Friday, 10 August 2012

The first harvest

With France approaching faster than Usain Bolt down the straight, the garden is finally starting to produce the first major signs of harvestable goodies.

It comes at an awkward time, of course, since we’ll be away for three weeks.

A few days ago, sitting outside, I noticed a seemingly vast number of seed pods had fallen from the nasturtiums.

Since there are still loads of seeds in packets bought earlier this year, there was no need to keep them for planting.

Instead, it seemed utterly logical to make nasturtium ‘capers’ – yet another way in which you can eat this extraordinary, peppery-tasting plant.

And it’s a doddle.

Take your seed pods. Pick through them – you don’t want any brown ones.

Then prepare some brine – approximately 300ml water to 10g salt – and let it cool.

Pop the seed pods in and leave for 24 hours.

After that, simply rinse, drain, decant into a sterilised jar and cover with vinegar.

Voila! Leave for three months before tucking in.

It’s a really rather exciting prospect.

You can obviously add flavourings. So I used a lightly crushed clove of garlic, a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme (the latter two from the garden). The vinegar was a good Italian chardonnay wine vinegar.

They even look so pretty in little jars.

The first tomatoes decided to be ready for consumption on the eve of departure: one small red one and two tiny orange ones. The Other Half had the former and reported that it was good and tasty. I ate the latter, which had an almost impossibly high flavour to size ratio.

The advantage of picking tomatoes when they’re absolutely ripe and ready for eating – and then eating them straight away – cannot be overstated.

There are a good 50-odd tomatoes at various stages of development: neighbours know that, if any get ripe enough, they can let themselves into the garden and pick some. There is no point in things going to waste.

The chilies are doing well too – indeed, they’re stretching out almost visibly (perhaps that’s partly because I gave them some of the organic tomato feed).

But they will take time to ripen – and even if they’re well ripe by the time we return, they can be dried.

The broad beans provided a remarkable harvest of four beans. Which still felt miraculous, under all the circumstances of this year.

But other beans – the borlotti and the fine beans, I think, are now flowering: such delicate, pretty flowers. How much we’ll get from them, I have no idea, but like the broad beans, anything will be a victory, frankly.

And the turnips, swedes and carrots are all growing well, safe under netting, and now with the leaves showing what they are, rather than simply being little seedlings.

So, for a few weeks, that’s it. What will it be like on our return? Only time will tell.

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