July in the Garden
As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for! Every start of the growing year the enthusiasm for over-sowing, over-growing and over-planting and packing the soil can seem appealing. And then July arrives and you literally cannot see the lettuce for the, well lettuce. I'm not exactly complaining, its a wonderful privilege to be able to grow food, and offer it to others. True story, I was in the supermarket recently looking for lemongrass when I met someone (who I know is local to me) looking for coriander (neither of which were on the shelves). A quick chat and I offered to bring her some from the garden. The sense of community was wonderful and makes me think of all that growing food can offer beyond nutrition to our plates.
So yes, the coriander has been THE most surprisingly generous and tasty cropper this summer. I did three successive sowings and have enjoyed handfuls almost every day in cooking and salads. I have also wanted to preserve this powerful culinary herb for the darker months when all i want to eat is comforting coconut soups and lentil Dahls. A quick blitz with fresh garlic, ginger, basil and melted coconut oil poured into silicone muffin moulds to freeze has been the perfect option.
As much as I've marvelled over the success of the coriander, the real star of my July garden has been the Florence fennel. I tried growing this a few years ago only to be met with a row of
bolted woody stems. So this year I sowed them in the glasshouse in modules, pricked out the healthy looking ones to pot on and quickly saw that with a little TLC these tiny plants were going to thrive. I planted them out at the end of May once the tulips were done and have given them the occasional seaweed feed. And what an incredible reward they have been to grow! I've used their tops as a herb in fish pie and thinly sliced the bulbs, softened in olive oil and butter as a side dish. The aniseed flavour is fairly unique but one I've grown up with. To preserve them I've used Dearbhla Reynolds fermented recipe using carrots, lemon and garlic. Delicious on its own or with a cheese toastie!
I think Florence Fennel is such a beautiful vegetable that I feel this one deserved a special portrait :-)
And so to the lettuce. For many years I bought little plugs to plant out, but this year I was adamant to grow from seed- with lots more variety to choose from. The thing with lettuce is that you can grow it to harvest as a whole or as a cut-and-come-again. I find Lollo Rossa perfect for both methods with its big and blousy leaves, perfect for favourite dressings such as a herb dressing of chopped fresh parsley, apple cider vinegar, wholegrain mustard, drizzle of honey and delicious olive oil all shizzed up in a clean jar. Or used as a base layer for a delicious salad meal with leftover boiled new potatoes, french beans, lots of sprouts and tinned tuna.
Further pickings at this time are some lovely peas (most of which don't make it to the kitchen), the purple french beans (Purple Tee-Pee) which is a bush variety that turn green when cooked and delicious with garlic butter. The perennial kale has certainly earned its keep. What was a tiny cutting is now a large plant delighted with its position next to the compost bin. There is also one in a raised bed out the back garden.
As the month of July draws close I'm always thinking of what are my last sowings to see us through the autumn days. A row of turnips are out along with dwarf curly kale and the Purple Russian Kale so that we have a good regular supply of greens come the depths of winter. And that's the fine balance with gardening, enjoying the present moments of beauty and growth but always with the next flurry of pickings in mind........ and one vegetable I have on my mind are the pumpkins!.... watch this space :-)