Sunday, August 31, 2008

Emsworth Village Show

I just stumbled on this virtual garden show in time to send in a few entries before the deadline. There was no category for Curiously Lumpen and Hirsute Root Vegetables which is just as well as I haven't unearthed most of mine yet. But I put in 6 Tomatoes on a Plate, a Misshapen Vegetable and a Collection of Six Different Vegetables (pictured).

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Growing from True Seed

There is just one day left to enter your photos in the International Year of the Potato Photo Competition. I'm feeling singularly uninspired right now. I'll blame the drear mid-grey, windless, room temperature 'weather' we've had, day after day, for what seems like months (I griped about this last year around the same time I'm afraid). Most of my potatoes are yet to be harvested but I did reach in and pull out a few Arran Victory tubers which made me smile.
This year I saved some of the true seeds from the fruits, in the hope that I will be the discoverer of a noteworthy variety of hitherto unimagined curiousness, and I've been casting about looking for information on growing them. Alan Romans kindly replied to an email and said to treat them much as tomato seed, which I had guessed, and expect to have small tubers by the end of the year that I can label and store and use as seed potatoes the following year. What I wanted to hear was that I could start them straight away in the greenhouse and have tiny tubers by Christmas that I could plant out in the new year. I have read that the shorter the diurnal duration of light (9-10 hours), the earlier the initiation of tubers. Has anybody out there ever tried this? I'm going to experiment with a few seeds that I'm pre-chilling now in the fridge. What the hey.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Home-Grown Porridge

First sow, water, weed and 9 months later harvest the oats. Second, thresh, separate and clean the oats. Then you can follow this Recipe for Gruel. It's that easy !
Blessed Hildegard has a few things to say about oats.
"They are both rich and healthy nourishment for healthy people; they provide a rich mind and a pure and clear intellect; and they provide good colour and healthy flesh. And oats are good for those that are somewhat and moderately ill. It does not hurt them , whether eaten in bread or cereal. But let whoever is worn out with paralysis and as a result has a split mind and empty thoughts, so that the person is somewhat insane, be in a sweat bath when the 'wheat' in the hot water in which it has been cooked is poured over the hot stones. Let them do this often; they will return to themselves and regain sanity."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Monstrousest

A few humdingers that the garden has produced this 'summer'. That tomato (Omar's Lebanese) weighs in at 1 and 3/8 pounds or about 625 grams if you're of that persuasion. A total of twelve feet of cucumber (laid end to end) this summer on the 4 vines in the greenhouse, the longest individuals reaching 2 feet. And the potato is a Sharpe's Express, an early, which I missed digging out... early.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Book of Blessed Hildegard

"Domestic lettuce (latich), which can be eaten, is very cold. Eaten without condiments, it's useless juice makes a person's brain empty and fills the stomach with illness. Therefore, let whoever wishes to eat it first mix it and temper it with dill, vinegar, or garlic so that it is steeped in these for a short times before it is eaten. If eaten tempered in this way, lettuce strengthens the brain and brings good digestion."
From 'The First Book Concerning Plants' Hildegard von Bingen, born 1098 Bockelheim
This has been a great summer for lettuce, with no scorching sun or excessive (any) heat to encourage it to bolt. The second crop of 'Moroccan Little Cress' and 'Black Seeded Simpson' (1&2) are still going strong. Last week I planted out more seedlings of 'Simpson' as well as 'New Red Fire' (4) which I got free with the Kokopelli membership. And the seed I saved from an overwintering 'Craquerelle du Midi'(3) has just successfully germinated. So that should see us into the winter. The RHS magazine this month has advice for growing winter leaves in trays under glass, sowing October through November and harvesting for 4 months. I'm going to give it a go and see how they get along in our unheated greenhouse.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Birds & The Bees

Green Porno by Isabella Rossellini. More here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Going West

"Young man, come nearer to me: It was devoured, chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a boat!...ah, ah!"
Oh, yes, somebody is posting 'Moby Dick' at the rate of one line every hour. Anyhoo, it sort of works as a caption for this allotment squash casualty.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

First Corn-Boil

'They have another way of eating Indian corn, to prepare which they take it in the ear and put it in water under the mud, leaving it two or three months in that state, until they judge that it is putrid; then they take it out and boil it with meat or fish and then eat it. They also roast it, and it is better this way than boiled, but I assure you that nothing smells so bad as this corn when it comes out of the water all covered with mud; yet the women and children take it and suck it like sugar cane, there being nothing they like better, as they plainly show.'
Samuel de Champlain observing the Hurons circa 1616

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer's Death Toll

Cause of death of the first four: unknown. But I feel responsible for the demise of the bird. I feel like Philip Larkin did after the hedgehog/lawnmower incident.
I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled it's unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:
Next morning I got up and it did not
I've been trying to keep the greenhouse windows clean - even squeegeeing the condensation off in the mornings - in an effort to allow as much sunlight as possible in. The more sun, the sweeter the tomatoes. At best only 91% of sunlight gets through the glass, and there has been so much cloud cover this summer. And then I got carried away and cleaned the windows (that I could reach) at the back of the house... I'm going to leave the resulting smudge there as warning to all the other birds.

Beautiful photos of exhibition preparation for the American Natural History Museum here. (via Curious Expeditions)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Tomato Times

"We're lucky to be living in such interesting tomato times"
So states Amy Goldman on the occasion of the launch of her book The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table.

This season's tomatoes on last year's gourd. Inspired by the Lady in the Tutti Frutti hat. (Mamma I Want To Be Breastfed)


On 08'08'1856, Thoreau made this entry in his journal -
'When I came forth, thinking to empty my boat and go a-meditating along the river,- for the full ditches and drenched grass forbade other routes except the highway, - and this is one advantage of a boat, - I learned to my chagrin that Father's pig was gone. He had leaped out of his pen sometime since his breakfast, but his dinner was untouched. Here was an ugly duty not to be shirked, - a wild shoat that weighed but ninety to be tracked, caught, and penned, - an afternoon's work, at least ( if I were lucky enough to accomplish it so soon), prepared for me, quite different to what I had anticipated... Thanks to the rain, his tracks are quite distinct. Here he went along the edge of the garden over the water and muskmelons, then through the beans and potatoes, and even along the front-yard walk I detect the hint of his divided hoof (ungular)... here are his tracks again in the cornfield, but they are lost in the grass. We lose him; we beat the bushes in vain; he may be far away. But hark! I hear a grunt...'
You can read the whole story on blogthoreau.
And, always interesting, Gilbert White's diary on line @
August 8th 1781 'We have shot 31 black birds, and saved our gooseberries.'
And in 1785 'Pease lie in a sad state, & shatter-out. Gleaning begins: wheat is heavy. Agaricus pratensis champignion, comes up in the fairey-ring on my grass-plot.'
Apparently this is a champion year for truffles here. ( story via Agricultural Biodiversity)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

First Apples

Keswick Codlins (pictured) are just coming ripe now.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Job Lot

The glossy, usually bright red and spherical, pulpy fruit of a plant of the deadly nightshade family, Lycopersicon esculentum, eaten in salads, as a cooked vegetable, etc. OED

Saturday, August 02, 2008


'Sow the principal spring crops this month. Cabbage and endive are best sown early in the month, and cauliflower and lettuce towards the end. Sow giant rocca and tripoli onions to stand the winter, hardy green-top stone and orange jelly turnip, and a final sowing of winter spinach. Give growing crops of celery, leeks, peas, beans, &c., liberal supplies of manure water where practicable.'
So says the thoroughly revised third edition of The Horticultural Notebook, 1914. I'm just off to the allotment to sow some turnip and radish seed.