12.06

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T H E   S E A S O N   O F   G R O W T H

Oh, June. The dreamiest of months, where the plants seem in a race against one another to show off who can grow the tallest, climb fastest, sprawl widest. I’m utterly obsessive about my daily (okay twice, or sometimes thrice daily) wander down to the vegetable patch to observe, tend, harvest, and water, and now that there’s often a pod of peas or two to snack on whilst I’m down there, all the better.

The jobs seem as constant as ever this month, with successional rounds of seeds to sow, the first row of potatoes to harvest, and a jungle of tomatoes to support in the greenhouse. My most-used phrase these days seems to be ‘I’m just popping outside to do X/Y/Z, be back in 5′, and half an hour later I’m still outside, with hands caked in soil and half a dozen jobs ticked off my endlessly updated to-do list.

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Like peas in a pod…

If there’s one most important thing I’ve learnt so far this growing year (and there’s been many things I’ve learnt), it’s that I can afford to sow three, four, five times as many pea and bean seeds and still have plenty of space to spare! In fact, that’s been my lesson in general this year, that it’s much better to have spares, extra spares, and a few more as backups rather than too few and risk being left with gaps in the beds and a sparse crop!

Especially since things like peas and beans ripen just a few at a time on each plant, I’m learning that to gather a really decent harvest in one go you need a LOT of plants! They really are so delicious though, sweet and tender straight from the pod and wonderful cooked into a pasta or risotto dish.

I’ve just sowed a new batch of petit pots peas (the variety is ‘Calibra’) to take over when the ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ main crop peas are done, and will be sowing some broad beans to overwinter in late autumn this year ready for the following spring.

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(Between Ottilie and the dogs, who all are more than partial to a pea pod or two, it’s a wonder I’ve even managed to get a look in this year. Roll on the sugar snaps!)

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Flowers flowers everywhere… 

…some bringing the promise of food, and others merely for show!

It was actually Ottilie who put the ‘Lady Salisbury’ sweet pea seeds into a little tray of compost back in January of this year, with more care and dexterity than I ever expected from her tiny, then-16 month old fingers. And now look at them! They’re the most gorgeous variety, with each bloom having a unique pattern of lilac tinging around its white petals. I cut the first little bunch today, actually, and Ottilie was so proud to carry the tiny vase I’ve put them in into her bedroom and up on the mantlepiece.

And much less delicate, but equally as exciting for the promise they bring, are the courgette flowers! Big, bold, blousy- a screaming yellow beacon amongst the muted green and brown tones of the vegetable patch. It’s the ‘Soleil’ courgettes that are first to flower, two plants ready and raring to go with at least five little courgette babies on each and a couple of fruits already a few inches long and only a week or so away from harvesting I should think.

I’m sure I’ve said before but growing my own courgettes last year absolutely ruined all shop-bought varieties for me, in fact, I’ve not bought a single one single before last summer’s glut began! I’ve got three varieties all romping away in the garden right now, and am already dreaming of the light summer pastas, ratatouilles, risottos, curries, pickles, and even cakes I plan on making with their fruits this season.
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 ^^ Always and forever tending to trays of seedlings- above are purple sprouting broccoli and winter savoys on the left, mixed radicchio on the right, and just out of shot is my next tray of lettuces ready to go…

In the greenhouse are trays of swedes, winter carrots (attempting multi-sowing in cells!), kales, cabbages, and some more runner beans all sown just this weekend, because I promised my mother-in-law an ample summer supply of her favourite runner beans and so must deliver! ^^

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Now, I like to think that so far this year I’ve done okay. Most things have germinated, I’ve overcome issues with imbalanced soil and still-unidentified diseases in my broad beans and a courgette plant that sulked for weeks after planting out, but lettuces? That most easy, foolproof of crops? It’s been a nightmare!

One variety of seeds just would NOT germinate, despite me trying another packet of the exact same type, and all those I’ve got to planting-out stage have grown so very slowly I’ve only just begun picking the odd leaf here and there! In fact, most have stubbornly refused to grow at all ever since planting out…except the ones that were munched to the ground by rabbits, and now have come back as full, beautiful lettuce heads.

Nature, eh. I don’t know, sometimes!

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And lastly, happy and flourishing are the ‘Chioggia’ beets, a pink and white striped variety I just can’t wait to cut into and taste, the ‘Swift’ first early potatoes are up and mostly eaten and all completely delicious, and a supposedly mini, two-foot wide Savoy cabbage that is just beginning to heart up and is my pride and joy!

What’s growing for you, this month?

