Tag Archives: grow your own

My apple trees have gone mad this year!

No sooner are we over the courgette glut than the apple glut starts…

We have three apple trees. Two James Grieves and one Cox. In particular the Cox has decided that we need to eat about 1000 apples within the next month or so.

This morning I went out and picked a huge pot full. But there are still hundreds left on the tree.

I anyone has any good apple recipes… this is the time to post them! Please!

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Courgettes by stealth

We have reached that phase of the Summer that my entire family dreads. It’s the time of the courgette-glut. (If you’re American… that’s zucchini). Every meal contains courgette in some form or other. Stuffed, baked, fried, frittered… and of course by now, none of us can bear to look at another one!

As a keen amateur vegetable gardener, of course I planted far too many of the things. And while we were on holiday, they grew and grew. English courgettes eventually turn into marrows. German courgettes turn into zeppelins. I’ve tried giving them away… but by now, the neighbours disappear into their houses when they see me approaching and slam the door. I thought about leaving courgettes on their doorsteps anyway… but I suspect they’d be returned, along with their own spare courgettes.

The only answer was to be creative about courgette recipes. To find something that everyone would eat and not even dream there could be courgette in it.

Dearest readers… I bring you, the courgette chocolate brownie!

First, mix half a cup of vegetable oil with one and a half cups of sugar and two teaspoons of vanilla.

Fold in two cups of flour, baking powder, a teaspoon of salt and half a cup of cocoa powder (unsweetened).

Once it’s mixed, add two cups of grated courgette… yes really! The moisture in the courgette makes your fairly dryish mixture into a gloopy chocolatey batter.

At this stage you might also want to add any extras… raisins, sultanas, walnuts etc. are all good…

Stick the whole lot into a lined, greased baking pan and bake at 180°c for about half an hour, or until the top is firm and slightly springy.

As a topping, I put cubes of white chocolate on top while it was still hot, then spread the melted chocolate around with a spoon – it makes less washing up than faffing around with a bain marie…

The result…. delicious moist chocolate (courgette) brownies, which nobody will even believe contains courgette!

I wonder whether I should take some round to the neighbours….

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Creating an English vegetable garden in Germany

Do you ever take on home improvement projects which seem like a doddle… but somehow turn into monstrous multi-headed hydras that eat you up and spit you out exhausted and twitching in a corner? Let me show you my beast of a project…

There’s a patch of land next to our house which was nurturing ambitions to become part of the Amazon rainforest. Late last year I decided to do the rapacious logger thing and chop it all down in order to cultivate it. A vegetable garden was my goal. Fresh produce straight from the garden, I thought… Yum!

Of course what looked like a simple thing on paper, turned out to be much more complicated and arduous than I’d ever imagined. For a start the soil in my garden consists of 50% earth and 50% weed seeds. The moment I’d turned over a clod of earth, I found I’d inadvertently planted another few dozen nettles or buttercups. An epic battle started which involved grubbing out roots and sifting soil…   by Autumn the entire plot looked… frankly quite dismal.

Fortunately (from an aesthetic point of  view) for much of the Winter, the entire thing was blanketed in snow.

Unfortunately (from a practical point of view) it was in January that I ordered the new headquarters of my vegetable empire… the greenhouse. Delivered flat packed… it sat desolately out in soggy cardboard boxes under a mound of snow for a month while I waited for the thaw to set in.

Building a greenhouse is a complicated task. One look at the instruction manual (which ran to 70 pages) told me that this was not something I should take on when my best qualification was once making a small garage out of lego.  Luckily I have a delightful,  practical-minded and adept neighbour who came over and systematically worked through the instruction manual page by page until the greenhouse was up… in all it’s glory. Of course I’d love to claim credit for this achievement… but my only role was providing cups of hot soup and bowls of pasta.

The vegetable beds were a different matter. That was all down to me.  Once again I dug over the whole plot (why is it when you’ve dug it once it doesn’t seem to stay dug?). I also sacrificed the compost heap that I’d been building aimlessly for years… and spread that all over.

Meanwhile, inside Veg-plot HQ, I’ve started off a whole lot of seedlings, ready to plant out when the weather will allow it. Plus some like tomatoes and melons which will enjoy the warmth inside the glass for the whole summer.

Now if only the warmer weather would kindly set in….  pretty please….

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Growing grapes

The weather has been kind over the last week.  The autumn sunshine has started to bring some colour to my grapes.

Of course we’ve been eating them non-stop. With around 600 bunches of grapes to deal with, you can’t let up for a day. You need to eat grapes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve made grape jam, grape juice, wine…. I’m even starting to create recipes for grape ketchup and grape pickle….

Anyone got any more ideas…?  Bearing in mind the following of course:

– my grapes are full of pips. Life is too short to de-pip grapes manually… though cooking and straining them is OK

– Life is definitely too short to skin grapes. Unless you want to come round and do it for me, of course.

I think by the end of this week, I won’t be able to look at another grape….

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Growing purple cauliflower in Germany

I mentioned before that I’m growing my own vegetables this year.

One of the things I wanted to do was pick varieties that I wouldn’t normally be able to buy in the shops – or at least not without having to remorgage the house to afford a bag of variegated tomatoes or mottled frisée salad.

I am now paying the price of this overblown horticultural ambition. Take the cauliflower, for example. Of course I could have bought ordinary cauliflower seeds… but what’s the fun in that? Instead I picked out a packet of seeds which said “purple cauliflower”.  I was thinking along the lines of purple flowering broccoli – which is quite pretty, and in any case turns to normal green when you cook it.

Even so, when I found this growing in the garden…. I have to admit, even I recoiled a bit.

It’s recognisably a cauliflower… but nobody told me it would be that purple.

This is a serious problem. You see, my kids are not great fans of vegetables. Generally I have to hide them in soups, pasta sauces, curries and bakes… adding a tin of tomatoes or a cheesy topping to camouflage the presence of carrots or chopped cabbage.

But how the heck am I going to hide something this colour? If I make cauliflower-cheese, it’ll look like a purple monster lurking in an avalanche. Steamed cauliflower rosettes are going to look like they fell in the beetroot. Hmmm…. now there’s an idea. Can you make borscht with cauliflower?

Help me please! I need recipe ideas for alien cauliflower….

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Hedgehog update

I was out in the garden this morning collecting some vegetables for Sunday lunch and there on my peas was an enormous brown slug.

Now that I have a family of hedgehogs living in my garden, I know exactly what to do with slugs. I wrapped it up in a leaf (they’re too slimy and nasty to hold in your bare hand!) and carried it over to the hedgehog nest. Mum was just on her way out for a forage… but I could see the little ones watching me from under the dried leaves.

They’re getting quite big already and their spines are already turning brown.

One of them even popped out briefly to sniff at the gift I’d brought, before scurrying back to the nest.

I meanwhile went back to my garden to finish picking lunch. Peas, courgettes and kohlrabi today!

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