Homegrown Garlic, Rosemary & Lemon Thyme by Susy Morris
Well, that was the driest September since records began, and one of the warmest this century! Good news for the last of the summer crops; bad news for the gardener toting the watering can…. The warm weather means there’s still time to plant overwintering onions, so have a look at September’s advice on that topic. A true GlutBusters tip arrived in my inbox from Suttons this week, who recommend planting your onions closely, then harvesting every other plant as a ‘green bunching onion’ in March and April, leaving the others to bulb up nicely for a later harvest. Sounds good to me!
It may be hard to grow a year’s supply of onions in a small garden, but it’s easier to come close to self-sufficiency in garlic. Depending on which variety you choose, garlic can be planted from October right through until February – it needs a period of winter cold before it really gets going. Indeed, it’s not unusual to see no signs of life from your garlic until February, but rest assured it’s still there under the soil.
Seed garlic is sold as bulbs, and it’s relatively easy to find a supplier that will allow you to mix-and-match if you want more than one variety. Keep the bulbs intact until you’re ready to plant, and then simply break them apart and push the individual cloves down into holes made with a dibber, about 7 cm (3 inches) deep. The standard spacing is 15 cm apart. Keep your garlic patch weed-free, and don’t water it unless there’s a period of very dry weather, as garlic bulbs can rot if they are too damp. Your harvest is ready when the leaves turn brown and flop down of their own accord, usually in August.
It is possible to plant garlic that you buy in the supermarket, but it’s not recommended. For one thing, it may have been treated to stop it sprouting. For another, it has probably come from a climate very different from your own. Invest in seed garlic suitable for your garden in the first year, and you can save your own seed in subsequent years (if you want to), and your variety will adapt itself to your local microclimate!
So far, so traditional. How can the GlutBusters get more garlic bang for their garden buck?
Mix-and-match shopping for GlutBuster garlic
GlutBusters garlic advice
- If you have the space, choosing more than one variety can extend your harvest period – look for one with ‘early’ in the name. ‘Early Purple Wight’, for example, could be ready as early as May.
- Garlic is happy in pots, although the bulbs are likely to be smaller, so you can find space for a few extra cloves on the patio.
- As for onions, a more generous spacing will give you larger bulbs with larger cloves, but putting plants closer together may give you a larger harvest overall – decide which strategy works best for you.
- It’s hard to grow enough garlic to constitute a glut, but easy to store one. You can try your hand at a traditional garlic plait, or simply store whole bulbs in the cupboard once the skins have dried out to a papery feel.
- There are two main types of garlic. Soft-necked varieties are more common in Europe, and are very good for storing. Hard-necked varieties are said to have the edge for flavour, and are standard in the US.
- Hard-necked garlic produces sinuous flower stems called scapes in early summer. These are removed to improve the bulb harvest, but form an extra crop in their own right. Recipes abound for garlic scape pesto; they’re also good in stir-fries. Although they’re very attractive, don’t let them get too big before you harvest them, as they get tougher.
- Soft-necked garlic produces tiny bulbs called bulbilsinstead. You can eat these, or plant them. Each one will grow into a small, undivided bulb in the first year, and a proper divided bulb in the second.
- You can harvest some of your bulbs early, as green garlic (or wet garlic) in June.
- You could also harvest some of your garlic’s leaves as garlicky giant chives. In fact, Rhizowen suggests blanching a patch of garlic (excluding light, a little bit like forcing rhubarb) for tender leaves. The Chinese treat garlic chives that way.
- When you harvest your garlic main crop, hold back the best bulbs for planting if you want to save you own seed. Keep the bulbs intact, and plant only the largest cloves. You can eat the rest ;)
Other alliums are an obvious choice, and garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) give you an almost year-round patch of garlicky leaves, in a perennial plant. They have lovely, white star-shaped flowers, too, held in familiar allium clusters.
Elephant garlic is impressive, with its enormous cloves, and is grown in the same way as regular garlic (but often from a spring planting). It’s more closely related to leeks, though, so it has a less pungent flavour.
