We have been foraging for beech leaves, as we thought we would follow an old recipe for a gin infusion. We have collected up a carrier bag of beech leaves, brand new as they are just appearing on the trees, and put them in a jar with a bottle of gin to steep for a few weeks. The colour is vivid at first, but has dimmed as the infusion steeps.
- Beech leaf infusion
- The contents of the pickle cupboard
- Watercress soup with handmade sourdough
- Blending ingredients for watercress soup
It does not take long to make some soup when we find a bunch of watercress in our vegetable bag. Sweat a leek and add some stock and a chopped potato – simmer until the potato is cooked and then add the chopped watercress for a few moments, then use a hand blender to blend to a soup texture. A delicious peppery lunch.
- Beetroot seedlings
- Perished celeriac seedlings
- Rocket and mustard
- Sweetcorn seedlings
- Pea seedlings and netting
Things are coming along fairly slowly in the veg plot. We have a few clumps of beetroot seedlings that are struggling against the hard clay soil and the persistent attacks of slugs. Our pea seedlings are big enough to need the support of some netting. For both these crops, we are sowing successionally, so we have planted another row as the previous row grows. The sweetcorn seedlings seem very strong and confident, but our celeriac seedlings, which were very leggy, have now perished.
- Bean seeds
- Weevil damage to pea seedlings
- Rocket, mustard, celeriac and augergine
- Sweetcorn seedlings
The soil in our vegetable plot is too hard to sow many seeds directly. The continuous wet weather over the winter has compacted the soil into a thick crunchy surface, and the soil is already very clayey anyhow. So we’re almost forced to sow many of our crops in pots to start with, before the challenge of the soil.
The third beer we have made, the grapefruit honey ale brewed a couple of weeks ago, is a triumph. It is clean and crisp and has a strong citrusy finish, without any of the debris and aftertaste that has plague previous homebrews.
- Strawberry flowers
- Blackcurrant flowers
We have quite a few flowers appearing on our various strawberry plants, which is hopefully a sign of a healthy crop. We also have a fair few flowers on our Ben Tirran blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes, but nothing so far on our Baldwin blackcurrant.
- Sliced cucumbers with onion and bronze fennel
- Bottled pickle
- Sliced cucumber
It’s always difficult to find something to do with a cucumber. We’ve tried pickling cucumber before, and it wasn’t all that nice. The contrast between the tough skin and the soft watery interior perhaps adds to the problem. This time we have tried a sweet pickle, and sliced the cucumber very thinly. The thin slices are mixed with thinly sliced onion, a little bronze fennel (the recipe calls for dill but we only have bronze fennel on our herb bench) and sugar and white wine vinegar. The thin slices should mean the pickle will fit into sandwich fillings.
We have been able to harvest our first few stems of rhubarb. The stems do not seem to be very long, but the plant is producing a many large leaves and seems very vigorous.
- Hop going strong
- Beetroot seedlings
- Leggy celeriac seedlings
We have a few signs of life beginning to show in the vegetable plot now.
- Tidied and repotted herbs, sweet peas and strawberries
- Repotted olive tree, lavender and currant trees
- Spring onion, lettuce, rocket, mustard, celeriac and aubergine seeds
- Chantenay carrot seeds sown in a bucket
- Bee hotel
- Large rhubarb leaves
- Support for golden raspberries
With a spell of dry weather and sunshine, we have been able to get out into the garden to begin tidying up some of the mayhem from the long wet winter months, and sort out the plants that are beginning to grow again.
Having a cast iron cookpot makes slow cooking difficult joints of meat, like oxtail, very easy. We just fried the oxtail pieces to seal them, then added them to the pot with some onions, carrots, thyme and bay leaves, added a little beef stock, and put it in the oven at around 140C for a couple of hours. The result is deeply flavoured rich pieces of meat.
- Lady Christl potatoes sprouting
- Slow worm in the leeks
- Freshly dug over and planted King Edwards, with remaining leeks and overwintered garlic
We have already planted a couple of rows of Lady Christl first early potatoes, which are just beginning to sprout through the soil. We have now dug over and planted King Edward seed potatoes as our maincrop. In between the two, we still have a row of leeks still standing, and the garlic we have overwintered, which has now begun to develop with the spring weather. While we were digging, we found a slow worm in amongst the leeks, which didn’t seem to be all that bothered by our activity.