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Food from the garden

The garden is producing some fantastic fruit and veg this year.

We’re growing three varieties of tomato: Gold Nugget (yellow cherry), Sweet Aperitif (red cherry) and Purple Cherokee (a beefsteak). Only one Sweet Aperitif made it to maturity, and it’s only had a few tomatoes forming. But Gold Nugget has been a star – we have four plants all of which started to crop well around mid-July:



We have five Purple Cherokee plants growing, the smallest one a bit neglected and stuck behind the peas and courgettes. Two others I planted in large pots and had them growing outdoors from quite early on. Two more I kept in smaller pots and they stayed indoors for longer than the others. In fact they seemed a bit small and weak when I first put them outside, and were slower to produce fruits. But then something happened to the two larger plants –

tomato bottom-end-rot

This we discovered is ‘bottom end rot’, and is to do with the plants not taking in enough calcium, caused by extreme differences of wet and dry. I suspect I may have overwatered them. I also wonder whether they didn’t need to be in such big pots. Anyway, we picked off the bad fruits and since then the plants seem to have recovered and new tomatoes are coming, apparently without the rot. So fingers crossed.


We had some really windy days which caused some plants to topple and a few tomato branches broke, so I moved the two smaller Cherokees into the summerhouse and the exposed Gold Nuggets to where they had been against the fence. So the more delicate Gold Nuggets have a bit more support. None of the Cherokees have ripened yet but we’re hopeful!

The courgettes have been amazing this year. We have two varieties – Defender, a traditional shape and dark green, can grow quite big but we try to pick them off when they’re no more than about 5 inches long, and Tromboncino, a climbing variety producing plenty of long, curved, bulb-ended courgettes – they’re so much fun to grow!


I’ve still got a lot to learn about growing peas and beans, but we’ve certainly experimented this year.

There’s a bit of a purple thing going on in the garden – as well as Purple Cherokee tomatoes, we’ve grown a type of snap pea called Purple Magnolia and a French bean Trionfo Violetto. The Magnolia produced a reasonable number of pods which looked attractive at first, but then the stems and leaves turned pale and dry very quickly. The pods were actually not very tasty and rather stringy. So we won’t be growing them again…


Trionfo Violetto suffered from being planted alongside much bigger and stronger plants and so lacked space, and the stems got a bit strangled. However we’re eaten some, and there are more coming. When you cook them they turn green, alas, because they start out VERY purple!


Another bean we’ve tried growing is one I discovered at Parham House last year. It’s called Bingo and the pods are an amazing mottled pink colour. It’s also a VERY strong-growing plant, a bit of a bully even. We’ve grown two in smallish but tall containers and a third on a teepee in raised bed number 2 alongside a Trionfo Violetto and some Purple Magnolias which climbed onto it from the frame they started on…


Here’s some I just harvested, and I have NOT enhanced the colour, they really are this bright!


Sadly, it seems you need to harvest the pods much earlier on if you want to eat them as runner beans. By now the pods are too tough and you’re really only left with the individual beans. Although to be honest, I’d grow them again just for the look!

One plant I would definitely grow again is Pea Onward, but we need a lot more to make it worth while. Edible and Sweet Peas all get eaten badly by slugs in our garden, so I need to find a way round it. Maybe next year they just have to grow for a lot longer indoors before planting out.

Anyway, all we had were 3 or 4 plants maturing on the frame, which gave us a dozen or so pods. They were delicious, but over too soon!

first peas

first peas & courgettes

The Cavolo Nero also suffered from slugs initially – half a dozen nice strong plugs in bed one lasted a few days before they’d been reduced to a few stalks. I then got paranoid about the remaining four and planted them in bed 4, netted for a while (to protect from butterflies) and surrounded by slug traps and wool pellets. I gave up on the netting as it didn’t stay in place anyway, but the plants survived and although we’re competing with the caterpillars to see who can eat them faster, they’ve matured and are looking strong (if a bit scruffy where we’re picking the leaves):



Fruit: the rhubarb is still enormous, but we’ve stopped picking it now. But we’ve had rhubarb crumble, jam and chutney from it. Strawberries were tasty and plentiful.


The blackcurrant produced some fruit, but not a great deal as it’s still very small. The blueberry has been great this year, we’ve had a LOT of lovely fruit from it.

These days I’m following a low-GI diet and it’s been a wonderful time for experimenting in the kitchen. We also had a garden party, which was a fine excuse to try some new things, including a beetroot dip with cashews and miso…




Here’s Bobby before the party guests arrived…


There’s always something cooking these days, often involving courgettes!






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