Foodies with a shady, damp spot in the garden might like to consider wild garlic (Allium ursinum). You can order bulbs from the Organic Gardening Catalogue at this time of year. Bear in mind that, in the right conditions, wild garlic can be quite prolific and it is (of course) rather pungent…. Leaves, flowers and bulbs are all edible, with the main harvest period in spring.
Another wild plant that could find a home in your garden is garlic mustard, for garlicky leaves. This one is grown from seed.
Society Garlic by Louisa Billeter
(Here be affiliate links…, but seriously they’re not hazardous to your health. Clicking on them costs you nothing, and I only recommend things I like the look of myself. Should you choose to click through and make a purchase, you can feel the warm glow of altruism, as you’re helping to pay for the upkeep of my lovely website :)
For a garlic flavour without the bad breath, you could try Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea. These pretty, perennial plants are available now from Suttons, and have stems and flower buds with a sweet, roasted garlic flavour. Harvest all summer long and use fresh, or cooked.
And if you fancy a pretty little plant that offers intriguing fruit around midsummer (and would make a nice, small hedge…) then have a look at Suttons’ Chilean Guava offer. At the moment you can buy three Chilean Guava ‘Ka-Pow’ plants for £12.99 (a single plant costs £7.99). They got the royal seal of approval from Queen Victoria – they were one of her favourite fruits!
Rosemary Flowers by tdlucas5000
Rosemary is a perfect plant for a GlutBuster’s garden. Perennial and evergreen, it boasts a wide range of uses. Its leaves are easily dried and stored (but available fresh all year!), and good for making roast lamb, soups or stews or baked goods. I love rosemary scattered on garlic bread, and you can throw whole stems on to the barbecue to infuse your lunch, or even use the stems as kebab skewers. Jekka McVicar recommends rosemary tea, made from a 3 cm sprig, for its memory-boosting properties. It even now features as a cocktail ingredient, usually by using it to infuse a simple syrup.
Happy in a pot, and to be kept well-pruned to fit in a small space, rosemary flowers are a magnet for beneficial wildlife. And if you want to make something a little bit special for the store cupboard, try rosemary in Nigel Slater’s herb salt recipe.
GlutBuster top tip for October
Throughout the UK we can expect the first frosts this month – they come earlier the further north you go. Plan ahead and bring inside the herbs you want to overwinter on the kitchen windowsill. Chives, basil and parsley are all good choices to keep on hand, but pot up whatever you use the most and bring it inside out of the winter weather.
That’s it from me this month, but what are you favourite things to do in the garden in October? And what’s your top tip for keeping the kitchen well-stocked from a small garden? Leave me a comment, or share your thoughts with us on Twitter and in the Facebook group.
Posted in Blog on Oct 1, 2014 · ∞
The kitchen garden at Hampton Court Palace (which is in a part of the grounds that is free to visit, if you don’t want to see the Palace itself) is an impressive beast, growing some old-fashioned and unusual plants amongst the more familiar crops. These photos were taken on August 24th, which turned out to be a very hot and sunny day….
A novel way to support tomatoes
Good King Henry, Chenopodium bonus-henricus
Salad burnett, Sanguisorba minor
Costmary, Tanacetum balsamita, with a flowerpot label.
“Rampion, the Wonder Horse…” Couldn’t resist ;) Campanula rapunculus
Trick-madame, Sedum reflexum
Labelled ‘Hartshorn’, this is probably buckshorn plantain, Plantago coronopus
Scurvy grass, Cochlearia officinalis
Skirret, Sium sisarum
Posted in Blog on Sep 30, 2014 · ∞
Tags: gardens & unusual.
Posted in Blog on Sep 29, 2014 · ∞
Tags: gardens & grains.
The update to the website will have to wait until after we’ve moved (and no, we still don’t have a date!), but the new layout is simpler and so I am going to start posting the gardening offers here rather than on their own separate blog. The posts will contain affiliate links – if you decide to click through and make a purchase, then I will receive a small amount of money that helps with the upkeep of the blog. It doesn’t cost you anything.
