Newsletter #21 - March 2004
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Happy Cooking !
Florence Sandeman, Editor
What did the carrot say to the wheat?
Lettuce rest, I'm feeling beet
My turn to have a dig!
No, I'm not going to be controversial...it's just a catchy title (hopefully). When I say "dig" I literally mean DIG....or maybe not. With Spring almost upon us, what better time to think forward a little to summer days of fresh harvests, lovingly grown, picked and cooked by your own fair hands.
If you've grown your own before, then I'm probably preaching to the converted, something I try never to do. Having said that, even if you have, this article may still have a few tricks up its sleeve which may be be of interest to you. If you've never grown your own do read on and allow me to tempt you. If you've never grown your own and don't feel inclined to do so.... oh, read on anyway, just to humour me!
Turn your thoughts away from allotments or 1000 feet rows of stringy green beans or a garden devoid of colour because it's full of Brussels Sprouts. No, I'm going to talk about growing delicious crops whilst still having a garden you'll love to sit in and enjoy. Yup, 2 birds with one stone. AND don't worry if you only have a concrete patio or terrace....that's EXACTLY what I've had (still have) for the past 6 years or so, but it certainly hasn't stopped me.
I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of growing every single herb and vegetable....there's a really comprehensive section on the site which tells you everything you need to know plus more Growing Herbs and Vegetables. What I'm going to concentrate on here are the different ways you can grow edible crops.
Firstly, don't feel you have to grow hundreds of different veggies. If you've never done it before, just pick 2 or 3 of your favourites and start from there. The good old Tomato is certainly worth a try. Why pay extra at the supermarket for "vine" tomatoes. Half the time they don't taste much better than ordinary loose ones. Don't be fooled by that "fresh vine" smell either. It's not always an indication that the texture or taste will be any better....it's just the smell of the stalk.
Certain dwarf varieties have the added advantage of being able to grow in hanging baskets amongst the lobelia or in growbags or pots.
Ah...POTS...my speciality. I have grown all sorts of things in pots and growbags over the years. Dwarf green beans, courgettes (with the bonus that you get the flowers which you can stuff - very trendy) carrots, lettuce, Aubergines, Capsicums, Chilies, rocket, potatoes YES potatoes, spinach, baby beetroot, spring onions, plus a whole range of herbs such as rosemary, parsley, basil, bay, coriander, thyme, sage and oregano.
Pots sizes can start from 4" in diameter for many herbs to 6" in diameter and depth for small catches of baby carrots, dwarf green beans, radish and cut-and- come-again lettuce, to 8-10" in diameter for larger crops like leaf beet which is an excellent substitute for spinach and has the advantage that you cut a few of the outer leaves from the plants at a time so the hearts keep growing for later harvesting ensuring a continuous crop of succulent young leaves.
What about fruit? Strawberries are easy but believe it or not apples, pears, cherries, peaches and plums are also possibilities. OK, you need a large pot (something like a half barrel) for the last three, but I've done it and got fantastic results and with the dwarf varies available today you don't need the space of an orchard.
Picture of part of my terrace showing flowers and cherry tomatoes (by the window) and bottom RH a couple of leaves of a Courgette plant....all growing in pots/ growbags
All you need are containers of some kind, be they plastic or pukka terracotta flower pots, or wooden (so long as they're water-poof and have drainage holes), compost or a mixture of compost and soil and preferably something like vermiculite or perlite which not only bulks up the compost but also makes it more free draining and lighter in weight (easier if you have to move the pots), and a proprietary fertiliser. When you first start, don't get too bogged down with the myriads of fertilisers on sale: choose a general one and it should suit most of your needs. Ummm, I suppose I should also mention seeds or plants?
For those of you who love your flowers, be it in containers or direct in the soil, why not grow veggies or herbs among them? In our Growing Herbs and Vegetables we not only tell you how to grow crops, but we state their height and spread so it's easy for you to figure out what to plant where so they don't obscure your flower display. Just imagine the front of your border with colourful plants softening the edges of the path - petunias, nasturtiums, alyssum, coriander, sweet peas, lobelia, basil, pansies....
We also explain about not having to grow veggies in the traditional long rows and sowing in succession which means you don't get a glut of veggies all ready at the same time. Growing crops in these ways also often eliminates the need for all that time-honoured double digging. The most you'll need is a hand fork and trowel. SAVE YOUR BACK!
Remember, veggies are just plants...many just as beautiful as flowering plants but with the bonus that you get to eat them. Oh, and don't forget you know where they've grown, how they've grown and what chemicals have been sprayed on them. Personally, I haven't used ANY chemicals on my crops in the last 15 years. That's a lie! I have used slug pellets AROUND the pots but not on the soil.
Why not have a go? Just a couple of 2ft square or round patches, a few 2 ft rows in the border or 5 or 6 pots or troughs will do, but I bet once you've tried it and harvested your own fresh vegetables or herbs, you'll be hooked.
Happy Crop Growing!
What's New This month
Cooking by Country
Click the picture to find out about Bulgaria's culinary culture and history, present day cooking and customs plus lots of recipe
Did you know there is proof that farming communities existed in the lands which now form Bulgaria as far back as the Neolithic Period (6,000 BC - 3,000 BC) ... among the earliest in European history. We think you'll be surprised to learn what the Land of Spartacus (he of Thracian Gladiator fame) has to offer.
Also in this section, we give you comprehensive information about a typical Bulgarian dish and a widely used ingredient.
The Bulgarian Speciality Dish KARVARMA
The Bulgarian Speciality Ingredient YOGHURT
Ingredient of the month
Click the picture to find out all about Cinnamon plus lots of recipes
So why did the Emperor Nero burn a year's supply of Cinnamon on his wife's funeral pyre?
We tell you that plus lots of other interesting facts about this wonderful warm, rich spice including the difference between true Cinnamon and Cassia who experts say should never be used in its place.....mmmmmm
Don't forget St. Patrick's Day on 17th March. We have a section dedicated to the Patron Saint of Ireland with some background information about him plus, of course, LOTS of recipes - click the hat
Recipe of the Month
Here's a variation on the normal fruit crumble which uses oats. We've chosen Rhubarb for this filling as it's the time of year for fresh Rhubarb, but any fruit can be substituted. By the way - did you know Rhubarb is actually classed as a vegetable not a fruit? Well....it is! You can read all about Rhubarb HERE
Serves 6 60mins
900g/2lb Fresh Rhubarb
approx 175g/6oz Granulated Sugar
4 tbsp Water
For the topping
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
4 tbsp Demerara Sugar
100g/4oz Rolled Oats
50g/2oz Fresh Breadcrumbs
1 heaped teasp Ground Ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 190C, 375F, Gas Mark5. Wash the rhubarb and cut into 2.5cm/1-inch lengths.
2. Place the rhubarb in a saucepan together with the granulated sugar and water, bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, place the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan and heat gently until melted.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the Demerara sugar, rolled oats, breadcrumbs and ginger.
5. Transfer the cooked rhubarb to an ovenproof dish then pour the rolled oats mixture over the top, spreading it evenly and pressing it down lightly.
6. Bake for about 35 minutes until crisp and golden. Serve hot.
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