Wordless Wednesday – Leeks

There was a whole field as far as the eye could see!

There was a whole field as far as the eye could see!

I think I should find somewhere to grow some

I think I should find somewhere to grow some for the flowers

Leeks

Leeks

Obviously sad for the farmer who didn’t manage to harvest these, but it was a wonderful sight when I was on my way to the sea on Friday.  Sorry, I know it should be wordless!

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

20130204_9999_7

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

Sunny, sunny day

Today has been the most wonderful day!  The sun shone all day, there was no wind and I had the time to be in the garden until the sun set.  For most of the time I was warm enough with just a short sleeved T-shirt, so this year’s tan (at least on my lower arms) is underway; don’t misunderstand me, I’m not actually very interested in getting a tan but working outside so much it happens and sadly usually only on my lower arms and face and to garden I wear jeans and never shorts as I find it uncomfortable kneeling on the ground (and my knees get too dirty) if I wear shorts.  Here in Italy this is called a ‘builder’s tan’ because everybody else would make sure they were tanning evenly, not getting lines where a T-shirt ends etc.  But I’m not Italian and I garden wearing the clothes that are comfortable for me when I’m working outside, so I have the unfashionable tan.

The low evening sun, lights up Miscanthus around the garden

Today I spent most of my time weeding the bank.  This was not easy for two reasons: 1. the plants I was weeding around were very small (most had only been planted as seedling in the autumn) and 2. The slope is quite steep and it is very tiring balancing and weeding.  The slope is unfortunately too steep to mulch so my answer will have to be to plant very close together to squeeze out the weeds!

Miscanthus is my favourite grass, and I love most of them!

Euphorbia rigida is the first to flower this year, I like the pink rim to the leaves

I have been weeding and tidying most days this week as the weather has been good, though the wind was strong so it felt quite cold.  The joy of not tidying up too much early in the winter is that it has allowed time for seedlings of the plants in the beds to establish themselves and be ready to pot-up or move to another location.  The circular rose bed yielded about 100 seedling of Gaura.  This meant I spent almost as long potting these up as I did weeding the bed.  I didn’t cut back the parent plants yet as we may well have some more cold weather and the top growth protects the new growth.  I put the seedling in my very small cold-frame which already contains cuttings of Penstemon and Solarnum jasminoides (I did these in late autumn and most are green so I’m hoping they are making nice strong roots).

Even though dry Sedum flowers are still adding to the ‘images’ in the garden, at their base, the new shoots are already pushing up.

This is Sedum matrona

In the vegetable garden I only have a few crops (I think I might try to grow more next winter as even with all the cold weather we’ve had this winter I’ve enjoyed a great crop of Broccoli; leeks and Black Tuscany cabbage have also done well.  And here’s a photo to show you what I meant about my garlic pushing out of the ground!

New moon planted garlic

Broccoli has continued to produce secondary stems that are delicious

Black Tuscany Cabbage, perfect for Ribollita.