Harvest-time: Recipes for Garden Pickings
Early autumn is the most productive time in the garden. The courgettes, in particular, are coming thick and fast. They’re such an easy crop with an interesting range of colours, patterns and shapes, it’s tempting to grow lots of different ones, but once they reach peak production it’s hard to keep up with supply and inevitably some take on marrow proportions. Just two plants is more than enough for my household of two.
My favourite varieties include the dark green ‘Defender’, which is really reliable and healthy, and ‘Soleil’, which produces golden yellow fruit. The striped and ridged ‘Romanesco’ looks really attractive and ‘Tondo Chiaro di Nizza’, which is a bit of a mouthful to say, makes spherical courgettes that are nice stuffed with rice or couscous.
One of my favourite ways to cook courgettes is with red onion, sweet peppers and aubergine, some tomato puree, garlic and herbs such as rosemary and thyme in a tray with a bit of water and lots of olive oil. Cover the tray with some baking foil and cook for about 30 minutes at 180 degrees C before stirring and cooking for another 15 minutes. This is lovely served straight from the oven or cold the next day.
It’s a good idea to have lots of different courgette recipes up your sleeve so that you don’t get bored with them when you’re eating them every day! A really simple way to cook them is to fry them in olive oil, sliced garlic and French tarragon, then squeeze over some lemon juice before serving.
Kale is another crop I love to grow. It’s really nutritious and much easier to grow than cabbages, which take up a lot of space and need to be harvested in one go. Kale on the other hand forms upright clumps and you can just keep picking the leaves month after month, as it keeps on growing. I’m growing two types of kale this year the dark-leaved Italian kale ‘Cavolo Nero’ and a dwarf curly kale. Both need to be covered in enviromesh to protect them from the cabbage white butterflies which lay their eggs on the leaves of members of the cabbage family, and when the eggs hatch into caterpillars they’ll very quickly chomp their way through your plants.
Of the two ‘Cavolo Nero’ is my favourite as it’s really versatile. It can be simply steamed; stir-fried with garlic, chilli and lemon juice; added to pasta sauces; or used in minestrone soup. The dwarf kale is a really delicious addition to mashed potato – finely slice it, lightly steam, then stir into the mash along with some spring onions.
Think of carrots and you’ll probably think of the orange, pointy roots but they come in other colours too, such as yellow, purple and white. I grew a good crop of carrots a couple of years ago but have since suffered from carrot root fly, also my heavy clay soil isn’t really suited to carrot growing, as carrots prefer sandy, free-draining soil, so my colourful carrots now come from my local organic shop.
If you fancy giving carrots a try they’re really easy to grow in containers with a decent depth (at least 30cm). Add some horticultural sand to the compost to give them the ideal growing conditions and cover with some horticultural fleece of fine mesh to protect from the root fly.
Roasting carrots helps the sweet flavours in them to develop. You can add a drop of honey if you want, but I like to use herbs such as lemon thyme, cumin or caraway seeds.
The rainbow carrots make a wonderfully colourful coleslaw. Finely slice orange, purple and yellow carrots and put these batons in a large bowl. Add a sliced eating apple, a handful of sultanas, some chopped walnuts or flaked almonds then pour over some olive oil, a squeeze of orange juice, some chopped parsley and coriander and a sprinkling of black onion seeds.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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