Harrod Horticultural are promoting their arches and pergolas deal again this week. You can save 10% on their on their exclusive range of RHS-endorsed arches and pergolas if you use the discount code ARC10 when you place your order. If it’s raised beds you’re after, then use the code RB10 to save 10%, and if you’re buying anything else, you can use the code WGNEW, which will save you 10% on your entire order.
If you’re in the mood for something exotic, you can buy 3 potted Chilean Guava ‘Ka-Pow’ plants from Suttons at the moment for £12.99 (a single plant costs £7.99). My plants, which I bought in April, are doing very well on the windowsill at work, patiently waiting for their new home in the garden. Order now and yours might get there first – the delivery time is 14 days!
Room for a few fruit trees? Suttons are offering 3 for the price of 2 on selected fruit trees until the end of the month.
And if you have a large space to fill in the kitchen garden, you may appreciate Suttons’ bumper collection of onion, garlic and shallot bulbs. The RRP is £39.21, and the collection includes one 1 pack each of:
- Onion Electric, for harvest May-June. 250g pack.
- Onion Radar, producing superb pale-to-mid brown skinned onions from mid July. 250g pack.
- Onion Senshyu Yellow, harvest in early July. 250g pack.
- Garlic Edenrose, hardneck. 2 Bulbs (12-15 cloves per bulb).
- Garlic Germidour, softneck. 2 Bulbs (10-11 cloves per bulb).
- Garlic Messidrome, softneck. 2 Bulbs (10-11 cloves per bulb).
- Shallot Griselle. Gives a good crop of long, grey-skinned bulbs in June. 400g pack.
- Shallot Yellow Moon, ready to harvest in June/July. 400g pack
- Shallot Longor. Each shallot yields 6-8 bulbs at harvest. 400g pack.
My gosh! The thought of planting that lot makes me feel tired :) but it’s currently a bargain at just £21.99
, for delivery in 7-10 days.
If you’d prefer to choose your own varieties, then you can buy 4 packs of autumn planting onions, garlic and shallots at T&M this weekend – this offer turns into a pumpkin at midnight on Sunday 28th September.
T&M are having a long weekend of offers, with 20% off orders until midnight tonight (use code TNE425Z), followed by 15% off tomorrow and 10% on Monday, so it pays to shop sooner rather than later! I’ve got my eye on some lovely crown imperial bulbs, but I really should wait until I have a moving date….
Autumn is a good time to lay turf, and you can save 10% on Rolawn’s Medallion Turf by using the discount code TURF914 by 6th October 2014. They’re also offering a 10% discount on their ProMulch until the end of September. MUL914 is the code to use to claim that one.
Don’t forget that I can offer you a permanent 10% discount on everything from Victoriana Nursery if you go there from this site (it is automatically applied). And if you’re new to shopping at Etsy (which is a great place to find unique, handmade items for the garden and home), you can get £5 towards your first purchase if you go there via this link :)
If you’ve found a garden bargain this week, feel free to share it in the comments!
Posted in Blog on Sep 27, 2014 · ∞
Colouring leaves are a joy in store for October
Despite the lovely weather, September is drawing to a close and we can expect a more autumnal feel to be around the corner. There’s still time to do your September planting if you’re going to be joining the Glutbusters this year – and there will be a new issue published on 1st October.
There’s also still time to enter Write Club 2014, but only just – entries close at the end of the month, and I will be picking our winners. So far we have three entries to choose from:
- Gardening with a disability
- Moving beyond potatoes for more calories in a small space
- Lavender and Oregano Salt: A recipe of Sorts
Don’t forget to vote for your favourite by using one of the social media buttons or leaving a comment – one lucky commenter will receive a copy of Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs!
And I’m working on the next chapter in our choose your own space blog adventure – you voted for finding out more about how ‘homegrown’ silkworm pupae can be added to astronaut’s diets!
What’s on your agenda for the last days of September?
Posted in Blog on Sep 26, 2014 · ∞
Last modified on Sep 29, 2014
Keeping a garden tidy can be a lot of work
There’s no denying that electrical appliances can make gardening a lot easier – when you’re faced with a thicket that needs cutting back, an unending hedge that needs trimming, or a large lawn to mow, there are few people who have the time and energy to reach for a manual tool to do the job.
