A feast of greens

My first flowers came home in a bucket this afternoon – sweet peas and antirrhinums; the perfume of the sweet pea is wafting as I type. Not bad for June. And I must say that I wasn’t even dreading the return to the plot after so long away.  I was more looking forward to harvesting potatoes and peas and trying not to fuss about what I cannot do. And actually it’s not as bad as I feared. Some things are romping, some have endured slug chomping, but all in all it’s a rather productive little garden.

Sotaris was sitting on a bag of sand at the entrance when I came in. Those of us with isolated plots have to endure deliveries at the entrance and then bring everything in with a wheelbarrow. And it’s no fun at all. (She says trying to explain why she isn’t manuring her crop every autumn with a huge load of horse manure from an outlying farm.)

Sotaris has Great Plans for a new shed and a new greenhouse. If you were feeling negative you would say he was muscling in. My Vietnamese neighbour on the other side of Sotaris’s plot was looking worried when he described how big his shed was going to be.  And the greenhouse will gobble up the space between my shed and his. But frankly, I don’t mind. He is energetic and a bit bossy and will be a valuable neighbour for as long as I hold the plot.  I have no idea how long that will be. One part of me thinks I can still just do potatoes, broad beans and peas.  Harvest everything rather early, and then move on to the French garden. We shall see.

It was rather windy, so the first task was to tie in the tomatoes. They have survived their frost damage and are all putting on rather good growth. Each one needed tying in and tidying up. This part of the plot is also where I put in the herbs. The marjoram and parsley are fine. The rocket has bolted (no surprise there) and the basil is sulking but may yet take a turn for the better.

This is also where I planted the artichokes. And they have endured a slug battering while I was away. Even with slug pellets. I think I’m missing a few. (Which is about as technical as you can get when you don’t keep meticulous planting charts.)  Mind you so many weeds have grown up in the planting holes that I can’t quite see where things are.  I need to have a good weeding session on Friday just to get things back in order. Brambles are peeping up through the gaps in the weed suppressing fabric as well. Oh naïve and distant season when I thought these might be pretty roses inherited from the previous tenants.  Now I know they are pernicious and have no artistic merit whatsoever.

Once the tomatoes were tied in it was time to haul out my father-in-law’s potato breeder Hessian sack and get on with harvesting. On the menu today – peas and broad beans and a few rows of potatoes.  One learns with experience to pull down when picking off the heavy broad bean pods. You can yank out an entire plant in your zeal to get at a juicy pod low down. And greed does come into it. I just love the flavour of these young broad beans. But you have to wait to cook them before you can gobble them. Not so the peas. Talk about a luscious lunch. I ate more than was decently accepted – never invite me to pick your own farms. I would scoff more than I put in the basket. But as these are the fruit of my own labour, I felt no compulsion to slow down. But plenty went into the bag. And I even managed a few French beans from the bean pole. This is definitely a crop to avoid next year. Too many of them come to ripeness (fruition?) in August when we are away. And the effort in coaxing them to life, making the bean pole, squishing the black fly and stopping the slugs from eating them far outweighs their delight. But the sweet peas I planted between the beans are cropping. The honey scent of a sweet pea can’t be missed. And I tied them in more securely as they are straying from their supports.

Next it was on to my largest crop; the spuds. And it is now truly a race against the slugs. They are crawling all over the area. And why not? Lush growth, lots of rain, plenty of places to hide. I dug up two rows of tubers, one row of Maris Pipers and one of red Duke of York. And found at least three slugs in and around the soil for every single plant. But the yield from just these two rows was one bucket full of lovely potatoes. I brought the heavy bucket home and dumped a huge amount of water over the top. Cleanliness? No I knew there were some slugs lurking there and wanted them to rise to the top before I plunged my hands in and groped amongst the clay and spuds. Two came up and were sent to the bin.

I cooked the now slug-free potatoes later in the evening, and they were so soft that the first batch over -cooked in just ten minutes. The red Dukes of York did well in the lentil and lamb salad. But they really are better roasted. Then they taste as though you have slathered them in butter and are fluffy beyond belief. I can’t wait to see if the Charlottes have survived the slug fest.

Other discoveries; the little plants of strawberries are ripening and haven’t been devoured. And I have lots of flower buds in my ‘cutting garden’ poised to open.