When are they ready to pick?
I find myself giving my beans a gentle squeeze to judge if they are ready to pick. This can be especially useful when there are lots of leaves in the way so that you can’t see the beans clearly.
- Broad Beans: I especially like them when the beans are still tender and not too big. You can feel them through the skin of the pod. As the beans mature and start to get tough the pods develop a smooth, hard surface.
- Green Beans: French beans and runner beans for eating green are best before the beans inside start to swell and the pods become stringy.
- Dried Beans: Beans for drying, Borlotties for example, get a papery feel to the pods when the beans inside are nice and dry.
Slugs and snails: can we ever beat them?
Here is an interesting article in The Guardian about coping with slugs and snails in our gardens. Can we ever win? Can we even just break even?
The sun was warm but the wind was chill …
The sun was warm but the wind was chill,
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still
You’re one month on in the month of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.
Local garden centres who deliver
Here is a list of local garden centres who deliver around Leeds – useful during lockdown.
The National Allotments Society recommendations on Covid19 were updated on 4 November 2020. They apply during the current lockdown.
Utterly delicious – worth keeping a small bed of sorrel somewhere.
I think Sally got this recipe from The Greens Cook Book. It is utterly delicious.
We keep a small bed of sorrel protected from the birds on our plot which keeps us going most of the spring and summer.
- Tart dough for a 9 inch tart
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 to 8 0z sorrel leaves
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup double cream
- 2 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
Prepare the tart dough and partially pre-bake.
Melt the butter in a pan, add the onion and salt. Cover the pan and stew for about 10 minutes until the onion is soft, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile cut the stems off the sorrel leaves and roughly slice the leaves. Add them to the cooked onion and cook until the sorrel has turned a grey-green colour (about 3-4 minutes). Whisk the eggs with the cream and then stir in the onion, sorrel and half the cheese. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spread the rest of the cheese on the bottom of the flan case, then spread the filling on top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until set and well coloured. Serve hot.
Makes one 9 inch tart
Allium leaf miners are the larva(maggots) of a little fly that lays its eggs on the leaves of our alliums (onions, shallots, garlic, leeks, etc). The larvae hatch out and tunnel down, eating and growing as they go, then pupate in the bulb area. Their damage causes the plants to become distorted, and opens them up to fungal disease. There are some good pictures to help identify them on the Allotments & Gardens web site.
The RHS have some useful advice about how to cope, as does Garden Organic (members only, unfortunately). There is no cure – only prevention, which means destroying infected plants to kill the larvae and pupae, and keeping the flies from laying their eggs on our crops by covering them with nets. The flies are quite small, and the RHS advise using very fine mesh (0.8mm) netting, as the standard “fine” mesh (1.3mm) is not reliable.
The adult flies are active in spring (March to June) and again in the autumn (September to November), which is when you need to cover your crops. These dates are a bit uncertain, as the pest is new here and we are still learning about it.
An Indian recipe for spinach, this works with cabbage or kale, too.
I learned this wonderful way of cooking spinach so long ago I almost forgot where it came from. I think it was a Sikh friend who showed it to me, but it doesn’t just go with Indian cooking – and it works with other greens besides spinach. I like it with cabbage, and even kale sometimes. This should be enough for two people who really like their greens.
- 200 g or 300 g spinach
- knob of ghee or else cooking oil and a knob of butter
- about 2cm of fresh ginger root, grated
- clove of garlic, pressed or chopped fine.
Wash the spinach well and drain. Heat the ghee (or oil and butter) with the garlic and ginger in a pan until it starts to sizzle. Then throw in the spinach, still wet, and cover the pan. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is soft and smells delicious. With other greens you may need to add just a bit of water to stop it burning.
Made right, gooseberry fool is sublime!
A traditional English recipe made with fresh gooseberries and cream, gooseberry fool can be just sublime. This makes four smallish portions, but it is so intense you don’t really need much.
- 200 ml fresh cream, either double or a mix of double/single, whipped.
- 200 g young gooseberries
- sugar to taste
- 50 g butter
Stew the gooseberries and butter in a covered pan until they are just cooked – not too mushy. Smash them with a fork, sweeten with sugar to taste, and stir gently into the whipped cream. Spoon into small bowls or glasses and cool it in the fridge before serving.
From Sally Foster, inspired by our ancient copy of Jane Grigson’s Good Things.