If you’re stocking up on seeds, then head over to VegetableSeeds.net, where they’re offering a whopping 75% discount on everything until 17th November 2014.
Thompson & Morgan are offering ‘buy one, get one free’ on selected varieties of onions for autumn planting. To make use of this offer, click through to see the list of varieties, and add your chosen ones to your basket. The cheapest pack will be free, providing that you complete your order before midnight on Thursday 30th October 2014. The discount should be automatically applied, but if it isn’t then the coupon code you need is TNS278A.
Sarah Raven are giving you up to 50% of selected varieties of bulbs for autumn planting, until midnight on Sunday 26th October. Again, click through to see which varieties are on offer, and add any you fancy to your shopping basket. The discount has already been applied. There are also 50% discounts on hardy annual seedlings and perennials, whilst stocks last, so have a good look around the site for bargains, whilst you’re there.
And foodie, rather than garden-related, but Cool Chile are celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead by offering a 10% discount on all web orders placed before midnight on Thursday 30th October. You’ll need to enter the discount code BONES when you checkout to activate the offer.
Just a reminder that there are some affiliate links in these offer posts – the small amount of revenue I make from them helps pay for the upkeep of the blog, and costs you nothing. If you’re leery of these things, the links to avoid this time are the ones for T&M and Sarah Raven, but if I’m saving you money, surely you don’t begrudge me my crust? ;)
Posted in Blog on Oct 25, 2014 · ∞
Ethiopia is in the news today, remembering the famine of 30 years ago. Rather than dwell on the past, I thought I would share this upbeat video from Perennial Plate – celebrating Ethiopia’s food culture:
Ethiopia! from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.
The description of the video on Vimeo says “We travelled to Ethiopia for two weeks and filmed the making of injera, false banana and coffee as well as everything else we saw. Please watch, enjoy and visit this amazing country!”
For those of you who are intrigued by the ‘false banana’, it’s Ensete ventricosum, also known as the Ethiopian banana, Abyssinian banana, or simply ensete. I found a nice article that explains how this multipurpose plant is turned into different foods – ensete doesn’t produce fruit, but has edible pseudostems (the ‘trunk’ is formed from tightly-packed, overlapping leaf sheaths).
Posted in Blog on Oct 23, 2014 · ∞
Tags: food & ethnobotany.
Ryan and I have (finally!) moved into our new house! And, whilst we had the use of a van, we collected all of the tall plants from the allotment. So the first refugees from my old garden have arrived in their new home. As well as my Christmas tree, there’s two cobnuts, a crab apple, a golden bamboo, a rosemary and a lavender, the medlar and one that remains unidentified until I can have a good look at it.
I also brought back two scented pelargoniums that I uncovered from amongst the weeds on the allotment – one is Attar of Roses :) They were part of an order of four; all that remains of one is an empty pot. One seems to have been eaten to the ground by snails. Frankly, I am surprised any survived!
And I found, but didn’t bring back for the moment, my horseradish.
There’s a lot more work to do, rescuing plants from the allotment and bringing them home, but that can be done over the next few weeks. In the meantime, we have plenty to keep us occupied unpacking indoors, and I have some nice big pots ready to be planted up with winter veg.
Did I mention that I now live just a stone’s throw from a garden centre?
Posted in Blog on Oct 17, 2014 · ∞
Tags: gardens & allotment.
It was raining last weekend when Ryan and I went to visit Fishbourne Roman Palace & Gardens, the remains of what was one a high-status Roman building by the sea. It doesn’t make a difference to viewing the ruins, which are housed in a lovely, open-plan building with specially-constructed walkways that allow you to get reasonably close to the mosaic floors without any risk of damage to them. Which is important, as subsidence and algae (they were built without foundations, and water rising up is a problem) are both doing their bit to reclaim them already. There’s a museum, with some of artifacts archaeologists have found on the site, and a short film to watch if you are so inclined, as well as activities for budding archaeologists.
A famous Roman mosaic, showing Cupid riding a dolphin!
