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Sweet Cicely

Sweet cicely 2Ah, the first snow of the year (in London)! I’m deliciously warm and cosy inside, and this enforced idleness from gardening allows me a little time for reflection and planning for the year ahead.

Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis oderata) has to be one of my favourite herbs. Its subtle aniseed flavour is always a great addition to salads and this perennial herb is also a natural sweetener, so can be added to Rhubarb and other tart fruits when cooking, instead of sugar.

Last summer I visited ‘Little Sparta’ just south of Edinburgh (another post to follow on this wonderful artist’s garden) and was enchanted by the use of Sweet Cicely as soft feathery underplanting around a small copse of trees, looking like the most delicate of fur collars. Now I think the soil at Little Sparta may be somewhat damper than my own garden, but certainly an idea to experiment with and proof that not all herbs need full sun to flourish.

Sweet CicelyIf you fancy experimenting yourself and don’t have a herb nursery on your doorstep, Herbal Haven is a great online herb nursery that always sends out quality plants at very reasonable prices.

Indigo Rose Tomato

Indigo Rose tomatoesI’ve been watching this tomato for a while now (Indigo Rose seeds available from Plant World Seeds), and many neighbours and passersby have been commenting on these alluring fruits too. They seemed resolutely black and rock ‘ard up until a day or two ago, but now things are changing. Michelle at Veg Plotting luckily wrote about how to tell when this black tomato is ripe, so I’ve been patiently waiting for any sign of red.

Indigo Rose tomatoes closeAnd here it is. The green underside has slowly but surely started to redden up. What a gorgeous thing!

On eating, this, sadly, isn’t the most tasty tomato I’ve ever tried. Rather bland and with a mushy, watery texture. My favourite tomato ever is Ananas Noir (freshly plucked last summer when holidaying in the Loire) and it’s a hard act to follow, but I may well grow this variety again, just for its amazing good looks alone.

yellow tomatotesMeanwhile, I’ve been tucking into these delicious ‘Golden Crown’ cherry tomatoes, supplied by Sea Spring Seeds for lunches and dinners and these fruits have been remarkably sweet and full of flavour. A definite for next year.

Black cherry‘Black Cherry’ (more of a muddy red), also from Sea Spring Seeds has also been a little disappointing in taste, so the search continues for a truly delicious ‘black’ variety that will sweeten-up well when grown outdoors in our northern clime.

Eleni and her trboncinoThis year we gave away Tromboncino courgette seeds as part of our community veg growing project. They’re a big hit.

Now Eleni, above, is no novice grower. She knows her veg. She’s grown this summer squash before. But this year she’s gone wild and let it grow and grow. She’s knocked twice to invite me round to see it.

She knows it’s past eating, but she doesn’t care. She just likes seeing it grow.

Tromboncino courgette

Meanwhile, neighbours next door shared a splendid meal last night with said vegetable. They sliced it with a potato peeler into thin, flat, pasta-like strips and when slightly cooked, mixed it with tomatoes, garlic, spicy mini meatballs made from chorizo sausages and some oricchiette (ear shaped) pasta. It looked amazing and tasted delicious.

There’s nothing like growing your own.

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