Tuberous nasturtiums and Oca de Peru tubers harvested this weekend. Both are eaten much like potatoes in South America. Tuberous Nasturtium is a cousin to the widely grown garden nasturtium and has been cultivated for its tubers since 5500 B.C. Indeed, both remain a staple crop of the Andean people today. Nasturtium tubers have a peppery flavour and should be boiled for about 10minutes before serving. Young shoots and flowers are also edible. Oca can be boiled, fried or baked and is even eaten raw in Mexico. In the Andes it is used in soups and stews.
A final gathering before the tunnel is cleared. A handful of sunflowers, marigolds, heartsease and the last of the tomatoes.
I have begun the task of clearing the tunnel. Plants have dried with some beautiful effects. Above sunflower, marigold and orach. One of the useful things about having a tunnel is being able to save seed. It is possible to keep plants dry and sheltered, ensuring a healthy amount of seed to collect for next season.
Apples galore! The one in the middle was our biggest apple - Howgate Wonder - weighing in at 1kg. We were determined that it would make the harvest display. Sadly it's just starting to brown but we didn't want to leave it out!
Heligan harvest display this morning - taken at about 8am before all the visitors came in. We added a few more bits of greenery after this but it is pretty much done at this stage. It's so rewarding to see it all laid out like this, particularly after such a wet summer. Pumpkins and squashes have got to be up there in my top 5 vegetables. I love them and I love how different they all are in appearance and flavour. I can't wait to dust off my pumpkin pie recipe for Halloween...Will upload some more harvest images over the weekend. The display will be up until the 1st November so check it out!
We made the finishing touches to the harvest display at Heligan today. It's always a great time of year, when all the staff pull together to create the spectacular array garden produce. We've been harvesting, scrubbing veg and barrowing around heavy crates all week, so it's extremely satisfying to see the fruits of our labour displayed in all their glory! I particularly like this little chap above!
On a cold, dreary day like today, it's good to be reminded of summer colour. Above are a selection of blooms that I grew this season (this shot was taken in early August). As we come into the third week of October, dahlias and marigolds are still flowering and cosmos are only just coming to an end in the tunnel.
A batch of seeds sprouting during my first year of serious growing, at Buttervilla Farm in South Cornwall. To read more about my time at Buttervilla please visit this link...
Everything is winding down with the polytunnel now, check back soon for a video introduction to who I am, and some photographs of our very small frogs!
Tonight: Sweet peas 'Grandiflora'. These were spring sown but you can sow them in the autumn to over-winter for earlier blooms. Mine are grown on a tepee using 8 canes. Sweet peas have the potential to grow up to 10ft tall depending on how they are trained. These are going great guns and swiftly heading towards the roof of the tunnel!
Tunnel this evening. So far in flower are sweet williams, shizanthus, marigolds and cosmos. A few cornflowers and sweet peas are just starting too...I've been harvesting courgettes, peas, beetroot leaves, salad, coriander, potatoes broad beans and radish so far this season.
Shots of Shizanthus 'Dr Badger' which is flowering beautifully in the tunnel. These seeds were easy to germinate in early spring and are the some of the first plants to flower in my garden. They seem to last almost a week in a vase and have numerous flowers per stem. Now I've discovered them, they'll become a firm favourite. In the middle picture above, Orach grows alongside spinach.
Thyme in flower in beds outside tunnel. Once flowered I will trim this back to promote new growth. This is a drought loving plant and does well in its current position as the bed tends to dry out quickly.
'Early Rose' potatoes just out of the ground. I have now cleared this potoato bed and am storing the spuds in a sack in the garage. I really needed the room for more summer plantings of beetroot and fennel. Potatoes need to be stored somewhere cool, otherwise they fester and you'll find yourself pulling out blighty tubers which are mushy and stink and the whole experience is generally unpleasant!
Red Flowered Broad Beans. I was lucky enough to be able to take some of the Heligan saved seed home with me this year and the plants are looking really healthy. Judging by the amount of flowers, I'd say it was going to be a fairly prolific cropper. Plants are slightly shorter than other varieties, reaching about 3 feet tall. I sowed these seeds on March 16th, in order that they follow on from the autumn sown Aquadulce Claudia.
First 'Aquadule Claudia' broad beans with Mizuna. This photo was taken a about a month ago now in early May. They were overwintered in the tunnel, giving us an early crop. In fact, I tasted my first bean on 23rd April which is definitely pretty early! I think it's a bit too warm for them really, as they have become rather leggy, but this doesn't seem to have halted their productivity or flavour.
