My gardening for the year has come to an end. I have to say that I struggled to stay interested in it beyond August. My loss of focus was partly due to having a lot of other things to work on (both craft and non-craft), but also because the courgette plants grew unruly, the leaves turned grey and the fruit stopped developing so well. It was hard to be as excited. The tomato vines started to blacken, and the purple sprout seedlings I planted out were immediately consumed by pests. No real loss as I loathe Brussels sprouts.
I captured this time lapse video that shows the progress of my little vegetable patch.
Surprisingly, the courgettes were probably the greatest success of the season. They’re really easy to incorporate into cooking and very healthy. I would definitely grow them again, though probably only one plant next time.
I learnt too late that I should have kept the tomatoes at the front of my house, where there is more sun. This meant that I harvested mostly green tomatoes, which just left me with unnecessary preserving work. However, it was just as well I did preserve them. Many of the fruits I didn’t preserve seemed to have some kind of frostbite that made them rot. If I were to grow these tomatoes again (and I have loads of seeds), one vine would definitely be sufficient.
I decided to try fried green tomatoes following Nigel Slater’s recipe. They were all right.
I ate them with garlic mayo, which meant making mayonnaise for the first time. I was surprised by how easy it was.
Lessons from my gardening attempts this year:
- Don’t buy plants or seeds from the pound shop
- Seriously, don’t!
- Physalis is easy to grow in London, but I’m not hugely fond of the fruit
- Keeping herbs alive in the kitchen is hard if you live alone and like going on holiday
I’m not sure yet whether I’ll plant anything next year. Even though it was definitely worthwhile this year, you need plenty of time to use the vegetables once you have managed to grow them. Spare time really is at a premium for me at present.
The stars aligned for one of my increasingly rare opportunities to bake. I was hosting a gathering at my house for my quidditch team, one of whom was having a birthday the next day. Since she is lactose intolerant, I decided to have a go at a dairy-free bake. I looked specifically for a recipe that still included eggs, since I’ve had mixed success with vegan bakes in the past. This Nigella recipe popped up on Pinterest, so I decided to give it a go. The cake is also gluten-free.
The recipe states that the cake is best eaten warm, so I made the apple sauce in advance to save some time. The apple sauce was delicious- I might well make that again. I enjoyed this cake, especially considering it’s a ‘free from’ type recipe. Not the best pictures I’ve ever taken. I may have already started drinking when I was making this cake.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to grow tomatoes given that they’re meant to be tricky, and I have a poor gardening track record. However, this is my harvest from two plants.
I decided to take all of them off the vine even though most are still green. It’s starting to get too cold and the vines are dying, which is affecting the fruit. With the experience I now have, I think I would get a lot more ripe tomatoes if I grew them again.
I decided to make some green tomato chutney with the slightly dodgier tomatoes. I followed Nigel Slater’s recipe, doubled. I didn’t have many jars left after my courgette jam exploits so had to make do with an odd selection. I ended up with seven jars of varying sizes- most of them quite large.
I also made a simple salad inspired by my recent holiday to Greece. The tomato is combined with nectarine and ricotta with a basil dressing. It’s a bit like a twist on a tricolore. I also grew the basil. The plant was a bit of a casualty of the holiday, so I had to use it all up quickly.
Recipe from The Silver Island Cookbook.
I froze some grated courgette because I wanted to have another go at making the chocolate courgette cake that I baked a few years ago. It’s based on a BBC Good Food recipe. I think I made a few errors when I was plagiarising it (slap on the wrist to past me), so maybe go from the original! Here’s a picture of the second attempt.
Something that’s really nice about having this blog is the ability to look back on my previous makes, and my thoughts about them. So interesting to see me describing myself as a ‘lifelong loather of the courgette’ when just over three years later, I am eating it on a daily basis.
I felt that the cake turned out a little bit dry this time- I think I shouldn’t have squeezed the courgette. I also think I over-baked the cake slightly. However, my colleagues seemed to enjoy it and one even asked for the recipe, so it can’t have been that bad.
So far, my garden seems to be doing pretty well. That’s in spite of some weird weather that included powerful wind and rain that killed some of my young plants. They currently seem to be enjoying the blazing sunshine.
I’ve planted out almost all of my seedlings. After being stressed that I didn’t pick the best tomatoes to plant out, they seem to be growing pretty well. I have several good seedlings left and I feel bad throwing them away, but I also don’t really have a use for them. Meant to email colleagues offering them but forgot.
My two physalis plants are looking pretty strong so far too.
I’ve had some strawberry drama. After discovering an aphid infestation soon after planting out, I sprayed the plants with some stuff I found in the cupboard, which actually killed one or two of them. I’ve also had some other seedlings die off. Maybe I waited too long to plant them out and the sun is too harsh on them? On the positive side, I was so happy to notice the first fruit growing!
My veg patch is coming on wonderfully too. I made a GIF showing the how it’s changed over the past two months.
I have some courgettes starting to grow. I really find it crazy to think that all of this came from a single seed. Nature, right?
My carrots and beetroot are looking good too. Think I will plant some new beetroot seeds in the gaps left in the row to give me a longer yield.
The main task left is to stay on top of the weeding. My neighbour has a big flowering bush on the fence right next to my veg patch, which has dropped loads of seeds onto it. On the plus side, I discovered some jasmine right next to it in my own garden. Jasmine is one of my favourite smells, so it makes being out in my little sunny garden even more pleasurable.
I’m glad that after quite a heavy initial investment of time to prepare the garden, it’s down to routine maintenance that doesn’t take too long. I feel like I have a lot on my plate at the moment, so I’m glad the garden can be relegated to the back burner. It’s clearly still there though- a doodle in a team meeting turned into this.
This week I cooked the food of my native land for the first time in several years. I made rice and peas and chicken, a staple of Jamaican cuisine, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
I can’t provide a recipe because, unlike almost every other kind of food, I never use one when I’m cooking Jamaican. For me, Caribbean food is all about eyeballing the spices, estimating measurements, and tasting as you go. I learnt how to cook Jamaican from my mother, to whom recipes are anathema. Cooking is a constant process of experimentation, fortunately mostly successful.
When it comes to foods that are not in my blood, I am very reliant on recipes. As a perfectionist, I can’t stand the idea that I could spend hours cooking and end up with something sub-par (though this has, of course, happened to me lots of times). With a recipe, if the food is bad, it means that the recipe was bad; I am not a bad cook. With Jamaican food, I can let myself take a risk a little more. I can focus on the process and not just the outcome. Each pot of rice I cook is unique.
The rice and peas wasn’t perfect, but then I did use tinned kidney beans (the peas) rather than dried. Using dried beans is what gives rice and peas its characteristic colour, but I couldn’t be bothered soaking peas for a midweek meal. I also couldn’t cook it in my Dutch pot, because that is currently being driven around Kent in the back of my aunt’s Vauxhall. Long story.