But using electricity in the garden isn’t as straightforward as using it indoors. According to Electrical Safety First, more than 300,000 people end up at the hospital every year as a result of an injury they’ve sustained in the garden. Of those, a third have been caused by electrical appliances. 41% of UK men who garden regularly have had an electrical accident in the garden (compared to 20% of women), at least partly because they are less likely to read the safety instructions….
With conditions outside (hopefully!) damper than indoors, and necessary contact with the ground, the risk of injury from electric shock is greater outdoors, and 25% of garden accidents involve cutting through an electrical cable.
With a little care and forethought, it’s possible to greatly reduce the risk of using electrical tools in the garden. As with all gardening tasks, it’s important that you’re properly dressed – no popping out in your flip flops to do that little bit of strimming!
And you should always ensure that you’re protected by using an RCD (a Residual Current Device) that cuts the power in the event of a fault or an accident. You can buy portable devices, or an electrician can fit an RCD-protected socket for you, if you prefer. Either way, you should test the RCD when you use it, to make sure it’s still working properly and can protect you.
Store your electrical tools properly, away from moisture and little hands, and check them over before you use them, to make sure they’re in working order. And don’t use them in the rain!
There’s plenty more information on garden safety on the Electrical Safety First website, so Get Smart in the Garden when you’re clearing up this autumn, and stay safe :)
Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Electrical Safety First but the words are my own.
Posted in Blog on Sep 23, 2014 · ∞
Last modified on Sep 22, 2014
Today’s Write Club 2014 entry is a recipe from Beth Tilston of the seed blog. You can also find her on Twitter.
You can vote for this post by using the social media buttons in the sidebar to like it, and by leaving a comment.
The other day I noticed that the pots of herbs which sit outside our back door were giving me clear signs that they were about to give up the ghost for the year – and the lavender, which a month ago was humming with bees, was now beeless and gone to seed. Time for the final, and biggest, herb harvest of the year. I cut them all back and put them on trays on a high shelf to dry out, ready for use in the winter.
With some of the herbs, oregano and lavender, I made what has become known in our house as ‘special salt.’ Now I’ll admit that the idea of herbed salts might seem a first to be a little, well, unnecessary. After all, what is wrong with straight up, common or garden normal salt? Isn’t lavender and oregano salt a little bit aspirational? A little bit… Pinterest? It may very well be, but the fact of the matter is that this salt is magic. By magic I mean it takes food from, “These potatoes are nice, Beth” to “Wow, these potatoes are amazing! Wait, is that… lavender?”
3 teaspoons dried lavender
9 teaspoons dried oregano
9 teaspoons peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seed
250g quality salt
The process of making ‘special salt’ is so easy it can barely be called a recipe. First, cut your herbs a few days (or more) in advance and let them dry out in your preferred manner. I had good results with just putting them on some paper on a tray. Next, put all of the ingredients except for the salt in your pestle and mortar (actually, put them in your mortar, the pestle is the club bit – thanks Wikipedia!) and grind until the peppercorns and coriander are broken up and the oregano is in small flakes. Because of the lavender, your kitchen should be smelling like a perfumiers by this point. You must be ready to remove any scoffers and naysayers from the vicinity – they’ll change their minds. Now add your salt and mix it all together. If the salt is in particularly big chunks, you might need to grind the whole concoction a bit more. Spoon into a receptacle with a lid and allow to infuse for a week. I’ve never done that because I am weak-willed and can’t stop myself from using it, but you might do better…
Posted in Blog on Sep 22, 2014 · ∞
Tags: competitions & food.
Whilst we’re waiting for the next Write Club offering, I’ll catch up with some recent photo blogging. This set was taken at Newington Nurseries in Oxfordshire last weekend. A independent specialist in mature plants and orchids, it’s a quirky place that also serves (I hear) a decent lunch. And if you’re over that way, the Crazy Bear farm shop is worth a visit as well, as they have an olive bar and giant sausage rolls, and there are animals to see (including reindeer, and often piglets).
