Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Space and light a fine judgement

I was surprised to find that my first harvest of parsnips was in September last year, since we dug up the first three of the season last weekend.
The large one was wonderful with roast beef on Sunday, the others we enjoyed boiled with grilled noisettes of lamb on Monday evening. All accompanied by the first carrots, some French beans and potatoes gathered from the allotment.
Last year's first row of parsnips was planted too closely with Jerusalem artichokes, and had to compete for their light and water. But I wouldn't have expected it to make two months difference to their growth. I only put the seeds in at the end of April, and the packet said harvest from October! But the flavour of these young roots was really good.
The Cherokee climbing French beans are producing really well - long slender pods (up to 6 inches), also of delicious flavour. I made two sowings of them, the second in a three sisters bed with sweetcorn and squash, so we should have a continuous crop through August and September. I feel uncertain about this as I may have overcrowded the second sowing. I thought as it was a deep bed I could plant more intensely but nearly all the seeds and beans which I planted directly, came up. The Burgess Buttercup squash plants are also taking up much more space than other varieties planted in different beds, so I hope they will fruit well. It is a fine judgement to make best use of limited space in order to generate the maximum crop from the light water and soil nutrients available!
The dwarf French beans, Black Valentine and May Bean have been picked over the past couple of weeks. As I mixed them together in the bed I can't tell which is which unless I allow them to mature, when the beans will be different colours. We compared them for flavour with the Cherokees immediately after picking and found all very similar -delicious, but nothing to choose between them.
I'm pleased to report that the runner beans have staged a recovery, the few plants that grew well initially are being caught up by the stragglers, so perhaps we will have worthwhile amounts of my favourite crop after all.
Still waiting for our first ripe tomato with keen anticipation. We have already enjoyed a few courgette Tondo di Piacenza - a wonderful variety that produces rotund fruits like little tennis balls, good sauteed or mixed into paellas and pasta sauces.
July is such a lovely month for gardening here - the hard work of the early season gives way to more leisurely watering and weeding, sitting and looking and of course the rewards of eating freshest produce. It almost seems a shame to go on holiday!


Jo said...

I'm very jealous, I absolutely love parsnips, and mine are nowhere near ready yet. They have put on alot of new growth since their bed was weeded though.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have a silly question... what do parsnips taste like? I'm in the States where they are rarely eaten.

Scattered Gardener said...

I think I was a bit impatient really Jo, you know we are supposed to wait until after the first frost, but it is so far away (hopefully) and they looked so lush I couldn't resist.
How to describe parsnips for you Kristin? They are quite like carrots but the flesh is creamy white,less crisp and juicy and usually of sweeter flavour (though not as sweet as sweet potato). I think they must contain more carbohydrate; the texture is nearer to potato, though more chewy, fibrous and less digestible (some people find parsnips give them wind).
I hope others will add to this, it's quite hard to describe a unique veg in terms of other flavours.