumbers
Now that the rain has settled in … 😦 I’ve had lots of time to catch up on making preserves. Spent a busy Friday making two batches of strawberry jam and a chutney – recipe coming soon!
But I took the chance yesterday to snap some quick pictures of the garden in the sun before the rain came back and would love to share some with you. Below is a picture of our William red rose. It is the most prolific yet at the moment. I counted 7 flowers and another 8 buds getting ready to open the other day. This after mostly just 3 at a time for the last couple of years. It shows how good feeding a rose is… It is a beautiful, delicious smelling rose I highly recommend.
Next up we have the sweetcorn. It has grown so tall this year – taller than me, which isn’t saying much, but that makes it over 5’3… They have been loving the summer and he sprinkler and are looking really good. Next test will be to see if they have produced any kernels…
I grew most of my tomatoes indoors this year, which I always do because the English weather is often rubbish, but we do always get a few rogue plants in the compost we spread outside. These often come to nothing but this year they are laden with fruit and look stunning!
Below is a photo of the one chickpea plant that decided to germinate. The little brown pods are the beginning of what will hopefully turn into an actual chickpea being grown. Fingers crossed.
Runner beans are doing very well, but I’m going to have to start using a ladder.
The other huge plant this year was the courgettes. The actual plants were whopping in size. I should have taken a photo earlier when they looked even more striking, but I got one now to remind myself in the future that courgettes need space!
That’s all for now. Hope you all have a glorious twelfth – oh, fun fact, it is international elephant day on 12th August every year.
So it has FINALLY rained.
I don’t like rain, but I am actually happy it is here because it has been weeks without a drop and I am relieved to be given a night off from watering the parched plants.
So as you may have guessed from the title, we have a fridge full of courgettes (zucchini). They are going in everything I am cooking at the moment, such as my dinner from tonight, dahl. For the recipe, check out my Courgettes page, Carrot and Courgette Dahl.
Eaten with, of course, runner beans, and some kale. Using homegrown onion, garlic and mustard seeds as part of the spice base.
Runner beans: froze two bags today, cooked one container that I picked today for dinner tonight, and have another whole container to do tomorrow… before picking the next lot. Does anyone else feel like they have suddenly become blind while picking beans and always seem to miss some that turn into GIANT beans?
Bought a new bean slicer to replace the old one we broke which is making life a little simpler again. Anyone else tried standing there for over an hour slicing runner beans with a knife? I could not move my legs they got such bad cramp…
Pumpkins are beginning to grow – exciting!
Picked the few raspberries that are growing at the moment along with blueberries and wineberries today to eat with homemade cookies and cream ice cream for dessert (recipe on my other blog, here: https://bellasbakingsite.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/cookies-and-cream-ice-cream/ ).
And to top off the day, it was nice to see and get a photo of something other than squirrels at the bird feeders… A nice woodpecker instead.