Posted in Blog on Sep 21, 2014 · ∞
One of my all-time favourite restaurants (which sadly closed, after the smoking ban came into being) was a Lebanese restaurant in Oxford. (There are two more, but they can’t match the quality of the food, or the jovial atmosphere.) It was a wonderful place to go in a large group, as they would just keep bringing out plates of mezze until everyone was stuffed. I found two of the dishes particularly moreish – small triangular pastries (sanbousek) filled with feta cheese, and a salad of garlicky broad beans. When dining in a smaller party I tended simply to order those, along with some grilled chicken and rice with vermicelli.
I have never managed to recreate any of them successfully (although I came close with the rice), and once we’ve moved and I’m settled into my new kitchen, it will be time to try again. This time I will have more of a clue, because I have been reading Taste of Beirut: 150+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More, which is written by Joumana Accad, the blogger behind the Taste of Beirut blog. I have been following the blog for some time (I can’t remember how long!), and it has an interesting flow of new and traditional Lebanese recipes, along with snippets about Lebanese life and plants. I am glad that it has solidified into book form (I have the ebook version; a paperback is being released on 10th October).
Accad was born and raised in Beirut, but has spent thirty years living in the United States, giving her a unique insight into the difficulties of cooking a cuisine from within a different culture. Her philosophy is to reach the highest level of flavour with the smallest number of basic ingredients – for her Lebanese food is about conviviality rather than complexity. Perhaps that’s why I like it ;)
Accad walks you through the basics of Lebanese cuisine, including her shortcuts for busy modern cooks. The Introduction explains some basic do’s and don’t’s, and Chapter 1 explores the crucial ingredients you would find in a Lebanese larder. Here you will learn about freekeh, mahlab, mastic and the elusive Sahlab (a starch extracted from Turkish orchids that I know as sahlep).
In Chapter 2 there are recipes and instructions for staples such as a basic bulgur pilaf, flatbread dough, the rice and vermicelli pilaf I’m so fond of and various sauces and condiments (including toom, the garlic paste). Many are quick and easy, or can be made in advance and stored in the freezer.
Chapter 3 introduces the hearty Lebanese breakfast, centered around flatbreads (which would traditionally be made in the local bakery). Chapter 4 moves on to lunch, and a variety of ‘sandwiches’ that are really wraps with traditional Lebanese fillings.
It’s party time in chapter 5, with a selection of mezze recipes for when you’re feeding a crowd. Although we tend to think of mezze (or Spanish tapas) as an entirely foreign way of eating, as I was reading through this book I remembered the British love of buffets. Our finger foods might not be quite as exotic, however….
Accad’s recipe for pumpkin fries will draw the attention of Americans, and gardeners will love her use of Swiss chard. She offers a dip recipe that makes use of the troublesome stalks, as well as stuffed chard leaves in place of vine leaves. If you tend towards lazy gardening then the dandelion leaf salad might be more up your street!
Chapter 6 looks at main courses, concentrating on the stews that are a home cooking mainstay, and the kibbeh (a mixture of minced meat and bulghur wheat) that is Lebanon’s national dish. Vegetarian options are available, known as ‘sad’ or ‘tricky’ kibbeh, as they were traditionally served during times of fasting… or hardship.
And chapter 7 rounds out the book with desserts, including an easy way to make baklava, and some other recipes that look (to my eye) more modern than traditional. There is a glossary of Lebanese words at the back.
I would have expected some recipes for drinks, but none are included. Arak gets a mention, as does ayran (a yoghurt drink), and there’s mention of the use of sahlab to thicken drinks. Perhaps there are none – I don’t know. But if it is an omission then it’s a minor one. There is plenty here for the adventurous cook to get their teeth into, everything is explained clearly enough for anyone less experienced, and there’s a good photo of each finished dish so that you know what you’re aiming for.
I am thoroughly looking forward to trying a number of these recipes over the coming months, although I will have to look elsewhere for clues on how to recreate my beloved broad bean salad. In the meantime, I need to find those Swiss chard seeds….
