Grow, forage, cook: September round-up

30 Sep
Grow, forage, cook September roundup

Grow, forage, cook September round-up. Click on photo to see in greater size, and see below for details of photographers (plus links to some truly delicious-sounding recipes…)

Ah, September, always one of my favourite months of the year.

I say this not just because it is the auspicious month of my birth. (Actually, my birthday was a rather muted affair this year; the sproglet choosing the day to give me two full-on hour-long tantrums and my birthday cake not lovingly made by the hubby, but purchased from the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Not that I’m complaining, as my Mum came up for the day and was the one who bought me the cake, but the hub could do well to take a leaf from Laura’s book, who made this fantastically toothsome looking creation for her husband D’s birthday*: Ginger and pear cake.)

But, birthday ramblings aside, September is usually a month of the most wonderful weather and this year has been no exception. The Autumn light creeps in, the leaves turn, the conkers appear and I thoroughly enjoy sticking on my wellies for a walk to the park.

Of course, this is also the month with the best harvest and I have been so enjoying following our #growforagecook hashtag over on Twitter and Instagram and seeing what everyone has been up to.

My recipe book is heaving with ideas, my “to plant” list for fruit and veg next year is growing daily as I garden vicariously and I am on an ever-more-desperate search for sloes and damsons as I watch others’ gins and jams. (Anyone have any tips for places to search in South East London? Please, please leave a comment below if you know of any good spots…)

Grow, forage, cook: September round-up

See below for photographer’s details

Here is a selection of some of our favourites from this month.

Top selection:

Top row, left to right: Anne Wheaton: The edible hedge in September and @slamseys on instagram; Gemma Garner: making rosehip syrup and @gemmagarner; Amelie and Richard: @amelie_and_richard

Middle row, left to right: Fiona Annal: @fionaannal; Hannah Frances Boulton: @hannahfrancesboulton; For Adventure @foreadventure

Bottom row, left to right: Kat Goldin: @katgoldin; Margot Barbara: @margotbarbara; Growing Spaces: Make your own sloe gin

Bottom selection:

Top row, left to right: Be Nourishd: Sloe gin (I know, two sloe gins, but I just love the stuff, and both of the photos!); Really Pretty Useful: Spiced stone fruit compote and @reallyprettyuseful; Fore Adventure: @foreadventure

Middle row, left to right: Hello Mister Magpie: @hellomistermagpie; Fiona Annal: @fionaannal; Little Green Shed: @littlegreenshed

Bottom row, left to right: Carie May @cariemay; The Linen Cloud: Plum jam and @thelinencloud; Capture by Lucy: @capturebylucy.

All wonderful, aren’t they? And enough to make you reach immediately for the spade, secateurs or mixing bowl!

Thanks so much to everyone for joining in, please do keep on using the #growforagecook hashtag on Twitter or Instagram (and tag either @wolvesinlondon and @circleofpines); or, if you’re not on either of those, do just leave us a comment linking up to posts you’ve published…

And so October approaches, I feel drawn towards winter veg and endless pickling, along with my feet up on the sofa, poring through seed catalogues to plan the veg garden of my dreams for next year… What will you be up to in the coming month?

On the mantel: September

23 Sep
September mantel

A little glimpse at my sitting room mantelpiece…

You may recall that our house is in a near permanent state of being done upness. (I’m pretty sure that’s the official term that all property developers / architects / interior designers use…)

We have little flurries of activity here and there, but fundamentally progress is slooooow.

The last few weeks, however, have been one of those rather wonderful periods of flurry. Brought about, as is usually the case, by having booked a tradesperson to come and do some work, which necessitates us getting of our lazy behinds and doing a lot of work beforehand…

In this instance, it was an excellent carpenter (female!) who came and built shelves and a lovely cabinet in the alcoves of our sitting room. Necessitating us to actually get round to painting the sitting room first. (I may be lazy, but there is no way I am going to risk spilling paint on some exceedingly expensive bespoke shelves by painting the walls after they’ve gone in…)

So, as I sit here writing this on the sofa, I am looking not at bare plaster walls, with a bare pine mantelpiece and a load of boxes all around me, but at some beautiful grey walls, lovely books on even nicer shelves and… …well, the mantelpiece is primed, though still needing its final coats of paint.

For the first time since we’ve lived here, this room is starting to feel like a home I would actually choose to spend time in.

Rather fortuitously, just as I was thinking about how nice it will be to arrange things on the mantelpiece, I came across a wonderfully evocative piece on Gillian’s blog, Tales from a Happy Home, with some pictures of her September mantelpiece. Did anyone else fancy joining in? she asked. I was already feeling tempted but was completely won over as I went on to read:

“It’s not about styling or making things looks beautiful necessarily (although that is fun). It’s more about the meaning behind beloved objects and pictures, and the place nature has in our lives, and the way we humans like to surround ourselves with treasures and memories throughout the year.”

