Monday, December 26, 2011

Harvesting winter vegetables - the bounty

We have just celebrated the winter solstice and the days are starting to get slightly longer, clear night skies and cool temperatures result in the first ground frost. Frosts are infrequent and mild here as we are so close to the sea but there are some vegetables that benefit from the colder weather, especially root vegetables.

The turnips are growing very well after we decided to plant them with some extra space and this year we have noticed that their sweetness has increased, probably with the more favourable growing conditions and the cooler weather. In contrast, the sweetness of the beetroots always decreases as the season progresses. We are hoping to start sowing beetroot again in early February, however there are still quite a few to pick and many ways of cooking or processing them so that the lack of sweetness is not really a problem.

Other vegetables that are doing well at this time of the year are the cabbages that we enjoy in a variety of cooked dishes and salads. The earlier cauliflowers have been cropping for a while as well as the earliest of the early sprouting purple broccoli. Leeks, celery, celeriac and a Winter lettuce of the endive family have been cropping for a few weeks now. Spurts of growth mean we have to monitor what is ready to eat and use it accordingly - experimenting with new dishes and ways of cooking.

There are little gem lettuces ready to be planted in the ground that will be ready for harvesting in late Winter, the first sowing of peas will need pea sticks over the next few days whilst the second sowing of garden peas is ready to be planted in the ground after been sprouted then sown in half a drainage pipe. The pipe sits against a south facing wall that provides a good heat source.

The onions and butternut squash that we have in storage are keeping very well and benefit from the extra heat from the wood burning stove in the studio. You need the heat on if working in the studio at the moment. Inevitably, Wentworth and Gawber sense the warmth indoors and join us whenever we are working in there.

We have already obtained all the seeds we need for the coming season other than for the extra early sprouting broccoli. If anyone has extra early broccoli seeds we'd sure welcome some as they are impossible to get around here.

We are waiting for some wood to be delivered that we will use to create three large raised beds that we will partially fill with sandy soil and be mixed with our heavy clay soil. I dream of the day our soil structure is good enough to grow carrots and parsnips.

All in all we are growing a lot of vegetables most of the year now and it is certainly a bonus knowing that we have such a fresh and untainted source of food at  bottom of the garden.

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