Cooling colours and Comebacks

Or when you start to go off the colour green …

Some clever people claim that there are infinite parallel universes and that therefore every permutation of circumstances will exist somewhere. I could be filthy rich on another version of planet Earth, or be something impressive like a concert pianist. But at the moment I’d settle for a world where tomatoes are supposed to be green.

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The problem is that quite a few of my tomato plants are giving up for the year – going brown, flopping over, getting mouldy or just generally dying but with lots of unripe green tomatoes on them. With little choice but to pick them, the number of green tomatoes in my kitchen today is very large and the number of recipes for using them is very small. I still have green tomato chutney from this time last year so don’t want any more. This will require more research…

Meanwhile I lifted the first parsnips of the year today. They’re the variety Tender and True and their uniform shape was impressive. The Gladiator parsnips I grew once before were all sorts of daft shapes in comparison.

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An hour after picking them, tasty roast parsnips:

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There are still a dozen or so in the ground and today I had to pin back their vigorous leafy growth as it was overshadowing the adjoining row of calabrese. While doing so I noticed one of the calabrese plants had bolted, with a spray of small yellow flowers. On the same stalk were what looked like tiny pea pods.

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Calabrese seed pods

Cutting one open revealed the tiny calabrese seeds, still green and soft but if I left them to dry out on the plant I’m sure they’d be viable. They’re a non-hybrid variety – Autumn Spear – so seed saving is a genuine option.

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Fresh calabrese seeds

While parsnips and broccoli are fine with the dropping temperatures, I can’t believe the Tuscany courgette plant is still doing its thing. Its neighbour, a Romanesco, looks to have given up though.

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Tuscany courgette still thinks it’s summer

Normally a good autumn frost will do wonders for the sweetness of the grapes. But to be honest it’s not been a good year for my two vines. The purple one didn’t grow at all and I think it may be dead (but have seen surprise comebacks in the past so won’t write it off yet) and the green vine only put out a few fairly sparse bunches, not really worth picking, so I’ve left them where they are as a treat for the birds.

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Modest grapes

Strictly under cover, the basil plants are still doing OK in one of the mini greenhouses, if looking a little pale. It’s been a pleasure to have some success with Thai basil this year. A bushy, leafy plant, Thai basil is very different from the fragrant sweet basil which works so well with tomatoes. It has more of an aniseed taste which just works perfectly with Thai curries. And the taste survives cooking quite well too, unlike sweet basil which is at its best torn and scattered onto food just as it’s being served.

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Thai Basil hung out to dry

For fear of losing the leaves as temperatures drop I chopped lots of it off today and have hung it up in the garage to dry out, hopefully ending up in a box that I can dip into during the cold season. Happily, its Thai cooking companion the lemongrass plant seems very happy in its new position in the living room.

There are still some lovely colours around outside. I’m mesmerised by the vivid red stalks of the swiss chard and each time I take the mesh off the scarlet kale the purple hue is a delight to behold.

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Vivid colours of Swiss Chard

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Deep purple Scarlet Kale

But back in the land of green there was a surprise in the bed nearest to the house, where some beetroot had been growing earlier in the year. Since taking out the beetroot plants a short row of broad bean plants has appeared out of nowhere. They can only be from when I grew broad beans in this spot last year. How did the big dried bean ‘seeds’ survive in the soil for a year and a half? Especially the several months when there was beetroot growing above them. It’s remarkable but a very pleasant surprise.

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Broad Bean surprise!

The variety – Sutton – is suitable for autumn sowing and overwintering, so their timing is ideal and with a bit of cloche protection they should produce a very early harvest in the spring. I started this post with a mention of clever people, but it seems that plants can be pretty smart too sometimes 🙂

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