It’s National Asparagus Month

Did you know there was a National Asparagus Month? No nor did I. I love, love, love asparagus, it is the first crop on the allotment and the thought of those fresh little shoots just makes my mouth water. This is what seasonal food is all about. Fresh from the ground it is unbeatable, lightly steamed with lashings of butter and a little pepper and salt, eaten with soft boiled eggs or as fresh asparagus soup and because it is one of those crops that has to be constantly picked I can share it with friends and family.

Anyway throughout May it’s National Asparagus Month – the perfect time to try out this delicious vegetable! The UK asparagus season lasts through May and June, so make the most of it.

Native to Europe, asparagus is a great source of fibre and is rich in vitamins A, B and C as well as folic acid – perfect for getting you fit and ready for summer.

If you are not lucky enough to grow asparagus buy as much as you can now while it is in season, choose firm but tender stalks with good colour and closed tips.  Asparagus soon looses its flavour and tenderness, so it is best eaten on the day you buy it

For more information, and all you need to know about asparagus, including events around the UK and great recipes go to the National Asparagus Month website.

So get ready for National Asparagus Month and start eating your greens this May!

Totally Tomatoes

The tomato seeds are coming on. I’m sure yours are further ahead than mine but I am still excited. I think I should be signed up to TA (Tomatoes Anonymous) and I am trying to keep the varieties I plant each year to a reasonable number. This year there are nine varieties, Piccolo (taken from seed from a Tesco tomato many years ago) a lovely sweet cherry tomato, Golden Piccolo which sort of mutated from the ordinary Piccolo and which last year I was still picking in November and eating fresh in January, Sub Arctic Plenty - Allegedly developed in the 1940′s by the U.S. Military to provide fresh tomatoes to their troops in Greenland, Marmande, Black Cherry, Ivory Egg, (a prolific cream coloured plum tomato), Clear Pink Early, Black Seaman (a beef type tomato which is a Russian Heritage tomato), Euro Money (I don’t know what these are like I’ve never tried them before)

Most of my tomato seeds I have got from seed swaps and some are not available anywhere other than swaps. So I keep my seeds going by changing the varieties I grow each year. Do you have a favourite tomato?

Looking forward to a nice bowl of tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration on how to grow tomatoes or what to cook with them here are a couple of suggestions.

In Praise of Tomatoes - http://shop.refriedbooks.co.uk/in-praise-of-tomatoes-11028-p.asp

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes and How to Grow Them - http://shop.refriedbooks.co.uk/tomatoes-and-how-to-grow-them-12247-p.asp

 

Swapping is a Growing Habit

It’s that time of year when all of us gardeners are stuck with our noses in the seed catalogues making lists of all those things that are going to grow so successfully this year. The garden or plot is so full of promise.

But before you send off that order check that there isn’t a better and cheaper way to get your seeds.

Seed swapping is really popular, and for a good reason (or several).

Because you have a plant you love and want to grow again. - It could be the perfect blue campanula, the best tasting tomato or a champion pumpkin. You never know when a seed company will discontinue your favourite seed to make way for new varieties. Saving your own seed is the only guarantee.

To help safeguard our genetic heritage. - In the past 100 years we have lost over 90% of our vegetable varieties in the UK. Nowadays, just three corporations control a quarter of the world’s seed market, vying for power over the world’s food production and hybrid seeds (which cannot be seed-saved) are becoming commonplace in seed catalogues.

To save money - Seed from catalogues can be expensive. Saving your seeds means that you get more for less.

To help preserve our right to save seeds. - The industry continues to place more and more restrictions on farmers’ and gardeners’ right to save seeds. Variety patenting, licensing agreements, and restricted lists such as that maintained by the European Union, are industry tools to wrest control of the seed from the commons and keep it for themselves. Thankfully last month MEPs voted against a proposed seed regulation that would further reduce the seed market but we do need to vote with our purses.

To find some thing different – There are lots of seeds that you only find through seed swap. I have found some of my favourites at seed swaps especially tomatoes and my favourite pea, that you can’t buy on the market. So I will be taking my list to the Worthing Transition Town Seed Swap on the 14th Feb to see what exciting things I can find. click here for details

Can’t find a seed swap near you? Don’t worry, you can find seed swap sites on the internet. Here are a couple in the UK but it is a worldwide phenomenon.

http://www.gardenswapshop.co.uk/index.php and http://www.seedswappers.co.uk/

Remember – If you like what you eat, save the seeds.

Don’t know how to save seed?  Back Garden Seed Saving by Sue Strickland is the book for you Click here

Seeds of inspiration

My visit to the Garden Museum to see the Gardens at War exhibition inspired me on the subject of the real benefits of growing and how enthusiastic gardeners have made gardens in whatever conditions they find themselves. Prisoners of war in WWI not only created gardens but held flower shows and produced food under the most dreadful circumstances and gardens in today’s conflicts in Gaza, Israel, Afghanistan and Ukraine provide an escape.

