Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Late Season Gardening in Slow Motion

A suitably crisp autumnal day off work, and the first visit to the plot in nearly a month. If we were still in the midst of summer, I'd have been full of guilty trepidation at the prospect of the weed-fest our neglect would have dealt us. At this time of year however growth has slowed down to comparative slow motion which, after the frantic dash of the high season, comes as something of a relief and allows you the pleasure of just wandering round a bit and realising that things are much as you had left them. With a couple of notable exceptions.

The onion sets, garlic and shallots we planted last time out have met a variety of fates. The bed that has the red onions and shallots has gone exactly to plan, with nearly everything in it having sprouted.

The other two beds that we filled with yellow onions have however stubbornly refused to stir themselves into action. This is brow-furrowingly hard to fathom. The beds are in two different parts of the plot, the weather hasn't been especially cold and although we've seen some intermittently torrential downpours, the ground isn't especially saturated in either spot. I had heard that red onions are far harder to get going than standard yellow. Hmm. I'll give them a bit longer before mentally writing them off, but even this mixed bag of allium results is a marked improvement on last year when near enough twenty quid's worth of mail-ordered sets did a grand total of bugger-all, although by this time last year we'd already had some serious snow. Will they sprout? Will they fail? Stay tuned people...

Elsewhere on the plot, we're on the verge of being able to claim some decent crops of autumnal veg. I chopped back all the jerusalem artichoke canes (can you dry these out and use them instead of bamboo? I'm gonna try) and dug up an exploratory cane's worth of the tubers. There was easily enough for a meal, they're far bigger than they were last year and seem to have been entirely unbothered by the gastropod hordes. This bodes well. Kasia does an excellent if unlikely sounding pie of jerusalem artichoke, chicken and orange which we'll be tucking into soon. Recipe will need to go up here.

Jerusalem artichoke canes, and the blighters themselves at bottom-right
Our parsnip plants have taken a battering at the hands of recent gusty conditions and are looking a bit bedraggled, but fear thee not, for underneath the ground lurks great promise. Parsnips were very near the top of the "is it better than stuff in the shops?" league table last year, so we've deliberately grown a few more of them this time around. The earthy/vanilla sweet smell of freshly hoiked parsnip lingers in the memory, so I can't wait to get some of these up. Yesterday was the first frost of any description, so we'll wait till the ground has been thoroughly whitened once or twice more before having a proper look at them.

This is what anticipation looks like
Also coming on-stream are some red cabbages that Kasia planted at some point over the summer. I like Parsnips, Cabbages, and Leeks for that matter, as they just truck slowly on causing no real fuss until they're ready. One or two of the cabbages are starting to get firm hearts on them, causing thoughts to turn to long-braised dishes of spiced cabbage, full of vinegar, cinnamon and clove. Enough to make you feel Christmasy...

A purple-veined beauty. Ahem.
I hacked down some thoroughly bolted romanesco cauliflowers - still partially edible with some patient cooking - and collected our dinky butternut squash crop from the shed where they'd been curing. In addition to a few handfuls of kale and the last tiny globe artichoke, liberated from the plant before becoming properly thistle-like, this all made for a pleasing table of grub. Not bad for this time of year.

I had meandered slowly home, making the most of a full day off and some cautious but welcome afternoon sunshine. There really are some stunning views over the Tyne and beyond from various parts of the West End of Newcastle, even for dead people.


  1. I love braised red cabbage too, Very strange your red onions beating the yellows as the reds always seem much more fussy.

    1. I know! Still very little action from them, I think we can consign them to the dustbin. Odd.

  2. Lovely to see new growth at this time of year, and yes, it has been mild too over here in Ireland. My garlic, planted almost a month ago are still below ground,only 2 are showing their stalks and I am not sure if this is normal or not?

    1. They seem to take their time, but we've never planted any garlic that didn't germinate eventually I don't think.

  3. Well it sounds like things are still going well for you, I'm sure I have some wonderful veg still in the plot and I think today will be the day to go and find it as the sun is shining and the skies are clear. Tomorrow the forecast isn't so great which will hopefully spur me to move after a wonderful Sunday Lunch!!

    1. Thanks Tanya. It's a case of making the most of what time you get at this time of year!


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