GBHD – What is there to cook from the garden?

As spring slowly arrives my thoughts turn to spring vegetables but nature has a way of disappointing; spring vegetables won’t be ready until April or even May, in March if we’re lucky there are still a few of the winter crops to sustain us.  But this is the period that is known to be lean.

Calabrese, cut ready to cook

Calabrese, cut ready to cook

Today I picked more Calabrese, tonight I’m going to make Orecchiette in the Pulgese style.  Last week I made risotto and some we ate as an accompanying vegetable.  With the warmer days the spears are growing more quickly and it won’t be long before the plants will be consigned to the compost heap; but they have given such value; definitely growing even more plants next year.  I’ve already decided to try growing them from seed myself and have already bought the seed, I suppose I will need to start the seed in mid-June, if anyone has any experience in this I’d be grateful for the advice.  I usually plant this type of winter vegetable out into the beds vacated by the onion crop; they then have time to grow into mature plants before light levels drop.

Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ is another crop that just goes on and on.   In spring very young leaves can be cut for salad adding very pretty colour to the salad bowl, then by mid-summer and through the winter it leaves can be cooked in a variety of ways, again a very reliable crop, I sowed more seed yesterday to replace the plants you see here.

Chard 'Bright Lights'

Chard ‘Bright Lights’

Similar and very quick to grow is Pak Choi, I still have a few plants from last autumn’s sowing and have just planted out a few new seedlings, I pricked out some into modules and then decided to try a few straight into the ground (these are red Pal Choi from Jekka McVicar.

Autumn sown Pak Choi

Autumn sown Pak Choi

Leaves already turning red of this spring's sowing

Leaves already turning red of this spring’s sowing

You can see how stony this bed is, when the winter/spring vegetables come out I’m going to add some manure ready for Peppers.

There are still a few leeks

There are still a few leeks

The cold nights have given the radichio and wonderful red colour

The cold nights have given the radichio and wonderful red colour

Fennel planted among the Calabrese for protection have lasted the winter, the firsttime ever.

Fennel planted among the Calabrese for protection have lasted the winter, the firsttime ever.

Broad beans, now planted out from an indoor sowing

Broad beans, now planted out from an indoor sowing

Still a few lemons, I haven't had to buy any for ages

Still a few lemons, I haven’t had to buy any for ages

Tomatoes, peppers etc. growing well in the greenhouse

Tomatoes, peppers etc. growing well in the greenhouse

I’ve tried leaving peppers in the greenhouse through other winters but they’ve always died, this year, even though we’ve had a month or six weeks of sub-zero night temperatures the plant has survived and will hopefully give me some early peppers too; so something that is always worth trying even if not always successful.

... and a surprise, the pepper I left in the greenhouse all winter has produced a few peppers

… and a surprise, the pepper I left in the greenhouse all winter has produced a few peppers

Thanks to Barbara and Christine at The Gardening Blog for hosting, why not check out what gardeners are eating from their gardens today.

Harvest Day, January – Still eating Calabrese

We were away for last month’s Harvest day so I thought I’d better make sure I noted down what we are eating from the garden now so that I know for next year.

There isn’t a great variety, but what there is, is good and I have plans to grow more things next winter (Good Greif, am I thinking of next winter already and this one’s not even over yet!).

There are secondary heads on the Calabrese, enough to pick some every week, I love this so will definitely try to grow even more next winter, it is better value than Purple spouting broccoli that has to be in the ground from August/September and really only produces for a few weeks.

Ready to harvest, Calabrese secondary heads

Ready to harvest, Calabrese secondary heads

Pak Choi is actually growing even with freezing nights and some arm days, another chop I want to have available for much of the year.  It can be picked for salads when young but usually grows to harvesting size very quickly so a good infill crop.  I sowed some red Pak Choi in a heated propagator and it germinated in two, yes that’s TWO DAYS!

Pak Choi continues to grow through the cold weather

Pak Choi continues to grow through the cold weather

Growing between the Pal Choi is chicory which has turned a lovely red with the cold temperatures

Growing between the Pal Choi is chicory which has turned a lovely red with the cold temperatures

Swiss Chard is giving us some fresh leaves on a regular basis.  I still have 2 more red cabbages, I’ve been stir frying it with sliced onions and ginger.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights'

Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights', I love the mixture of colours

Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’, I love the mixture of colours

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The Florence fennel I planted between the Calabrese has survived; I’ve never had any in January or February before – it might be a good crop to try in the greenhouse over winter.  The dwarf beans I sowed are alive and did have flowers but there’s no sign of any actual beans!

