Tag Archives: tomatoes

Planting out: beans and tomatoes

After a little less than two weeks, our first sowing of French beans had developed into robust plants ready for planting out. It is probably a month or so too early to plant these tender crops outdoors, even here in our sheltered southerly locale. It is, though, a good time to plant in the polytunnel, where they are well protected and will crop weeks ahead of those to be planted outdoors later in the season. We have both dwarf and climbing sorts, the latter planted against a series of vertical bamboo canes. The dwarfs will crop first but the climbing sorts will produce the larger crop over a longer period. Thus, planting both sorts serves to spread the harvest. Continue reading

Sowing this week

This week’s main task was planting out some of the broad beans that we sowed a few weeks back. They had developed into robust young plants in perfect condition for moving on. Whilst we planted out the peas in the polytunnel, broad beans do not do so well under cover as they rely on pollinating insects and the pods are often poorly filled. Destined as they were for an outdoor bed, I should have hardened them off for the last week or so. That simply involves getting them acclimatised to the cooler conditions outdoors, where they have been enjoying the protection of the polytunnel. Continue reading

Sowing this week

This week was all about tomatoes – one of our favourite crops. As usual, we went a bit mad and sowed 48 pots, 29 of which will be planted out in the polytunnel and the remaining 19 in one of the glasshouses. Early March is a good time to sow; the young plants will be of a good size when it is time to plant them out in early May. Continue reading

Gnocchi

A pile of freshly prepared potato gnocchi

A pile of freshly prepared potato gnocchi

Gnocchi are the small dumplings commonly prepared in Italy. Whilst they can be made from various ingredients, those prepared from potatoes, gnocchi di patate, are the most common. With a sack full of suitable potatoes in the shed, we have been enjoying plenty of freshly prepared gnocchi of late. Gnocchi can be rather heavy and chewy, but with a little care, the home made version is ever so light and absolutely delicious. They are simple to make, and the results should be exceptional, once a few critical notions are appreciated that will ensure a good flavour and light texture. Continue reading

Sweetcorn salad

Freshly picked cobs of corn

Freshly picked cobs of corn

Sweetcorn is one of our favourite late summer crops. It takes up a fair bit of space so we only make two plantings – one under cover and one outdoors. The harvest is brief but there are few things better than freshly picked corn. We usually just simmer it for five minutes, slather in butter and seasoning, and enjoy it on the cob. For a change, though, we put together this simple salad. Continue reading

Emergency tomato sauce

Pile of tomatoes to turn into sauce

Pile of tomatoes to turn into sauce

As far as the kitchen garden is concerned, August is a bad time to take a holiday. Sadly, our Bellegarde peaches ripened and dropped from the tree whilst we were away. They would normally ripen around the beginning of September, but with the mild start to the year everything seems to be fruiting a bit ahead of schedule. The weed growth in the polytunnel was incredible – it was cleared just before we left but a veritable jungle when we returned. Fighting our way past the remains of the enormous canes of Early Bantam sweetcorn – the last few of which were picked just before we left and loaded into the freezer – we found a bit of a tomato disaster. Continue reading

Guacamole

Fresh homemade guacamole

Fresh homemade guacamole

The ripening of chillies and tomatillos, along with fresh sweetcorn, has brought on a recent spate of Mexican inspired dishes: guacamole – literally avocado sauce; a mole made from roasted chillies, tomatillos, and red onions; a salad or salsa where sweetcorn is the star ingredient; and sweetcorn fritters. Recipes will follow for each of these, but in this post I cover homemade guacamole. I do not, I must confess, have that much knowledge of Mexican cuisine, but I am fairly confident that this guacamole is a fair representation – certainly more so than the dull and insipid substitutes found in some shops. Continue reading

Pasta with Cima di Rapa

Bowl of freshly picked cima di rapa

Bowl of freshly picked cima di rapa

Cima di rapa, also known as sprouting turnip tops, rapini, or broccoli raab, is the Italian name for a cruciferous vegetable that somewhat resembles broccoli, but produces only small flower spikes. As it does not grow to any great size, it can crop very quickly. This is our first year growing it. We sowed a few rows in the polytunnel at the beginning of April and it was ready for harvesting this week. Continue reading

Sowing continues

This weekend we avoided the gloomy weather and made more under cover sowings. Down the centre of our polytunnel is a four foot wide bed, which we use for general planting of crops including beans, peas, sweetcorn, saladings, and so on. At this time of year, it is warm enough, especially under cover, to make some early sowings of root crops, provided suitable varieties are selected. The bed was prepared by a little weeding and a light forking, followed by the application of a couple of handfuls of fish, blood and bone, which was lightly raked in. No manure was added, as root crops respond to too rich a rich soil by forking. Four foot drills were made across the bed. These were watered thoroughly before sowing. This bed had not been watered for some time, and it is amazing how much water is required to properly penetrate the soil. Continue reading

Seeds at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt

The floating stalls of Amsterdam’s flower market

Among the many sights of Amsterdam, there is the floating flower market, although one is not really aware that the row of large stalls is floating alongside one of the many canals, being so securely fixed in place. Its claim to be the world’s only floating flower market is, then, not nearly as impressive as it might at first appear. January is not the ideal time to visit such an attraction. The great many bulbs and some early flowers were equally matched with tourist tat, but I was pleased to find a wide range of fruit and vegetable seeds for sale and whiled away an hour or so looking for those varieties that are on my ‘list’ as well as one or two new varieties to try. Continue reading