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20.04

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G R O W   L I T T L E   P L A N T S ,   G R O W . . .

I’ve been meaning to put together another kitchen garden update for ages now (my last one was in January!) but what with the months on end of snowy, drizzly, and grey weather we’ve had, it’s not really felt like the weather for gardening! But I’ve been getting out and cracking on with my seed-sowing as much as I can, to keep on top of my plans for the vegetable patch.

And things are looking good! With the upswing in temperatures over the last couple of weeks I’ve been able to start putting the young plants out into the beds, with the spinach (‘Red Kitten’ is the variety) planted and thriving, and a second sowing of broad beans (originally sown in toilet roll tubes to encourage strong root growth) out and getting ready to unfurl their first flowers.

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The first ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ peas are under a fabric cloche (I sowed a tray of peas back in March, and then planted those out a few weeks ago whilst also sowing more peas in between the plants to fill the gaps), and the last couple of weeks have also been a mad race to get all the potatoes in! I’ve done 6 rows, two each of extra early ‘Swift’, second early ‘Charlotte’, and main crop ‘Sarpa Miro’ potatoes. The Swifts are already popping up through the soil, which fills me with joy and dreams of early summer potato salads to come!

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I’d forgotten just how wonderful it to see tiny green shoots poking up through the soil, and how addictive checking daily for signs of new growth can be! This week has brought about the arrival of a green haze of carrot seedlings underneath the black netting of their cosy tunnel, though I’m kicking myself for not having checked back at the plan I made for each of the beds and having sowed these seeds in totally the wrong place!

I’d intended to sow the carrots alongside the cabbages and kales, so that I could net them all against their enemies the carrot root fly and cabbage white butterflies respectively, but I stupidly just sowed them right next to the broad beans. It’s no big deal, but just not as organised as I’d hoped to be!

Anyway, carrots were one of my favourite things I grew last year, so I’m hoping this crop will do well. I’ve got one row of ‘Chantenay’ carrots, and one of ‘Purple Sun’, and plan to sow two more rows soon to have a succession of delicious homegrown carrots all summer long!

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And so, to this month’s lists of seeds to get going with!

+ Lettuces, ‘Red Salad Bowl’ and ‘All Year Round Butterhead’
Strangely, though I sowed both these varieties of lettuce at the exact same time and into the same seed tray at the start of the month, only the red variety germinated! I’m totally stumped as to why the butterhead variety didn’t come up, but now I’ve transplanted all the red lettuce seedlings I’d better get on and resow the butterhead seeds or else we’ll be having some pretty boring salads over the coming weeks!

+ Peas, ‘Sugar Snap Ann’ and ‘Kelvedon Wonder’
I’m trying to keep a succession of sowings going with the peas this month, so that we have a nice long season of fresh peas from the garden! Sugar snaps picked fresh were the most delicious thing ever last summer (though I had trouble with caterpillars!), and I truly can’t wait to have them fresh from the garden again this year. The canes and netting are up and ready for sugar snaps to scramble up, and I need to go and cut some pea sticks from the hedgerows to support the peas.

+ Courgettes, ‘Soleil’ and ‘Striato d’Italia’
Roll on courgette season! The Soleil’s are up and potted on and happy and I’m about to sow the second variety, which were the ones I grew last year and that I recommend to EVERYBODY! I’ve learnt this year to only sow three or four of each variety, because a couple of monster courgette plants is plenty for a copious supply all summer long!

+ Beetroot, ‘Boltardy’
This is my first attempt at beetroot, and from what I hear it’s a pretty easy going veg to grow! I’m not actually sure I’ve ever cooked beetroot either, but have big plans for pickling some this year to eat at Christmas time!

+ Cucumber, ‘Marketmore’
I grew cucumber last year but not very successfully- I think I had two cucumbers in total! This year I found them tricky to germinate, but after asking for advice from Sam on Instagram (a veg-growing guru!), and a brief stint on a warm radiator to help them get going, we’re finally away! And I’m so excited because nothing beats a freshly picked cucumber!

+ Leeks, ‘Musselburgh’
I sowed some leeks a few months ago, but I’m not convinced the young plants look all that healthy. I’ve planted them out anyway, and have just sowed another row alongside them and hope they’ll do well! Leeks are one of my favourite veg to cook with, and apparently this variety are fairly easy to grow. Let’s hope!

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And last of all, a couple of book recommendations for you! Hollie Newton’s ‘How To Grow’ was my Bible last year, and I’ve just started reading it once again. It’s just the most beautiful, practical, wonderfully written book- a guide to growing vegetables and fruit interspersed with recipes and anecdotes from Hollie’s own garden. The photos are gorgeous, and it’s the most accessible gardening book I’ve come across so far. I love it!

