Frost .. Schmost. With the cold weather starting to kick in, there’s still lots to make and do in the vegetable garden. I’m stunned still to have some chillis and sweet peppers surviving and still ripening in the mini greenhouses. I have my first few ‘Bulgarian Carrot’ chillis and will taste them shortly. Among the sweet peppers there are some strange mud-like colours as they morph from green to red, but that also means the flavour is transforming to its best too, so is very welcome.
Talking of mud, the ground/lawn around the beds is absolutely soaking wet after recent downpours but the swampy conditions have to be braved to rescue the more delicate crops before they get ruined by morning frosts. Today I picked the last two small cucumbers from a rapidly withering plant. And nearby cut down lots of bunny tail stalks, being one of the few non-vegetable things I grow. Once properly dried and tidied up, they’re delightfully decorative – and more than a little bit cute too – displayed indoors in a jar or a few placed among flowers for variety.
The leafy vegetables which were ravaged by caterpillars earlier in the year have almost all come back, but are being nibbled again. It’s not that bad yet, but I’ll need to hit them with some pyrethum powder again to keep the critters at bay.
Especially pleasing is the comeback of the mustard red frills. It’s a simple plant and easy to grow, but I love its spicy, mustardy taste. It’ll soon be joined by a new neighbour when I plant next year’s garlic. The bulbs arrived recently and I’ve gone for Red Duke and Bohemian Rose as both varieties did very well this year and – most importantly to my mind – the flavour survives cooking well, without fading away to nothing by the time you serve up a dish.
Back indoors I jarred up some herbs which I picked a week ago and put in the dehydrator. It’s nice to have lots of rosemary ready with Christmas coming: crunchy roast potatoes cooked with lots of rosemary and crushed garlic .. double yum! And although the rosemary, oregano and others survive winter pretty well, I dry and jar some just for the convenience of not having to go out in the worst of the weather to pick them fresh.
Pulses of course can dry themselves on the plant and I remembered a tray of borlotti bean pods I’d picked weeks ago. Splitting them open produced a jar full of nicely colourful beans. Most are pale but others are purple. I presumed the colours reflected different stages of maturity but then found the two different types in the same pod, so it must just be a random thing. When borlotti are cooked they’re deliciously smooth and tasty: good enough to eat as they are as an accompaniment, although many include them in stews and hearty soups. If pre-cooked they work well in a stir-fry too.
Putting some of today’s produce to use and defrosting some earlier hauls, I made a nice healthy dinner of cod with fresh Rosso Cielo chilli and French tarragon, with Sutton broad beans and some of those delicious mustard red frills leaves. All home grown apart from the cod. I haven’t found anywhere selling fish plants yet but am on the lookout …