GB Harvest Day- Autumn Plenty

The cooler days are encouraging some things to produce more but it is inhibiting the growth of others.

I have removed all the tomatoes from the greenhouse, even though they were beginning to produce more foliage and flowers I don’t think there is enough time for them to ripen.  Even the few tomatoes that are still being produced outside don’t have the same flavour and I think they will be pulled out next week too.  Most of the cuttings I took from the tomatoes at the end of last month did root but it is something I need to do much earlier.  I will try again next year at the end of June or certainly by mid-July so that I can plant strong new plants when the first cropping ones are becoming tired from over producing.

Peppers, aubergines and chillies are still producing reasonable crops, I was able to make one last Mediterranean roast vegetables last week.  Basil and Thai basil need to be cut ruthlessly otherwise they flower and this in the end will stop them producing the best leaves.

Red pepper outside, with more green ones that may or may not turn red!

These yellow ones are in the greenhouse

A smaller variety of aubergine that I grew from seed

In this very narrow bed, I squeezed, auberines, chillies, chard and celary

Mediterranean roast vegetables

I am harvesting huge quantities of Dwarf green beans; yesterday there must have been 3 kg. too many at once, but that’s the problem with dwarf beans, it meant I was able to give masses to the guy who helps me in the garden, I don’t freeze them, really I grow vegetables to eat seasonal vegetables, I have been better at successional planting of the beans this year and I have some more plants growing now, hopefully there will be time for them to flower and produce some beans before the weather becomes too cold; yesterday I sowed a few more in the greenhouse just to see it they will grow there and perhaps give me fresh beans up until Christmas.  I also sowed spinach in the greenhouse and in the garden, plus some Bok choi outside.

A few of the beans from last week; yesterday this washing up bowl was almost full!

I harvested the last of the Barlotti beans – these were amazing this year as from one sowing I had three harvests, some as fresh beans and some as dried, I’m looking forward to soups made with these and just cooked with new olive oil drizzled over them when we harvest the olives and make oil.

I’m picking small quantities of strawberries and raspberries, just enough for a taste of summer.  Pomegranates and quinces are about ready to harvest.

Just a few raspberries almost every day

The splitting Pomegranate tells me it is ready to pick

My quinces are pear shaped the apple-shaped form is “the golden apple” from the garden of the Hesperides, from which inspiration this blog takes its name

The wild rocket, arugula, has lots of nice strong tasting new foliage now and the pretty yellow flowers can also be added to salads.  The ‘cresto di gallo’ another wild leaf that I use in salads has produced hundreds of new baby plants all over the Slope so that editing and eating the very first new leaves will help the other plants have more space.

I picked one last cucumber last week, and zucchini are giving me a meal every couple of days but are nearly finished, most of the leaves have died back so I don’t expect many more.

New winter vegetables are ready to take over.  I’ve already eaten a ’pointy’ cabbage and several others are ready, red cabbages are hearting-up and broccoli are just beginning to form heads.  Some fennel bulbs are a reasonable size so I’ll use them soon, I might put some plants in the greenhouse to have a little later in the year; I love raw sliced fennel with sliced oranges, a few black olives and a drizzle of olive oil as a refreshing winter salad.

A caterpillar of a Swallowtail butterfly was hiding on its favourite food supply – fennel.

All of these brassicas are nearly ready to eat

Delicious pointy cabbage (a little eaten around the edges

There are lots of lemons and limes, I would like to make marmalade from them this year; if anyone has a reliable recipe they use for lime marmalade do please let me know.

Lemons

Limes

I’m joining The Gardening Blog for their Harvest day meme.  Visit them to see what they’re harvesting in spring.

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.

Strawberry Gelato

Italian fruit ices are actually usually made without cream or even a custard base.  The result, though, is richly creamy but without the calories!

450 g / 1 lb strawberries, hulled
225 g / 8 oz granulated
Juice of 1 orange (I use a blood orange if they are available as they’re sweeter and add extra colour)
Juice of ½ lemon
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons icing sugar

  1. Process the strawberries and then strain the purée to remove the pips.
  2. Add the granulated sugar, orange and lemon juices and refrigerated for at least an hour.
  3. Beat the egg whites until foamy, add the icing sugar.  Continue beating until the meringue holds stiff peaks.
  4. Process in a gelateria (ice-cream maker) until the texture resembles thickly whipped cream.

Serve with some fresh strawberries if you have them.

It churns for about 25 minutes

Delicious!

May Feast – Strawberries

For several weeks every time I walked past the strawberry bed there has been at least one strawberry for me to eat.  Then on 2nd of May there was a small punnet, enough for 2 small bowls, a couple of days later there were many more, unless the renewed cooler days slow them down I think there will be some strawberries to eat and perhaps some to freeze ready to make jam for some time to come.

