There are a lot of elder trees with generous displays of flowers all around our local area, so we collected a carrier-bag full and tried to make some cordial. There were a fair few bugs that needed to be removed from the flower heads, then we steeped them in boiling water and left them overnight, with the zest of a few oranges and lemons. The next day we added sugar and water and brought to the boil, then bottled in very sticky bottles.
- Bottled elderflower cordial
- Dissolving sugar
- Steeping flower heads
- Elderflower heads and citrus zest
- Bagful of elderflower heads
From a recipe in River Cottage Everyday – chopped rhubarb from the garden, cooked with orange juice and zest and a generous garnish of honey.
- Raspberry sorbet
- Sieving raspberry pulp
- Battered raspberry punnet
Since the inedible disaster of the cucumber sorbet, we’ve had another try, again without any specialist equipment. We bought a few punnets of cheap battered raspberries, put them through a food processor and then sieved out the seeds, then added a little sugar water and put into the freezer, again stirring periodically until it was set. The result was far better than the cucumber attempt.
- Aphids and ants on raspberries
- Planted out tomatoes
- Damaged beetroot leaves
We’ve planted the beans out now, and put the tomatoes in a trough; they all seem to be fine. However, our raspberries have been severely attacked by ants farming aphids under almost all the leaves, and especially around the clusters of fruit. And our developing beetroots are having their leaves shredded by leaf-mining pests.
- Straining beech leaves
- Finished liqueur
The beech leaves have been steeping in gin for a couple of weeks now, so we’ve taken them out and strained the liquid through muslin, and added a little sugar water, and we now have the lightly tasting and slightly golden liqueur.
- Remove skin and seeds from cucumber
- Fresh peppermint leaves
- Processed into a liquid
- The resulting sorbet
We don’t have an ice-cream machine, but in the continuing effort to do something with the cucumbers that are delivered in our vegetable bag, we have tried to make a cucumber sorbet. We blended up the flesh and added peppermint leaves, shredding these in the food processor too. We added a little sugar and water, and then put it in the freezer, making sure to stir the mix through with a fork every hour or so. The result was not good – massive ice crystals and still the formidable taste of cucumber.
- Weevil damage to pea seedlings
- Bee hotel
- Sweet peas shooting up
- Miniature shallots
Nearly all of our pea plants have the distinctive pattern of weevil damage around the perimeter of their leaves. This seems to slow down the development of the plants, as they are being attacked while they are quite small. Meanwhile, the sweet peas are growing very fast. It’s difficult to believe the small scattering of shallots can be bothered at all, as they seem to aspire to nothing but tiny green shoots on a martian landscape.
- Celeriac seedlings in peril
- Herbs: bronze fennel, garden mint, peppermint, lemon verbena, French tarragon, oregano, lemon balm
- Kale seedlings and runner beans and French beans
- Tomatoes and courgette outgrowing the greenhouse
- Golden raspberries
We have a few crops that are in the mini-greenhouse ready to go out into the veg plot now. The tomatoes are looking very healthy and are growing at a rapid rate, as is the single yellow courgette plant, which we intend to plant in a bucket of manure and compost. The peas continue their slow development. The kale seedlings don’t seem to be in much of a hurry, but the runner beans and French beans are racing to be planted out. Our second attempt at growing celeriac seems to be heading for disaster again, as the seedlings are steadily going yellow and wilting, despite being brought indoors.
- Malted barley measured out according to IPA recipe
- Pouring into mash tun
- Mashing grains
- Measuring hops
- Bloom of hops at the end of boil
This will be a beer brewed without a kit. We have ordered the malt, hops and yeast to follow a recipe for an American-style IPA. We’re using Maris Otter base malt with small amounts of Munich and Crystal malts. The hops are Apollo and Bravo – both a very high in alpha acids – and this is the first time we have brewed with dried hops rather than pellets.
The last of our pickled onions, pickled beetroot and sweet cucumber pickle.
One of the country lanes near us has wild garlic growing in abundance down both sides of the road, so we have picked a couple of handfuls to cook (with chicken).
- Lady Christl potatoes and last few leeks
- Salsify gone to seed
- Garlic, including elephant garlic
- Leek flower and snails
- Leek rust
- Last leek harvest
- Garlic leaves with rust removed
We have pulled up the last few leeks from last year – they have seen us through the winter, and are now on the brink of running to seed. The leeks are quite badly affected by rust, perhaps from the extensive period of wet weather through the winter, and this seems to have spread to the garlic we have been overwintering. We’ve removed as many leaves with rust as we can, to try to prevent it spreading further without weakening the garlic too much. The elephant garlic (we planted three cloves but only one has come through) is as large as a leek. The Lady Christl first early potatoes we planted just a few weeks ago have grown extremely fast, too fast for us to properly earth them up.