Shizanthus 'Dr Badger' is one of my first annuals to flower this year. It has delicate pink, purple and white flowers with a specked yellow centre. Seeds were quick to germinate in late March and plants should flower for 3 months. They have a vase life of about 7 days. I picked my first little posy of the year last night, with the very first cosmos stem, shizanthus, marigolds, cow parsley and mizuna flowers.
Forget-me-nots. These plants prefer shade so we have planted them alongside the cottage. They should hopefully self-set and form a border of blue in late spring next year.
Polytunnel pond very early one morning. The tadpoles have been hiding away at the bottom of the pond in all this hot weather. It gets so warm in the tunnel that I do worry about them a bit. I top the water level up regularly, and as soon as I remove the hose they all come swimming to the surface and wriggle around. They look pretty lively so I reckon they're alright...
Feltham First and Sugarsnap peas are climbing high and starting to flower. Today is the first day we've had rain in weeks, here in Cornwall. I have resisted from watering any of my outside beds, taking a leaf out of Heligan's book where we don't water unless in extremely dry conditions. The idea is that if the soil is very well cultivated, plants learn to look after themselves and the more you water and interfere with them, the more they rely on that water source. It's hard to ignore plants when the ground seems so parched, but if left to their own devices they generally become stronger and you have to water less. Obviously if something is looking like it's about to die, this theory isn't working and you need to give if a drink -I don't want to be responsible for people killing off their plants! It's very dependent on each garden and soil structure, but it's worth observing how plants are coping and not simply watering for the sake of it.
Red Orach growing alongside Aquadulce Claudia Broad Beans and Mizuna. This plant is as tall as me now (5'10) and still growing! It makes an attractive contrast to the green vegetables, and young leaves can be used in salads. I have also read that larger leaves can be used as a spinach substitute and seen a recipe for Orach soup, although I've never tried these. It is easy to grow and self-sets everywhere if you're not careful!
The first Nasturtiums are coming into flower alongside Sage. Both flowers and leaves of nasturtiums can be used in salads and have a peppery flavour. They are also known as 'Poor Man's Capers' as buds can be picked and pickled in vinegar. They are easy to grow and will climb up wigwams creating srtiking colour in the garden. Once introduced, they tend to self-set year on year and are good companion plants for attracting pests such as blackfly away from broad beans.
Cow Parsley growing in the entrance to my plot. I'm trying to keep as many wild flowers as possible to encourage the bees. I have a grass area out the back of the tunnel that I am leaving wild. There are lots of buttercups and campions and I have sown a wild flower mix just inside the tunnel door.
Feltham First and Sugar Snap Peas in evening sunlight. They are protected by thorny pea sticks to ward off the pigeons. This is one of the first images I have taken on my old pentax 35mm camera. My friend Giulietta was very patient in helping me buy this camera on ebay for which I am extremely grateful! She takes beautiful photographs - check out her work... http://www.giuliettaverdon-roe.com/
Above is a picture I took last month of a butterfly in the polytunnel. It looks like
it may be a Fritillary of some sort. Any ideas? http://www.britishbutterflies.co.uk/asp/families.asp is a really helpful site that helps you identify British butterflies, but I'm still not a hundred per cent sure what it is! Sadly, butterflies are on the decline (like our honey bees) due to the destruction of habitats and pollution, so it's a rare treat to see one up close like this in the garden.
Bee on blossom at the farm last spring. Our honey bees are dying in their millions. Check out "Who killed the honey bee?" on BBC 4 tomorrow night. This promises to be a facinating documentary on the major decline of what the bbc describes as "the number one insect pollinator on the planet, responsible for the production of over 90 crops".http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00jzjys
I had to smile to myself the other day when I went into the tunnel and saw dozens of little tomato seedlings poking through the dry earth. They have obviously self-set from last summer. When I think how I have nurtured the seed that I sowed this year - sowing in individual plugs of organic compost, juggling them indoors and out to the greenhouse depending on the weather...And the tomatoes that have self-set are growing in hard, stoney ground amidst the weeds and are way ahead and way healthier than my greenhouse batch. If I'd have know that would happen I would have saved myself all the bother, as I have now gone round pricking them all out and transferring them into individual pots. They will all be heritage varieties and could be any of the following: Red Zebra, Gardeners Delight, Brandywine, Chadwick, Yellow Pear, Galina, Gold Medal and Purple Ukraine...but it'll be a bit of a lottery in terms of which plant is which. I'm rather happy about this unexpected collection of plants as I lost most of last years to blight. For this reason, I don't really want to risk growing them in the tunnel again this season, and i won't have much room for them in the greenhouse. Still, I guess I can give them away - it would feel wrong hoeing them all out somehow!
