Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Curcubit surprise

My determination that we would be self sufficient with vegetables this summer means that we have a lot of vegetables available to eat.  I'm not sure we got to self sufficiency - but we got close.  The money saved on buying vegetables (and we did go five or six days at a time without buying vegetables) was spent on summer stone fruit!  While my boysenberries, strawberries and blackberries have all performed well, they do not keep us in fruit.

What did change was a determination to find recipes that fit the ingredients in the garden

I cooked these courgette and scallopini in a herbed mustard vinaigrette.  I just put the lid on top and baked them in the oven.  The reason I called this recipe 'curcubit surprise' is that I had no idea I was growing scallopini, let alone white ones.  I was checking on my mad pumpkin patch when I realised that the group of baby pumpkins were in fact scallopini.  Alas, because they had reached a very large size I think that the plant has produced only one crop and then died.  Still, it was good for a few days of odd shaped vegetables.  I think I also prefer the American name for scallopini - patty pan squash.

Last summer I had two courgette plants and was annoyed that I had no glut of courgettes.  I thought that the plants were slightly unproductive due to being grown in containers.  This year I have five courgette plants, two green and three yellow.  They came from a mixed pack.  The yellow courgettes seem to grow more slowly than the green ones, and produce nowhere near as much.  Still no glut.  I can't work out though if we just eat a lot of courgettes?  Since our stand by meal option is usually some kind of stir fry, we can easily grow through two or three in each stir fry, a few times a week.  I was really hoping to freeze a lot for winter, and to have so many that I would be forced to make things like chocolate zucchini cake or beg friends to take them off our hands.

Another curcubit in the mixture above is crookneck squash.  I planted many of these seeds and got two small plants.  Mine didn't get very big, and I only got maybe ten off both plants.  If they get very big they turn into squash with a hard, warty skin.  You then have to bake them, as the skin isn't soft enough to eat.  Only one of mine made it to this size, mainly because I gave up hope that the plant would produce anything.  I can't work out if they were just in a bad location, or if they just aren't big producers.  I'll give them another year!

I have learnt a good lesson - one which I suspect most gardeners know through common sense.  Don't through the potting mix from your non-germinated pumpkin seed wantonly through the garden.  As of this evening it appears that I will have thirteen pumpkins.  I only deliberately planted three plants, four have just sprung up and one I swear was supposed to be a cucumber plant is actually a buttercup pumpkin plant. Sigh. Still, the pansies that grew from the same method are very cheerful.

I did later find the cucumber plant - I planted it in the communal vegetable garden I share with my neighbours.  I nearly cried I was so thrilled to see a cucumber and not another blinking pumpkin.  It was delicious.  The second one is on my kitchen bench, and I will probably eat it this evening rather than subjecting it to refrigeration.

Last summer I went crazy with peas: snow peas, sno peas, capucijner peas and garden peas.  This year belonged to the curcubit.  I think next summer will be beans.

Friday, February 7, 2014


Isn't it beautiful?

Beetroot Tart Tartin

I've been enjoying Hugh Fernley-Wittingstall's Veg TV programme and managed to have a good read of the lovely cookbook that accompanies the series.  On seeing this recipe I knew it would only be a matter of time before I made his recipe for Beetroot Tart Tartin.

My garden has been very productive this summer, and so I had plenty of these beautiful beetroot chioggia to use.  They look like candy canes!  The children were quite bemused by the presentation of these vegetables - surprised enough to try them!  Both ate a surprising amount (for my oldest a surprising amount is more than one mouthful of something new).  Next time I will try and arrange to have all baby beets.