Category Archives: aubergine

she sows seeds….2017

Goodbye 2016… hello 2017.

It’s good to be back in the swing of sowing.  One of the best things about growing vegetables is that the majority are, to all intents, annuals, which means the current year is always, potentially, the best growing year yet!

Having the polytunnel means I can start on sowing peas, broad beans, (Sutton and crimson flowered)…

dsc_0001leeks, cauliflower (All The Year Round), lettuce, (also named All The Year Round), and red onion, (Brunswick).   So, half tray of each except the peas which I’ll plant up in guttering.

dsc_0002A little late, but I’ve sown sweet peas in root trainers.  Ideally, these would have been sorted around mid-December but I’m hopeful that I’ll still get good strong plants.

The trays have gone into the polytunnel, joining the onions and shallots which were planted in modules last autumn.

dsc_0003The beans and sweet peas are currently in the utility room until germination as they are mouse candy.  I need to dust off one of the propagators and sow the chillies and then get the decks cleared for the tomatoes and aubergines.   Coming on the horizon are the local potato days so in preparation I’ve, (more or less), finalised the long list to:

  • First earlies: Belle de Fontenay (for salad and boiling); Red Duke of York (for mash and roast);
  • Second earlies: Anya; International Kidney; Charlotte for salad; Nicola for boiling; Kestrel a good all rounder
  • Main crop: Ratte, Pink Fir for salad; Maris Piper and Arran Victory for mash and roast.

We’ve grown most of these varieties before, indeed some appear on our list every year, flavour is everything!  This year we’ll ring the changes and try one or more of Nicola, Kestrel, Maris Piper and Arran Victory.

Work on the ornamental garden bounds forward. The lovely OH is hard at work constructing a metal arbour from rebar…

dsc_0009Once this has been set along the paths and the angle iron/wire fencing has been cemented in then the box hedges will be planted.  We’re heading for a cold snap later this week so I’ll look at finishing the pruning the gooseberries and orchard fruit the other side of the weather front.  If the ground dries out a bit I can also set in the hornbeam whips.  Plenty to do.

No sign of snowdrops yet but my Helleborus niger is a lovely substitute.

dsc_0006Reading this week: Hops and Glory by Pete Brown



clearing the decks…

dsc_0609 We have started to remove the heat-loving fruit and vegetables from the polytunnel.  All the ripe chillies have been picked along with the tomatoes, (green and red), melons, aubergines, sweet peppers and cucumbers.

dsc_0608So we have quite a lot of preserving activity ahead of us.  The lovely OH has made a start on the chillies.

dsc_0611dsc_0614He has found that putting a slit into the chilli before drying in the dehydrator helps to dry the chillies faster. Once dried we can use the chillies through next year.

Of course, we are eating as much fresh produce as possible, so our weekly supper menu has a definite lean towards vegetarian recipes.  Gathered together here…the vegetable ingredients for a sambhar, recipe courtesy of Meera Sodha’s ‘Fresh India‘.



bring on the heat….

If you are a dedicated GYO then it pays to have some decent vegetarian recipes up your sleeve.  We raided the polytunnel for chillies and tomatoes; the veg. plot supplied garlic and onion.  I did look at our aubergines but decided they needed to bulk up a tad so I picked one up with the groceries.

dsc_0545As our chillies range the scoville scale from mild to inferno, I substituted some Poblano for bell peppers added Joe’s Long for a bit of pep and the lovely OH made harrissa paste, adding in Super Chilli.

dsc_0552Once the vegetables had roasted for 45 minutes I added the harissa along with more of our tomatoes, (instead of canned) and returned to the oven whilst I baked couscous.  Finally all the ingredients were stirred together and served with a sprinkle of coriander.


Listening to this week: Plants: From Roots to Riches omnibus editions on Radio iPlayer.

not such deadly nightshade……

The polytunnel is the place to be at the moment.  The temperature is balmy and the rain is held at bay.  The crops of tomatoes; chillies; cucumbers and melons are coming along nicely.  So too are the pots of aubergines, (Solanum melongena).

DSC_0211These plants are related to belladonna – deadly nightshade, (Atropa belladonna).


You can see the resemblance by looking at the aubergine flowers, or indeed the flowers of the potatoes, chillies and tomatoes as all of them fall into the same family, Solanaceae.  Whilst the berries of the deadly nightshade are poisonous, the aubergine’s  toxic substance, solanine,  is concentrated in the leaves; the fruits have such a small amount that you would have to eat an awful lot of aubergines to become unwell, though steer clear of green potatoes!

The best recipe I have encountered so far for aubergines is one from a stalwart here at the smallholding, Nigel Slater, and the recipe is for Moroccan Lamb Shanks from his book ‘Real Food’ – it’s super easy and very good, even better if you make your own harissa paste.   Serve up the succulent lamb with couscous.