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I love it when the garden starts to give back.  Although we only grow small amounts of vegetables and fruit (the garden is a suburban 30 x 90 feet so not huge, and vegetables are fitted in here and there rather than in a dedicated bed) it gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure to pick and eat our ‘own’.

We have been using lettuce and spring onions for a while now, but recently the bigger veg have started to put in an appearance.  This weekend we harvested all of the bag potatoes – I’m always amazed at how three wrinkly seed potatoes shoved in a bag of compost  give us several meals worth of beautiful, new, waxy, and wonderfully tasty new potatoes.  This year we grew Rocket, Charlotte and Pentland Javelin.  The Rocket and Charlotte have done really well, both giving us about 40 potatoes.  The PJ are disappointing.  They have suffered badly in the heat and their bag is the one the ants chose to nest in this year.  I haven’t emptied it out yet but I suspect they have not done as well as the others.

I have elephant garlic now pulled, dried and stored in the shed.  Some of it I’ve used as one of the ingredients in a small batch of pickled beetroot.  I’ve written before about how growing root veg is difficult in my garden – thin soil and club root is a problem.  However, I managed to grow a few beetroot in a ‘manger’ bed and got about 15 roughly the size of golf balls.  Because they were small I was able to boil them all at the same time.  They’ve been pickled with cinnamon, star anise and garlic – it should make a lovely warm undertone to the sharpness of the vinegar.  In a month or so I’ll let you know how they’ve turned out.

IMG_0101I’ve written before about how many cucumbers have already been picked and there are six more little ones just starting out.  This week I learned something about cucumber plants.  If you leave the fruit on for too long, the plant aborts any new little fruitlets and stalls your supply.  I did this, and yes, the little fruitlets all dried up and fell off and I thought that was the end of the cucumber plant.  But once the ripe cucumbers were all picked off – hey presto!  A new flush of fruitlets.  So keep picking!  I’m a big fan of cucumber and onion ‘bread and butter’ pickle so I can’t have too many cucumbers.  I make it and freeze it in containers with enough for a week’s supply.

Clearing out the salad drawer in the fridge (to make room for cucumbers…) I found a bag of old satsumas.  Ever resourceful, I turned them into marmalade at the weekend.  It’s lovely – sharp and sweet at the same time, a hit of ginger just lifts it from the commonplace.  I’ve also finally got round to harvesting this year’s gooseberries.  They have been begging to be picked by quietly dropping off the bush and being eaten by the birds and hedgehog.  One bush has given us 2 kilos of goosegogs and so it was out with the maslin pan again – half of them turned into crumble and jam and half of them into an indian-style chutney.  I’m going to need a bigger supply of glass jars!

Although the birds have been busy at the Morello cherry espalier there should be enough to preserve in brandy as a treat, and like everyone else we are eating courgettes at almost every meal.  There are lots of little four-inch beans on the runners, so a promise of dinners to come, and the carrot tops are plentiful, though I suspect more top than carrot.

There is something very satisfying about eating food that you have grown yourself – whether it’s new potatoes or gooseberry jam,  snacking on spring onions and cucumber, or pickling anything and everything.  It gives me a decidedly happy feeling!

The Optimistic Gardener

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