There is still time to preserve herbs for use over the winter. The "woody" herbs are best dried - sage, thyme, mint, balm, rosemary - and the softer herbs are best frozen. We hang bunches of the woody herbs until they are bone dry and "crunchy" then strip off the leaves and store them in a dry container. We freeze the softer herbs in ice trays, chopping them first. Here we have chives, two varieties of parsley and basil. Then when we need some for flavouring the cooking, we just drop in a cube to melt and add its flavour. Job done, just drop a borage cube into a glass of pink elderflower and celebrate!
Harvesting at SCG continues apace and harvesting is itself a sign of autumn with the hedgerows filling with fruits and nuts and the colours changing and fungi appearing. Here are a few images we have collected (along with several pounds of elderberries, blackberries and sloes).
Gil was a founder of Sawtry Gardening Club and one of the first members was "DaisyDee" who works as a gardener and grower and has an organic and wildlife friendly garden in Conington. The posts on her Facebook site are always interesting and informative and she posted recently on woodlice which led me to do some research.
Often complained about for eating strawberries, they actually only eat fruit damaged already, such as by slugs. They are a crustacean, like crabs, and there are 45 species in England, though only five are common. They can roll into a ball (hence "pillbugs") and rear their young in a pouch like kanagaroos. As they feed on decaying matter, they are major recyclers converting garden detritus into a rich growing medium. Amazingly, they can also remove heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic and lead by ionising it, so preventing metal ions leaching in to groundwater. This means they are able to live on very polluted ground.
They were one of the favourite bug hunt finds of last year's Nature Tots too who enjoyed turning over stones to see what was there.
We are now harvesting tomatoes and our records show this is about a week earlier than in 2019. There is a good range of shapes, sizes and colours as shown in the slide show below (and that is just a selection).
Tomatoes are easy to save seed from because if they are ripe enough to eat, then the seed will be ripe enough to germinate. So you can pick a tomato, slice it, remove a few seeds and then eat it! We arrange the seeds on pieces of toilet paper, suitably distanced and with the variety written on the paper. Ideally, collect tomatoes from a number of different plants. When it comes to sowing in the spring, then we cut off a strip with the number we want to germinate, lay the paper on a quarter tray of sowing compost and lightly cover it. There is no risk of the seeds being overcrowded, it is easy to assess germination percentage, and the paper is absorbed into the sowing compost and disappears.
Not to do with gardening but I couldn't resist sharing some images to commemorate the 80th anniversary.
In 1968 our squadron's summer camp was at RAF Bassingbourn on the Hertfordshire/Cambridgeshire border. My instructor, "the Boss" was a former Spitfire pilot. As we were nearing the end of an aerobatic sortie in our elderly Chipmunk trainer, we saw to our right a flight of Spitfires and an accompanying camera plane. The "Battle of Britain" film was using the airfield at Duxford, just down the road, for the flying sequences. The Boss said "I have control" and put on full power and into a climbing zoom. "We will come at them out of the sun!" They were pottering along at somewhere over 300 knots. The best we could do, even in a dive, was less than half that. We were never going to catch them, but for a brief time I had a feel for the adrenaline, quick reaction, skill and commitment that the Boss had needed in his Spitfire. "Next time, we will try to get more height sooner."
A reminder of some of last year's harvest. Granddaughter Elizabeth entered a school competition for a harvest picture. This is her photograph of the things she gathered at SCG. Every year is different. We wonder what this year's harvest photo might look like. Anyone up for sharing one?
Beans are starting to become available at SCG, especially the climbing french and fava beans. Here are some ideas for using them.
All varieties of beans dry well and can be saved for many years. These are some of the french bean varieties we have in our store cupboard, some of which go back to a very good year in 2016. Fava beans, runner beans, broad beans also dry and save well. We save them for sowing, but also they are good eaten. First they need:
We use them in a tomato, onion and herb sauce with pasta or jacket potato. Add chilli for chilli beans, or chilli, coriander seed, cummin seeds and ginger for a curry.
They also make good soup with mixed vegetables and perhaps shredded cabbage. This can be left chunky or liquidised for a thick winter version.
Hummous is made from cooked beans well minced (or using a food processor) with tahini (sesame seeds ground with oil) and lemon juice, salt, garlic and paprika.
We hope you enjoy some!
The potager is one of the first things visitors see when they reach the site. This is the first year it has been planted up and despite the constraints of sowing and growing during the pandemic, it is starting to look both welcoming and impressive. A new coat of paint in a less startling shade is showing off the plants to better effect and the globe artichoke, given by the community garden in Stockport, has established itself well. Here are some images.
The weekly report on Wednesday mentioned that seed harvesting was getting in to full swing as well as the continuing harvest of fresh produce. Here are a few of the seeds we are gathering at the "detached" site - herbs (angelica, woad and both white and blue borage), beans (fava beans and climbing french Mrs Lewis's) and flowers (poppy, mirabilis and verbascum) so far.
We are also in the final stages of gathering peas for sowing next year, sending to Heritage Seed Library (HSL), and making available to volunteers and the community. HSL are particularly keen to build up a robust stock of the mangetout "Eat All", the red podded "Stephens" and the round seeded "Newick". Last year the mangetout Golden Sweet was taken off the HSL list as it had been registered to a commercial grower and was no longer at risk. This year, tall pea Telephone has been registered to a German commercial grower (and renamed "Telefon") so has also dropped off the HSL list. The survival and now expansion of these varieties is thanks to the work of HSL and, of course, the army of Seed Guardians who adopt different varieties as we do.
We have been growing achocha for a number of years but this year Heritage Seed Library sent us another variety, Fat Baby. This has grown well, faster and earlier than the original variety (and prickly rather than smooth skinned!); the leaves are also very different shapes. Just as it grows more quickly, so its seeds also form earlier. The seeds are not an attractive addition to the texture or flavour so the fruit needs to be picked sooner and smaller.
As this image shows, the original variety is further behind, but showing the smoother skin we are used to. We will save seeds from both varieties and sow again next year, assessing ease of germination as part of next year's sowing results.
John & Gil Boardman, Growers at Serpentine now keeping SCG things going and growing from home.