Sunday, March 25, 2007

Something nasty in the woodshed…

Well not actually in the woodshed but lurking under the weed suppressant fabric to be exact. The spring sunshine coaxed me out yesterday to do a bit of digging. I dug over one of the beds and planted out the broad bean seedlings that have been growing fast and furious in the cold frame. In went some sweet peas too. Didn’t get a chance to harden them off first so hope they’ll do ok. Anyway, as I was turning over the soil I chanced upon not one but three New Zealand Flatworms. There have been warnings about these on the allotment notice-board for some months but it was a bit disheartening to see them thriving on the plot. Garden Organic explain these worms like to hide under things and so the fabric has been a boon. Trouble is they also like to chomp their way through earthworms which isn’t so good. As Head Burro argues sometimes garden pests are just evil and must be seen off – in the case of flatworms their recommended mode of dispatch seems to be by squashing, burning or submersion in salt water.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Now you see it, now you don't...

Should you have the mind to you can send off for ‘a superb 32-page full colour booklet crammed with information on how to attract birds to your garden’ produced by the RSPB. Alternatively, you could just try growing purple sprouting broccoli. It takes a whole year, I’ll say that again for emphasis, a whole year to grow psb. The plants on the plot have been doing really well: tall stems, lots of leaves and shoots and then came the birds… At this rate I won’t get to eat any of it. I’ve wrapped and netted it as best I can but the wind keeps unwrapping it like a packed lunch for our feathered friends…

In the hope that you might have more luck with your crop here is a recipe for psb and pasta from the BBC:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

1kg/2¼lb purple sprouting broccoli
1 medium sized fresh red chilli (not too hot)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small tin of anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
good quality olive oil
350g/12oz pasta fusilli, oriecchiette, penne rigate or conchiglie are the most suitable shapes
parmesan or hard pecorino cheese to grate
salt and pepper

1. Put a large pan of water on to boil with a little salt.
2. Trim the outer leaves and woody stalks from the broccoli, you will lose at least half the vegetables by this process. Wash the good bits and chop into 1cm/½in sections. Cut the chilli in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds and the attached pith. Chop the chilli flesh, the garlic and the anchovies finely. In another large pan warm 4tbsp/60ml/2fl oz of olive oil over a medium flame and add the chilli, garlic and anchovies. Sweat these for a minute or so and add the broccoli, season with a little salt and pepper, then continue to cook gently whilst the pasta boils.
3. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and stir immediately. Cook until just tender with a little bit of resistance to the bite (al dente). This could take anything between 7 and 12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you choose (orecchiette is the slowest and incidentally the absolutely authentic type for this dish).
4. Grate 4tbsp of the cheese and reserve. After the pasta has been cooking for 5 minutes transfer a small ladle of the cooking water to the broccoli. Keeping over a high heat, add another 2 tbsp/30ml/1fl oz of oil and add the cheese. Toss and serve immediately.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Rhubarb Rhubarb

The rhubarb beds are revealing themselves again with the first leaves unfolding in a concertina of crinkles. Can’t wait for the first pickings. I didn’t eat enough of this last year.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Getting diggy with it

Back in October I sowed a few handfuls of Winter Tares as a green manure. Despite the late sowing, the plants sprouted well and have been growing away all winter. My jury was out on whether this would work as a weed suppressant as well as a soil conditioner – but it seems to have faired well on both counts. There were only a few clumps of grass in amongst the plants so I think I try this again this year. Dug it all in and then sat back with a nice cuppa. This is what Sundays should be about.