Gone fishing for gooseberries

Gooseberries in a fish-dish

Garden gooseberries in a fish-dish


What’s picking? April harvest

April can be the leanest time of year in the vegetable garden as stored carrots and onions have been used up but the new season’s veg is still at the seedling stage. However, with judicious planning and a bit of luck, I have been able to continue putting food on the table through late winter and spring. Here’s the best of the month’s harvest.

1. Celeriac

My celeriac bed - doing well after a mild winterCeleriac, or turnip rooted celery is a great winter vegetable that can still be picked in late spring. Planted in mid-summer my celeriac bed stood this year’s mild winter well. Heavy snow in previous years damaged these pseudo-roots, making some of them unusable. A thick layer of straw would have protected them, but this year they managed with no special attention at all.

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ID Parade

Can you identify these three apples?
A. (left) 129 g. Sweet, fruity, aromatic, mildly acidic.
B. (centre) 213 g. Sweet, floral, crisp, well balanced acidity.
C. (right) 165 g. Honey-sweet, aromatic, crunchy, tangy, fruity bouquet.

It has been a very good season for apples in my garden this year. I train my fruit trees as espaliers and cordons so do not get vast numbers – which is good – but I do get good plently of good quality fruits, and this year some were very large. As you can see above I collected three of the largest specimens for comparison, the smallest variety being 7cm across, the largest 9cm.

I’m pretty sure about variety A and B, but if C is the variety claimed on the label then it should only be 5 – 6 cm diameter. Or perhaps I have just grown the largest examples known! 

So, can you identify the three varieties above?

Answers on a post card please (or perhaps it would be quicker just to leave a comment below?)

Swede ready in July!?

Wow! I only sowed these in late March and yet they have grown to grapefruit size already! The bed is only a 4ft square, but supports at least 30 plants – that’s lots of Sunday lunches covered.

We have eaten a couple which needed to be removed to give the others space and they were very good. I think of swede as a winter vegetable and had planted these with that in mind. I wonder if they will still be good come Christmas, or if they will have gone woody?

Update January 2011 – This bed of swedes provided us with Sunday veg throughout the autumn and winter and they have not gone woody at all! Swede has to be one of the easiest vegetables to grow – if you have not tried them, give them a go!

F1 Cauliflowers

I had five winter cauliflowers ‘Chester F1’ which I planted in August last year.

They stood bravely throughout winter, surviving the heaviest frosts we have had for years and buried under snow for several days at a time. In the spring they started back into growth covering, between them several metres square of ground. The term ‘winter cauliflower’ is somewhat misleading, they do not form curds (the edible bit) until spring, and even then different winter caulis mature at different times: ‘Early’ varieties form curds in late March, but late varieties like ‘Chester F1’ do not produce anything edible until late May. So not really ‘winter’ in any sense.

One of the amazing things with cauliflowers, is that you can check them every week with no sign of a developing curd, and then one day you look and it is fully formed and the size of a football. At this point the whole family becomes excited – wow! what a vegetable, and no, not one, but two, three, four… and a few days later five! Just like buses, you wait for months for one to come along and then five arrive at once.

This is the problem with F1 hybrids: they are so uniform and genetically similar that they all mature at the same time. This may be ideal for the farmer who wants to harvest the entire crop in one operation, but for home growers it is not so good.  The unfortunate fact is that seed companies make the bulk of their profits from industrial scale growers. We poor gardeners are really very secondary in the modern seed market, and our needs are largely ignored.

So, by the  time we get round to harvesting the fifth cauli’ it is the size of a small beach ball; the florets are less tight and the whole curd has started expanding like a strange coral – quite unlike anything you ever see in the supermarket, but still not just edible but delicious.