Bulb Florence Fennel, protected by the larger plants of Calabrese

Bulb Florence Fennel, protected by the larger plants of Calabrese

Leeks are one of my favourite winter vegetables and as I didn’t grow so many onions last year, and we’ve eaten all that I grew already, I use leeks in recipes that say onions; this is nice as the leeks give a slightly sweeter flavour so make things taste different.

Leeks

Leeks

Lemons and limes are available from the greenhouse and new flowers are forming making a visit into the greenhouse a very sensual experience.

Lovely, juicy lemons

Lovely, juicy lemons

and limes ready for a Thai curry

and limes ready for a Thai curry

HERBS

I have rosemary, salvia, parsley, mint and amazingly still green Marjoram, I dried some leaves as it is one of the few herbs that is actually better dry than fresh; in summer it is often not so good to dry (or I miss the correct moment) so I’m happy to have it now.  There is some Syrian thyme in the greenhouse but all of the plants outside die as soon as it gets cold, they seem to behave as annuals.

Today I planted some red and yellow onion sets, I hope I’m not tempting fate too much by planting them now.

Garlic with perennial celary and newly planted onion sets

Garlic with perennial celary and newly planted onion sets

What are you eating from your garden this month? Pop over to the Gardening Blog and see what Christine and Barbara are picking in their southern hemisphere gardens

GBHD – Eating and harvesting at the beginning of December

I mentioned picking the main heads of broccoli, well already many of the plants have large secondary heads; one plant has so many there is more to eat from the secondary florets than there was from the first main head!  I love broccoli cooked in many different ways: just plain with a little new oil drizzled over, cooked then refreshed and then recooked in oil flavoured with chilli and garlic, roasted in the oven with coriander and garlic and, perhaps my favourite, cooked then used to make pasta sauce along with anchovies, garlic and chilli – this is a speciality of Puglia (Apulia).  Risotto with broccoli is also a warming winter dish.  Last week when I picked all the secondary heads that were ready there was enough to make risotto, pasta sauce and two portions just eaten as a vegetable.

A few fresh dwarf green beans - a treat at the end of November

A few fresh dwarf green beans – a treat at the end of November

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I’ve never had such large secondary heads on broccoli before.

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Colourful chard is giving a good crop and amazingly I picked fresh dwarf green beans from the last sowing outside, they are slow to grow now but taste very good.

Strawberries continue to give us a couple of bowlfuls a week, such a treat at this time of year.  I made juice with the pomegranates, there weren’t so many this year and they were small so not enough to make jelly as I had intended, but the juice was delicious.

Last weekend was cold, a time to be in the warm kitchen and cooking.  With some leeks, carrots and celery plus frozen Barlotti beans I made a hearty soup, served drizzled with our oil it was perfect to warm us in what is now definitely winter.

I also decided to make some jams and jellies with fruit I’d stored in the freezer during the summer.  Raspberry jam and Blackberry jelly (actually from fruit from 2011)

Blackberry jelly, just beginning to boil

Blackberry jelly, just beginning to boil

and strawberry jam, crab apple mint jelly and (something I’ve never made before) green pepper and chilly jelly; there is one red and one yellow pepper but the rest are all green and I don’t think there is much chance of them ripening, hence the idea of making the jelly.

Green peppers ready to be added to the food processor along with green chillies

Green peppers ready to be added to the food processor along with green chillies

I can post any of the above recipes if anyone would like them.

There are a few aubergines, enough for one last meal but then the plants will be pulled out and added to the compost heap along with the basil plants that have lost all their leaves.

I’ve already used all my onions from this summer so I’ll have to grow more next year.  I’ve already planted some garlic and bought some red and yellow onion sets plus some shallots, I think now that the weather seems to be getting cold, I’ll wait and plant all the sets in February or early March.

While I was buying some new gardening gloves I saw that they were selling asparagus crowns, so I was tempted into giving them a try.  They weren’t a named variety and I’ve no idea if they are male or female, I will have to wait to see if they are worth the space they will take up.  I’m trying to work out how I might have space for some more beds – there is an area that is part of the property but outside the fence.  I is a bit of a slope so will need to be terraced I think.  It maybe too much work to be able to develop this space but it is hard knowing the space is there but I can’t use it.

Thanks to Christine and Barbie for hosting GBHD; they have late spring and summer crops now, so that will be a contrast to the wintery veg from the northern hemisphere.