The time has finally arrived, when I can walk through my tunnel and “shop” for what need for today’s lunch and dinner. The fruits of my labour are paying off and are both abundant and full of flavour.
There are still ways to go to get a balanced diet, the meat protein is missing as it is not time yet to kill our lambs and too soon for the ducks to lay their eggs. It is still amazing how much you can do with the glut of squashes.
My private veg market, i.e. my polytunnel, is currently providing for 90% of all the veg we are eating. I am still learning the knack of spacing out the gluts and providing veg out of season. So, the only veg I am currently buying are onions, garlic and lettuces. You might be surprised at the lettuces as these can literally be grown all year round, but I had problems with sheep breaking in and seed not sprouting, my next crop is still in the early stages.
My beetroots are just beautiful, not only are they gorgeous to eat but are so pretty as well. I have the traditional deep red variety, but also bright yellow ones, light red, white and striped ones. I simply roast them with my potatoes, onions and a few garlic cloves; and serve them with crumbed up feta on top. Sweet, warm, smoky and so good.
The kale, curly and other, is a powerful addition to pretty much everything. Such a hardy and easy veg to grow, and it lasts forever. We particularly love it in soups, but it also works well in stir-fries, salads, risotto, steamed on its own and in colcannon (an Irish dish of potato mash with green cabbage through it).
I didn’t have time to sample my greyhound cabbage, which I particularly love in salads. I will be planting a good few more of these next year, they take a lot less space than the traditional cabbage. A lot of my brassicas are interplanted with nasturtium flowers, which supposedly attract the caterpillar away from the cabbages and broccolis.
This year I have hunted for caterpillars with a much happier outcome, as my ducks simply love them and they are a great treat for them. I seldom have the heart to kill the butterflies in the tunnel, which leaves me at war with their progeny. I don’t mind sharing a bit of my brassicas with the caterpillars, but when they take the mickey (go overboard, Irish idiom) I get really pissed off. This year’s sprouting broccoli is doing pretty good, but I need to keep on top of the harvesting. Again, the ducks do love the flowered broccoli for a treat.
My tomatoes are almost ready, just a few more days of warm weather and we are there. I can’t wait to taste the Indigo Blue variety, which I’m hoping will taste as interesting as they look. While I have tasted blue tomatoes before, not shop bought tomato can be compared with what you grow yourself.
In an earlier post I told you about the Rolet squash (see Curbing my seed frenzy), a huge favourite in our family, and I can confirm that it still an excellent veg to serve. It is so easy to cook and can accompany almost any meal. Boil or steam for about 15 minutes until soft, cut in half and eat the soft inside with butter and a bit of salt. Some people also eat the skin, but I find it a bit bitter.
In the Clare Garden Festival last April, I bought two types of pumpkins or winter squash if you prefer, from a fellow selling a good variety of seedlings. A bright Ushiki Kuri (red kuri), which already has provided me with a few, and a secret type that the fellow said hailed from Catalonia, in Spain. He couldn’t remember the name but said that it had tasted fabulously when he tried it during his holidays. I will get back to you on that when I taste them. I am training them up to the rafters of the tunnel, which they seem to enjoy.
This year’s newbie success has to be my spaghetti squash, which are almost impossible to find in a shop and a meal by themselves. This is my first year growing them and they are doing really well. You eat them by cutting them in half and roasting them, you serve the spaghetti looking flesh inside by scraping it out with a fork. If you are doing a low-carb diet you could not ask for a better option.
I will leave you with a very cheap, tasty, fresh and a true the low-carb option. It is a favourite as a side dish or salad – zoodles – zuchini noodles. This is so tasty, particularly on a hot day, served with fish.
3-4 zucchini or other soft squash
2 finely cut onions or handful of spring onions
Handful of finely chopped coriander (optional)
• Cut the outer part of a zucchini or soft squash into julienne strips. I only use the more dense outer meat and throw out the soft core with the seeds. Do not use a grater for this, either cut with a knife, use a xxx or ideally a xxx. The xxx is a great investment which I would highly recommend for any kitchen.
• Mix it with the onion and salt, let it rest for about 10 minutes. Throw out the excess water and mix in the lemon, oil and coriander (after your own taste, like a salad).
• Serve as is or chilled, by putting it in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
I’m not going to give you recommendations on how much lemon juice, oil or salt to use, as I love lemons I tend to do my salads a bit on the sour side. Just do a bit at the time and find the balance that suits you best.
I know a lot of people don’t move away from the turnips, carrots, spuds and cabbages; don’t get me wrong, I love them but there are so many more veg to try and they are not difficult or complicated, but often surprisingly tasty.