From seed to service – the Potager Garden diary

By 1st October 2019 No Comments

October 2019

If you’re anything like us in the potager garden, you’ve spent the past month desperately trying to keep up with the incessant harvesting – and then finding new ways to make use of it.

It has not been uncommon to spend every morning bringing in the runner beans, kale, tomatoes, leeks, lettuces, parsnips, carrots, aubergines (by the truck-load, and very popular on a Verdure pizza at the Cider House) or the spinach (especially handy in the potager restaurant’s Eggs Florentine).

However, it is the vast quantities of peppers, chillies and courgettes in which we have been drowning.

The chillies and peppers in particular have been ripening at break-neck speed – we’ve harvested jalapeno, cayenne, Antohi Romanian, red cherry, Friggitelli, Golden Bell, Hungarian hot wax and banana peppers.

But, what to do with all these things?

Most have found their way onto the pizzas or pasta dishes at the Cider House, while others have been used to make chilli oil.

As for the jalapenos – wash and pat dry about 10, cut off the top, and slice. Then fill a saucepan with 236ml of both water and white vinegar, two crushed cloves of garlic, four tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of salt. Bring it all to the boil while stirring.

Drop in the sliced jalapenos, let them bubble away for no more than 20 seconds, and then remove from the heat. Allow to stand for about 20 minutes, then remove the jalapenos using a slotted spoon and place in a sterilised jar, pour the liquor over the top – hey presto, pickled jalapenos!

As for the courgettes – try pickled courgettes, courgette curry, courgette ratatouille, courgette & green tomato chutney or courgette soup, to name but a few – I can assure you that all of these are either in my fridge, freezer or cupboard…..

I have also been harvesting sunflower seeds from the slowly dying display located in the grounds of our self-catering cottages.

This, I find, is the best way – remove the faded sunflower head with secateurs, and then slice off all the petals and leaves from around the head.

Then slice off as much of the back of the head as you can without cutting into the underside of the seeds – be wary of using a knife here, and be aware that the back of the sunflower head can become very sticky.

Once you’re left with a disc of seeds with very little backing, leave it in a dry place – in the sun if possible but out of the way of any possible rain – with the seeds face down.

Every other day or so as the head dries, I manipulate some seeds out, until they all come free – then store them in a cool and dry place, ready to plant next year.

From one good-sized flower head, you can get more than 200 viable seeds – clearly that’s too many to grow, so don’t forget that birds love them too – happy days all round.