The cabbage cull

It will soon be that time of the year when onion sets and garlic need to be planted. The onion sets are on order, and I’ll be splitting up a couple of the garlic bulbs grown this year, and planting their cloves. Onions and garlic can go in during autumn or spring, and after this year’s disaster, I was keen to get mine in as soon as possible, in the hope they’d get a good stronghold over winter.

I dug out the crop rotation plan, and discovered that they should be planted in the previous season’s brassica bed.

Slight problem there… the cabbages, broccoli and brussels are still whooping it up in there.

So this week I’ve had to make an important gardening decision. My dad used to say that if you’re umming and ahhing about something, write down the plusses and minuses on each side of a sheet of paper, and all should become clear. So off I went, and the list looked a bit like this:

The plus side:

  1. If we ignore the cauliflower disaster of a couple of weeks ago, brassicas are one of the few things that actually survive in my veg plot

The minus side:

  1. Yes, they grow, but it’s touch and go if we get a hearted-up cabbage or not, and only a handful of last year’s Brussels formed nutty balls: all the rest were like miniature baggy cabbages
  1. If there was a cabbage-only supermarket, my family would not be the first ones in the queue. Over the year, I’ve had to be pretty inventive with my culinary skills to get the stuff eaten
  1. The slugs in the garden may as well have their own bar tab, with the amount of beer that’s sloshing around in the slug pubs
  1. I could start off a caterpillar farm with the pickings from the patch

So there you have it. The cold, hard evidence. Brassicas have had their day, so I’ve decided to not grow as many next year. I’ll still plant a few, but not enough to be over-run with the stuff: just sufficient to eat now and again. With this new decisive air about me, I set about clearing some space in the brassica bed to make room for the onion sets that could arrive at any time. Anything that looked puny, holey, or had started forming flowers was swiftly whipped out, and only plants that actually looked edible were allowed to stay in.

The final nail in the cabbagy coffin happened in the week. A photo appeared on the OH’s Facebook page, depicting a slug on the grass, with an arrow behind him saying ‘cabbages’. “Hilarious!” I thought, “I wonder where he’s found that picture”. A closer look revealed the truth. The writing on the sign was his: he’d set the thing up. The message really could not be clearer…



It’s all kicking off down there

After what seems like months spent gazing into seed trays willing things to grow, I had a nice surprise at the weekend. Things seem to be finally getting the message, and indeed have begun to pop their heads up.

Early peas

Peas - positively romping away

The peas are romping away, which is a stroke of good luck as the ones in the guttering shrivelled and died. I wasn’t sure if you are supposed to water them during the cold weather: whatever I did, it appears not to have been the right thing… oh well, at least I’d employed stunt doubles :). I’ve also planted another tray of snap peas that should produce slightly later. So if I manage not to kill these, we should have peas well into the summer.

And that’s not all. Yes, I know they are small, but have a look at these bad boys:

Cabbages and brussels

Cabbages and brussels

Cabbages and brussels for the end of year crop (“Hurray!” I hear my family cry) … and ….

First sign of tomatoes

The very first tomatoes! Hopefully these little chaps can spur the other trays on, as there are still aubergines, cucumbers, peppers, courgettes and parsnips, together with some assorted trays of flowers, some purple sprouting broccoli and a trough of lettuce.

Did I buy a big enough greenhouse?…

Sprout and potato soup: 5p a portion

In the spirit of growing your own and trying to be a bit more self-sufficient, I’m always on the lookout for ways to make nutritious meals out of next to nothing.

Yesterday I dug up my first sprout stick. All summer it looked like it was going to be the King of the Sprout patch, as it grew thick and strong, and quite frankly, made the other specimens pale into relative insignificance. I’d wander past, giving it a sage little nod, thinking ‘You’re Christmas Dinner!’

However, as time went on, it turned out to be  all leaf and no action – the sprouts growing on it were not tight and nutty, so we ended slapping them around a pie – actually quite tasty albeit odd shaped.

I then decided that there was loads more foliage on the plant that might be useful, so hunting around, I came across this recipe: Anthony Worrall Thompson’s sprout and potato soup.  As the recipe called for the sprouts to be shredded and then blended, I reasoned that it really wouldn’t matter what shape or size they were at the start. Add the fact that I’d just picked up a bag of potatoes for 15p at the late night Tesco, and everyone’s a winner.

So I popped all the ingredients into my soup maker last night, and hey presto: half an hour later I had enough soup  for my lunch for the next few day. For about 5p per portion. I’m just hoping there are no nasty… ahem… side effects of so much sprout concentrate…

Sprout and potato soup

Something this colour has to be either extremely good for you, or extremely bad!

They say that ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’, but I think I’ve nearly cracked that one!