things to harvest, things to sow

It feels like I’ve had so much to do, and so much to pick and make, there never seems to be a good time to sit and write – the cocktail of my life is definitely being served with a twist of ‘scared rabbit caught in the headlights’ at the mo, leading to a touch of scribbler’s stoppage…….which, dear reader, while inconvenient, is not as painful or as socially embarrassing as it sounds 😉

I’m not apologising for my silence – I’m sure you’ve been too busy to notice, but more that I might post in splurges while I catch up…so, the list below will grow links as the evening progresses….
Mother Nature seems to being having splurges too (maybe it’s our age) 😉 – so some things are early (mulberries and blackberries), some things are going at normal speed (fennel seeds and mushrooms), some things have done really badly because they flowered before the cold snap (plums, peaches, almonds and I fear, sloes) and some things have gone overboard with their bounty (cherries, nasturtiums, grapes and cobnuts)…and I found 2 sprigs of blossom on my next door neighbour’s pear tree this week….which is just plain abnormal.

nape cherries in the sunlight

nape cherries in the sunlight


Things to pick and harvest now
Poppy seeds – for baking
Angelica seeds – (but make sure it’s angelica not giant hog’s weed) for baking and flavouring
Cherries – for liqueurs, cordial and glacé
Vine leaves – preserved leaves for dolmades
Nasturtium seeds and leaves – for poor folk capers and lily pad crisps
Green walnuts – for nocino
Mulberries – for liqueur and cordial
Blackberries – ditto and B’s lovely chilli blackberry jelly

Things to sow now
There’s loads of flowers you’re meant to start in late summer for next year, and I usually forget, but Sweet Cecily is useful, ditto angelica, although you need to pop the seeds in the freezer for a couple of weeks to break dormancy…
….and lots and lots of coriander – (this may seem silly as it’s going to bolt and flower really quickly if it’s hot and dry and anyway there’s 4 huge bunches for £1 on the market but…) – in a couple of months the bees will LOVE you for this favourite pollen source, and you’ll be able to harvest both green and dried seed….don’t bother to use seeds from a garden centre – miles too costly – straight out of your kitchen cupboard will do fine…

(….other things to sew, sadly, are the holes in the arses of 3 of my favourite skirts, but that’s because I never change into ‘my gardening clothes’ – I’m a clutz….)

things to upcycle
BBQ
Kitchen spritzer

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Brockwell Park Salad

There’s a great park in South London called Brockwell Park, and it has amazing community gardens based around the old greenhouses (it dates back to 1811, so there used to be gardeners on site raising bedding plants for displays). Anyway, some years ago, when the community space was first set up, I was invited to go and help cook the produce at their open day (it was part of my job at the time, working on local food projects – I’m not trying to make out I’m famous). Such a beautiful idyll in the middle of the city.
Anyway, this below is what we made, it was all there was to harvest that day, but happily it was a pretty perfect combination. I always think of it as Brockwell Park Salad – I make it as soon as there’s an excess of nasturtium leaves in the garden…sadly, I haven’t been on the ball enough to grow everything for myself this year, but there were enough new potatoes in the left over dinner I was given, and I have some broad beans in the freezer. The leaves and the onions came from our community garden here in Limehouse.

Ingredients
For every 500 g of potatoes (new or salad potatoes – I like Anya or Pink Fir Apple, ‘cos they’re so dense and nutty)
2-3 generous handfuls of broad beans, fresh young ones or frozen, slipped out of their little white jackets
2-3 spring onions
½ red onion
Rocket leaves – wild or cultivated
Baby nasturtium leaves – if you haven’t got any, you could use watercress, as they come from the same family and taste similar.
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt, preferably flakes or coarsely ground
Coarsely ground black pepper – optional, as the leaves are peppery.

Method
Boil the potatoes in their skins. Placing the broadbeans in a sieve, immerse them in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes, then remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, finely slice the red onion, and chop the spring onions at an angle, into 1cm lengths. Gently heat the oil, and sweat the spring onions for a couple of minutes so they just lose their oniony bite.
Drain the potatoes, and gently squash them to crack their skins – you may need to cut up some of the larger ones. Add the oil, spring onions and the salt, mix through and set aside to cool down a little – it’s fine if you serve it warm, but the leaves will wilt too much if the spuds are too hot.
When cooled a bit, add everything else and fold in. If you’ve got some nasturtium flowers (mine aren’t in bloom yet) you could use a few on the top, but I quite like it yellowy cream and bright green with a hint of crimson from the red onion.

old, cold, french fry soup

Obviously, I am not suggesting anybody goes and buys french fries to try this recipe, but if you ever find you have been entrusted with the care of an abandoned box of french fried waifs and strays with rigor mortis setting in, don’t call social services, don’t arrange a funeral 🙂 MAKE THIS SOUP! Even day old fries work fine.

2 parts water to 1 part old french fries, a clove of garlic chopped. Place in saucepan, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer until all hard leathery bits have gone completely soft – usually about 10 minutes. Blitz. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
Eh, voilà, before your very eyes will appear a velvety soup of honeyed gold – maybe it should be called cinderella soup – it is more properly a ‘Purée Parmentier’ – undoubtedly it’s the high oil content in the original fries that makes it taste so silky and delicious.

Mr Benz used to do this to me so often -ie, come home with uneaten/unwanted fries (like a bloody cat bringing you dead mice), that I had to come up with variations……
Nasturtium leaves added 3-4 minutes before the end – like watercress soup
A sprig of thyme, rosemary, sage or marjoram added at the beginning and removed before blitzing.
A few leaves of basil added just before blitzing.
A 1/4 of a porcini stock cube added to the cooking water, and a dribble of truffle oil added upon serving – a particular fav.
A dribble of olive oil you’ve fried with paprika and garlic, upon serving.

On this occasion, I added some of the wild garlic leaves about 2 minutes before the end of cooking.