Friday, 22 July 2011

Summer garden

Now is the time of year that the garden starts bursting at the seams, and we begin to despair of keeping up with all the produce. All that hard work planting and weeding starts to pay off, and I begin to wonder what ever possessed me to plant quite so many beans and pumpkins! We've had a rather mixed year, weather-wise. The Winter was really cold (killing off my lovely artichoke plants!), Spring was too hot and dry and Summer has been relatively cool, but fortunately we have at least been getting plenty of rain.

I'm still a novice when it comes to gardening, this being my second year on our allotment. My general mode of operation is to learn by making mistakes (I'm just not a firm believer in reading instructions). So not everything is doing great. Which is almost for the best, because otherwise we really would be drowning in produce.

I tried out the three sisters this year, a planting method used by Native Americans to grow squash, corn and beans. I modified this to two sisters, not being sure I could rely on corn growning well enough in our climate to serve as a sturdy climbing structure for the beans. So I put the beans with squash and corn with pumpkins. Unfortunately I put the squash in the middle of the bean teepees, so the poor things are not getting enough light. I had hoped they would trail over the ground and escape outside the teepee, but they haven't been growing fast enough to keep up with the beans. Next year, squash outside, beans inside!

beans overshadowing the acorn squash

My other squash and bean combination will probably work, because the beans (borlotti) fortuntely turned out to be bush beans instead of climbers.

borlotti beans and butternut squash

I planted a lot of pumpkin seeds because I absolutely adore pumpkins. This year I tried a French variety, not realising quite how big the plants would get. The corn has only just managed to keep its head above the pumpkin leaf cover.

courge musquée and corn

Just so you don't think I'm limiting my diet exclusively to beans and squash, I should tell you about my real gardening success - beets and swiss chard. I like to make a warm salad with the beets, because then you can use the whole plant. I don't use a recipe, but here is the general procedure: (you need about 2 beets per person to get enough beet greens, but I only use about 1/2 of the actual beet per serving):

  • wrap beets in aluminum foil and roast in oven at 375f/190c for up to an hour, depending on size of beet
  • while the beets are roasting make vinagrette - I like this one shared by David Lebovitz - and chop some walnuts
  • when the beets are out of the oven and cooling, wash and chop greens and saute in a bit of olive oil.
  • when beets are cool enough to touch, peel off skin (comes off easily with minimal finger staining) and chop up beets
  • put sauteed beet greens on plate, sprinkle on chopped beets, goats cheese or feta cheese, and chopped walnuts. Top with vinagrette.

If you can't get hold of beet greens, swiss chard or wilted spinach would work as well. Another good recipe for swiss chard it bacon and swiss chard pasta. I could eat this meal once a week and never get bored of it - fortunately, because we have a lot of swiss chard to use up!