Coming in from the cold

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.

Mini cucumbers and chillis: Bulgarian Carrot and Rosso Guardia Cielo

Mini cucumbers and chillis: Bulgarian Carrot and Rosso Guardia Cielo

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.

Bunny Tail plant

Bunny Tail plant

Bunny Tails drying

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.

Kale, recovered but being nibbled at again

Kale, recovered but being nibbled at again

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.

Mustard Red Frills: a spicy salad leaf

Mustard Red Frills: a spicy salad leaf

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.

Rosemary having done a turn in the dehydrator

Rosemary having done a turn in the dehydrator

Dried Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme and Basil (green and purple)

Dried Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme and Basil (green and purple)

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.

Unshelled borlotti beans, dried naturally on the plant

Unshelled borlotti beans, dried naturally on the plant

Popping out

Popping out

Stored and ready to use

Stored and ready to use

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 …

Cod with home grown vegetables

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3 responses to “Coming in from the cold

  1. Is rosemary supposed to be dried in the dehydrator? Does it keep the flavor better if dehydrated quickly like that? I just hang it up, and take it off the stems as I want it.

    • Hi Tony. I’ve oven dried it in the past and the flavour seems to hold pretty well. But air drying it like you do is probably exactly the same thing but dried at a different pace. And by not using any power you’re the smart one round here! 🙂

      • Thank you, but I just did it that way because it is how I thought it was to be done. and because I do prefer the flavor of dried rosemary for some things. It can be too pungent while fresh.

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