You might be forgiven for thinking that I do not, infact have an allotment. It's just that life, sometimes, has a very annoying habit of getting in the way and my poor patch has suffered huge neglect. I shall rectify this in the coming weeks and thought you might enjoy reading an article that was first published last autumn in the lovely Garden Heaven.
Food for the soul
As a busy caterer I spend most of my time up to my eyes in ‘OPF’ (other people’s food). So much so, sometimes I feel that I have reached saturation point and can’t take it anymore. When I would come home from work after a long day and was hungry, If it didn't fit between two slices of bread I really couldn't be bothered eating. But when it comes to that end of the summer, where everywhere you look in the garden there is abundance, well nearly everywhere, it’s a different kind of saturation. This is payback time. It’s not just vegetables; my herbaceous perennials are in full bloom for the second time this year, after giving them the Chelsea chop back in early June. This form of pruning is ideal for Echinacea, Helenium Phlox. Sedums and Solidago they tend to come back not so leggy, therefore need less staking. The flowers tend to be smaller there are but more of them, which can’t be bad.
Our allotment is almost at bursting point, with all of my carefully laid out ideas that were planned in the chill dark days of last January. Sitting at my laptop doing what most girls do best, shopping. Seed catalogues totally float my boat. And more often than not, I do have to exercise some self-restraint. Unfortunately that particular trait doesn't come naturally to me as I’m always on the lookout for something unusual or a little bit different. I came across seeds for purple flowering brussel sprouts from Sutton seeds ‘Flower Sprout’ petit posy. These are growing spectacularly well, they should be ready for picking by November but I will need to stake them up to protect them from the autumn storms.
We have no idea what kind of strawberries we have, we dug them up from our old neighbours plot. He hadn't been there for weeks last year and everything looked abandoned and forlorn. It was really sad to watch nature reclaim back the land, as she always does when our backs are turned. I didn't know the protocol so I rang Angela, the lady who owns and manages the allotments. She explained, he just never came back. His gardening style was old school; every furrow was straight and weed free. We were envious of his seemingly obvious, endless knowledge and skill, so we asked if we could re home his ravishing strawberries and I'm glad to say they settled in very nicely indeed. Soon all they will be good for is jam, a little taste of late summer to enjoy over the coming months.
This year I have great plans to put what’s left of my cabbages, carrots and scallions and turn them into Kimchi, the national dish of Korea. Apparently it’s been cited by Health Magazine as one of the world’s five healthiest foods. From my research I have learnt that you can be seasonally flexible with your choice of vegetables, but rigid in the use of Korean Red pepper flakes (Gochugaru) Which I found in M&S! Happy days.
Now I don't want to get all “Hessian Knickers” about this, but you do need to take time and space to take full advantage of your autumn bounty. Collect and sterilize your jars for jams, jellies, curds and pickles. Tray freeze soft fruits and berries and you can bag them up, label and deal with them when you have time. Cut your herbs back, tie in bunches and allow to dry upside down. Make use of edible flowers in ice cube trays, or better still, if you have space in the freezer, make an ice bowl. Set aside an afternoon, stick on the radio. Peel, slice, chop, grate, blanch, boil, pot up and label. You will feel like you've just feathered your nest for the cold winter months ahead and your family will love you all the more from it. Truly, food for the soul.
Photographs taken by the hugely talented Joanne Murphy and styled by Jo and myself.