Archive for June, 2013

spring onions

I started harvesting my Spring Onions today. And it’s not a minute too soon for me. I foolishly decided to broadcast sow them in a little patch between the stone path and the greenhouse door. This seemed like a good idea because you can get more into a smaller space.

The problem is, as they grow so do the weeds and the spaces in-between the plants are not wide enough to get a hoe in there. So the weeds just grow.

springonions_1

Broadcast sowing other, more leafy plants like Carrot is fine since their leaf canopy blocks out more light and so the weeds don’t flourish. Spring Onions however, don’t have this so they are not ideal.

Anyway, we are harvesting now and I’m clearing the weeds as I go. Now, can someone remind me not to make the same mistake next year? Great, thanks.

mtp

Family Raspberry Picking

raspberries

We went on our first Raspberry picking trip this weekend. We drove to a farm on Sauvie Island and found a sweet little place with Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries and cutting flowers available. It was family-run with mum and grandma weighing out the fruit under make-shift tents and people tripping off into the distance with cardboard flats and coming back laden with fruit – too much fruit in many cases but that’s what you do at fruit farms right?

eating rasps

It was a hot day and our children were never going to make it all the way to the Strawberry patch so we stopped at the first row of Raspberries we came to. Predictably, the row had no ripe fruit in the first 20 paces or so but further in where fewer human hands had been the fruit dripped off the canes and we started filling our cases. The children loved it. They ran up and down picking (and eating, of course) like they had never had Raspberries before. Jackson took to sitting in the cart in the shade and eating directly out of the box as I picked them – well it’s much easier that way, he figured out.

picking

I loved our fruit-picking time. It was like stepping back in time to a ‘me’ in the thirties or forties. I imagined that I lived down the lane in my tumble-down cottage and this was my nearest farm where I collected my fruit. In my mind I was also dressed in a tea dress and heels with urchin, shoeless children and probably a husband in an army uniform somewhere. That didn’t happen. But it probably should.

broadbean_2

It’s time to bring in the Broadbeans. I have around six plants producing a ton of beans. Harvesting the biggest ones from the bottom I managed to collect this little lot and some podded Peas too.

When it comes to preparing Broadbeans and Peas it’s always a time issue. Do you have time to do the shelling? I have harvested many a bowl of Peas or Beans that have sat, unshelled for a day or two. Not with these.

You don’t always need to shell Broad beans. If they are young enough and fresh enough they are pretty sweet as they come. But for those that do need shelling I did a post a while ago on how to shell Broadbeans. These were very sweet.

broadbean_1

The first Broad bean harvest is definitely cause for celebration in our house. We had Jamie Oliver’s Incredible Smashed Pea and Broadbeans on Toast. A lovely recipe with Lemon, Mint and Pecorino cheese. With some crisp white wine, candles and a bunch of nice Oakleaf Hydrangeas cut from the garden. It was heaven.

cabbage_carrots

The Cabbages have really crept up on me this year. It seems like yesterday that I was wondering if they would heart up or not and then today I realised that at least one of them was ready to harvest. The others are not far behind. So I cut one Cabbage and pulled a few Carrots too and we made Coleslaw – it was oh so sweet!

It’s interesting how fresh vegetables taste a lot sweeter than older vegetables. That’s because plants make sugars when they photosynthesise (they use carbon dioxide and water to make energy). The energy is sugar in the form of glucose, fructose and sucrose. These are then stored in the plant. So the quicker you eat them, the sweeter they will taste. It’s more obvious with vegetables like Sweetcorn and Carrots and less obvious with leafy crops like Lettuce and Spinach.

I’m not really a big ‘dessert’ person but I do normally crave something sweet after a meal, even if it’s only a cube of dark chocolate. But after last night’s dinner I didn’t. I was satisfied with the sweetness of the Cabbage and Carrots.

The Cabbage variety is Parel and the Carrots are Scarlet Nantes. The Carrots were sown direct in about March and the Cabbages were raised from seed in the greenhouse and planted out in early Spring.

I liked this Cabbage variety so much that I immediately sowed some more for the Winter vegetable garden.

mtp

Roses for a Friend

roses

I picked some Roses today for a friend and neighbour who was celebrating her birthday. I love that I can go out into my garden and pick lovely flowers. I feel like some kind of Victorian lady with my secateurs and basket gathering whatever is flowering right now.

Flowers picked from the garden are never the same as the ones from the florist because they are so random. It’s whatever is there right now. The florist has lots of different blooms to choose from but I only have a small selection. And in my garden right now, that means Roses!

I love picking flowers from the garden because what you get is something real. It’s a bit like how when you have a kitchen garden you tend to harvest vegetables that are ready at the same time like New Potatoes and Mint and Tomatoes and Basil, rather than the myriad of things you can buy at the supermarket.

Having a cutting garden is a new joy for me. And I’m only too happy to spread the love.

mtp

Garden Shot in Time

gardenfullswing

This is one part of my kitchen garden that I’m really happy with. Every inch of it is full. No dirt showing! It looks like a photo from Joy Larkcom’s book. But we all know this won’t last long so I’m savouring it while it’s here. The three types of Lettuces you can see will soon be going to seed if we don’t snip them soon. The Kale and Chard really needs to be picked over and eaten leaf by leaf but I haven’t the heart to do it. The Cauliflowers in the foreground are starting to heart up and will probably be the last men standing in this part of the garden. And the Shallots at the back are swollen and the tips of the leaves are starting to go yellow. Before we know it they will crisp, lying on the floor and ready for digging.

All those lovely fresh, lush photos of kitchen gardens that we see in magazines and books are just a, very short, moment in time. Why? Because we eat the stuff! I for one, struggle to let go of perfection.

Currently enjoying Snap Peas by the bucket and the Hood Strawberries are still coming.

mtp

Attracting Beneficial Insects

mesclun_2

My Mesclun Lettuce mix (which includes Pak Choi, Mizuna, Mibuna and Mustard) went to seed pretty quick in the hot weather but instead of pulling it I let it flower. These bright yellow flowers are from the Mizuna in the mix. The flower stalks are amazingly tall and stay upright. And they attract a wonderful amount of beneficial insects like hover flies, ladybirds, lacewings, bees and other pollinators.

mesclun_1

Getting the beneficial insects into the kitchen garden is the difficult bit. Once they are here they seek out aphids, mealy bugs and mites by themselves. It can only be a good thing, right? And the yellow flowers add a great backdrop to the rows of Lettuces below.

mtp

Hood Strawberries

strawbs

My first Strawberry harvest of the season! They are a variety called Hood, local here in Oregon. Some people refuse to eat Strawberries until the first Hoods come into season and now I understand why. Wow! they taste amazing. It’s nothing to do with my growing technique just a good variety at home in the Portland climate.