So here I am, a whole load of wittering at the top of the article first, but finally ready to begin what will hopefully become a new monthly series showing you what’s on my mantelpiece.

September is an auspicious month to start. Perhaps because it’s the month of my birthday it’s always been one of my favourite times of the year. The flowers on the right of the picture were a birthday bouquet from the hubby, stuck in my favourite flower arranging vestibule: an Ikea jug. (The same jug of fame from my post about attempts at styling…)

 

Bouquet | Wolves in London

Lovely birthday flowers

You can see the hubby himself in miniature form next to the flowers. This little peg doll version of us was painted by him for the top of our wedding cake. This month is also that of our first wedding anniversary and the card behind was from the hubby to me on that auspicious occasion. We first met out in the Philippines on a marine conservation expedition five years ago and hit it off straight away. But it was upon discovering a mutual love of lindy hop (swing dancing) that we really connected. Though, realising that we went to the same class in London (me in beginners, him an hour later in intermediate) was temporarily so freaky that it actually put me off a bit, ha ha.

Wedding cake toppers | Wolves in London

Diddy me, diddy him

The bowl with the lion on has recently come out of storage as we’ve finally put up some shelves in the kitchen for all our crockery. It was part of our wedding crockery and is a mighty fine holder for conkers as well.

Conkers in soup bowl | Wolves in London

This is the first year the sproglet has really enjoyed conkers. It feels like a rather momentous childhood occasion…

The picture behind it was a present from sister for my birthday last year. As we’ve not had a decorated house since then, this is the first time it’s come out into the open air. I love it. A lot.

Wolves in London mantelpiece

My sister knows me well, I don’t think you could get a picture more up my street…

The huge bronze urn belonged to my Granny. When she moved into a home a few years ago, she left everything in her house and I went round one evening with my Dad, collecting a few things that I liked. I adore the urn, but am not entirely sure about keeping it on the mantelpiece – I think it looks a little bit as if we have someone’s ashes in there, no?

Urn | Wolves in London

Beautiful but a little sinister in that position I think. Must find it somewhere else to sit…

Underneath it, a selection of poetry books. I am currently absolutely addicted to the website The Book People (www.thebookpeople.co.uk). Have you come across it? When I worked in the communications department of a giant corporate bank they used to come and do book sales outside the canteen once a month, but I’ve only just realised they also sell online. There’s a huge amount of commercial tat, as you’d expect from a large discount bookseller, but you can pick up some absolute gems for next-to-nothing as well. These beautiful books cost me a few pounds I think. It’s pretty great for birthday presents, especially for children. (Lots of Julia Donaldson on there too…)

Poetry books | Wolves in London

Oh these just look far too beautiful not to be on display

(Yes, yes, I know I shouldn’t be buying books on the cheap from a website, but should instead be putting money into my local independent and absolutely wonderful bookshop, it’s just I am so fricking skint right now, I can only really afford books if they’re massively discounted in the first place.)

(Even as I write that, it sounds like a bad argument to me, so, hmmm, perhaps I should stop using the Book People and just buy fewer books at a normal price.)

But anyway, onwards…

The fireplace below is glorious isn’t it? When we moved in, the original fireplace had been removed and instead we had a 1960s electric fire, which looked as if it might be about to set the whole house alight while we slept. We ripped it out and got this original one in its place (bought from the wonderful Blue Mantle on the Old Kent Road for anyone interested and local…)

Oh, and finally, the clock is just our clock. No story there, ha ha…

So, that’s it, the September mantelpiece. Come and have another look in October will you? Hopefully by next month I will have painted it properly as well… And thanks so much to Gillian for inspiring me to join in.

Grow, forage, cook: saving seeds (and free seed envelope template)

19 Sep
Vintage style seed envelopes: free download | Wolves in London

Seed collecting: like foraging in your own garden…

Far be it from me to deny the joys of veg gardening (of which there are many, even in years of disappointing harvest) but I have to confess that one of my absolute favourite benefits of growing your own is the chance to get something for nothing.

Yes, it is just quite possible I am a massive skinflint, but it makes me very happy to spend a pound or two on a packet of seeds and then enjoy fresh tomatoes for the entire summer months.

And saving and storing some seeds from said tomatoes to grow a full summer’s worth the following year entirely for free is enough to put a beam on your face throughout the whole of a miserable dark winter…

So it is, around this time of year, I head out into the garden and collect seeds from anything I’d like to grow again.