Taste of Beirut: 150+ Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezzes and More
by Joumana Accad
Kindle edition, £10.93
Paperback, 320 pages, £11.51, published 10 October 2014
Publisher: Health Communications
Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of the ebook by the publisher, but these words are my own.
Posted in Blog on Sep 20, 2014 · ∞
Last modified on Sep 19, 2014
Tags: books & food.
Jeannette Bedard is our next Write Club 2014 contestant, with her guest post on productive potatoes. Jeannette blogs at tangent ramblings.
You can vote for this post by using the social media buttons in the sidebar to like it, and by leaving a comment.
At times, usually when I supposed to be doing something else because I’m a grad student and procrastination of some form seems to be part of the gig, I find myself planning what plants I would include in an imaginary biodome on a inhospitable planet many astronomical units away. Imaginary biodomes are one of my favourite thought exercises – to me it is the perfect fusion of my love of space exploration and my attempts to grow as much as my own food as I can in my small backyard.
Purple potatoes blooming
Right now, one of my food-growing issues is producing enough calories to feed my family of three. I have no problem growing plenty of nutritious food to eat year round, but this food is generally low in calories. I understand that the most calorie-dense food one can grow is the potato. Fortunately, I love potatoes, so I devoted an entire bed (of 6 beds) to them. On St. Patrick’s day I planted all my potatoes and by the beginning of August they were ready to dig up. I thought it was a great harvest (at least he best I’ve had so far), yet now in September it’s clear my potatoes will run out in October.
I have parsnips, salsify, carrots and beets on the go, all of which are more filling than kale (a staple here) but not enough to feed my family for long. I’m glad we live in an era where we aren’t at risk of starvation – the grocery store is only a short walk away. I’d just like to do better with my calorie production.
Since I’m already thinking about next year’s garden, producing more calories is at the forefront of my mind. This gives me an excuse to do more research on the enjoyable topic (for me) of biodomes for space exploration. From checking out what has been successful in biodomes, the following has made my list of calorie-dense foods to grow at my latitude:
Jerusalem artichokes – I’ve grown them in the past and they did well. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan, not because they taste bad but because they don’t taste like potatoes. I’ve since found some new recipes, so they are worth trying again.
Dried beans – I grew bush beans for drying a few years ago and got a modest harvest for the space I committed. This time I’m going to try the vines. I’m generally quite successful at growing green beans (my hens feasted on green beans for weeks while I had a glut last summer an no time to pickle them). There seems to be a huge number of choices to experiment with. Has anyone tried lablab (hyacinth) beans?
Sweet potatoes and peanuts – I like both of these and I have a cunning plan to build a shelter for next summer which makes both of these a possibility at my latitude. I just have to figure out how to grow them.
Amaranth and quinoa – I read once that five square feet of wheat is required to make one loaf of bread, assuming I would need more than one loaf of bread this is more space than I can commit. But amaranth and quinoa appear to productive in a small amount of space so are worth a try (I don’t have any actual statistics to compare their productivity to wheat).
There are some food-stuffs have been used in these biodome experiments that I could grow/raise, but I doubt I could bring myself to eat. For example, in a recent biodome experiment conducted in China, they ate mealworms. My husband and I have successfully raised mealworms to feed our pets but I’d have to be in an apocolyptically dire situation to even think about feeding them to my family. Silk-worm pupa have also been suggested as a food source, which disgusts me just like the mealworms do.
Azolla growing in an aquarium
Azolla, an aquatic fern, is another potential food source. It has been used as animal feed for eons, is easy to grow and grows exponentially fast in shallow water. Eating it doesn’t gross me out like the bugs do, it just doesn’t seem appealing. I did recently acquire some azolla which is multiplying in my aquarium. My plan is to feed it to the hens as the recipes in the azolla cookbook I found were much less appealing than a walk to the grocery store.
Of course I’ll grow potatoes next year, probably giving them an entire bed. And after doing research on biodome space plants for m garden, I once again have a list of more things to grow than the space I have – plenty of fodder for another thought exercise.
Posted in Blog on Sep 19, 2014 · ∞
Tags: competitions & space.