A particularly lovely mosaic. Some of the mosaics here are as old as any you’ll find in Britain. The Palace was repurposed several times over its lifetime, before being abandoned when it burned to the ground. One of the last ‘upgrades’ was still in progress – the installation of a hypocaust heating system:
Roman-style central heating, unfinished
I was more interested in the gardens, so it was a little disappointing to have to see them in the drizzle. The gardens at Fishbourne were immense – around half have since been covered by modern housing, but you can still get an idea of the scale. The formal gardens were… extremely dull. A large expanse of lawn surrounded by box hedging. The original kitchen garden is no longer present, but there an area has been designed to showcase some of the plants that would have been grown in Roman gardens. There’s even a gardener, in his potting shed:
A Roman gardener, in his potting shed
I wouldn’t recommend listening to him for too long, though. He’s a bit of a whinge bag!
Far better to step outside and have a look at the Triclinium:
The Roman concept of outdoor furniture – for lounging and dining
In terms of plants, there was (of course) a big fig:
Lots of leaves, but no figs, at this time of year
and an arbor covered in grape vines:
Grape vines showing their autumn colours
An old bay tree had been pruned, was was sprouting new leaves from its sizeable trunk:
When bay becomes a real tree
According to the label, the bulbs of Asphodelus ramosus
were roasted and eaten, but as yet I haven’t found any modern references to the plant being edible, so do your homework before you tuck in!
It’s a lovely place to have a wander, and I’m looking forward to going back earlier in the growing season (hopefully on a more pleasant day!). There’s a good gift shop to peruse before you leave, which (pleasingly) is stocked more with things adults might like than plastic tat aimed at children (although they have not been forgotten). Ryan bought himself a leather pouch, which he is using to protect one of his camera lenses. As I already have a copy of the book ‘Roman Gardens and their Plants’ by Claire Riley, I bought myself a little kit to try making lip balm and a clean t-shirt (over-stressed brain having forgotten to bring any!). If you’re a long way from Sussex then you can order a copy of the book from Seeds of Italy; mine is in a box waiting to be unpacked once we’ve moved.
If you’re intrigued by Roman gardens, here are some more blog posts you will enjoy:
Have you been to Fishbourne, or another Roman garden?
Posted in Blog on Oct 12, 2014 · ∞
I don’t have photos of these recipes because… well, they were tasty and we ate them. So feast your eyes on my new route to work instead :)
One of the great challenges, during our summer of waiting to move, has been feeding ourselves. We packed away a lot of the ‘unnecessary’ cooking equipment for a few weeks, only to find it was out of action for a few months. With numerous false starts, I kept running down the cupboards and the freezer, in anticipation of a move date that never came. Stress levels rose, cooking mojo vanished and we ate far more oven chips than you can imagine.
So I am looking forward to settling in to my new kitchen, having everything to hand, and beginning my culinary explorations once more.
One of the things that I struggle with is Italian food, due to its fondness for dairy products, and the fact that I don’t love tomato-based sauces. But I had half a carton of Oatly oat cream to use up, so last week I invented a dairy-free spaghetti recipe that turned out nicely – it’s a good, quick, store cupboard meal:
Ingredients (to serve 2)
1 onion, chopped (roughly or finely, it’s your choice!)
2 large cloves of
onion garlic, crushed and sliced
1 packet (about 2 handfuls) of chopped, smoked cooking bacon
1/2 carton Oatly* oat cream
2 servings of pasta (we only had spaghetti….)
1 large sweet pepper, or a handful of smaller peppers, chopped
A little oil for frying
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
- Meanwhile, fry the onion and garlic together over a low heat, until they start to turn translucent. (I like my onions soft, not crunchy.)
- Turn up to a medium heat and add the peppers and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the chopped bacon, and stir for a couple of minutes, until the bacon is cooked through.
- Drain the cooked pasta, combine with the bacon and onion mixture and stir in the Oatly cream. Gently heat through; your supper is ready to serve when it’s hot enough for your tastes! There’s no need for the sauce to boil….
*You could use soy cream if you like it (I think it tastes like cardboard), or regular cream if you don’t have issues with dairy.
Yesterday was a cold day in the office, and when I got home I had a hankering for something involving hot, bubbling cheese. And so the final carton of Oatly cream in the cupboard came out for another pasta extravaganza – this time a pasta bake.
Pasta bake is an awesome way of turning leftover pasta into a new meal – simply pop it into a suitably-sized casserole dish, sprinkle with grated cheese and pop into a medium oven for about half an hour, until the cheese is golden and starting to bubble. The trick is not to overdo the cheese – it seems like more would be better, but when you cross the line you get a gooey, greasy mess…. A generous sprinkling, but not a complete layer, is what you’re aiming for. This one isn’t dairy-free, unless you forgo the cheese :(
Anyway, digging through the last remnants in the freezer, it was the chicken breast’s turn to take a bow. With its more subtle flavour, it was going to need a bit more attention to seasoning….
