Category Archives: artichoke

may flies…

May has ended.  It was a month of lots of lovely summery weather and enough rain so as not to feel the pressure of watering the vegetable patches.   From now on we will have plenty of produce gluts from the garden.

We have been picking salads and herbs from the polytunnel since the end of April. I’ll add peppery nastursium leaves and turnip thinnings to tonight’s salad bowl.

Along with succession sowing and planting out, I have been pinching out the side shoots on the cordon tomatoes and removing the lower leaves up to the first truss.

In the heat of the polytunnel, scent volatiles fill the air.  I only discovered this year what a lovely perfume broad bean flowers have.  Having moved the plantings to the far end of the tunnel I was concerned that the bees wouldn’t find the plants.  I shouldn’t have worried.  The pollinators have been hard at work alongside me.  I’m always amazed to see the formation of the pods on the broadbeans.  These tiny beans along with the season first garden peas will be added to a spring risotto – tonight’s supper.

Working in the tunnel is a delight.  I often run my hands through the herbs for a free aromatherapy session – variations on dill, rosemary, thyme and sage. The sweet basil is starting to come through and I have been pinching out the tops of the pot sown Basil ‘Aristotle’ to garnish the risotto.

I have been thinning the peaches and apricots and the gooseberries are fattening.  We already need to think about preserving the abundance – kept in oil, artichoke hearts make a lovely antipasti…

and I shall gather some heads of the elderflower to make a cordial.

Summer is here.



herb haven…

is the polytunnel.  We found that the thyme and rosemary fare far better over the winter in the tunnel. These woody herbs can take cold or wet but not both.

As these have done so well I’ve decided to keep the sage in here.  To these woody herbs, I have sown leafy coriander, dill, parsley and the basil has started to germinate.

The mints (moroccan, apple and spearmint) are still in the tunnel but I’ll move these out once I’m sure there won’t be any more frosts, ditto with the marjoram

It’s not just about the leaves. I’ve started to add flower heads to salads – the chive adds a mild onion flavour …and I can’t wait for the nasturtiums to start to flower.

The plot is now producing more home grown food

which is, of course, what it’s all about!



at the back of the north wind…

Oh my, the air temperature has dropped dramatically since the beginning of the week though, hopefully, we have seen the last of the ground frosts.   Of course, being aware of the oncoming weather is to be forewarned.  I have brought all plants in pots undercover and have been draping the tender new plantings with fleece….

which is somewhat ancient and because it has been stored in the piggery over the last year, rather tattered courtesy of the mice.   It reminds me of Miss Havisham’s wedding dress.  Still it does a good job of protecting the plants on chilly nights.

Last week, the lovely OH cut the orchard and the grass of the vegetable plot, leaving the areas where we have spring bulbs. Everything is looking spruce, which reminds of the sage advice on making a garden look good if you have limited time i.e. ‘cut the grass and edge’.

The plums, damsons and gages have finished blossoming so hopefully had good pollination.  The apples are coming into bloom now; I hope the cold weather won’t affect the pollination too much.

Whilst the cold weather has set back germination a little, I have, amongst others, recent sowings of peas, lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and Basil ‘Aristotle’ coming through at the moment.  The latter makes lovely green mounds and is an excellent choice for pots.  No sign of Basil ‘Genovese’ yet; I have bought another packet of seed just in case the lack of sprouting is due to old age.

More tulips are in bloom…

and the artichokes are producing flower heads.  I’ll pick some of these to steam and serve with a mustard vinagrette for a light lunch tomorrow…

Bon appetit!



trumpeting the Jerusalem artichoke…

dsc_0020It’s been a while since we’ve planted Jerusalem Artichokes.  The lovely OH picked up a couple of punnets from a supermarket. I don’t know what variety they are – perhaps ‘Fuseau’. The tubers are a good size and were cheaper than buying from a seed merchant.

I can plant them once the soil dries out a little.  We’ve some trugs which have broken handles so I’ll cut out their bases and sink a row of them into the soil and then plant the tubers inside as this plant is invasive.  I like Jerusalem artichokes but I don’t want a field of them!   If I make a line of trugs along the upper boundary of the polytunnel vegetable growing area the artichokes can form a windbreak.

We’ve grown Jerusalem artichoke before, on our old the allotment.  I remember they had yellow daisy shaped flowers though I didn’t know that they are a species of sunflower, Helianthus tuberosus.  With luck we might get a small harvest this autumn – in anticipation I’ve found some lovely recipes; my favourite is this one with black pudding from Nigel Slater.

It’s still a little quiet on the sowing front but in the next few days I’ll sow the tomatoes, aubergines and sweet peppers in the propagators.  The broad beans and cauliflowers have germinated …

dsc_0017so I’ll succession sow broad beans and I’ve repotted the aloe vera pups!

dsc_0016Tea time!

Reading this week: Rhapsody in Green by Charlotte Mendelson






signs of new growth…

There is no better way to banish the January blues than to get outdoors and look out for new shoots. Yes, spring is a while away but today I saw the first snowdrops, just coming through, in the old orchard.  This early flowering cultivar is John Gray.  I bought a specimen ‘in the green’ last year from Ashwood Nurseries.  I’m pleased to see it has survived!

dsc_0018Garlic and rhubarb are both showing signs of growth.

dsc_0021dsc_0024We’ll be propagating from and transplanting our ‘Timperley Early’ this year.  This can be done in early spring or autumn, though as we need to prepare the new planting area at the end of the piggery it’s likely the move will be in the autumn.  I may add ‘Poulton’s Pride’ and ‘Sutton’ as these varieties are reputed to have very good flavour.

The globe artichokes came through the cold snap unscathed; I leave the flower heads on through the winter as a potential food source for the birds and an overwintering home for ladybirds.

dsc_0016dsc_0017New leaves are already appearing at the base.

The hazels are awash with catkins and tiny female flowers; looking hard I can see the tuft of red styles.

dsc_0015So lots of signs of new growth – spring will be here before we know it, so now is the time to kick back and have a breather before the main sowing season starts in earnest!


the big tidy….

DSC_0736I’ve been clearing the decks in the potting shed.  Which is exactly the sort of job to do on a blustery January day.   It also means I can actually work again in the shed as the pots are stacked on shelves rather than piled on the floor and the table.

DSC_0740I still need to clean down and oil the tools, a job I should have done at the end of the last growing season – even so – a clear table to work at and space for a kettle and radio though it is our local ‘Potato Day’ this coming weekend hence the appearance of the egg boxes, (for chitting) competing for space.

We have started the sowings in the polytunnel; peas in guttering as well as radish and salad crops.

IMG_20160115_123532611In the beds – turnips, more radish, flat leaf parsley and coriander, in modules – cauliflower and globe artichoke.  More herbs and leaf salad sowings to follow.


Reading this week: In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates


“I’d say thistles, but nobody listens to me, anyway”….

Eeyore – dontcha just love him?  I do, my favourite, all time, absolute, WtheP character;  and on the subject of thistles …well he had it spot on.

artichokeI have grown globe artichoke before – on the allotment.  Only once – as they are big, big plants.

Of course now we have the space to put in a few rows of these silvery green, statuesque thistles.  Yes, Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus is a thistle.  The donkey knows his food stuff.

I grow ‘Green Globe’.  It is hardy and reliable with heavy flower buds.  As with all food of the season a light hand on the culinary side delivers big flavour.  A large head serves 2 for lunch, steamed until the petals pull away easily and then served with either a melted butter dip – or my favourite – dijon vinaigrette.

steamed artichokeThe piece de resistance?  Cut away the ‘choke’ and what is left is the artichoke heart.

Well worth growing some thistles.