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Posts Tagged ‘winter vegetables’

Sugarloaf chicories in front garden

I’ve failed again! I’m really starting to get to grips with successional sowing over summer and have enjoyed months and months of lettuces (and other herbs and leaves) picked from my front garden. But despite actually sowing (and even buying) some leaves for over-wintering I didn’t manage to get most of them into the ground. The shame of it all!

So here I have my one success story. These are Sugarloaf chicories and I grew them as they come highly recommended by Joy Larkcom. Need I say more! I’ve been mixing these with the end of my summer/autumn lettuces, Sorrel and Sweet Cicely and have been enjoying some rather tasty salads.

Metal Hoops from Plant BellesBut as the temperatures are soon forecast to dip again, I’ve decided it’s time to do some wrapping up. I bought these natty hoops from Plant Belles some while ago and they seem just the ticket.

Adding bamboo canes for mini clocheYou simply thread a few bamboo canes through the holes in the hoops,

Mini cloche covered in fleeceEt voila! Covered in fleece, I now have my own cloche/mini tunnel to keep my chicories covered up during the coldest and windiest of months. Hopefully the protection should elongate the harvesting season for the Sweet Cicely and Sorrel too.

And I’ve left a couple out in the cold as I’m  keen to see how well they survive with no extra help.

Nicole collecting seeds from street HollyhocksMeanwhile, neighbour Nicole is collecting seeds from her ‘Halo Apricot’ Hollyhock, remarkably still in bloom in her tree pit. It’s a gorgeous variety and it’ll be interesting to see if the seeds come true or if fraternising with other Hollyhocks in the street will supply some interesting variations.

Cavalo NeroAlongside my Chicory, Cavolo nero is supplying some delicious winter veg,

Daubenton's perennial Kaleand on the corner plot, a small cutting of Daubenton’s perennial Kale, acquired from Charles Dowding, has come on marvellously. Looking forward to taking my own cuttings come spring and popping this very useful veg in many a new spot (sticks are there to deter foxes digging the plant up when tiny).

Beans to collect for seedsI’ve been meaning to do a final clear up in the corner plot for ages now, but bulb planting has taken precedence. However, all bulbs have been planted for both clients and myself (hurrah!) and it felt great to have time to collect the last of the seeds and clear up the garden for winter. Just a bit more leaf raking (GRrr..), a bit of mulching perhaps and then there’ll be plenty of time to catch up on reading and researching what to grow next year.

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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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