Ingredients (to serve 2)
1 onion, chopped (roughly or finely, it’s your choice!)
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed and sliced
1-2 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 carton Oatly oat cream
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 handfuls of sweetcorn kernels
2 servings of pasta
Small chunk of hard cheese, grated (mine was goat)
A little oil for frying
Teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, and preheat the oven on a medium setting.
- Meanwhile, fry the onion and garlic together over a low heat, with a sprinkling of mixed herbs, until they start to turn translucent.
- Turn up to a medium heat and add the carrot chunks and the chicken, frying for several minutes until it is browned on all sides and well on the way to being cooked.
- Chuck the sweetcorn in with the pasta for a couple of minutes to defrost (if frozen) or cook a little bit (if fresh), and then drain when the pasta is cooked.
- Combine the pasta with the chicken mixture, add the carton of Oatly and mix well. Pour into a casserole dish and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
- Bake in the middle of a medium oven for about half an hour, until everything is hot and bubbling and the cheese is melted to your liking.
The dried mixed herbs added a lovely note of sage to the proceedings, so you could use fresh sage leaves instead if you have some handy.
You’ll notice that in neither recipe have I mentioned seasoning – in the first the smoked bacon took care of any salt requirements, and I didn’t feel pepper would add anything. In the second recipe I mostly forgot, but in actual fact it didn’t taste as though anything was missing – the cheese adds a salty note. You should, of course, feel free to season to taste :)
So… not gourmet standard, perhaps, but tasty and filling and a nice change from heating up some form of convenience food, and created from what we had on hand.
How do you like to dress up your pasta?
Posted in Blog on Oct 7, 2014 · ∞
Last modified on Oct 8, 2014
Ryan and I have been away for the weekend, a last minute break booked on Thursday evening when it looked – again – like the purchase of our new house* was going to fall through. We have been to Hayling Island, and seen the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Fishbourne Roman Palace and Gardens, and West Dean Gardens. More on those last two later in the week.
It was gone 5pm on Friday when we finally heard that the contracts had all been exchanged, and that we will be moving in the next couple of weeks! Very exciting news, or it would be if we weren’t more than two months behind schedule. I had envisaged having summer in the garden; instead we’ll be settling in as winter approaches. But that doesn’t matter, as we will be free to move forward with our plans once more.
So… it’s time to unveil a few more details of the new garden :)
This is the front of the house, showing the strip of front garden:
There’s a clause in the deeds that says trees can’t be planted in the front garden, but that’s not something I would wish to do anyway. The house looks out onto trees and a tall hedge, and there’s a gate into the ‘back’ garden (which is actually off the side of the house) where the fence begins. From memory, that’s a west aspect for the front of the house. I am pondering putting some herb planters in the front garden.
From the kitchen window, you would get this view of the back garden:
According to the estate agent’s details, this is 11.2 metres by 7.3 metres (36’8 × 23’11), but we haven’t had a chance to check the measurements. The wall facing the house is the end of the garages; it looks like a lovely surface to cover with a climbing plant, but as the garages are a communal space, we won’t be able to fix anything to that wall – we are pondering alternatives.
And there’s a third stretch of garden, for which I don’t yet have a photograph. To the left of the garage block, along the road at the front of the house, there’s another strip of garden that (I think) is of a similar size to the front garden. It cannot be entirely fenced off, because it contains a utility box to which access it needed. But it is mine to plant…. Currently it has low-maintenance plants and weed fabric. It’s tidy, but (as with the rest of the garden) neither inspiring nor remotely edible. So I’m thinking of the whole thing as a blank canvas. There are no definite plans until we’ve moved in and can measure properly and ponder.
I have been driving around with large planters in the back of my car, collected from my parent’s garden a couple of weeks ago. Once I move in I can get my hands dirty and plant up some winter veggies. There are also plants to rescue from the allotment. So that’s the immediate plans for the garden… the rest will have to be unveiled as we move forward :)
What do you think?
*We have been trying to sell Ryan’s flat and buy our new house since the end of May. It was a complicated and seemingly unending process, and it was the flat and not the house that made the last couple of weeks so nail-bitingly tense.
The house images were taken by Thomas Merrifield, Didcot.
Posted in Blog on Oct 5, 2014 · ∞
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 · ∞