This week I've been clearing some of the beds in the vegetable garden in readiness to plant some late summer/autumn salad and vegetable crops. Of course the under-gardeners, our four Maran hybrid hens, wanted to help; we've been relaxed about them rummaging in the vegetable beds as they did little damage to mature pea plants and there were no tiny seedlings to peck - they have loved this treat like schoolgirls on a picnic in the country!
The tomato plants in large pots have been devastated by blight (usually by growing them in pots filled with growbag soil prevents blight) apparently there are airborne strains of the disease and ideal conditions this year. So the tomato plants had to go! The under-gardeners looked at the pots of dry soil and saw four individual bath tubs in the sunshine - at least it kept them out of my way for a while.
Of course there is a downside to letting the under-gardeners free-range among the veg, they have a knack of finding the most tasty leaves - this was our sorrel patch! Jane Grigson in her 'Vegetable Book' writes of the French love of sorrel, ". . . one of the best flavourings for an omelette. Its sharpness goes beautifully with eggs." Sorrel is a rich source of vitamin C and and has a sharp fresh flavour not unlike lemon juice. I can't remember where I heard this, but apparently if you eat a sorrel leaf dipped in sugar it tastes just like the very best champagne! Now, who says hens have no sense of taste!