Sunday, 24 August 2008

First sweetcorn

Picked our first sweetcorn from the allotment yesterday afternoon about 5.30 - by eight o'clock they'd been barbecued and eaten, how fresh is that?
Paul commented that his tasted of broccoli, Stevie said his was like brussells sprouts - but they were teasing! We all enjoyed the sweetest corn we've ever tasted, slightly browned and caramelised in a good way on one side. Yum...

Monday, 18 August 2008

Cooking with courgettes

We're in our fourth week of ample courgettes from the allotment and the kids are not keen on them. Made a gorgeous quiche on Saturday which included ham and sorrel on a lovely cheese pastry but Stephen really couldn't finish it as there was too much of the evil c-veg.
However, there is a lovely recipe by Jane Baxter for courgette chocolate cake which Stevie helped to make last week and which was very moist and delicious. Despite including nearly a pound of grated courgette, every morsel was eaten within a couple of days. It was great as a pudding with custard, but also just as a piece of cake with a cup of tea.
You can find the recipe on the Riverford Organics website. We're planning to make it again this week!

Beth Chatto on Woman's Hour this morning

Beth Chatto was the subject of a Woman's Hour special on Radio 4 this morning, as charming and delightful to listen to as her garden is to visit. One of my favourite places, Beth Chatto's is just outside Colchester on the road to Clacton, and we usually visit in July on our way to visit Mum.
Beth described it this morning as her private garden, which she loves to share with her many visitors; certainly whenever I've seen her, she's been talking to one or other of them and seems happy to share her considerable experience.
On Woman's Hour she talked about the changes in how we garden and the plants available to grow today and described how the garden, and her ideas, were developed over the years. She was clearly original, and a creative rebel, perhaps; in her early days she was chastised by an RHS judge for exhibiting a wild flower, stinking hellebore, at one of their winter shows.
Beth developed the garden and nursery on unpromising land, in partnership with her late husband, over nearly fifty years, and it is beautiful. The water garden provides a cool break near the end of our two hour journey from SW London, and the innovative dry garden, planted on gravel and never watered except by the rain, always includes some dramatic plantings. A lovely, airy tea room has recently been added and her nursery sells many unusual plants. It's well worth making a special trip.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

First cucs and tomatoes

Hoorah, home from holidays and picked our first cucumbers and tomatoes today, thanks to Julie, my good friend from round the corner who watered everything in our absence. The essential quality of a gardening friend is that they should enjoy eating sufficiently to keep everything producing, so there is still plenty to harvest on our return. Courgettes, runner beans and french beans were plentiful and I'm delighted to find my butternut squashes thriving after feeding them horse manure before we left. Lots of weeds, naturally, which I'll sort out later this week.

We've been in Devon, where it has rained every single day of our holiday, but still we had a great time and lots of good local foods. Staying near Totnes, we found huge choice in the town of small independent shops selling locally sourced veg and organic produce. We've brought home beautiful cheeses from Sharpham Dairy and local dry cured bacon. Fab Totnes traditional english sausages from the butcher at the bottom of the high street, where there are also two greengrocers, a fish shop and a baker. Then there was delicious carrot cake and cashew nut banana loaf from the Seeds Bakery,which sustained us through a seven mile walk in the rain; a rich fruit bread from Common Loaf, who have a stall at the Friday market, and at least two other wholefood stores, one at the bottom, one at the top of the high street, plus the Riverford comes to town shop which sells organic fruit and veg and cooked products (their chicken quiche which is prepared on the premises is to die for). Totnes is a centre for alternative lifestyles, but one wonders how they all survive and prosper when the local high streets here in south west London seem unable to sustain traditional independent specialist food stores. Thank goodness for our home grown veg, and the weekly veg box from riverford, which at least brings a little of Devon to my doorstep every week!