I planted the strawberries last March,  we didn’t have many first crop strawberries but from July until October there were lots and there were some to eat until December.

The strawberry bed

The 2 rows on the left planted through black plastic were the plants I put in during March 2011, all those on the right and the escapees from the bed are all the runners that rooted themselves last year.  As the rain doesn’t really reach through the plastic the ones just in soil are doing better, also there is a lot of ant activity under the plastic so the roots of the plants are probably not very firmly in the soil.

I wrote this post last week; the production of strawberries has amazed me.  On Tuesday 8th May I picked over a kg and today Thursday 10th I picked 1 kg 800 g.  I have been eating lots!  Those that are misshapen or small I have been freezing ready to make jam and the rest? I will make gelato, sorbet and juice to dilute with Prosecco – the best summer drink.  Happiness is a bowl of strawberries picked warm from the sun.

In Italy it is usual to eat strawberries halved (or sliced if very large) and sprinkled with a little sugar and lemon juice rather than with cream.  That healthy Mediterranean diet again.

I didn’t expect that picking crops would become a job as early as this, but hey! I’m not complaining!

1 kg 800 g !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here’s a recipe for strawberry gelato

End of month View – Fruit production this year

This is very late, I have been sick, nothing serious but it meant I didn’t feel my sparkling self and up to writing a post.

Last month in this meme I wrote about the greenhouse and tomatoes, this month I’ll concentrate on the various fruits I grow and what I do with them.

First the failures: I planted a large apricot tree (it cost €150) in the spring of our second year here; the first year because the tree had been in a protected position in the nursery while it was in flower, it had some fruit.  Since then there has always been a frost or a very cold wind just as it was flowering and setting fruit and so no fruit!  I showed images in spring of this year of the flowers turning brown and I knew then there was little chance of any apricots this year.  The options are to try moving the tree, it is probably too large to do this so I will probably buy another tree (a sapling this time) and plant it in the area that is protected from the north and northeast winds that I have been preparing and hope for better things to come.

The other tree hit by the late cold wind was a plum, this tree was already in the garden is probably a wild form, the fruits are always small but usually there are lots and they taste good, this year nothing.  I have tried to grow currants, red and black with no success at all.  There is just not enough water for the blackcurrant and though it doesn’t die it only produces a small handful of currants, not enough even for a summer pudding.

this is the entire crop!

The redcurrant has grown amazingly this year but again with very few fruit I have taken the view that I should grow what is correct for my conditions and not fight nature by trying to grow things that I grew and loved in England.  This week the currants have been removed and will be given to a friend who lives much higher where it is cooler and she has a better water supply.

Blackberries on the other hand grow very well but the variety I’ve planted are strange.  The fruit ripens from the tip back and the black tempting parts are eaten by the birds before the whole berry is ripe, however worse than this is the fact that they aren’t actually very nice blackberries, not sweet and lacking in flower, again I made the decision to remove them and will try to get cuttings from a friends plant that I know is delicious.  There is no point spending time and effort and vitally expensive water resources on plants food or ornamental that don’t give satisfaction.

both images of berries were taken in June

There are 2 walnut trees, planted in the back border; these are what remain of the 6 or 7 walnut trees that were here when we bought the property.  They have always been diseased and produce very few healthy nuts, I should probably remove these too but they give shade to the back border and provide privacy.  It would be nice if they were something prettier – they don’t give autumn colour, have already lost almost all their leaves and I know they put out a chemical into the soil that inhibits growth in other plants.

But it is not all gloom and doom in My Hesperides Garden.  The quince has produced masses of fruit this year.  The quince was the ‘golden apple of the garden of the Hesperides that Hercules had to collect as his 11thlabour so it is fitting that these grow well in the garden.  The blossom is lovely is spring and the fruits glow yellow as they ripen.

Quince blossom is beautiful and would be worth growing as an ornamental

The furry fruits are very attactive too.

The quince is in the triangular rose bed and protected from north winds by the dreaded Leylandii hedge

I have made two kinds of jelly one sweet and the other picante with the addition of chillies to the pan while the fruit was cooking – I serve this Italian style with cheese.  The rest I cooked and have frozen to eat as stewed fruit during the winter.  I love the perfumed flavour of quince and I’ll try it in pies and crumbles this year.

Quince jelly with tomato chutney on the left

Cooked quince ready for the freezer

I love pomegranate juice, especially when I have a cold, the tree hasn’t produced as much fruit as last year but enough, I’ve also been told that pomegranate jelly is delicious so I must look that up and try it.

