From the Vegetable Patch – August.

20.08

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I have a feeling we might be at peak-harvest stage now, with baskets and baskets of vegetables coming up from the garden on a weekly basis. In fact, I’m working overdrive to cook, freeze, and preserve everything I can so as not to waste our precious homegrown produce!

The freezer is filling up with ratatouille, courgette fritters (this Guardian recipe is my favourite!), and bags so full of French beans, runner beans, and blackberries that they’re a struggle to zip closed. Our cupboards are becoming more crowded by the day with jars of preserves, chutneys, and pickles, though with our family’s obsession with toast slathered thickly with butter and jam, I’ll need to keep making batch after batch just to keep up our supply!

I’ll be honest, I’m finding it much harder these days to stay on top of any upkeep of the vegetable patch, so am incredibly grateful that, aside from the ever-present weeding and picking of vegetables and fruit, it’s basically taking care of itself these days. I hugely underestimated how exhausted I’d be towards the end of this pregnancy, and am just so glad that I was able to keep up with the constant sowing, planting, and maintenance that the garden needed earlier in the year when I still had lots of energy!

Being able to do essential things like crouch down and bend over without making groaning noises as a certain little baby sticks its feet under my ribs now seems like a distant memory!!

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August has been the month of the bean so far, with the runner and dwarf French beans suddenly producing more than we can eat!

I love seeing them form on the plants, going from tiny, spindly little bean-babies to fully grown and ready to pick within just a few days! In fact, I keep finding runner beans hiding on the plants that I’ve missed whilst picking that are a foot long, an inch thick, and no good for cooking any longer. Those get sent straight off to the compost heap, though I’ll let a few pods mature and dry on the canes at the end of the season to save for next year’s plants.

Picked young though, they’re just delicious. Sliced thinly and tossed into pasta sauces, or dressed with vinaigrette and mixed into salads, I can’t get enough. Which is a good thing, really…

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My tiny gardener’s assistant is very, very pleased to inform you that the strawberry bed is still producing the odd berry here and there, and that they’re delicious eaten straight from the plants!

I’m hoping that the plants are using all the well-rotted horse manure I carted over from the yard and laid in the bed to create strong roots, so that next summer we get a really good crop. Though Ottie does seem to think that any and all strawberries that pass through our house belong exclusively to her, so I’ll be lucky to eat a single berry no matter how much of a crop we might have next year…

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Oh and joy of joys, my cucumbers have finally taken off! It took  F O R E V E R  to get them going, but they’re finally away and completely delicious! I’m too impatient to let them grow much bigger than this, but who cares when picking them young means they’re extra sweet and tasty?

Strangely, it’s been the outdoor plants that’ve done better than those in the greenhouse. The two plants that’re outside were raggedy-looking spares that I popped up against the sugar snap pea netting a couple of months ago and then completely ignored, and they’ve rewarded my neglect with dozens of fruits!

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And finally, let’s talk root veg! I finally got round to thinning the carrots, and I maaaay have left that particular job a bit on the late side! They were the most tangled, knotted clumps of carrot babies you’ve ever seen, and I had a hard time separating them out enough to leave a few in the soil to grow bigger over the months ahead.

Ted and Elsie sat dutifully by my side whilst I got to work, hoovering up all the thinnings that were too tiny or bizarrely shaped to bother saving. The bigger ones had a quick scrub-clean, and then made the perfect accompaniment to a pot of hummus a couple of days later.

Waste not want not!

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As we’re taking our final pick of the spring beetroots (I’ve got a load sat in the fridge that I’m planning to roast and stir into risotto later this evening…), the next sowing has been planted out and is growing well! And I’m glad, because as I’ve said approximately 500 times over the past few months, they’ve been my favourite things to grow so far this year! Why is it that pulling something edible from the soil is so very satisying?

Speaking of which, the maincrop potatoes are starting to come up! I pulled up one plant earlier this week to check (and photograph…), and though one or two have clearly been nibbled on by mice (I can’t be mad, the teethmarks are kind of adorable!), they look fantastic! Huge and with a decent yield per plant, and the one lone potato we’ve cooked so far has been delicious too! The variety is ‘Sarpo Mira’ which is supposedly very blight-resistant, not that we’ve had that to worry about during this arid summer…

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^^ The courgette jungle. ^^

Finally, a quick note on my least successful venture of the year- the allium family!

From three full rows of onions I’ve had just eight or so puny specimens, which isn’t quite the winter-long supply I had in mind! The leeks I sowed and planted back in spring have been hit and miss (they’re not ready until October, and the harvest will be scant to say the least!), and I’ve even failed at growing supposedly idiot-proof spring onions! I’m not sure if perhaps I’ve under-watered them all, but I guess I’ll just have to try again next year.

You win some, you lose some!

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