15 August 2014

Some of my earliest memories are wrapped up in gardens.  The garden of my childhood was a large one with trees for climbing, dens behind old fence panels, a concrete half buried Anderson shelter which was often knee deep in water, it was also a garden of produce, veggies, a homemade cold frame fashioned with old bricks and window frames and fruit, apples picked from the tree as an after school snack. My grandparents had productive gardens, a wigwam of runner beans covered in red flowers, a pot of parsley by the pack door always full like a green hairy head for the pot, picking or digging up the veg for a family Sunday lunch.  One of my aunts living in North London had a long thin garden full of produce.  When I left home I always wanted a garden of my own.

My wish came true, eventually, and the small patch of land I call home has been turned from a patch of grass to a more edible (to humans) one.  It will never make us self sufficient there is not the room to do that and coupled with frosts as late as May and as early as October it would be tough to make it a reality without several polytunnels.  There are often a couple of weeks of the year when all the vegetables we eat are taken from our garden.  This last week has been one of them.

I am a menu planner.  Each week I get an email detailing the contents of a veg bag we have delivered to the house which is how we buy our veg.  I use the contents of the bag to plan my menu and shop for the specific ingredients I need to make the meals I have planned.  I don't plan our meals for specific days but obviously as the week goes on there are less meals left on my list.  This week my plan was based on my own veggies and those I had in the fridge, leftovers from a recent scout camp.

It never ceases to amaze me how one year you can grow something successfully and the next it will either fail or produce little.  I love french beans and usually grow dwarf varieties, some years they have bought a whole new dimension to the definition of dwarf and barely produce a meals worth.  This year they have been, excuse the pun, highly productive and we have been picking them for weeks.  This week I cooked them in a Bengali style, and with a potato dish of yellow spiced potatoes, dahl, rice and naan made a delicious meal.  We have also eaten our potatoes with a quiche and a Lentil Salad.

We live in one of the wettest parts of England, our annual rainfall is over a metre of rain.  We have had very little rain in the last two months and coupled with high temperatures the garden needed constant watering.  The rain has finally arrived but sadly it has bought with it much cooler temperatures dropping to below 10°C overnight.  The courgettes which have been doing so well seemed to have stopped growing.  I had planned on two meals based on the number that were on my plants, but best laid plans.......we did manage one meal a simple pasta sauce with slow cooked onion and garlic, chopped courgettes and grated parmesan cooked on an open fire by the side of a local lake on the only dry evening of the week.

I tried growing broad beans this year for the first time, my father in law always grew them and told me they were easy to grow, we usually get ours from a local pick your own most of which I freeze to eat over the following months.  They are easy to grow, well this year they have been, and like the french beans we have had several meals from our plants. I have made several different salads with them and a delicious pâté.  This week I tried a new salad recipe, one with an interesting list of ingredients, which I wasn't entirely convinced would taste good together but I was proved wrong.  We didn't have many beans by the time I made it, darn that cooler weather, so I reduced the quantities but it was delicious.

The cooler weather means that I have added soup back to our lunches.  I had some lettuces that I bought back from scout camp.  They were rather past it to be honest and most people would have probably thrown them in the compost days ago.  But I cut off the worst bits and was left with a rather sad small pile, another raid on the fridge and I found a small piece of cabbage so that went in too.  So it was cabbage and lettuce soup loosely based on this recipe.  The children were a bit non plussed, I thought it tasted great.

So that has been my week in the kitchen, next week I am hoping that the garden carries on producing enough to make a stir fry, some courgette fritters, a bean salad, pasta alla genovese, cucumber soup and lots more leafy salads.


  1. I'm overwhelmed with courgettes and cucumbers at the moment, but not much else. I need to try harder next year, it hasn't been a brilliant year this time. But there's some stuff, so I shan't complain. I shall try your courgette fritters, they sound delicious. CJ xx

  2. Our garden this year is a sorry state! Too many health issues so all of out veg has been bought :-(. Season of life and all that.

    Your menu plans as always sound delicious x

  3. Yes, gardens are magical places, aren't they? Have you ever seen the film/read the book The Secret Garden? Wonderful stuff. As is your scrummie looking Bengali dish; I absolutely love Indian food xxx

  4. Ooh, I must make soup. We have so many potatoes and broad beans already. Onions and carrots are nearly there. Our runner beans failed - twice - this year though, which was a surprise as they were so abundant last year! We're making the most of our veg patch though, as we're moving house soon.

    Enjoy all your delicious-sounding food! Wishing you a lovely weekend x

  5. It is very satisfying to grow your own food. Whichever part of the country we live in though, nothing is taken as read. Beans have done very well here and like CJ I'm inundated with cucumbers, but the potato crop has been a disaster.

  6. Your childhood gardens sound wonderful!

    I know what you mean about things not producing some years. Not one of my cauliflowers flowered this year!

  7. Your meals look delicious. Our courgettes have slowed down in the last few days and the skins are getting very dark and hard - I wonder if they are coming to an end or if it just all the rain. Despite lots of lovely pumpkins last year it look as if I'm going to get zero this year? Like you we eat from our garden for only a few months a year and then have to buy in the rest of the time - I too would love to be more self-sufficient but we don't have enough room either and half of the year we are covered in snow - but I'm satisfied doing the best with what we've got!
    I'm a menu planner too!!

  8. I've had a bit of a mixed year with beans. Just about all the green climbing French beans were eaten by slugs but the purple ones and the runner beans have done brilliantly. The dwarf French beans have done well too. In fact, I'm picking so many beans that I'm supplying my parents with them and freezing some too, I'd have been inundated if the slugs had left the plants alone. The courgettes are still coming regularly too, far too many for us so we're giving lots away.

  9. My absolute favourite meal used to be runner beans and new potatoes from the allotment and omelette made with eggs from our own hens! There's nothing quite like self sufficiency on the menu front is there? Your childhood garden sounds wonderful and took me back to the various gardens I used to play in back when I was a nipper!

  10. Yum that soup and looks really tasty.

    I think it is really lovely that you have such great memories of gardens as a child. My family were never really big on gardening so we just had run down yards. I remember the lady accross the road was growing veg and I was really fascinated with what she was doing, but all the children on the street thought she was weird.

    Our courgettes have given up producing now that the weather has gotten cooler too :-(

  11. Just catching up here. Do please tell me how you cook your beans Bengali style.


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