I love to produce food for the family, friends and guests from the potager at Tyrannell, and this year have been growing some very special salads.
You will remember my post about The Tyrannell Way with Salad, back in spring. We have been eating the produce as cut-and-come-again all spring and summer. In the basket, however, are some fully grown specimens.
The Salad Experiment
I belong to Garden Organic (previously known as The Henry Doubleday Research Organisation) and this year, for the first time, I took part in a members’ experiment to test an old variety of lettuce – Bronze Arrow – reputed to be slug resistant.
You would be right to assume that slugs are the most successful livestock raised in our Welsh garden, and so this concept sounded interesting.
I began as usual with a seed tray of Bronze Arrow and the control lettuce, a similar variety, Marvel of Four Seasons, and had excellent germination of both. At a slightly later stage, according to the experiment instructions, when the plants were about 8cm tall, I planted them out in a raised bed, which I would not normally do, preferring to exercise control in a box under cover or raised off the ground, at least.
Using no slug control whatever I watched with gritted teeth as one, then all of the control crop was devastated by the slimy predators. Meanwhile the Bronze Arrow took a bit of a hit at either end of the row but 50% survived.
In an adjoining bed I planted exactly the same number of both lettuce types, this time using my normal slug controls (scissors night and morning and a dressing of organically approved pellets around the edge of the bed) and this time all the Bronze Arrow survived and half of the Marvel. Conclusive, I consider.
In the basket you see Marvel on the right and Bronze Arrow, a beautiful colour, interesting leaf shape and most importantly, pleasing taste with a slight bitter edge and soft crunch, on the left. Between, at the front, are Land Cress and Rocket, both spicy leaves, and the claret coloured sprigs at the back are Red Orache.
Another surprising success this year has been early cucumbers. I received a free pack with a magazine and, initially excited, was displeased to read that a constant night and day temperature of 70°f (21°c), falling to 60°f (15°c) on germination, was needed.
In Wales? At Tyrannell, in winter? I had an inspiration; making a miniature greenhouse out of a tin tray, four pencil stubs and a plastic bag, I took the five precious seeds and some compost to school and put it on my office window sill.
Four out of the five seeds germinated, and three survived the later transfer to the greenhouse at home. The fruiting has been spectacular and I have had enough for salads and to make Potager Pickle, which only happens when there is a glut.
- For 2 1/2 lb(1.1kg) of cucumbers (adjust as needed for more or less)
- 1lb (450g) onions
- 2oz (50g) salt
- 1 pint (575ml) white or pale cider vinegar
- 6oz (175g) golden granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons mustard seed
- 3 cloves and 2 teaspoons of horseradish, if desired
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
Take whatever cucumbers you can spare and just under half the quantity of onions, both chopped small. Sprinkle with salt and leave for three hours in a bowl. Rinse well.
Place in a stainless steel pan with sufficient vinegar to cover (plain white vinegar or another mild tasting, pale coloured type) with some mustard seed, a little turmeric and golden granulated sugar.
You may wish to add cloves if you enjoy the flavour, and horseradish if you like warmth. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved then bring to the boil. Pack immediately into hot jars, topping up with more vinegar if needed. The pickle will mature pleasingly over a few weeks and keeps well in the larder.
I will finish with a picture of my most successful crop of tomatoes ever, thanks to Ivor’s greenhouse. These are Gardeners’ Delight, a ‘cherry’ variety which seems to ripen well and tastes very fine, I believe, not being a tomato lover myself.
What a joy it has been this year to benefit from plenty of sun, the warmth of the greenhouse and a window sill!