Food for Free

Blackberries

There are many advantages to living on the doorstep of a wooded area. For instance, the abundance of wildlife. During the spring pheasants venture from the woods to look for potential mates, often ending up in our garden eyeing up our hens before deciding they are of course not suitable after all. Muntjac deer are beautiful to watch, especially on frosty quiet mornings. There is something very majestic about it.

Of course, sharing a boundary with an unspoilt area of natural beauty is far more appealing than beer swigging party crazy neighbours. Well, it is for me! The peace and quiet, nature, wildflowers and native trees are all beyond our back door. Woodlands tend to offer much more than what I’ve described, they also provide food. Blackberries and lots of them!

Our own cultivated variety ‘Merton Thornless’ is still a young specimen, fruit this year will be thin on the ground, the few berries it has produced will ripen late summer. The wild blackberries that we’re picking are plump, juicy and taste wonderfully sweet with full flavour, evoking childhood memories of foraging for blackberries to take home so that mum could make a pie. Yummy.

Do you prefer the taste of wild blackberries or cultivated varieties? Which cultivated varieties do you grow?

Beefy Beets

Beetroot

The first sowing of beetroot have been ready for harvesting for a couple of weeks, some have grown quite large and beefy looking but still taste very nice. Nothing is wasted, the hens just adore beetroot leaves. There have been plenty of salads with sliced beetroot for lunch and of course cheese and beetroot sandwiches. Mmmm. I must look around for some recipes before I end up with beetroot coming out of my ears and complaints about too many salads!

Beets

Apart from being packed with vitamins including folic acid, beetroots apparently also contain betaine and trytophan, which can help to relax you as well as contribute to a sense of well being. Oh, and they also make your wee pink! *giggle*

Cauli Curds

 

compact cauliflower curd

Oh dear, I seem to have hit a problem with my cauliflowers. This is the first year that I have grown cauliflowers and they were going well. The curds developed and started off small and compact. I made sure I bent the outer leaves over the curds to protect them from discolouration from the sun.

The curds now resemble this mangled mess:

Cauli Curd

As you can see they are not compact and are growing apart….a bit yellowy too. Perhaps I left them too long before harvesting? Any ideas? Anyone?

Risky Garlic

Garlic Harvest

I’m feeling quite smug. I took a bit of a risky gamble and planted the cloves from shop bought garlic, it paid off, I was lucky. You see, I did not have any back up cultivated garlic planted, so my garlic harvest this year could have gone very wrong. I did use an organic bulb so maybe that helped a little with the success side of things. I cannot remember for the life of me which variety it was. It was a spur of the moment decision which I remember thinking would make a great experiment. Supermarket garlic are usually the soft neck varieties, the bulbs that I grew each produced a scape and have large cloves surrounding a thick(ish) central stem. So can I assume that these bulbs are hard neck? Interesting stuff.

I have lifted some nice size bulbs which have all segmented (thank you frosty February) and currently drying in the garage. I just wish I had realised at the time that garlic scapes can be used in cooking. I put mine on the compost heap!

garlic

Gooseberries

Gooseberries

The gooseberries are finished fruiting now and the final pickings did not even make the kitchen. Well, there was not enough fruit to make anything from them anyway, so popping them into our mouths was the obvious solution of course. Leaving them any longer was just an open invite for the birds.

We have 2 young bushes, Careless and Invicta, both very immature at present but they still produced enough fruit for a tasting session. I plan to make something yummy from them when they are more productive, any recipe ideas?

One Must Support One’s Mangetout

 mangetout

Super easy to grow and the taste is just so much better than shop bought ones. I forgot how tall the plants actually get and now my support system resembles a pathetic mish mash of chicken wire, sticks, string and bamboo canes….all struggling to support the monster plants. Its failing miserably too, its all leaning over and looking quite crap! Still, I would always find the space for mangetout, they are totally worth it. You could always try growing dwarf varieties of course, I just prefer the taller ones.

Note to self. Next year put better support in place for the mangetout!

Courgettes

courgettes

The courgettes have been a bit hit and miss really, but I would say more of a hit as we are harvesting them so its all good. Despite hand pollinating as many female flowers as possible, some of the baby courgettes rotted off. On the other hand, perhaps this is natures way of helping the plants cope with their ‘brood’, the female flowers were plentiful after all. To be honest I have stopped hand pollinating now, I am interested to see how the baby courgettes fair without my interference.

As you can see from the photo the courgette in the middle nearly went on to be a marrow, it was overlooked growing away happily and should have been picked a few days prior. Its amazing how fast a courgette develops actually.

I fried some last night in a little butter…….heaven.

Carrotastic!

Young Autumn King Carrots

We are harvesting young carrots at the moment and very pleased with the results, no forked or odd shaped carrots to be found. Yet! We are growing Autumn King this year and decided to leave the job of thinning the seedlings until the carrots were a decent size. This way we can munch our way through young tender carrot thinnings whilst leaving the rest in the ground to mature until autumn time. No waste!

How are your carrots coming along, which variety are you growing and do you also eat the thinnings rather than throwing them away?

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