Charles Dowding’s Diary is, funnily enough, a diary! There’s space to fill in information and notes about what you’re sowing and planting throughout the calendar year, though I’ll admit I’ve been a bit useless about remembering to fill it in. I’ve found the seed sowing calendar the most useful thing about it, plus all the information about no-dig gardening and veg growing in general is invaluable. Worth a read!

What are you growing this year?

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23.03

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A  T A S T E   O F   S U M M E R . . .

There’s nothing like the taste of summer vegetables. Crisp tomatoes, sweet carrots, bright herbs, crunchy lettuces and cucumber, and soft velvety aubergines- I look forward to them all year round.

Over the past year or so I’ve made it my personal challenge to eat within the seasons to the best of my ability. That’s meant no strawberries in October, no courgettes in December, and no tomatoes in February. And at times I’ve found it really, really hard! It’s given me a real appreciation of how lucky we are to have such a wide variety of fruits and vegetables flown in from around the world, and also how much more delicious food is when eaten during the season in which it grows best within our own fair country.

And so with seasonal eating in mind, when Le Creuset, that most beloved classic kitchenware brand, dropped me a line to see if I’d like to create a summer-inspired recipe as part of their Nature’s Kitchen campaign, I jumped at the opportunity!

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Due to be released in-store and online later in March, Le Creuset have recently launched a collection called ‘Nature’s Kitchen’, inspired by all that nature offers us be it from land or sea. Alongside some of Le Creuset’s iconic Cast Iron cookware and Stoneware in four new spring and summer-inspired colours, the collection also includes 3-ply Stainless Steel and Toughened Non-Stick products that are the perfect tools for getting the best from fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Le Creuset sent across their completely beautiful Toughened Non-Stick Ribbed Rectangular Grill for me to create the dish with, and it’s fast become the most used piece of kitchen equipment I never knew I needed. Griddled veg? Perfect! Toasted sandwiches? Done in an instant! And I bet it’d be perfect for cooking fish or meat on too, if that’s your jam!

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As you know though, for me, veggies are king, queen, and everything in between. As a keen veg grower entering year two of my ‘grow your own’ endeavours, there’s nothing I’m looking forward to more right now than eating from the garden for the first time in 2018. Our living room window ledges are currently heaving under the strain of dozens of seed trays, with broad beans, leeks, chillis, cabbage, and broccoli seedlings, all waiting to the weather to turn warm enough so they can migrate outside. The first pickings of the year will make me a very happy lady indeed!

But until then, it was to the supermarkets I went in search of ingredients for this summer-inspired recipe…

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And the centrepiece of this dish are the aubergines, griddled to perfection on the Toughened Non-Stick Ribbed Rectangular Grill.

Doused in olive oil and salt and then set on the sizzlingly hot bars of the pan, the aubergines are turned occasionally until their flesh turns meltingly soft, and then drizzled with some maple syrup or honey or agave. The sweetness sets off their salty, slightly bitter flavour so well, and makes them a dream to eat.

Combined with some thyme-roasted carrots, miso and smoked paprika-dressed chickpeas, soft grains, and a handful of parsley and mint, it’s the perfect summer lunch bowl.

Now, all we need is for winter to wave its final farewell so we can get cooking…

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Ingredients:
1 large aubergine
Drizzle of maple syrup/honey
1/2tsp dried thyme
3 large carrots
2 cans best quality chickpeas
1tbsp miso paste
1tsp smoked paprika
Juice half a lemon
1 cup quinoa
Salt + extra virgin olive oil
Fresh parsley

 

Method:

- Slice the carrots into lengths, toss in olive oil, fresh thyme and a pinch of salt, and then place into an oven preheated to 200 degrees celsius for 40 minutes or until cooked through.

- In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and then add the drained chickpeas. Stir in the miso paste, smoked paprika, and lemon juice, and then stir to allow the miso to melt and coat the chickpeas. Fill one of the chickpea cans with water, pour into the pan, turn the heat up high and allow the mixture to bubble for a minute or two until a rich, amber sauce has formed. Turn off the heat, put on a lid, and set aside.

- Slice the aubergine from top to bottom in 1cm slices, brush generously with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Heat the Toughened Non-Stick Ribbed Rectangular Grill over a medium heat, and then lay the aubergine slices onto the bars. When the aubergines have taken on colour and have beautiful dark golden char marks on them, lower the heat under the grill pan and allow the aubergines to cook through.

