Harvest Festival

October 20, 2018

The other half has been busy harvesting in the greenhouse …

jalapeno chillies

He’s also been busy with a needle and thread, making these jalapenos into a ristra. Handily, we only just used the last of our last dried jalapenos a few weeks ago. Each snipped-off chilli left a stem behind, like a tally of spicy meals. I was quite sad to see it go so we’re giving this one a little helping hand by hanging it next to the woodburner, in the absence of the Rayburn.

chilli ristra

Anyway, what with the drying walnuts (how long do walnuts take to dry, anyone?), our hearth now looks as if we’re ready for Santa, assuming Santa is up for a little Mexican cuisine alongside the more traditional offerings.

woodburner with drying chillies

The jalapenos were actually mostly not that hot, although every so often you’d get a zinger. I’d got into the habit of chewing on a seed whenever I chopped one up, to gauge whether or not to add the seeds to whatever I was cooking. But the Fresno chillies are another matter as I discovered when I tried the same trick and almost had to dunk my head in the water butt. There’s lots of those too …

Fresno chillies

Fresno chillies. Do not muddle up with jalapenos

And, after a slow start, the tomatillos are going strong. Not so strong as the first year we grew them, when I ended up leaving bags of them on people’s doorsteps, but strong enough. They’re pretty tasty and tangy but not the most versatile of ingredients – it’s no coincidence that when you start to google tomatillo recipes, the fourth suggestion is ‘tomatillo recipes not salsa’ (the first hit is a recipe for salsa…)

tomatillos in fridge drawer

Time to make some salsa verde, then.


All Good Things …

December 12, 2016

… must come to an end, and that includes the old veg plot and greenhouse.

destroyed kale

The rabbit has been systematically working its way through the curly kale (you know, you wouldn’t think rabbits were all that systematic but they do seem to like to eat things in order).

chillies ripening

I do like the way these chillies ripen, as if they had been dipped in paint (or held in the fire until they glowed red hot)

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes are finished and we should really put the tomatilloes out of their misery, but the chillies are still staggering on and producing chillies. In fact, there’s a three-line whip in the town mouse household at the moment – if it’s possible to put chillies in a dish, then in they go (fortunately they’re not that hot)

chilli crop

Meanwhile, after five years of trying, I appear to have cracked the secret of growing a decent crop of leeks: move house before they are due to be ready.


Fun as it is to have a new garden to play with and a whole new vegetable plot of my very own, I’m really going to miss the old plot. Not many people get a proper walled kitchen garden to play with (even a part of it) and a big greenhouse to boot. I’ve learned a lot in the past few years – mostly of the ‘what not to do’ variety – and we’ve eaten well as a result, even if occasionally it’s felt like an effort to get through all of the bounty that’s been produced. If I’m feeling sufficiently sentimental, I may even go through some of the edit highlights before I finally say goodbye.

We’ll have to wait and see what lies beneath the carpet in the spring and start a whole new vegetable growing adventure …

Come in, you’ll have had your Summer…

August 11, 2016

I was thinking yesterday, as I was woken yet again by the sun at 5 am only to watch the morning cloud over and the day descend to endless drizzle, that it would be kinder of the Weather Gods not to give us that daily hour of hope and expectation, but just start the day off as they mean to go on. And then we were woken this morning by the sound of rain against the skylight and I decided I’d take what sunshine I could get* (and maybe invest in some blinds for the bedroom).


Still, rain or no rain, I had to get myself down to the greenhouse back at the old house – or the allotment as it is now known – if only to water the other half’s plants and harvest some produce. Because, even with the rain spattering on the roof, it’s all going great guns down there.


The tomatilloes lie in wait: none of them are ready yet, but we know they will be soon, and once they start cropping, by god they are prolific. Last year we had to resort to depositing bags of tomatilloes on people’s doorsteps when we ran out of room in the fridge. This year we’ve put in fewer plants but they seem to have compensated by becoming even more prolific.

The chillies are taking their time, but the purple jalapenos are worth it for the flowers alone.

purple jalapeno flower

Time to dig out the Mexican cookbook and dream of warmer climes, and summer…

* Obviously, it would be even kinder of the weather gods to start off sunny and go on like that, but we’ve had our summer and we know better than to hope.

The Little Chilli that Might

May 2, 2015

chilli plants

One use we’ve decided to put our greenhouse to is growing chillies – not the fearsomely hot ones (I hope) but some of the sweeter, milder ones. Several varieties of seeds were ordered, and they all germinated very nicely, except for the serrano chillies which didn’t come up at all and then, naturally, became the one variety we absolutely had to have. A quick consultation with Professor Google suggested soaking the seeds in warm water overnight, so we split the remaining seeds into two batches and soaked one lot, and planted them all, lovingly spraying them with a mist of water and keeping them warm on the shelf over the Rayburn. Finally, just as we were ready to give up, one sole serrano chilli seedling emerged (out of the unsoaked seeds, if anyone’s interested), looking rather weedy compared to its robuster relatives.

All was going fairly well, the bigger chilli seedlings had been pricked out into individual modules and were ready to be transferred up to the greenhouse, when disaster struck: our sole precious serrano seedling had got knocked and was looking pretty broken.

broken chilli seedling

After all the effort we’d gone to to germinate it, we couldn’t quite give up on it, so we left it on the kitchen windowsill and the next morning it still wasn’t actually dead yet, and the morning after that it was looking a bit perkier, and after a few days it seemed to be straightening itself out somewhat, although it’s never going to win any prizes, other than for perseverance in the face of adversity, which I’m 100% certain isn’t a category in the village show, although I said that about comedy vegetables last year.

serrano chilli seedling

Not dead yet

The first of its cousins have now been planted out in the greenhouse and are looking pretty good, which is something of a relief as my gardening pal in the village keeps threatening to come up and visit my veg plot. They might just serve to distract him from the state of the rest of my beds, which are suffering from a certain ‘just in time’ management approach to preparation and planting at the moment which is threatening to tip over into ‘just too late’ in some areas (it helps if you remember to actually plant your fennel…). Although, in my defence, we’ve got a yellow warning of snow tonight, which makes planting out my spring onions feel less than urgent… and the fact that I’ve already planted out my salad leaves feel positively foolish.