Do visit the exhibition it is on until 05/01/2015 for more info go to Garden Museum

 

Super Summer Broad Bean dish

A great dish for the summer with the fresh baby broad beans coming through.This comes from In One Pot by Blanche Vaughan, a great book with dish after dish that I want to try.

Broad Bean and Dill Pilaf 

 

 

 

 

 

 

250g basmati rice

20 unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves. sliced

1 teaspoon ground allspice

250g broad beans, podded

20g bunch of dill, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Soak the rice in plenty of water with a pinch of salt while you are preparing the other ingredients.

In a heavy-based pan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the onion along with a pinch of salt and fry gently for at least 5 minutes. Once the onions are soft and sweet, add the garlic.

Drain the rice.

Turn up the heat and add the allspice and rice the the onion mixture. Fry for a minute, stirring so that the rice is coated with butter. Season well and add the broad beans and dill.

Pour over enough cold water to just about 1cm over the surface and cover with a piece of baking parchment and then the lid.

Turn the heat under the pan to medium and cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until the rice is soft and the water absorbed. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.

this isexpecially good served with tahini yoghurt or cucumber raita. I have also used fennel when I can’t get dill.

 

It’s all go in the bean patch

The first glut of the year down at the allotment – I love it! The broad beans are going a bit mad and we are having problems keeping up with them while they are small and tasty. Not many black fly this year either.

So tonight’s dinner is Broad bean and dill pilaf. It’s on the cooker now so I will let you know how it goes tomorrow. Smells delicious.

 

National Gardening Week

Next week 14th – 20th April is National Gardening Week. Just the right time of year, when we are all still enthusiastic and optimistic. The National Gardening Week website has lots of ideas on how to make the most of it. http://www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk/Things-to-do-list.aspx

I shall be planting some edible flowers, nasturtiums and lemon balm and tidying up round the pond. What will you do?

Whatever it is have a great time and take time to just sit and enjoy your lovely garden.

Need some help? There are books on just about every aspect of gardening, old and new on my shelves. http://shop.refriedbooks.co.uk/gardening-628-c.asp

Cutting it fine

With the wet weather I haven’t been able to get out there and really get to grips with the pruning. OK I didn’t want to get wet! So the last week or so has seen me frantically pruning things. This weekend was the turn of the rambling rose Phillip Kiftsgate. It is twenty foot along the fence and about eight foot high so this was no mean job. Well I’m not sure it is copy book pruning but it is a very forgiving plant, although it did put up a bit of a fight and I now look like I have gone ten rounds with a nest of kittens! It is now 4ft high by 10ft long. Hopefully it will be back to its usual glory in the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

So if you want to do it properly here are some suggestions.

Simple Pruning by N. Catchpole, Pruning and Planting Guide by Mollie Thompson and Select List of Roses and Instructions on Pruning

 

Seed Swaps

This Sunday (23rd February) is the Arundel Seed Swap. I know a lot of you won’t be able to attend as you are so far flung, but for those of you who are closer it will be 1.00 – 3.30 in the Norfolk Centre Mill Road, Arundel. For those who can’t, find the nearest to you on http://seedysunday.org/

Seed swaps are great events (ours is six years old).

Seed saving is something we can all do to help safeguard our genetic heritage. In the past 100 years we have lost over 90% of our vegetable varieties in the UK, many of which are the unusual, local, heirloom or home-saved varieties sought after by gardeners. Nowadays, just three corporations control a quarter of the world’s seed market, vying for power over the world’s food production. Farmers are being taken to court for the age-old practice of seed saving, and hybrid seeds (which cannot be seed-saved) are becoming commonplace in seed catalogues.
Faced with the overwhelming totality of environmental disasters – global warming, climate change, nuclear power, genetic engineering – it is difficult to know what we as individuals can do to make a difference. Change a few light bulbs, cycle to work.
Seed saving is something we can all do, and it does make a difference, it can also be a rewarding and cost saving way to fill your garden and your vegetable plot and means that you can try an old fashioned or unfamiliar variety without much investment.

Grow, Cook, Eat

Coming up soon – the Grow, Cook, Eat event at West Dean on the 5th and 6th October. This is a new venture by West Dean and sort of replaces the Apple Affair they have run for years. It promises to be a great weekend so put it in your diaries now. The lovely Mary Berry will be there on the 5th and Brendan Lynch on the 6th. Plus lots of great local produce stands, music and above all a lovely atmosphere to welcome in the autumn.

and of course I will be there with my books so I hope to see you.

for more info go to  http://www.westdean.org.uk/Garden/News%20and%20Events/GrowCookEat.aspx, see their face book page ‘West Dean College and Gardens’ https://www.facebook.com/wdejf  or follow them on twitter @westdeanejf