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Posts Tagged ‘Leeks’

Cor Blimey! It’s only mid May and I’ve just eaten my first strawberry from the beds in the front garden. It was sweet and delicious and hopefully in a week or so, I’ll have enough strawberries to make an Eton mess-a favourite for one of my favourites.

With yet another day of promised rain passing by, and not a drop felt, I finally caved in and gave the veg a good soak.

The tulips and daffodils dying back in the front garden look messy, but I want them to be able to store up enough energy (by photosynthesizing ) for next near, so the leaves stay until they’ve died right back. The strange upright plant popping up in the left-hand corner of the back bed is a caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), and planted once, you’ll never be without this curious spurge again, as it self seeds like crazy by catapulting its seeds as far as it can.
Also at the back of the border, I’ve planted out about a dozen sunflowers for a show later in the year and I’ve started taking advantage of gaps appearing by planting out some leeks a friend gave me. Front garden definitely taking on a potager feel (mixture of veg and flowers in the same bed).

So here’s a quick ‘how to’ plant leeks. Although it looks fairly small, I’ve planted my home -grown leeks when they were only about 4 to 5 inches long previously, and they’ve always grown well from such a tiny start. This leek was getting pot-bound, so I’ve given it a very good soak to loosen the roots before planting out.

With a stick, make a generous hole for your leek.

Let the leek drop into the hole,

and then water it into the hole with plenty of water.

There’s no need to firm the leek in with your hands as the water has helped the roots make contact with the soil. It should be fine from now on, but if it still doesn’t rain, make sure you don’t let it dry out.

Out in the back garden, some flowers are being rather forward too. I’ve seen agapanthus heads already forming in a client’s garden(about 6-8 weeks early), and these self-sown Nigellas (above) also seem to be flowering weeks earlier than normal. Don’t think I had any in flower until July las year.  With so much happening in the garden now, I wonder what will be left to see in July and August. Luckily, I ‘ve grown loads of Nicotiana sylvestris (tall tobacco plants) and Cleome from seed and I certainly will be needing these to fill in gaps left this year. It’s still not too late to sow some annuals to fill in gaps in the border. There’s also a great article about how to delay your perennials from flowering by Robin Lane Fox at the FT which is a really useful read if you’re concerned about flower beds with no flowers come the summer proper. Anything strange happening in your gardens too?

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It was with great excitement but also much regret that I dug up my Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) today. Excitement, as each plant provides such an amazing haul of these splendid vegetables, but regret, as this is my last plant to harvest this winter, and I will have to wait until autumn now until I can have this wonderful treat again. The name Jerusalem comes from girasole-the Italian name for sunflower and they are indeed a member of the sunflower family. I’m not sure where the artichoke name comes from though, as they bear no resemblance to globe artichokes in either look or taste.

I don’t know why I hadn’t grown Jerusalem artichokes before, but a friend gave me 5 tubers to plant last year, and with no effort at all on my part, they produced a very bountiful crop. They have an exquisite subtle taste, unlike anything else, and can be cooked in many ways. Ok, they can cause a teeny bit of flatulence, but this is a small price to pay for such a tasty dish.

My favourite recipe at the moment is to par-boil the artichokes for 5 mins or so and  slice them into 5mm slices. Be careful not to boil for too long as they will disintegrate if overcooked. Meanwhile fry some bacon in a little oil and when cooked, remove bacon from the pan, leaving the fat. Finish off cooking the sliced Jerusalem artichokes in the bacon fat, add the bacon to the pan again, re-heat and then serve both artichokes and bacon on top of a dressed green salad. It’s a real warm winter delight.

I’m planning to plant many more tubers as I just couldn’t get enough of them this year. As a winter vegetable they are invaluable as they can be harvested for 6 months of the year from October to March, but despite being absolutely delicious, they are not that easy to buy in greengrocers or supermarkets. Jerusalem artichokes can be planted from January until March, about 4-6 inches deep (10-15cm) and 1-2ft (30-60cm) apart in all soils, in an open or shady site. Be warned, once you plant them, they’re almost impossible to get rid of, but I think this can only be a positive thing. They grow to about 6ft (2m) high, so take care as to where you plant them so as not to shade other veg. Fuseau seems to be the main variety available to buy and each tuber will produce about 2-3kg when harvested.

Still going strong at the allotment are Cavalo Nero, a great source of winter greens and a lovely architectural plant to look at and

I’ve been digging up leeks too. They may look a bit tatty at this time of the year, but they still have a wonderful taste and are an invaluable addition to soups and stews or just as steamed veg with a creamy vinaigrette-delicious!

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