And I’m done… kind of!
I’m sat in my cottage and the log burner roaring; the smell of burning cat hair fills the room- Martha once again has attempted to melt her tail on the fire door. Outside the leaves have all but dropped and my beard is a scruffy mess!
It’s been a while since I last managed to sit down and excrete horticultural information. The past few months have been even more hectic than the previous year!
I feel slightly lost now that I don’t have to harvest, water and tend to everything 7 days a week.
So apart from abusing your facial hair, what has been happening Sam?
Well, Cucumber Armageddon is complete. I feel rather elated and proud of what I’ve achieved. The plan was to grow every cucumber needed for every meal at the pub- that’s a lot! They regularly serve 300+ meals a day and most include a salad garnish. Apart from couple of days in mid-summer, I did it!!! 1678 straight, wonky and green cucumbers from 86 plants. That’s 19.5 per plant, which isn’t bad. It wasn’t easy but it proves other small businesses could do the same achieving great success.
The most successful varieties from this year are:
Golden Sweet Mange-tout that’s well…sweet.
Shiraz Mange-tout that’s well…purple.
Candied Beetroot with its vibrant growth rings.
Heirloom Rainbow Carrots picked small and fried in a pan.
Every new crop I trialled at the pub gets reviewed by myself and the chef, every September. This gives us a chance to find out what worked and in some cases what didn’t. We then discuss new varieties and I ramble on about random tropical fruit that might be the next big thing in 2018……keep an eye out for Actinidia arguta (Hardy Kiwi).
The one tropical fruit I’d recommend trying next year is Horned Melons! These peculiar climbers originate from Africa and have been a great talking point in the polytunnel. Once ripened, you can use the pulpy interior to flavour jelly, desserts or cocktails but it is rather ‘snotty’ in texture! The taste is a weird but good fruity banana ish thing.
Finally, I’m currently trialling Bluemoon and Redmoon radish in pots. You can just about get away with it in a polytunnel/greenhouse/window sill. It’s a good way to test varieties you might have missed in the summer.
Now I better put the kettle on, light a scented candle and clean burnt cat hair off the fire!!
The Three C’s
Every time I offer some knowledge with regards to growing crops for your business, the first question is always, so how long have you been growing the beard?
It’s not really the first, it’s about the 5th question!
They actually want to know the easiest Vegetable/Fruit they can grow and that’s where the three c’s come in.
Courgettes are by far the easiest in terms of germination, care, maintenance and yield!
But I’m not talking about your average green bog standard courgette.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good standard courgette, sliced and cooking in butter on a BBQ but if you’re trying to get people excited when visiting your restaurant, pub or cafe you want something a little different.
At the Pub I only grow a variety called One Ball/Summer Ball. The courgettes are bright yellow and grow to the size of a large tennis ball. They are perfect for hollowing out, stuffing and roasting in the oven.
Other unusual varieties I’d recommend are Eclipse(round), Parador(yellow) and Safari(stripped).
I’ve always preferred the taste of a home grow Cucumber, fresh from my Fathers greenhouse. Shop imported cucumbers are just rather tasteless!
So last winter I went on a cucumber internet safari and was blown away with different cucumbers varieties you can actually grow!!
Two I’ve chosen to grow this year are Poona Kherra, which is an Indian cucumber with a brown/orange skin. It’s really refreshing to eat but you must remove the skin as its super bitter.
The other is called Crystal Lemon/Apple which I’m sure some of you have already tried. They are very vigorous and produce large amounts of round cucumbers. I pick them when slightly green in colour as the skin becomes slightly tough when yellow.
Slice them like a lemon and pop them in your favourite alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverage.
I’ve also grown three high yielding varieties which are Carmen, Louisa and Bella. The reason for this is I wanted to try and get the pub to no longer buy in cucumbers throughout the year. That way we don’t have to buy them from abroad, save money and it’s just generally better for the environment.
I’ve grown nearly 100 plants in a new poly tunnel and they’ve produced over 500 cucumbers to date.
It’s safe to say they no longer buy in cucumbers and we’ve even had enough excess to sell them inside the pub!
It used to be just Two C’s but then I discovered Cucamelons! These little beauties were said to be the ‘next big thing’ but I’m yet to see them catch on.
I love them; they originate from Mexico which makes them drought resistant. They grow like crazy and produce copious amounts of grape sized fruits which taste like cucumber with a zesty kick.
They are very simple to germinate but can be a little tricky to get going as they can suffer from damping off and drying out but once they are off you can’t stop them.
As you can see from the pictures I tend to grow them up string and let them ramble everywhere.
What can you use them in I hear you ask??
Well, now I’m more than happy to eat them as they are but if someone “forced” a large gin and tonic in front of me I’d chop a couple down the length and throw them in for good measure! They are also lovely in a salad or any fish dish.
You’re not growing them?
If you’d like any more info or tips about the varieties listed here, just pop a comment below!
Now where did a leave my gin and tonic…..!
I just love growing peas throughout summer. Possibly because it brings back happy memories of foraging in amongst rows, the enjoyment of hunting for the largest pods and trying to hide the fact you’ve eaten half the pods your mother needs for dinner!
At the pub (one of the businesses I grow at) this year I’m growing four 12 metre rows, sown every two weeks. The variety is ‘Shiraz‘ and grown as a Mangetout. The plants have colourful flowers and stunning purple pods. I find they have a slightly more earthy taste to them which I really like. Working with the chefs we’ve found that if you stir fry them very briefly they hold their colour and keep their crispness!
It’s never too late to sow peas in my book, especially if you’re after mangetout and shoots. I’ve sowed small rows in August/September and still had a decent glut.
I start by getting my peas to shoot in an air tight container. I find the best ones are my partner’s cake boxes (she’s never that happy about that) but any sealable container will do. Place a layer of damp newspaper in the bottom; add the peas and a little water. Cover with another layer of damp newspaper and seal up. Leave for around 48hrs or until they start to shoot.
Not only does this give them a kick up the backside, it also stops rodents using them as an all you can’t eat buffet.
You can sow them in pots, tubs or gutters but I’ve always sown direct and I’m yet to have a failed crop.
I rake out a furrow along the row with a depth of roughly an inch. It’s important not damage the shoots that have appeared on your peas when you remove them from the container.
Spread them along the length of your desired row, no need to be too precise or stingy with the coverage as they won’t struggle being so close. Cover them all with a layer of soil and a sprinkle of water if the weathers dry!
I also cover the ground with a homemade chicken mesh cover but you can get proper cloche hoops/kits for small rows.
This is mainly to stop your not so friendly pigeons indulging in fresh pea shoots!
Once the peas have reached around 15cm I set up a 4/5ft post and netting support frame. This is perfect for long rows but for small rows you can use string, twine, hazel and sycamore…. basically anything they can grab hold of!
After that just sit back and wait for your first pods…..
Peas always behave and I can’t wait!!