Like jewels, ready to be squeezed

I’ve spoken about the raspberries on numerous occasions, the crop was large, I tried to eat some fresh every day I harvested them and then froze the rest to make jam, coulee, ice-cream and crumbles throughout the winter months.  The autumn fruiting plants didn’t do as well as last year but I think this was the fault of my pruning, they all fruited together and for such a long time I’m not complaining.  One perfect fruit was even picked yesterday.

There can't be too many raspberries!

In England I lived near a ‘pick your own’ so never bothered with strawberries, it was easier and not expensive to just go to pick when the fancy took me.  Here the season for strawberries to be in the shops is very short and ‘pick your own’ doesn’t exist, so in March I decided to buy some plants which promised fruit over an extended period.  I didn’t really expect too much in their first year but I was pleasantly surprised.  The initial crop which presumably should be the main crop was sparse, but as the summer continued there was hardly a day when there wasn’t a small bowl to enjoy, and for my birthday in September there was enough for a party of 25 (just a small serving each); runners have rooted all around and they have fruited too; certainly I need to do some organising but they have paid for themselves many times over in their first year.

Figs were good, although I felt the birds had more than their share, but I had enough.  I love figs so I’m thinking of growing other varieties to extend the picking season.  This is greedy as they fruit twice a year!

Due to the cold winter last year the crab apple flowered and fruited very well.  I enjoy seeing the bright fruits in the garden during the winter too much to harvest them for jelly.  A second tree that has yellow fruits seems to drop them very quickly so if I have a crop next year I may harvest these to make crab apple jelly (not something my Italian friends have heard of.

I’m a bit undecided about the melons I grew – I love growing them because I can (nearly impossible in the UK without lots of work); and most tasted good although I’m not sure that the shop bought ones weren’t sweeter, they took quite a lot of space and needed masses of water; those I grew in the greenhouse contracted a mouldy growth in their leaves quite early on although they continued to produce ripe fruit with hardly any leaves as I removed the diseased leaves so the mould wouldn’t spread to the tomatoes.

I probably will grow them again as then I don’t have to go to The lemons and limes I bought in spring have provided most of what I needed.  They don’t like the westerly hot wind during the summer and will be better when they can be in much larger pots.  Now the weather has cooled and the wind dropped there are lots more fruit that I am hopeful will ripen during the winter in the greenhouse. the shops to buy them; I made gelato and granite with them as well as eating them for breakfast or with prosciutto as an anti pasto.

Lemons

and limes

I’d like to add a peach maybe grown as an espalier, a cherry or even 2 and a purple mulberry.  We have a very large white mulberry but I find the fruit insipid so am happy to let the birds devour them.

Sorry Helen for being so late; if you haven’t visited her yet visit the Patient Gardener for her end of month view and to read others bloggers accounts of what is happening in their gardens around the world.

Spring is springing

Last week for GBBD there were quite a few flowers in the garden but apart from Arabis nothing was actually bursting with flower.  Even the Muscari that were all up somehow looked like they weren’t sure if they really wanted to be out yet, as these still look at the back of the house which in shade for a lot of the day during winter, are now standing tall.

Muscari in the shade, still very small

These in the triangular rose bed are much taller, I pruned back a pale pink Penstemon to be able to see them better.

Those under the olives I thought would be invisible because we haven’t cut the grass yet have grown taller than the grass.  I love these bulbs under the olives and would like to plant other things but because of the danger of fire we have to cut the wild flowers and grass back before summer so other things tend to get lost – I even love all the bright yellow dandelion type weeds.

There are more daffodils, but not as many as I would like

Clematis armandii had some flowers a week ago but is now completed cover.ed by starry white blooms so that you can hardly see the foliage. This is the view from the sitting room window.

Clematis armandii

I used to grow this in England but it was always ravaged by snails who seemed to think its stem and leaves were caviar.

The greenhouse is here and was erected amazingly efficiently in just 4 hours, almost more quickly than the time it took to build the foundations.  I think it looks like its always been here, the way it sits between the olives.

I have already planted 4 tomatoes (pacchino) and some lettuces – they all doubled in size during the 3 days I was away.  I also transplanted 3 of the tomatoes into pots from their modules so that hopefully they will be larger established plants by the time I can plant them outside towards the middle/end of next month.   I have also sown seeds; some basil, parsley, courgettes (all old seed so may not grow) and Swiss Chard Bright Lights (I can’t buy these here as plug plants so I buy the seed in the UK when I’m there); they should grow well here as normal green chard is very popular.

The very first seeds I sowed were Knautia Macedonia sent to me by Janet at Plantalicious.

Strawberry bed

I planted 30 strawberry plants (bare rooted) on 9th March; you can hardly see them in the photo as they were quite small.  Now the leaves are growing well and they stand above the nasty black plastic.

Where you can see the black irrigation pipes I’ve now sown some dwarf beans.