- Cook the quinoa according to packet instructions, and dress with a squeeze of lemon juice.

- To serve, fluff the grains through with a fork and then tip out onto a large serving plate. Top with the warm chickpeas, roasted carrots, and grilled aubergine. Drizzle the grilled aubergine with the maple syrup/honey, top the whole dish with a handful of chopped parsley, and serve with a side bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

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 This recipe was created for Le Creuset. The wonderful Nature’s Kitchen collection is now in-store and online, celebrating cooking with beautiful, fresh ingredients this coming season.

Thank you for supporting the sponsored content that makes Cider with Rosie possible!

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24.01

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T I M E   F O R   N  E W   B E G I N N I N G S .

The beds are finished and filled. Finally! It’s taken us a full month to complete, in scraps of time stolen whilst Ottilie naps and between our work and the household chores and trips out as a family.

The first lorryload of compost was delivered five days before Christmas, and carrying it all round to the vegetable patch round the back of our house one wheelbarrow load at a time was the most arduous task imaginable! During one of the days I spent trudging back and forth fetching soil and tipping it out into the beds, I managed to walk 7 whole kilometres without ever leaving our garden!!

There’s still such a lot to do though, it’s a little overwhelming! Our soil is heavy clay and seems to be slug central (heaven help me and my lettuces this summer!) so I need to copper tape the edges of the beds, the perimeter fence needs rabbit-proofing, and I’m also desperate to lay some pathways to suppress the nettles that are already popping up all over the place!

And possibly more urgently, I need to find a way humane of deterring the moles that have started creating mounds in one of the beds I so painstakingly filled and raked smooth. No doubt they’ve been tempted along by all the worms in the layer of sheep manure that’s spread along the bottom of the bed!

p.s. Anyone want links for my outfit in that photo above? ;) ;)

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But first things first, time to sow the first seeds of the year! My ‘to sow’ list for January has been as follows:

+ Garlic ‘Carcassone Wight’

The garlic went directly into the bed in a double row at the beginning of the month, and almost all the shoots are now up and poking their tiny green tips through the soil! It’s a happy sight.

+ Leeks, ‘Musselburgh’

These I’m hoping to sow successionally over the coming months, to give us a long harvest of leeks starting later in the year and continuing through next winter. I’m also going to test out a technique called ‘multi-sowing’, where a clump of young plants is placed into one position (instead of the traditional one plant per position) and then the leeks can be picked and eaten as they mature one by one. An unclear explanation I’m sure- have a look at Charles Dowding’s videos on YouTube for a much better demonstration of the technique!

+ Mini Savoy cabbage, ‘Caserta’

This will be my first time attempting cabbage (last year I didn’t have space for any winter veg in the tiny garden of our previous house), so I’m a bit nervous about keeping the dreaded cabbage white butterflies away from my crop! I’ve invested in a large sheet of Enviromesh (pricey, but brilliant by all accounts!) and plan on planting the cabbages next to carrots (which will also need netting against carrot root fly), to kill two birds with one stone! Or rather, deter two pests with one big net…

+ Spinach, ‘Red Kitten’

The sowing instructions on these say outdoors from February, but I thought I’d pop a few in a seed tray and try to raise some nice strong, healthy baby plants in the greenhouse to be planted out in a month’s time! If it doesn’t work or they get nipped by frost, then hey! I’ve only lost a handful of seeds.

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And lastly, to the broad beans!

I sowed a tray of broad beans (the variety is ‘Aquadulce’ in a modular seed tray back at the start of the month, but have since learnt that our dining room and kitchen definitely don’t get enough sunlight to raise healthy plants! The seedlings have grown so stupidly tall and leggy that some have keeled right over, so it’s off to the compost bin for them and onto a new batch!

This next lot I’ve sown direct into the bed next to the garlic, and am keeping my fingers crossed that they grow well! I’ve heard that mice like to make a meal of broad bean seeds, so it’ll be just my luck to find out that alongside the slugs, snails, moles, and rabbits, we’ve also got mice to contend with too!

If the broad beans do well though they’ll be one of our earliest crops of the year, with the beans ready in late spring. They’re so delicious added to risottos, pasta sauces, and whizzed up into falafel and hummus, so I’m desperate for them to do well!

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And that’s our progress for the month! I’m so, so ready to start eating homegrown food again. The crisp lettuces and tender beans and shiny courgettes of last summer feel like a distant memory already.

So here’s to Spring!

~ ~ ~

What’re you growing this month? Are you hoping to grow any fruits or vegetables this year?

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