Friday, 28 August 2009

Mooching around the garden centre

Had a lovely day out on Tuesday - went for coffee with friends in the National Trust cafe over at Morden Hall Park, a favourite place in summer ever since we used to picnic by the River Wandle when the children were small.
After a pleasant couple of hours chatting over our coffee cups, Jenny and I meandered around the lovely garden centre next door. Now I was hoping to find a few rudbeckias and other autumn plants to jazz up my borders, but the end of August seems to be between seasons - the summer plants (as in my garden) all looked a bit tired and none of the few plants available to renew my sad pots had any colours at all - golden yellow leaves here, silver cineraria there, a tiny sedum of reddish hue, but it was all very subdued. And there weren't even any new season winter pansies yet (not due in until next month, they told me).
But there was a good range of bulbs, so rather unexpectedly I brought home three different varieties of daffodil, some delicious looking crocus, mainly white, with fine purple stripes up the sides, and gorgeous tulips - deep red Uncle Tom and fragrant Orange Princess. And hyacinths for forcing, which will be ready by Christmas if I plant them soon. And 15% off everything! Well, that will cheer up the pots in the New year...
After all that we were hungry, so we headed back into the cafe for some lunch...
Isn't it great to be thinking of spring already, when summer is hardly done? The anticipation of pleasures to come, looking forward to a new season while still enjoying the fruits of the last.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Heavens! It's all about food this month...

August is all about the food from the garden, I find...I can wax lyrical about sedum, lilies, lobelia cardinalis, and enjoy the long evenings ruminating on the patio with a glass of wine, but really it's the food that's most enjoyable.
The first three days home from holidays, all I wanted for lunch was a tomato sandwich; fresh wholemeal bread, some olive or flax oil and a couple of leaves of lemon basil, plus a couple of homegrown tomatoes and a few grains of salt. Mm, heaven.
Breakfast these past few days has been a handful of Avalon plums, meltingly soft, the juice all honeyed sweetness, skins sunset colours as they ripen from yellow tinged pink to reddish purple. Another taste of heaven, handpicked from Park Farm in Great Holland, while I was staying in Frinton, Essex last week, they are in the nearest bowl in the picture.
We brought home two more plum varieties: Mistaka, deep purple and too sharp to eat raw, but delicious baked in a pudding yesterday evening; and the traditional favourite Victoria, which were not really ripe enough to pick but will be ready to eat later this week. Mum swears by the latter, but they are not my favourite; I think they probably suffer by comparison as they aren't the first in season (which always taste best to me). But in any case, for me the whole point of picking direct is to try varieties and flavours which are not on offer in our local supermarkets. I suspect Avalon, being soft and easily bruised, would be unlikely to travel well.
The farm shop, which is in Pork Lane was full of goodies. We stopped in their recently opened coffee shop and were delighted by the plum dessert cake- a seasonal treat. Local honey, and early season apples including James Grieve, Beauty of Bath as well as thewidely available Discovery, were on offer. We brought home some of each, plus fresh pressed apple juice and Grenadier cooking apples, which will be wonderful with our local blackberries, which are cropping well, with large sweet fruit this season.
From the allotment, squash is particularly good and plentiful at present. We're eating two varieties and as I was expecting them to be rather like courgettes, I've been pleasantly surprised to find them so different from one another and flavoursome. Burgess Buttercup grows like a small orange football, and tastes sweet, quite like butternut squash. It roasted well with fresh sage and sliced onion, spuds and chicken for Sunday dinner yesterday. The dark green Waltham is more like a mildly sweet potato, and was good with onions, garlic, thyme, french beans and tomatoes in a pasta sauce. More heaven on a plate!