Monday, February 27, 2012

ready.. steady.. sow

Oh, how the gentle warmth of the sun on our backs coaxes us all out of our shells. After a snail’s pace start to the year, at last it’s time to savour the child-like thrill of tucking tiny seeds into the soil with all the hope, anticipation and crossed fingers in the world. 
I have just sown lettuce, spinach, pak choy and mustard under cloches while self sown purple orach is already popping up all over the garden.

Every year I aspire to plant my veg with the phases of the moon. The excellent Gardening by the Moon website explains clearly and briefly the logic behind the theory. 
In reality, I am never organised enough and have to confess that it was a happy accident that I had time to sow some leafy veg this weekend, while the moon was in its first quarter. I also sowed some cucumbers in the greenhouse, which contrary to other seedy fruits also benefit from a waxing moon. Fantastic, I can already visualise the resulting bumper crops!

Parsnips, carrots and celeriac have been pencilled in for sowing on 11th March as the moon begins to wane after full moon. Hold me to it!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This week I have been attending to my alliums- with a sprinkling of wood ash for this year's garlic and shallots and a lick of paint for last year's onions! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Zen and the Art of Marmalade

I’ve spent the past few weeks painting botanical illustrations of oranges and lemons, among other ingredients... all will be revealed when they are published.
What I can reveal now though, is that since Seville oranges are in season I have dusted off my preserving pan and begun musing about marmalade. Here are some points to bear in mind.

Seville oranges only make a brief apperance in the market, buy as many as you can carry.
Make much more marmalade than you can eat yourself, a prettily labelled jar makes a lovely gift.
Don’t start googling marmalade recipes late at night.
Don’t google marmalade recipes at all! (.....unless you start in July) 
Those little orbs of tangy, citrus magic will not wait for ever. 
Less is more. My 34 year old preserves book has long lost its cover and the yellowing pages are held together with a rubber band, but its advice endures.
Start collecting jam jars early so you will not be obliged to lick out the nearly empty mustard jar or eat up the lone gherkin floating in musty brine.
In my experience a square of muslin is never ‘to hand’ to wrap the pips. A new, clean, freshly rinsed kitchen cloth is perfect.
Citrus juice and chapped hands are not good bedfellows. 
When enthusiasm begins to wane pop the remaining oranges in the freezer, there are only so many evenings in any one week one should spend hunched over a chopping board.