What a scorcher! Another beautiful April weekend ahead, and I’m spending it all in the garden. And with the days getting longer, after-work gardening is back on the menu. I didn’t realise what the time was last night, coming in well after 7pm, to a hungry teenager. But before all that…
Here’s some of the things I’ve been up to in all this lovely April sunshine…
Enjoying my first crops of forced rhubarb. So tender and pretty.
Making the most of fresh herbs, winter salads and the kale, to bring extra flavour umph and goodness during the “hunger gap”.
Direct sowing seeds into the warmer raised beds: slow-growing parsnips (interspersed with quick-growing radishes) and carrots share a bed (this discarded Ikea bed-canopy-netting turns out to have a use after all! Perfect to keep the carrot fly off); peas, beetroot, spring onions in another bed (I’ve covered the peas with wire mesh in defence against hungry mice); sown lettuce and parsley plants have gone in with the garlic and coriander; I’m experimenting with direct sowing courgettes under glass (is that madness?); broad beans have some hoops added which I’ll loop with twine to help support them later.
Using up frozen fruit. It’s so easy to make crumbles from frozen fruit (blackberries here), and scores nostalgia-points with visitors.
And this year’s fruit is on its way… My young fruit bushes don’t need much pruning, but the cherry needs its stems tweaking and tying-in to start its career as an espalier. Loads of buds on the blueberries and gooseberries (clapping with delight!). The bird netting is on to protect the buds from the sparrows, but bees and other pollinators can still get through the holes.
Some serious exercise creating new gravel paths and extending the fruit bed on the east side of the shed. And some time just enjoying the spring flowers… weeds and all!… in the glorious late afternoon sunshine.
The TV weather forecast, however, has warned that next week could take a turn for the worse (on the plus side, hopefully some rain, as we need it!), but for the moment I’m enjoying the feeling of sun-kissed cheeks.
And they’re almost as pink as these pieces of salmon…
Being a good girl, I try to serve up some form of oily fish once a week. It’s usually smoked mackerel (cheap, quick), flaked into some sort of rice dish. I regularly annoy my 13-year-old by pronouncing “OMG!” as “O-me-ga‘!” in an effort to replace her expression of disgust with a smile. Every now and then I’ll consider salmon as relief for both of us… but salmon isn’t what it used to be. The affordable shrink-wrapped offerings are filled with pallid, flabby, unhappy-tasting salmon. I’ve noticed supermarket salmon is now nearly always packeted with some sort of gluey DIY “sauce-of-disguise”, I presume knowing that their plain fish is pretty rank. So I confess that now I’ll spend a bit more, ignoring the air miles, to buy wild Canadian salmon (wild Scottish salmon being off-limits at the moment) just to get something properly flavoursome and with a firmness that farmed salmon seems to lack.
But it still needs a flavour boost, and what better than home-grown chilli, coriander and garlic! I kept two chilli plants on a cool window sill through winter and they have not stopped flowering and fruiting the whole way through. Three weeks ago they started to look like they might be giving up the ghost, after all those babies, so I put them in the open south-facing porch (thinking it as good a place as any to bring on a dignified death by frost) but no! they are as happy as Larry, greening up and starting to flower again. Four more chillies have ripened in this spot and more flowers are budding.
As for the coriander, that has been growing healthily in a raised bed, under an open-ended ‘tent’ of thin glass, right through winter and is also in rude health, pressing its stems of fresh greenery up against the glass and shouting “for God’s sake, pick me!”. Both of these plants I thought were super-sensitive to cold, but it seems that, with a modicum of protection, they are pretty damn hardy.
So, armed with a freshly picked chilli, a fragrant bunch of coriander, and a few cloves of my last home-grown garlic, I set to work on a dressing for the salmon before baking it. I simply chopped the 3 ingredients finely, and added it to a jar with the juice of a lime and two teaspoons of honey, s&p. I gave it a good shake and poured it over the salmon before covering loosely with tin foil, and popped it in the oven for 15 minutes (gas 5).
While that was cooking, I boiled some linguine, adding finely chopped Red Russian kale for the last three minutes before draining, and stirring in some butter. The hot salmon was flaked into the pasta, and it was delicious. Even my daughter agreed.
OMG!, in fact.
Do you struggle to find oily fish nice enough to eat once a week? The new health advice is twice a week, but even I can’t face mackerel that often. Are there better ways to ingest omega 3 (food, not pills)? Am I missing a tasty trick?