Sunday, November 30, 2008


Saul Steinberg retrospective at the Dulwich Gallery until February 15th.

Friday, November 28, 2008

First Sighting

On the left is Broad Bean 'Martoc' head above ground, sown October 14th. A new type for me but it's been around for a while, Heritage Harvest Seed lists it as a medieval variety which cooks up from dry into a brown porridge.
And on the right, Chili Peppers 'de Rata' are still hanging on in the greenhouse.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Today's Outlook

The trees are bare now. But the temperature reached 14° today and the bees are still foraging in the ivy. Saw a goldcrest on the espaliered apple and the hedge sparrow is back for the winter. A gaudy sunset - at 4 0'clock! Dressed the artichokes with straw to protect against the icy weather that the Met has forecast this weekend.

A Tangle of Parsnips

Note to myself - Do not attempt to transplant parsnip seedlings. Just wait patiently until March and sow in situ.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Purple Dragons

More Purple Dragon carrots, this time sweeter than ever, perhaps owing to the light frost we had about three weeks ago. Certainly the best tasting carrots I've grown. Anyway it's high time to dig up the rest of the carrots and beets and get them into storage.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

EU Rules, OK?

I couldn't find letter-shaped vegetables enough to spell 'contemptible bureaucrats' so I opted for a more positive response to this bit of news. Cucumbers which bend on a curve more than 10mm. over 10 cm. can now be sold. As can forked carrots. However, strict rules still apply on fruit & vegetables which represent 75% of sales in Europe, including tomatoes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


"On Sundays as children, if we had been good during the week we had our initials in treacle put on our porridge, and then cream." The Scotsman January 1939
The old custom is to stand whilst supping porridge, walking about the room with the bowl in one hand and the spoon in the other, as if you were ready to start off for the wars, or shooting, or fishing, the next moment. As for cooking it, the oats should be let to fall in a steady rain from the left hand while stirring briskly with the right, sunwise, or the right hand turn for luck. And the salt shouldn't be added until 10 minutes into the cooking as it will have a tendancy to harden the meal and prevent it from swelling.
This and much else have I gleaned from the wee book of Scottish recipes (1929) which I found in the wee cottage we stayed in last week on a beach near the Wee Town (Campbeltown). So many ways to cook your oats! And I will grow them again but I'm not going to sow until spring this time round.

Woman Eating Porridge by Gerrit Dou (in the Netherlands it must be acceptable to sit)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Smokers in Whitehall

This week (Wednesday the 5th) British beekeepers are donning their suits, lighting their smokers and marching to the Houses of Parliament to deliver a petition and lobby for more funding for research on bee disease/health. It's been the poorest honey crop on record apparently. Probably since about 1517. Back when England was Catholic, beekeeping was big business due to the demand for beeswax candles and there was plenty of honey to be had, enough to eat and drink. With Reformation, honey took a nosedive on the commodities trading market and soon beer superseded mead as this country's drink of choice.

Just finished racking 3 gallons of mead, another 3 months and it will be ready to bottle. The initial taste test was very encouraging.
In 1600, Harrison wrote in his History of England, "There is a kind of swish swash made also in Essex, and divers other places, with honeycomb and water, which homely country wives putting some pepper among, and a little other spice, call 'mead'. Very good in mine opinion for such as love to be loose-bodied at large, or a little eased of the cough; otherwise it differeth as much from the true metheglin as chalk from cheese."
Here's to being loose-bodied at large!