Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Weekend garden tasks

Some garden chores are planned, some take you by surprise . . .


Walking through the vegetable garden a few days ago, my eye was caught by a beautiful lilac flower - a saffron crocus! Of course it's time to watch for crocus blooms and harvest the delicate golden stamens. Checking through past postings I realised that sure enough this exact same week last year I posted about saffron.


Here is this year's harvest of precious fragant stamens. I'll have to find a recipe to make full use of our home grown gold - any suggestions?



Another 'must do' job was to pick the squash and put them somewhere dry to cure so they would store for another couple of months. After all the hard graft digging out the Three Sisters bed and tending the plants, just five squash from four plants is disappointing - but you can't win them all and the sweetcorn has been wonderful. The five squash are a good size and each will easily make four meals for two - can't complain about that.


The lovely blue-green smooth skinned ones are a Spanish variety, Dulce de Horno - the flesh should be very sweet, I'll have to try some dessert recipes. The onion shaped green knobbly squash are Chicago Warted Hubbard, grown from seed from the Heritage Seed Library. I was attracted by the photo in the HSL catalogue - a gorgeous pale copper coloured squash. Mmmmm? mine are green, will they go copper coloured as they cure in the sun, I wonder?



Here's another job that had been waiting to be done - planting the garlic and over-wintering shallots and onions. The soil has been so dry for weeks, I've waited for rain and at last we've had some, enough to make the soil moist and just right for planting.


Another thing on the list, 'make sloe gin' - I'd bought the gin (Tescos value gin - do you think it's good enough?) and decided to hold on as long as possible to pick the sloes from our blackthorn bush on the bank of the brook that runs along the side on the vegetable garden. Some sloes had started to wrinkle and the nights have started to get chilly - it surely must be time to pick the sloes.

I picked all I could reach, washed them and pricked them with a bamboo cocktail stick and stuffed them in a clean olve oil bottle with a nice rubber seal stopper. I added some sugar and then poured in 70 cl of gin - hey! how about that - it exactly filled the bottle! That gave me such pleasure!

Here are our lovely home-grown sloes bobbing about in the sugary gin . . .


Before I go I'll tell you about this afternoon -we went for a walk, about eight miles zig-zagging along the Suffolk/ Cambridgeshire border along the edges of woods, over fields, alongside rivers and paddocks. We stopped briefly to watch a herd of Fallow does - spotted backed and stripy tailed, some 'melanistic' does - dusky and dark. Here are a couple of photos I took along the way -

green pastures and blocky woods on the skyline . . .


and at the end, the most perfect glimpe of Ely cathedral on the rising ground far far away across the fens - colours and textures as sublime as a painting by Gainsborough.

26 comments:

  1. You've been busy! I must grow some crocus just so I can harvest the saffron.

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  2. Beautiful!! Garlic in my part of the world is still green,lovley to eat that way and wil lbe mature in a few months.
    Lovely views!

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  3. It's grand to see how autumn is entering your part of the world.

    Your crocus is a twin to some I photographed this past week in Central Park ... see them in my post. I'm too ignorant botanically to realize that I was in the presence of saffron.

    xo

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  4. I'm glad you've posted about harvesting your squash; I've been looking at ours and wondering whether we should, and I think I'm going to cycle up to the allotment today or tomorrow and grab them before they rot!

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  5. I remember your saffron post last year. Perhaps it's the same in Saffron Walden, but when you go into a bakery in Cornwall, there's a wonderful smell of saffron used in those lovely Cornish cakes and buns. Something buttery like that would be the perfect thing for your home-grown stames. Wonderful. I look forward to reading what you decide

    Joanna

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  6. Hi Jules - Do have a go but make sure you get Saffron Crocus, 'crocus sativus'. They like a sunny well drained position. We get just enough saffron to cook one special thing each year.

    Hi GooseBreeder - Enjoy your fresh garlic :-)

    Hi Frances - Yes, Autumn is just creeping in. Just had a look at your blog, the Central Park 'Autumn Crocuses' are actually Colchicums - poisonous! As always with plants, if you're not sure don't pick and eat!

    Hi Dottycookie - Although we haven't had frosts, I think it's best to pick your squash now. They've have some lovely warm dry weather so they don't want to get cold and wet before you take them in to store. Hope you have a good crop!


    Celia
    x

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  7. And hi Joanna - Mmmmmm? sadly not, Saffron Walden doesn't mean the scent of Saffron cakes drifting from bakeries. The only evidence of saffron is the ubiquitous use of a purple crocus on logos... Saffron Insurance, Saffron Cleaners, Saffron Housing Association... you get the idea...

