Thursday, August 16, 2012

Summer harvests

Summer is well and truly making its mark on La Pasera. It is generally too hot to walk during the day so we have started going down to the local beach early in the morning before the heat of the day. On our return we harvest what needs to be harvested and put crops that need to dry out on the terrace to dry further.

The earth is very dry, cracks are appearing in the clay soil and the grass is growing slowly and patchy in places. We have had spells of rain but much less than usual and it is beginning to show. Despite the dry weather, most of our vegetable and soft fruit crops are growing well and in some cases, producing bumper crops. I think the warm damp spring gave the crops a great start.

It is a busy time of the year with many of the crops requiring harvesting and processing. The onions were harvested a few weeks ago and have been drying in the store room before being plaited and hung in the loft. With a bit of luck and regular aeration, they will last us until next year. The potatoes are now dry and stored in crates covered with cotton cloth to exclude the light.

We have so many cucumbers and marrows we have been distributing them amongst neighbours and friends, eating as many as possible and processing the rest into Marrow soup or juicing the cucumber for refreshing drinks.

The beetroot are cropping well and as one sowing is used up, another later sowing is beginning to produce young sweet beets that we intend to bottle or eat. Other root crops are growing well and this year we have our first harvest of carrots - only possible since we added sandy top soil. Also, we have swede, celeriac, turnip and parsnips which will be harvested later in the year.

We have begun to harvest our first aubergines, peppers and chilli peppers, so far we are eating what we pick but they will soon outgrow our immediate needs and we will have to think about how we will store them... Maybe bottle the peppers and use some to make pickles and chutneys.

This morning we picked a generous basket of tomatoes. Overall they have been disappointing but we expected they would be as our climate is unsuitable for prolific fruiting. We are too close to the sea and salty sea mists soon destroy the young flowers before setting fruit even though we protect them in a plastic tunnel.

The beans have grown very well indeed but as they come around the same time as so many other crops we tend not to eat many fresh. We leave them on the plant until the pods dry and then harvest and dry further until thy are ready to shell. This usually gives us around 6 kilos of dried beans for use later in the year.

The fennel has been splendid this year and we have eaten many in salads, stir-fries and juiced. If you cut the fennel off and leave the roots in the ground, it will re-sprout and give you a few more smaller fennel for later on in the season. Elsewhere the brassicas, leeks and salad leaves are continuing to grow well despite the dry weather, watered regularly using water stored in butts from around the garden.

3 young fennel re-sprouting from one root
Well that's all from La Pasera for now, I must get out and harvest the blackberries as one of our varieties is full of fruit and if we don't pick them, the birds or mice probably will.

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