This morning during an unexpected burst of sunshine with blue skies, I harvested salad in the polytunnel, adding chicories from one of the raised beds in the front garden to the mix. I really should have done this before hanging bedding to dry in the polytunnel as some of the picking was done with a damp duvet cover on my head!
At this time of year when growth is slow, I collect the leaves into a crate before washing in the kitchen sink and draining in a large colander. The colander is a very useful part of my kitchen equipment – stainless steel and 32 cm wide, it was rescued from a skip outside a pub that was being demolished about 14 years ago (with permission of course) and has been used almost daily ever since. In the spring a greater volume of leaves means I wash the salad in a huge trug outside, draining it outside in a large crate. Either way, the salad will remain fresh for at least a week in the fridge.
Today’s mix includes Grenoble Red lettuce (which is looking very green!), spinach, pea shoots, chervil, land cress, spinach, mustards and three different kinds of chicory.
Although I am not growing quite as much this winter as I have in previous years due to the changes that are happening here, I am happy with the abundance of fresh vegetables ready to harvest over the festive season and into January.
In the last post I explained what I am growing in the polytunnel, today I have been photographing some of my outdoor vegetables and thinking about everything I have in store for the winter months.
Ready now outside are leeks, parsnips, chicories, perennial kale, purple sprouting broccoli, brussels sprouts, flower sprouts, chillis (on plants inside the house now) and hardy herbs such as thyme and rosemary. I have just finished harvesting some delicious cauliflowers which all came at once quite early and were a bit smaller than I had hoped for, probably because of the mild weather. Roasted cauliflower is divine, but the mild damp weather means that one has to check each cauliflower carefully to avoid roasted slug! There were several small slugs hiding in each.
The purple sprouting broccoli has been producing shoot for a few weeks now. Here I have already harvested the main larger shoot and now the side shoots are ready to pick.
Coming soon at the allotment, I have different kinds of sprouting broccoli, purple and white, and a perennial white broccoli ‘Nine Star’ which survived being stripped by caterpillars during the summer and is now almost ready to produce shoots.
Garlic and broadbeans are growing well at the allotment. The soggy weather means that I did not mulch them after sowing when I wanted to. I’m hoping to do that either tomorrow or Friday if it is dry, spreading the two year old manure carefully between the young plants.
(In the cow manure photo you can just about see a weedkiller-line along the grass. That was not me. Unfortunately the contractors who are employed by the council weedkiller a line all around the edge of the plots, once a year.)
My perennial Taunton Deane kale is a source of great happiness – it is huge! During the summer it was stripped by caterpillars but recovered and is now full of delicious leaves growing on a multitude of shoots. A versatile leaf, I use it in cooked and raw dishes and also in smoothies. Bunny the rabbit who lives in our kitchen is a big fan of kale leaves. When I come in through the back door she zooms across the floor, eager to see what I may have brought her. I’d like to think she is rushing to greet me with pleasure, but really her interest in me mostly lies in providing food and strokes.
In addition to the fresh herbs and vegetables in the gardens, we are eating stored homegrown produce including apples, celeriac (grown by Charles), beetroot, oca, yacon, the last small onions and garlic. I have a lot of squash which will last right through to the spring – it is stored on kitchen shelves, on top of the bookcase in the living room and even in the airing cupboard!
An abundance of summer flavours – tomatoes, aubergines, soft fruit, etc – are stored in different ways: canned in Weck jars, in chutneys and wine, dehydrated (both using a dehydrator and also in crates in the airing cupboard), air dried beans or stored in the freezer. The last of the summer grown sweet peppers are in a bowl in the fridge, ready to be used in a sugar-free chutney I’m inventing.
The unusually mild weather has caused many plants to flower far too early, lovely to look at but it doesn’t feel quite right in early January, although the hellebore is only a little early. The rhubarb also thinks it is spring, the comfrey here is luxuriant and I have been removing volunteer potatoes growing amongst the leeks.
Weeds too are geminating and growing. This morning I saw that a mulch of weed suppressing municipal waste compost that we spread a few weeks ago was covered with tiny weed seedlings, now removed. They must have blown on, possibly from the wild flowers I let go to seed in the front garden for the winter birds, although the seedlings didn’t look like baby teasels which are the main winter bird seed plant I keep there. Every day I see goldfinches on those teasels, so every year I allow a few of the self sown teasels to grow (the rest are weeded to prevent a teasel jungle).