June has passed, and I don’t feel like I’ve spent any time in the garden. Certainly no pottering, no lingering… Just mad umbrella dashes between torrential downpours to pick things for supper. The weather is such that, when there is a blue sky, you can be sure five minutes later it is black and emptying vast quantities of Atlantic on you.
I’ve also been busier than normal in other parts of life. I’m hoping for a more relaxed, dry July, with plenty of chances for pottering and lingering.
Here’s some of the things I dashed out for in June:
In all this dashing, I made a classic ‘more haste less speed’ mistake. In a panic that it had bolted, and seeing the leaves starting to brown (plus it being the end of the weekend and another rain cloud and busy week approaching), I pulled my garlic up too early. It transpires that the garlic could have been left, with their shoots removed, and the bulbs would have got much bigger, swelling and defining their separate cloves.
Whilst I’ve grown softneck varieties before, it’s the first time I’ve grown hardneck garlic… Apparently the ‘flower’ shoot that suddenly appears is not a bad sign of bolting. I’m hoping that, even though small, my garlic has separated into usable cloves and that these will store reasonably well once dried.
Wendy (@jwpillar on Twitter) advised that I eat the cut-off shoots, known as ‘scapes’, and lightly fry these in some olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan. Well, that’s a top-tip (thank you Wendy!) They have a punchy, crunchy, hot roast-garlicy flavour… Just don’t eat them before an ‘important meeting’ (as I did) as you will have eye-watering garlic breath for the next 24 hours. Click here for some other suggestions for cooking them.
Last of the broad beans:
In all this warm, wet weather, the broad beans were threatening to swell beyond peak proportions. My daughter and I couldn’t keep up with them without getting sick of them, so I picked and shelled the lot to freeze for more considered and appreciated consumption. I blanched them for 1 minute in a big pan of boiling water, then strained and plunged them immediately into iced water to rapidly cool, before putting them in the freezer. They keep amazingly fresh and tender like this, and a handful take just a few minutes in simmering water to heat through. The main thing is not letting them get too big (no bigger than thumbnail size), because then they’re tough and bitter anyway.
Last year I had a couple of courgette plants but a woeful crop of just 2 courgettes. This year I went for 6 plants, and they are prolific. I like to pick them finger length… Any bigger and they get watery and sludgy when cooked. (Although some always manage to hide and grow obscenely obese, don’t they?) The Romanesco (ridged) variety are the best. It’s the first time I’ve grown these, and I’m very impressed with the flavour, texture and health of these plants (I got mine as plug plants from Sarah Raven. Top marks!)
Best of all are the flowers. 3 of my plants are meant to be a flower-only but I must have mistakenly mixed them up and passed my seedlings on to my mum, as all my home plants are producing fruit. I like to just fry them, or make a simple egg and flour batter. Stuffed with cheese too, if I’m not in a hurry.
I managed to pick some elderflowers from the hedge (best done on a warm, dry, sunny day.. Ha-ha!) and rustled up a couple of bottles of elderflower & rose-petal cordial. Not being entirely happy with the results (brown colour, cloudy, over-sweet), I’ve been meaning to have another go as I have since discovered better recipes that seem more scientific and well-tested. The flowers are ‘over’ now here, so that will now have to wait until next year.
Carrots, lettuces and rocket are picked daily. The runner beans are flowering, the ‘sugar’ peas, spring onions, red chard, beetroot and celery are nearing pickability. Cabbage, kale, parsnips, swedes, flower-sprouts and leeks are getting going. 3 out of 5 cucumber plants have come out of shock and are starting to climb… and a flower has appeared on one. Hurrah!
The front garden produce is also coming along nicely, despite the lack of sunshine. Warmth and water are helping, and hopefully we’ll have sunshine when the tomatoes start to ripen to enhance flavour. Here I’ve got loads of different types of tomatoes, sweetcorn, Borlotti beans, courgettes, purple pepper, aubergines, a chilli plant, basil.
Strawberries are prolific, and we’re getting plenty every day. I might try to dry some in the dehydrator, or quarter and freeze them. If only there was a bit more sunshine… It does make such a difference to the intensity of taste.
The blueberries are well-netted in anticipation and ‘surprise’! I’ve just noticed the raspberries are starting to turn pink. Yum!
And finally, the bees:
I have this Cotoneaster shrub at the back of the cottage. It’s a bit of a sprawling, unruly tangle of branches, and isn’t particularly beautiful. Every time I try to tame it, it rebels by sending out shoots from its base and branches, in all directions. When I first came here I almost chopped it down.
But then it flowered, and the bees arrived. The flowers are tiny, and not particularly arresting, but I have never seen so many happy, buzzy bumble and honey bees and hover flies on one plant. Despite the rain, it roots me to the spot watching them all.
So, of course, this plant is staying.