Tuesday, 4 July 2017

June round-up

Dunluce earlies, eagerly awaited
Strawberries 'Symphony'
June is when the new season harvest starts properly, with outdoor broad beans, mangetout, beetroot, shallots and the first of the new pototoes. The latter were especially eagerly awaited, since we ran out of main crop potatoes in March, due to a smaller than normal harvest last autumn because of blight. This year, we're growing extra potatoes to compensate for any outbreak of potato blight, and three types of blight-resistant maincrop spuds (Blue Danube, Sarpo Axona and Setanta).

Fruit wise, the strawberries got going very early this year, in mid June when we often don't have any until July. We've been having them daily in our morning porridge, made delicious strawberry ice cream and sorbet and possibly our favourite jam, strawberry conserve. 

To make conserve, layer the whole hulled strawberries in their weight in sugar in a non-reactive pan, cover with a towel and leave for 24 hours. Then boil for 5 minutes, cover and leave for another 24 hours. On the third day, add the juice of a lemon per kg of strawberries (or 1/2 tsp citric acid) and make jam as normal. Worth the wait - this jam is basically spreadable whole strawberries, an intense flavour.

The 2.5-year-old hedge
We've planted more hedge every winter so far, about 1000 plants to date. And this year the 3.5- and 2.5-year-old hedges were ready for their first trim! It's wonderful to start getting real shelter from them and birds and pollinators love them too. On our outer perimeter we've chosen spiky hedge plants such as hawthorn, blackthorn, sea buckthorn and rosa rugosa, to deter browsing by cattle and, eventually, deer. But for our internal hedges we've opted for variety, edibility and wildlife-friendliness, with hazel, crab apple, wild pear, elder, alder, poplar, willow, guelder rose, field maple, purple and green beech, forsythia, cotoneaster and dog rose, plus a few of the thorny types as well (after all, they all have edible fruit).

Wind protection for the squashes
The first Tigerellas of the season
Fuzz and the gang
Broad bean hummus on sourdough rye
Unlike our southern neighbours in England, we have not had a heat wave in June - unless four days above 22°C counts. Instead, we've been having a wet and windy old time, with the Rayburn back on for quite a few days. The wind has wreaked havoc with our squashes: 11 survivors out of 36 and only because Jim had the bright idea to shield the remaining plants with old car tyres. Next year, all squash seedlings will get a tyre - I'm sure our local garage will be only too happy to offload some for free.

At least, the cucumbers, chillies and tomatoes inside had no idea what nonsense went on outside and have been ripening away. As usual, Gusto Purple and Hungarian Yellow Wax were the earliest chillies. The Femspot cucumbers have been amazingly early, with the first one ready in the second week of June - definitely will be growing these again! The tomatoes too have been early and we had ripe tomatoes in June for the first time ever. The first three varieties were Matina, Tigerella and Harzfeuer, all now slotted to become regulars.

The chicks are two months old now and have free range of the chicken area. They don't mix with the older chickens but wander everywhere in their tight-knit group of five. They enjoy the foraging immensely and sometimes it's a chore to get them into their hut for the night. Unlike the senior chickens, they don't seem to realise that dusk is bed time! One of the two young cockerels looks as if he has fur instead of feathers - I just want to stroke him, but he's rather shy. With his unusual plumage, we might just have to keep young Fuzz for breeding (bad news for his dad, Feathers).

Apart from jam and ice cream, we've also tried making some new healthy snacks, including sourdough crisp breads and broad bean hummus, which is a great combination. The broad bean hummus is wonderful and so easy to make: Boil the broad beans for 5 minutes, drain, add some cold-pressed oil, garlic, lemon basil, salt and pepper and blend into a paste. Who needs avocados?


  1. Broad bean hummus is delicious, I'm determined we will be making a lot more next year. Spuds and strawberries look great, such lovely seasonal food. The tyres are an inspired idea! Don't your hedges look wonderful? It's amazing how quickly those little slips of hedging plants grow, isn't it? What a huge benefit to the wildlife on your patch.

    1. Yes, we're definitely noticing more song birds and amphibians every year. Very pleased with the growth rate of the hedge plants, despite the serious wind they have to put up with.


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