I should have the hoe out and be tackling the weeds that have sneaked into my dahlia bed, but the hot humid weather is better suited to picking blackcurrants and pottering in the kitchen garden. On my way to the soft fruit bed I noticed I was starting to get a few sweet pea flowers. Those of you who read my sweet pea posting will know that I sowed the seed late so the flowers are in turn a bit late too. I also made a silly error placing sunflowers (for cutting) next to them; they’re thriving, taking up lots of space and shading the sweet peas. So I’m not expecting huge posies of sweet peas this year, but even a few are enough for their English summer scent to drift through our home.
A few sweet peas
I popped into the greenhouse, where I’m greeted by a tomatillo forest; I blame the husband as he insisted I try them this year. They’re not endearing themselves to me, taking up too much space, overcrowding my gorgeous mini cucumbers and we’re yet to feast on them as I’m not really sure when they’re ripe. Every plant in my kitchen garden has to perform well to be allowed the following year, at the moment the tomatillos are out, let’s hope they make the most delicious salsa to redeem themselves.
The tomatillo forest!
Whilst wandering down through the kitchen garden I noticed Artichokes looking so stately, elegant architectural structure with a sophisticated colour palette. Shame about the black fly!
Then I’m drawn to my agapanthus attracting a bee. It’s a lovely cut flower which has a long vase life if the water’s changed frequently.
Agapanthus and a bee
Finally I made it to the soft fruit border at the bottom of the kitchen garden; to reward me for focusing on the job in hand I spotted one of our first ripe raspberries, Yum. Our first raspberry
I have three bushes and they are laden this year, I plan to bake a black currant cake for the weekend, if it’s successful I’ll pop the recipe up on the blog next week. In one of Sarah Raven’s books she suggests to prune the oldest 1/3 of branches whilst harvesting, you can then strip the fruit off with a fork at your leisure. Traditional thinking is to prune in the winter months when the bush is dormant. I’m always up for trying out new ideas, the theory of pruning early during harvest allows new growth to mature sufficiently before winter and will produce fruit the following year. Fingers crossed for increased productivity.
I have just picked my first crop of ripe gooseberries.
My gooseberry crop
They have that wonderful combination of sweet sharpness, which I look forward to at this time of year. I have four bushes, three inherited when we moved here and the forth given to me by a friends lovely mother-in-law who wanted it re-homed. I love the generous spirit all gardeners seem to possess, whether it is with knowledge, seedlings or plants in need of a new home. Gardening is the best leveller, opening doors to a vast range of interesting and lovely people whose company you’d not normally get the chance to share.
Sadly some of the gooseberry branches have been stripped of leaves all munched by hungry gooseberry sawfly, I had a good look for the culprits but couldn’t see any of these caterpillar looking bugs. Hopefully they’ve turned into flies and decided on a different location to reproduce!
Gooseberry branches stripped of leaves by the gooseberry sawfly!
My kitchen garden bibles are Nigel Slater’s ‘Tender’ volumes I & II.
My much loved and slightly battered kitchen garden bibles
I love diving into these tomes that list fruit and vegetables alphabetically, giving growing tips, varieties and recipes. When I read Nigel Slater, I hear him talking to me in that beautifully descriptive, informative and accessible way that he has. I turned to Gooseberries in his Volume II, to seek out a quick recipe for our supper:
Gooseberry and Elderflower
400g Gooseberries toped and tailed
4 tbsp Water
2-3 tbsp Honey
Pop ingredients in a pan, bring to a gentle boil and cook until the gooseberries have split, it takes about 10 minutes. Take out the Elderflower and eat hot or cold. It was delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
This evening I’ve cut my first bucket full of flowers from the cutting border and another bucket from the dahlia bed. Both are conditioning overnight in a cool dark place (helping to extend their life) before I pop them into vases tomorrow. This crop will be a drop in the ocean compared the number of bucketfuls I’ll be harvesting in a few weeks. It always amazes me how a few plants can produce such an abundant crop of flowers.
My first bucketful of flowers this year
My first bucket of Dahlias this year
My youngest and I have recently discovered how fabulous Mulberries taste. We’ve kept this our little secret as the tree (planted by the previous owner) is still young and the crop not huge. Just enough for a little treat as we pass by. Eventually we’re going to replace the existing garage, so the tree will need to be removed. Whilst the Mulberry is still young we plan to relocate it, offering it the best chance of survival. We’ll wait until autumn before we embark on what I suspect will be a tricky, heavy and exhausting caper which the husband will be recruited to assist with.
The Mulberry Tree
One of our delicious mulberries
I always end up growing more that my family can eat. At the moment the crop in question is rhubarb, the children refuse to eat any more and I must admit, I think I’ve had my fill of it for this year! The solution, a little stall on the road, it’s my own little pound shop in the heart of Kent!
Rhubarb I’ve just picked for the stall
My stall by the side of the road
Following on from my last blog I have popped a couple of white Nigella and cornflower ‘black ball’ in a little vase. I think they work very well together.
Nigella and cornflowers