The beauty of growing heritage varieties (as opposed to hybrids) is that you can save the seed and grow it sucessfully the next year. Over time the plant adapts to the conditions in its particular surroundings and seed can be passed on and shared for years to come. More soon about heritage varieties and how to save seed...
Above: Blackthorn and Gorse grow side by side at the farm. There are masses of these white blossoms all over the Cornish hedgerows at the moment. In the autumn here at the farm the prickly branches become laden with sloes. At this time of year it's often tricky to tell the difference between blackthorn and hawthorn, but the blossom usually comes before the leaves on blackthorn. That's one way to identify the plant and then you'll know if you can look forward to sloes later in the year!
Above: Feverfew (also known as Featherfew) is a hardy herbaceous perennial with yellow and white daisy-like flowers. The 17th Century Culpepper's Complete Herbal (above) advises, "It is very effectual for all pains in the head coming of a cold cause, the herb being bruised and applied to the crown of the head...". In recent times, it has been found to be effective in the treatment of migraines. I have just sown some more seed as migraine runs in my family and I would like to provide all the sufferers with a plant each! The seed is absolutely tiny so patience is required. I have sowed it in individual plugs with a thin covering of standard compost, although some books state not to cover seed at all.
Dan and Dan puzzle over the elusive tadpoles in the polytunnel pond. We have spotted two newts in there now, but there still seem to be a fair few tadpoles around so they haven't all been gobbled! They tend to go into hiding a lot of the time which makes us panic that they have met some awful end, and then they pop merrily up to the surface again and we breathe a sigh of relief. They are getting bigger, but show no sign of frog metamorphosis just yet. Apparently the whole process takes 4-5 months, so it is not generally until August time in Britain that tadpoles make the transition to tiny frog.
It's been super warm here in Cornwall today and I thought it would be a good time to start sowing some of the hardy annuals. I sold cut flowers to Jamie Oliver's restaurant 'Fifteen Cornwall' last summer (above) and due to a sucessful season, I've decided to experiment with lots of new varieties. I sowed Cornflower 'Black Ball' today which forms deep red flower heads (seed above), as well as the traditional blue type. Also sowed were California Poppy, Nigella 'Love-in-a-Mist', Ammi Majus (delicate lace-like flowers similar to cow parsley), Papaver Somniferum (opium poppy!) and Euphorbia Oblongata which is a good foliage plant with lime green leaves.
Beware - a word of warning re Orach (as mentioned below)...make sure you take the plant out before it goes to seed (which I didn't manage to do) as I now have hundreds of them pushing through the soil (above). Luckily their colour makes them easy to spot, and it is a good sign that conditions are now right to start sowing. By the way, it's worth noting that the vibrancy of the red varies between seed batches, so if you get a good coloured plant then it's worth holding onto by saving your seed.
Following on from the post below, here are a few other suggestions for a hint of red in salads...
Above: The far red plant is Red Orach, an impressive annual that can grow up to 6ft high! Use young leaves for salads. They have a spinach-like flavour and silky texture.
The near red plant above is Perilla. An annual herb that is part of the mint family. I grow a variety called Shiso and the leaves look a little like stinging nettles. The flavour could be compared to mint or fennel.
I can also recommend the fiery purpled-leafed mustards such as Red Giant. They add a bit of a kick and vibrance to salads. Pick the leaves young, as the peppery flavour intensifies as the plant begins to run to seed and can make your eyes water! They are slower growing than the other oriental brassicas but I also use them as a cut-and-come-again crop.
Above: Ruby Chard. When cropped small this adds a rich red colour to green salads. It is part of the Leaf Beet family and leaves can either be used small and raw in salads, or left to grow larger and then cooked and used like spinach.
Above: My January sown Mizuna growing at Buttervilla in 2007. This Japanese brassica is a good staple salad leaf and makes an excellent winter crop in the tunnel. It is very easy to grow all year round and seed germinates quickly - I sowed some on 11th of March and seeds had germinated in a week. Leaves are glossy, green and serrated with a mild, peppery flavour. I use it as a cut-and-come-again crop and it will keep on producing for several months. If left to go to seed it throws up dainty yellow flowers, also edible with a subtle mustard flavour.