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


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.



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


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

GB Harvest Day – July 5th

So many things have begun to be harvested since last GBHD in June.

I am picking and so eating so many tomatoes I think I’m turning orange.  I’ve made Gazpacho and am about to make tomato soup to freeze and sauce to bottle (this is the first year I’ve decided to bottle tomato sauce so I’ll let you know how I get on and how much work is involved.

San Marzano to the right, everything else to the left

Small golden tomatoes often don’t even make it into the kitchen, they’re so easy just to eat while I’m picking

Yesterday I harvested the first sweetcorn; they were picked and cooked within half an hour and were sooooo sweet.  The crop doesn’t actually look as good as other years so I’m thinking I’ll so some more and plant a second crop.

the first small but oh so sweet corn with a zucchini that hid and so became rather large and a few beans – these I’ve been picking some daily for a few weeks

Melanzane (aubergine, eggplant) are just ready now to harvest, they are different from the ones I’ve grown before, I also grew some from seed and amazingly they have some fruit so that’s encouraging, I may grow more of the vegetables from seed next year, growing more of what we really love to eat and what grows well.

Melanzane are ready now, luckily I’ve just finished using the ones I froze last year.

Peppers were ready before the melanzane this year, not sure why; but they need such a lot of water, many have a dry patch on one side but they are turning red (I only use green peppers in Gazpacho) and I’ve increased the irrigation so hopefully the new fruits will be better.

soaking up the sun and slowly ripening peppers

All the early heat is definitely making some crops suffer; there have only been two cucumbers so far usually I’m desperately trying to think of new ways to use them.

There are still salad leaves, but probably not for much longer as its too hot.

Pak-choi did very well until the flea beetle attacked, now the stems are edible but the leaves are no good, I’ll sow some again for the autumn as they were delicious and very quick from seed to table.

Before the flea beetle, must look into using mesh to stop this pest.

Strawberries are also not enjoying the heat, those planted through black plastic have scorched leaves and the fruit is very small, the ants also disrupt the soil under the plastic but I have been picking enough to eat and lots to freeze ready for jam or gelato so I’m not complaining.  My raspberries are also not as prolific as other years, one reason is the heat, secondly I pruned some of them differently and am hopeful for a better later crop and thirdly while I was a way the birds found them and even though the bushes are now decorated with shiny ribbon the birds aren’t fooled and know the fruit is there!

There are strawberries almost every day

… and a few rapberries

…and best of all there are figs!

The tree is struggling and the ants are eating more than us!

Last week I harvested all the garlic, most had flowers and weren’t as large as other years but expect there will be enough to last the year.

This is about a third of the garlic

there are red onions, lots with thick necks

and lots of white onions again many have thick necks

I don’t know if it is the weather but lots of my onions had thick necks last year too (maybe it’s the wind?)  some always rot during the winter, but ast year’s harvest produced enough to last until this year’s harvest was ready so I’m not complaining.  This year I didn’t grow yellow onions which are supposed to keep the best but mine rotted before the others, last year I also grew shallots but I’ve hardly used them, too fiddly to peel when I’m preparing dinner so I didn’t plant them this year.

I harvested some Barlotti beans, some to use fresh and some have ripened to be suitable to store as dried beans, I may plant some more of these as I love them in soups or puréed to serve with almost anything.

I’ll link to The Gardening Blog when their harvest post is up.

What are you eating from your garden?  Whatever it is I’m sure it tastes better than anything you buy in the shops; so ENJOY!

GBHD – What’s in the vegetable garden

I’m joining in with Barbara and Christine with their What we’re harvesting today meme; it’s interesting because they are now approaching winter and in Italy we’re going slowly into summer.

There are some strawberries almost every day

The strawberries have slowed down considerably since last month (am I really thinking “thank goodness”?)  There are some to eat most days and lots more flowers to give hopes of many more to come soon.

…and lots of promise of more to come with lots of flowers

Broad beans don’t always fulfill their promise

Having our own lemons is a treat

This year I decided not to buy grafted pepper plants and I am sure that this year the peppers will in fact be ready earlier.  If I wanted green peppers there are already a couple that are large enough to use.

Not actually harvesting peppers yet as I don’t usually eat them while they’re still green, except in Gazpacho, but I don’t have the other ingredients yet.

Not actually harvesting peppers yet as I don’t usually eat them while they’re still green, except in Gazpacho

The vegetable garden is already quite productive.  The greenhouse enables me to buy in small plug plants of many things early and grow them on, so that when I plant them out they are already good sized plants.  The tomatoes in the greenhouse have mostly already reached the top of their canes and those outside are well on the way to doing so too; the job of the moment is to keep them tied in and the side shoots pinched out.  When I plant the tomatoes I add an alkaline tablet to each planting hole to help prevent bottom rot.

The soil was, I think, a little acid for some of my herbs and vegetables as I’d used my own compost as top dressing and perhaps it needed a little longer to decompose.  Initially the basil was very yellow and it is only after watering with the heavily alkaline water from the well that it is now looking temptingly green and ready to use with tomatoes and very soon the first pesto sauce of the year.

The outdoor tomatoes are winning the race as to which will have the first ripe tomao to pick, this week, I think

The Basil was really yellow and sick looking but is now looking much better, I love using fresh basil with tomatoes and mozzarela de Buffalo

The Basil is looking beautifully green now

We have had rain all day today and when I went out to take these photographs it seemed that the sweetcorn had grown 10 cm during the day!  They are under-planted with melons, which are growing slowly, and Rainbow chard planted between them that will fill the space when the corn has been harvested (this inter-planting is also a sign that I am running out of space).

I can almost see the sweetcorn growing

I have already harvested quite a few of zucchini and the yellow variety that I grew from seed is just producing its first, rather weak-looking specimen.  I’ve used them in frittata, pasta sauce and in salad to replace cucumber which isn’t ready yet.  I like them cut very thinly into ribbons (like pappardelle) and served with an olive oil dressing.

Onions and garlic are growing well and I have been using any of the onions that have tried to produce flowers and young fresh garlic is perfect for Spaghetti, aglio e olio e pepperoncino (spaghetti dressed with garlic, oil and chilli with a topping of some freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.

Garlic on the right and red onions on the left

There are various lettuces popped in around the plot, we’ve been eating them all through the winter

On the right misticanza, there is a lot of mustard leaves included, some would have been great but there is too much, on the left Barlotti beans are flowering now the cool weather has delayed their growth

Pak Choi has been a big success; it tastes delicious and grew from seed that I planted in April, I’ve been harvesting the outer leaves and leaving the rest to grow, I don’t know if this is standard practice but seems to work.

There is rocket around the garden that I add to salads and also Syrian thyme which adds a spicy edge.