Sun and spices

As noon approached earlier today, the skies cleared and a mathematical equation formed in my mind:

Freshly picked veg + pizza base from cupboard + table & chair on back patio + seed cataogue = perfect lunchtime.

Freshly picked pizza topping

Freshly picked pizza topping …

.. makes for an enjoyable outdoor lunch in the sunshine

.. makes for an enjoyable outdoor lunch in the sunshine

And it was indeed very enjoyable, although the list of seeds I want to try next year is already spiraling out of control. The pizza benefited from some delicious basil torn and scattered on top and I’m already growing three varieties but have now seen several more must-haves.

Purple-leaved basil growing in one of the greenhouses

Purple-leaved basil growing in one of the greenhouses

Next it was time to sow some seeds for a late autumn crop. Leafy vegetables grow so well and quickly at this time of year that it’s almost wrong not to grow them. Just between the mustard leaves and Mizuna lettuces, I sowed some Chinese cabbage, of the variety Wa Wa Sai. I find Chinese cabbage delicious and hope these do well.

Chinese cabbage seeds went in the ground today

Chinese cabbage seeds went in the ground today

The herb bed welcomed a sowing of wild garlic seeds – a first timer for me and interesting as there are no bulbs like proper garlic but rather it produces leaves with a mild garlic taste. I expect they could be delicious slightly wilted as an accompaniment to a main course, if the flavour survives cooking that is. We’ll see.

Weeding - before

Weeding – before

While doing some weeding I was glad to have left string markers for the rows of radish and raab broccoli. Some of the weeds looked very similar to the small plants and they’re all growing at the same rapid pace.

Weeding - after

Weeding – after

That can be slightly troublesome with some plants though. I’ve a small raised bed full of Spagna Bianco bean plants and they’ve been growing so vigorously that I can snap six inch shoots off the top that simply weren’t there the day before. Conversely they keep throwing out more flowers, which in theory would turn into more delicious beans but it’s really too late in the year for them to develop fully.

Spagna Bianco bean plants flowering late in the season

Spagna Bianco bean plants flowering late in the season

So I’m trying to keep the plants in check so that all their energy goes into filling out the beans which have already appeared. It’s the same late season practice as taking the top off tomato plants and removing leaves to let the sun onto the fruit.

Sweet Million tomatoes ripening on the vine

Sweet Million tomatoes ripening on the vine

Back indoors I was keen to try making up a spice mix called Baharat, since seeing a recipe a few days ago.

Spicy Middle Eastern ingredients

Spicy Middle Eastern ingredients

Blended together into a powder

Blended together into a powder

It’s Middle Eastern and is used to flavour all sorts of dishes. It was very simple to make: blend paprika, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, coriander, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blitzed in a blender, it’s done in seconds.

The finished Baharat

The finished Baharat

It did make me wish though that I grew more of those spicy ingredients rather than using bought ones. So I tried making some chilli powder, picking a few Medina and red Jalapeños, slicing them and drying them in a low oven for a couple of hours. Thanks to Herbs & Wildcrafting for the idea.

Chopping chillies for powder

Chopping chillies for powder

Ready for oven drying

Ready for oven drying

Again, a quick spin in the mini blender and it was done. I’ve heard experts mention adding cumin, but forgot until later so will try that next time. It’s striking how many chillies you need to make a reasonable amount of powder. I was nowhere near filling a standard-sized spice jar, but wouldn’t really want to use a lot of my chilli harvest just to make powder. I’d rather use them fresh or freeze them whole.

Finished home-grown chilli powder

Finished home-grown chilli powder

Now of course I have to look into which other spices can grow in the cooler northern English climate. Back to the seed catalogues again .. an excuse for another slice of that pizza!

8 responses to “Sun and spices

    • Gosh thank you. I didn’t see your message until just now – WordPress had put it in the spam queue for some reason. Well I’m not normally one for questions about oneself but will have a think about the ones on your post and see if I can come up with anything interesting!

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