Owing to the late/cold spring, there hasn’t had much of a salad crop yet. Last week was the first time when I could actually make a lunch based on salad leaves. The roll call was as follows: rocket, chive flowers, Welsh onion, flat leaved parsley, pea shoots and mizuna. I added some ham and Roquefort, plus a dash of mayonnaise – it made a nice and civilised lunch!
For lunch yesterday I had the following:
A couple of slices of Yorkshire ham
A chunk of Stilton
A dollop of mayonnaise
Some chilli chutney
Some mixed salad leaves.
It was extremely tasty – the salad leaves were from the garden and were beautifully crisp alongside the ham and cheese. What’s strange is that this was the first batch of salad leaves I’ve actually picked this year. Normally by late May I’d have been chomping on rocket, chives, pea shoots etc. for about a month or so. But the weather has been so cold that – like everything else – the salad side of things is very much delayed.
Also picked the first batch of rhubarb today. There should be enough for several crumbles this year, as our rhubarb patch is finally getting established. As for the strawberries, they are coming along but still no ripe fruit. Maybe the first week in June?
|I was reading a magazine the other day and its cookery section extolled the virtue of something called Steve’s Leaves, bags of ready-to-eat loose leaf salad which you can buy on Ocado apparently. I was curious to know exactly what was in the bags so I duly headed to Ocado and found that it consisted of 60 g of pea shoots, baby spinach and baby chard. For £1.35. Given that I’ve been picking the equivalent of this at least every other day for well over a month, I feel quite smug! Pictured right is Lottie and a bowl of baby chard, parsley, oak leaf lettuce, rocket, pea shoots, Welsh onion, baby spring onions, red mustard leaves and chive flowers. BTW, the red mustard is starting to bolt so in future I shall be sowing it half a packet at a time rather than using a whole packet all in one go.|
On the tomato front, that is. We must have made about five or six pasta/chilli con carne dishes solely out of fresh, home-grown tomatoes (with a dash of tomato puree for good measure). As I write this on October 2nd, the tomatoes have definitely “peaked”, but we’ll still be eating fresh ones for the next couple of weeks, I think.
At this time it’s a good idea to review what went well in the garden and what didn’t. So here goes:
Tomatoes: huge success
Salad leaves (rocket, spicy leaf mix, oak leaf lettuce mix, sorrel): big success
Chard: Not bad
Rhubarb: success. It was definitely worth planting some in a corner of our raised bed, which doesn’t get much light and wouldn’t have supported much else
Spring onions: success. This is another crop (like salad leaves and tomatoes) which is well worth it, even if you don’t have much space. You can pick them a couple at a time, rather than buying a bunch from the shops and throwing half away
Runner beans: got some nice ones, but on the whole a huge disappointment
Carrots: epic fail – an unidentified pest ate all the leaves.
Courgettes: almost complete fail, although we did get a few small ones
Herbs (mint, chives, thyme, sage etc.): success.
Still picking plenty of salad leaves even now, and am looking forward to next year!
I suppose it had to happen eventually, but those nice salad leaves I referred to in an earlier post have finally decided to bolt; they’re developing stems and the leaves are going from translucent and tender to opaque and bitter. But considering that I’ve had a steady supply of tender, tasty leaves for about 50 lunches over the last three months, I can’t really complain. I estimate I must have saved about £50 compared with what I would have paid if I’d bought bags of salad from the shops – not bad for a 39p packet of seeds! I still have some rocket out in the front garden, plus spring onions, baby chard, chives, sorrel and (just coming up and protected from snails by an old net curtain) mizuna.
One of my successes this year has been the sorrel I’ve grown in an old polystyrene fish box given to me by a neighbour. I half filled it with home-made compost, and planted some sorrel seeds (bought on eBay) in early May, with a second sowing in June; that’s why most of the plants on the right are smaller! The leaves of sorrel (Latin name Rumex acetosa) have a lemony flavour, which apparently is down to the fact that they contain oxalic acid. You don’t want to eat too much sorrel in one go, partly because of the aforementioned oxalic acid which is toxic in large quantities, and partly because of the tart flavour. But if you mix it with rocket, oak leaf lettuce, spring onion etc., then it does away with the need for lemon juice or vinegar in your salad dressing. In fact, if you cut a fresh clove of garlic in half and rub it on the inside of a serving dish (squeezing all the while to get as much garlic juice out as possible), bung your salad leaves in and drizzle with good quality olive oil, then you’ve got a really simple yet tasty salad. Yesterday for lunch I did just that, and added some cold roast beef and Yorkshire pudding!
Well, after three good courgettes, we’re back to the tiny ones with blossom end rot. Maybe that’s the way of things with courgettes – you get a few good ones, then about twice as many rubbish ones, then a few good ones again… I am going to pound up some chalk in their water and see if that makes a difference (the chalk being a source of calcium, which is one of the possible reasons I found for the blossom end rot – see earlier post). Anyway, this post isn’t really about my tiny limp courgettes, it’s about a major success story, pictured below. I bought a 39p packet of mixed leaf lettuce seeds from my local Aldi supermarket back in March, planted them in April and from May onwards, I was harvesting cut and come again salad leaves. I still am in fact, in the middle of July – and they show no sign of slowing down or bolting. (Apart from one of the leaf varieties, which is a sort of spicy mustard type thing. They bolt like anything once the temperature goes up a notch.) I will be planting another lot of mixed leaf lettuce in early August, and am going to have another go at growing mizuna then as well, which was spectacularly unsuccessful the first time I tried it due to the fact that the local snail population treated it as their friendly neighbourhood restaurant.