    But thanks for the reminder, last year I made a Cornish Saffron Cake - not very successfully, but it tasted good with cup of tea.

    Celia
    x

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  8. I would make a lovely pilau rice with that saffron. You can really taste it then!

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  9. Wow, everything sounds so idyllic chez Celia! Love the idea of making your own saffron.

    I'm looking back on a season that wasn't terribly good, on the whole. The only thing that was brilliant (and it was sensational) was the sweetcorn. The weather's been far, far too dry this year.

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  10. Hi Soilman - Thanks, I don't blog about the disasters ;-) But just for you here's a list - soya beans, overwintering brassicas (they are the shrivelled seedlings under the shelf the squash are on), gherkins (what gherkins?), french beans (didn't get enough to freeze) and garlic (I think I harvested too early) were all totally crap this year. No use dwelling on it! I look on the bright side when I write posts for PPPs.

    Glad you had some good sweetcorn - so did we!
    Celia

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  11. Hello again, and thanks so much for your warning! Fear not, I would never pick anything in Central Park ... want to leave everything as is for all to enjoy.

    xo

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  12. We used safron heated in butter to 'gild' out Chrtistmas turkey several years ago. Medieval endoring I think it's called.

    Interestingly (to me!) the word verification is augium. Latin for endoring mebbe?

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  13. What an interesting post i had not realised that was where saffron came from.
    Lovely photos

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  14. Hi Veg Heaven - Golly this is way beyond my linguistic knowledge! But a turkey basted with saffron butter sounds very grand indeed.

    Celia

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  15. Hi Joanne - your comment skipped in just as I was trying to get my mind round what 'augium' might mean!

    Isn't it a shame the saffron fields around Saffron Walden are no more. The bulbs I bought as a curiosity from the Saffron Walden Tourist Information shop have down very well - they are slowly increasing in number each year but I'd love to have lots more.

    Celia
    x

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  16. I was about to suggest a lovely rice pilau with the saffron, but see Matron beat me to it! We were only talking about the crocuses of Saffron Walden as we drove up to see the kids on Saturday-I think it is wonderful you have some from the town.
    I fetched my squashes in today before the frost hits tonight. Hardly worth the bother this year-I may post a picture just for the amusement value.

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  17. Ooh, you've made me feel very lacksidasical about my raised beds this year (note to self - more effort next year) but I love the photos of your walk. Ely Cathedral is such a wonderful statement on the horizon for miles around.

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  18. My blackthorn bushes were only put in late last year... but I'm hoping this time next year I might have just enough sloes to make my first home-grown sloe gin. I think for now I'll just have to go wild sloe picking again near the lake!

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  19. Probably a bit late for this tip but to save you pricking each sloe you can just put them all in the freezer for an hour and they expand and split their skins! Much less fiddly and it gives you just enough time to do a taste-test of your gin...

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  20. Looks like a beautiful time out in the garden. Such wonderful treats to harvest! Aren't fall walks beautiful?

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  21. Wow you've been busy! So envious of your saffron - must try and grow some next year.

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  22. Hi Threadspider - looks like it might have to be a rice pilau, thank you for the suggestion. I've just read about your lovely day at Wicken Fen.

    Hi Penny - Ely must be well over 20 miles from where we were - it looked so timeless and beautiful.

    Hi Lucy - Blackthorn are lovely to grow, meanwhile happy foraging!

    Hi Wendy - That's a good tip, thank you. I only made a small batch this year so it was easy to prick the sloes as I posted them into the bottle.

    Hi Dowhatyoulove - thank you, it was perfect walking weather.

    Hi CS - you must grow some saffron - even though the yield is tiny! it's very satisfying and the flowers are beautiful.

    Celia
    x

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  23. Hope you are feeling better soon Celia
    Hannah
    xxx

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  24. Looking forward to seeing the recipe for the Spanish squash- I'm in Spain and have one sitting waiting to be used!

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  25. wow, I have never ever known anyone who grew their own saffron! That seems so amazing and exotic to me. I've always loved the colour of saffron and am also enamoured with the name -- how it sounds. Were I decades younger and of child bearing age I would name a baby girl, Saffron. Imagine growing up to a beautiful young woman with such a name!

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  26. Hi Hannah - Thank you, I'm now recovered - hope you're better too.

    Hi Beck - We'll cook the first one for Hallowe'en on Friday, there will be plenty left for soup on Saturday too.

    Hi Diane - The Saffron crocus flowers are fleeting but beautiful, I'd love to have lots more. One of our hens is named Saffron :-)

    Celia
    x

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