Friday, 27 July 2012

The Ratatouille Garden

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Each year I attempt to grow all the ingredients needed for the dish Ratatouille.  That includes Aubergines, Sweet Bell Peppers, Onions, Courgettes, Tomatoes, Garlic and the herbs Marjoram and Basil.  Except for the Aubergines I am mostly successful at growing all the rest.  It is a French Provencal stewed veg dish originating in Nice - the French word 'touiller' means 'to toss food'.

Aubergine - Tomato Marmande and Sweet Peppers
This is usually an autumn dish when there should be a 'glut' of everything and Ratatouille can be made and frozen to eat during the winter months.
So far so good - I have all the ingredients growing well after a slow start - and it will be a while before the large tomatoes start ripening - but it looks like the Ratatouille eventually will be good to go.  There are a few different ways of making this dish - but I usually cook each component separately  then add them all together in a large pan with red wine vinegar and sugar and simmer for a while till cooked.

The recipe for the above picture roasts all the veg first then mixes them alltogether  and puts them back in the oven with cheese on top and grills till brown.  There are quite a few variations  on cooking Ratatouille - all of them delicious - which way do you prefer - and are you growing a Ratatouille garden?

And of course there is always the wonderful film 'Ratatouille' - enjoy!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Last of the Rhubarb

Round about this time of year I pull the last of the Rhubarb.  It is quite tough now and the outer skin needs peeling off before cooking.  Even though there are quite a few sticks left on the plant I leave them so that the plant isn't weakened too much and is able to replenish itself.  Anyway by this time of year I am pretty sick of it - and look for ways to turn it into something a bit different.

As there are about twenty hefty-sized sticks I am going to have to be pretty inventive to use it all up.  So I thought maybe a Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote - delicious with ice cream and a refreshing way to use a glut of summer fruit.

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  And maybe some Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

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  This makes a lovely alternative to marmalade - and finally I thought about some chutney using curry powder instead of mixed spice.

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  Do you have any favourite ways of using up your Rhubarb - I'd be interested to know?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What's Happening on the Plot this week?

I have only managed a couple of sessions on the plot this week - a couple of fine days has enabled me to do a bit of weeding and staking and a bit of harvesting.  Progress is slow on the runner beans - no signs of any beans yet - I have sown some more in a container in the Rosebank garden as a fall-back.
The plot is looking very colourful and full to the brim except where I have been harvesting potatoes.

The brassica patch is coming along nicely and I have been harvesting broccoli and I think the scarlet kale and cavolo nero will soon be large enough to pick.

About a third of the plot is planted with winter veg
Scarlet Kale, Cavolo Nero, Hurst Greenshaft Peas, Cocozelle Courgettes, Savoy Cabbage and Broad Beans

The beetroot patch needs weeding but they are starting to swell nicely and will be ready for harvesting soon.

We have had strong winds these last couple of days and the sunflowers have taken a bit of a battering, this is the only one that has flowered so far and it was snapped of at the base and lay flat on the ground - oh dear.
The sheep-shearer came on Sunday and luckily the rain held off.  Here are Alf and Ed minus their coats - they hate being sheared and have refused to come up the field to see me since it was done.  I bet they're feeling pretty chilly without their fleeces at the moment.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Attracting Beneficial Insects to the Plot

Feverfew with the parsnips
For all you veggie growing purists out there my veg garden will come as a bit of a shock.  It is a bit of a mish-mash with flowers growing in amongst the veg.  But there is a reason why it has ended up like this.  At the beginning of the year I mentioned that I was going to leave a strip around the edge of the plot where I would be planting wild flowers in the hope of attracting more insects and bees.  Well, my first attempt came to nought.  The seed that I sowed was either demolished by slugs or didn't germinate because of the cold weather.  So I started again and grew the seed in the greenhouse before planting out.  This time my venture was a little more successful.
Poppies and Phacelia in amongst the onions
Sweet William where I saw a Hummingbird Hawkmoth feeding last week
Pot Marigolds at the edge of the cabbage patch
Mallow and Corncockle still waiting to flower
Runner bean flowers
Runner bean flowers
Runner bean flowers
Courgette flowers
Day lilies
Not quite sure what this is ?
Clematis - variety unknown
I usually have a patch on the plot for cutting flowers - but the sweet peas are only slowly coming into flower and the sunflowers haven't opened yet, as for the Zinnias - well, they haven't moved since I planted them - so they are a failure.  But on the whole, my plan has come to fruition fairly well - except there aren't many beneficial insects about because of the constant rain.      SLUGS DON'T COUNT AS BENEFICIAL - AND THERE ARE PLENTY OF THOSE!!!!!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Great Potato Experiment and other things ...

First can I say thank you for all your kind comments on the award thingy - now let's get on with the real business of this blog - veg growing.

At the end of last year I did a post about potato chitting and the fact that I was going to try a new method of planting potatoes.  This method consisted of just laying the potatoes on the ground and covering them with straw - hopefully taking all the hard work out of potato growing. 

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see the article which aroused my interest - here
I was a bit dubious about it but my curiousity got the better of me and I decided to give it a go - what did I have to lose - only a potato crop - that's all!

On the whole the rows of potatoes didn't look too promising - I think I picked a bad year to begin an experiment of this kind - the weather being apalling and wet.  Anyway, this morning I decided to take a look beneath the very wet straw and see what had been happening.  Of course, as I expected, there were loads of slugs beneath it enjoying the wet conditions, but lo' and behold there were potatoes - in fact, quite a few potatoes.

This is the amount I got from two plants.  As you can see there are a couple of green ones where the light got through the straw, and a few small ones which may have matured if I had left them longer - but on the whole I am rather pleased and surprised with the results.  So, depending on whether the rest of the plants give just as good a harvest - will I do it again by this method - I'm not sure.  I really missed putting the fork in and unearthing those hidden gems.  On the other hand planting potatoes and earthing them up takes a lot more space and physical effort.  And as I got such good results from the container potatoes I may not even bother planting them in the ground at all.  Oh dear - decisions, decisions!

Every morning when I go up to the plot I find something to harvest - this morning it was peas, broccoli and strawbs.  Maybe only a handful of each but at least it is something - and due to the weather - a bonus, if you ask me.
The plot is looking pretty full and reasonably healthy - the biggest surprise are the brassicas which haven't been touched by the slugs and are romping away.  Yay!

This is the carrot that I left to go to seed - just to see what happened really - I am so impressed that one little carrot can produce so many seedheads.  And as for the parsnip that has gone to seed - take a look at this

Isn't that pretty - they are the flower heads - but just look at the size of the plant now

Woo-hoo!  It's a monster.

Take care - till next time.
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