Saturday, 3 September 2011

Time to evaluate

I am a child of the 60s.  This means many things food-wise.  I remember when spaghetti mainly came in tins marked Heinz, but you could buy three foot long spaghetti from delicatessens for making exotic meals like Spaghetti Bolognase.

It also means that most of my early 'foreign' food experiences were the dried Vesta meals.  If you have not had one of these meals there is no way to describe them.  They had a distinct character all of their own.

Vegetable wise my mother did try and get us to eat fresh vegetables, but by and large vegetables also came from a tin.  For many years the only vegetable I would contemplate eating were tinned processed peas and if pushed, tinned carrots.  When my mother did cook fresh vegetables, as was the fashion at the time, she usually added salt and sugar and if a green leafy vegetable a good pinch of bicarbonate of soda to 'keep the colour'.

There is a point to this reminiscing.  Whilst in a lot of ways I eat a great variety of foods, in other ways I am very restricted.  As a general rule I do not eat raw food, so salads and fresh fruit are not for me.  I can eat cooked fruit (apple pie!) but otherwise I am not going to touch it. After a slow start with vegetables I now eat quite a few different kinds.  It does not have to be cooked to a pulp, but it does have to be cooked a bit.

I have been growing vegetables in a kind of sort of way for many years.  As a child I used to grow carrot tops in a saucer to see them sprout.  We also grew mustard and cress, though I admit I never knew what the point of this was.   I used to plant sprouted potatoes in the garden, this was somewhat bemusing to my parents as they were not gardeners in any way; but I thought it was magical how you could plant one grotty spud and several weeks later you would suddenly have a free crop.

I started growing vegetables in containers when I lived in the railway cottage I used to own.  This worked well.  I grew peas and french beans and always potatoes because all three were fun and easy to grow.

When I moved to this house I had the space to have some real vegetable space.  Some raised beds were created (seven in total) and my experimenting with vegetable growing began.  I started with heritage potatoes.  I read lots of gardening magazines and this seemed the right thing to do - I scorned those modern varieties with their disease-free heavy cropping ways!  Lesson learned, some heritage varieties are heritage because they are not actually that good.

I still grow peas, they are fun.  I know they are short lived but they taste better than any shop bought pea, fresh or frozen.  (if only I could process them and put them in tins.........)  I also have grown broad beans for the last three years.  I had never really eaten them before, but because I was growing them I ate them.  I realised this year that I don't actually like them all that much.  I am not going to grow them next year.

I like growing Cobra Beans.  They germinate and crop well.  Except this year, probably due to the drought they did struggle.  I planted them out too early and they got frosted and then to add insult to injury I just got bored with eating them.  I am considering whether I will grow them again next year, maybe I need a year off.

I always grow courgettes.  Never more than two plants, that is more than enough for me!  This year, again maybe due to drought, they have struggled a bit.  Which means I have not had a glut and that has been quite nice.  Last year it became 'and what do you want with your courgette tonight for dinner?

I grew Pak Choi this year for the first time, due to some free seeds.  It was very easy to grow and I learned very quickly that if I want to grow it again successional sowing is the way to do it.  I also really like stir frying and oriental style cooking, so this quick to grow and easy to cook vegetable was ideal.

Carrots, where do I start with carrots.  I remember years ago sowing some Early Nantes carrots, I think I had read somewhere they had the best taste.  I will never forget the smell and taste of those carrots, it was a revelation to me.  Yet I have failed miserably to grow carrots in my vegetable garden.  After a rather despairing tweet to that effect I was recommended to try growing them in planters.  So next year I shall try that and hope for the best.
Last year I grew garlic and onions for the first time.  It was not a huge success, largely because I did not weed assiduously enough and I failed to water them in a dry spell.  This year I kept on top of the weeding; as with all weeding, if you keep at it long enough you do eventually get less weeds (I keep telling myself this anyway).   I also watered my vegetables regularly all year.  This made a huge difference and my garlic and onions are a joy this year, particularly the onions which I have now decided are a 'must grow'.

I also grow chillis, have done for several years, they are so easy and just so good to have freshly to hand. On my plans for next year I want to try some different varieties.  I must use chillis in cooking several times a week so I need a good selection.

I know it is not the end of the vegetable growing season, but I am already thinking ahead and making notes to plan ahead.

Plan number one:  next year I want to try growing sweet corn.  I love sweet corn but have never grown it, so instead of eating stuff I can grow, I shall be looking to grow stuff I can eat.

I will let you know what else I decide to give a go.

8 comments :

  1. I would like to recommend Rainbow Chard. It's an easy-to-grow versatile longstanding veg and it looks so pretty too :)

    (for some reason it won't let me post from my wordpress blog :( http://phyzzezee.wordpress.com/

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  2. And Spinach is easy and is only nice if fresh and young so must for the vegetable gardener.

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  3. I think you've done really well with your veg. I would recommend chard too and beetroot.I've been growing corn for the last few years. But it's often too cold here. I grew five plants in the greenhouse this year and we've eaten the corn. You're further south than us so it should be easier outside. I always give them plenty of compost and water.

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  4. Thanks for the comments - looks like chard is worth a go and spinach - love having recommendations - thank you

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  5. I can't imagine tinned carrots, altho I do remember tinned peas. Which have now become frozen peas, as a standby. We eat our carrots raw, with lunch, crunchy ;~)

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  6. Interesting and interesting conclusion.
    You've come a long way from the 60's.
    My parents grew loadsa veg and I grow none.
    Maybe I am still rebelling, but there seems so little time to do everything.
    I could never manage to do all this. Respect!
    Best
    R

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  7. Really interesting post, and love the photos! I find it surprising that "junk" food was around in the 60's although in a slightly different form to today's!

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  8. The junk food was just as bad as it is today, and the fresh food was cooked to within an inch of its life. Overall I think in terms of my diet it is healthier now.

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