My last post was from the middle of summer last year (apologies for not posting more often) when we’d emerged from the first lockdown and things were looking hopeful, and now 6 months later, we’re in lockdown number 3, over 100K deaths in the UK, and no idea when thing will ever get back to normal (whatever that was). I don’t mean to be a doom-monger, we do at least have vaccines being given out now, and hey, it’s January, what else would us gardeners be doing except staying indoors with a hot drink, ordering all the seeds and dreaming of spring.
I have also gone back to journalling as a way to occupy my time. Although, to be honest, I don’t know how I ever had the time or energy to actually go places before this. If you’re a newcomer to my blog – hello – you may want to scroll back through my posts to see that I have been keeping an illustrated journal for my garden and allotment since 2015, except for a couple of years when other projects took over, last year being one of them, and my reason for that will be shared in a few weeks or so. It started as an excuse to practice my drawing, but the journals have actually become a valuable reference to look back on, and a lovely meditative thing to do of an evening when the TV is rubbish, and let’s face it, that’s quite often.
Our occasional visits to the allotment so far this year have been mostly wet and very muddy! We have been harvesting lots of kale (Cavolo Nero, Black Tuscany) which is like the Savoy cabbage of the kale world. Dark green, thick, crinkly leaves, which withstand anything the weather can throw at it. Once you strip out the tough stalk in the middle, the leaves are perfect for adding a bit of green to curries, casseroles, creamy pasta dishes, and it’s especially good in soup. It wilts down a bit like spinach, though a bit tougher, and adds a lovely depth of flavour as well as plenty of health boosting iron.
We have also started to harvest our first ever oca. No, not okra, but oca, or Oxalis tuberosa if you want to be posh about it. It’s a kind of tuber from the Andes, which you grow similar to a potato. The difference being that you wait until all of the top foliage has completely died down after a frost, and then harvest the tubers a couple of weeks after that. The tubers only start to swell after a period of very cold weather. We’re a bit late harvesting ours, and most of them seem to have been gratefully received by wireworms or small slugs, but I like experimenting with something new each year. I’ve yet to try out many recipes with them, but so far, just roasted in the oven with some butter and rosemary from the garden, and they are delicious, tangy like lemon, soft like a potato, but not floury, more like a soft roasted carrot, a touch sweet.
We harvested the remains of our leeks a few weeks ago due to them getting attacked quite badly from allium leaf miner. This is a pest that hasn’t been too much of a problem before, but is definitely getting worse each year, which is a real shame as we usually have great success with leeks and value them through the winter months. Other than that, I have a bed of mixed cabbages which have had mixed results. There is one enormous January King cabbage that I must harvest and eat before anything else does.
The snowdrops and hellebores are starting to flower in the garden, and the days are definitely starting to lengthen. I have invested in some grow lights that I will rig up over my windowsill propagator in order to get some onion and chilli seeds started at the weekend, and I’ll also be spending an hour watching the bird feeders to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch.
Have a lovely weekend, I promise not to leave it 6 months before my next post!
PS: there’s still a few days left of a 20% discounted sale in my Etsy shop right now – go check it out.