Honesty seed cases |Wolves in London

Honesty seed cases; remove seeds and stick in a vase for winter. Heaven

Of course, at the same time as I’m collecting seeds, I should be taking the opportunity to do a bit of weeding, sweep down the paths, get the greenhouse ready for the winter and so on and so on. But no, I find these maintenance tasks a little boring, so instead I’ve been square-eyed in front of the laptop, making some rather attractive seed envelopes to store all my seeds in.  (Even if I do say so myself.)

Free seed packet download | Wolves in London

Envelopes wot I made mesself

There’s one for fruit, one for veg and one for flowers. The images, as ever, are from the wonderful Graphics Fairy website (check it out if you’re a fan of vintage pictures). I’ve used a botanical rose illustration (of course, you’d be highly unlikely to actually harvest rose seeds, I should point out, but I just really liked the picture), this botanical pea illustration for the veg and this botanical apple illustration for fruit (again, don’t actually go collecting apple pips, not only would it take you years to get a tree, but they wouldn’t be the same as the original tree anyway).

If you’d like to make some envelopes of your own, by all means go ahead! Just click on the image below to download a pdf that contains all three templates.

[NB, On my laptop, when I click on the link it shows me the document with all the Ss missing. If yours is the same, just download and save it to your computer first and you’ll see it in all its glory. How these things happen, I do not know. Before printing, check the settings are for “actual size” and landscape…]

Free printable seed envelopes | Wolves in London

Once you’ve got the envelopes, you’ll need something to put inside them. Here’s a few pointers if you’re trying seed collecting for the first time:

Poppy seeds | Wolves in London

Poppies: the easiest seeds to collect.

  • Different plants produce seeds in different ways, requiring different harvesting techniques. The easiest to collect are those flowers that store their seeds in something akin to a salt cellar, in order to shake them out once they’re ready. Flowers like poppies, snapdragons or love-in-a-mist all do this. To collect the seeds, just shake the seedhead onto a piece of paper, or straight into the envelope, and your seeds are ready.
  • Peas and beans (including sweet peas) are also very easy to harvest. Make sure you leave a few on the plant long enough for the seed to ripen. The outer bean part will turn brown, the seeds will start to dry and shrivel up and, once ready, should be easily removed. Dry for a day or two longer on some kitchen paper to be sure they’re completely dehydrated and then store til next year.
  • For soft fruit and veg, like tomatoes, you need to wait until the fruit is ripe, which means the seed will be ready, then just mash up the fruit a bit and remove the seeds. The easiest way to do this is to put the fruit and some water into a bottle or jar and shake it well until it has separated. If necessary, leave for a few days or up to a week. Remove the seeds, dry them completely on a piece of kitchen paper and store.
  • Almost all seed should be stored in a cool and dry environment. Wrap in clingfilm to keep out the moisture, then put inside an envelope (or, of course, my lovely new seed packets!)
  • Different seeds are viable (ie capable of germination) for different amounts of time. On the whole, most seeds will do well to be used within a few years. Label the date of your seed collections so you can try and use them as soon as possible.
  • Lots of fruit / veg nowadays is grown from seeds known as F1 hybrids. I won’t go into the science of this as it’s a bit complicated, but it basically means that the resultant plant is likely to be stronger, healthier, less prone to pests and diseases and will crop uniformly and heavily. All sounds great, right? The only thing is, seeds collected from the plants grown from F1 hybrids won’t grow true to their parent. So, when you’re buying seeds, check whether it says F1 hybrid on the pack. If so, it’s probably not worth bothering collecting the seed from these plants, but better to just buy them again the following year.
  • Finally, a word of warning, certain seeds have what’s known as an inbuilt dormancy, that means they won’t germinate until certain environmental external conditions have been met. The most common of which is a drop in temperature. (In the wild, this means the seed doesn’t grow at the wrong time of year – it waits for winter to be over, for example…) It’s best to do a double check online for seeds before planting them, just to make sure you won’t need to fake the necessary environmental conditions before planting. (If you’ve stored the seed inside your centrally heated house, it won’t know that winter has been and gone, so you might need to put it into the fridge for a week or two to trick it into thinking it has…) Don’t be put off by this though, most seeds are fine to chuck straight into the ground – or a nicely prepared seed tray – but it’s definitely worth checking in advance to avoid disappointment if they don’t grow…

I hope you enjoy the seed packets. Please do share photos of any seed collecting you’re up to, or any other growing, foraging or cooking by using the hashtag #growforagecook on instagram or twitter, or just leave a comment here!

[Grow, forage, cook is a series I run with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, where we share some of our successes (and failures) with homegrown, foraged (or just bought!) seasonal food. We’d love it if you’d join in too. Every month we publish a round-up of our favourite Grow, forage, cook captures. Check out last month’s over on Circle of Pine Trees: August round up.]

 

On writing (and blogging)…

15 Sep

Blackberry | Wolves in LondonI’m going through one of those phases where I’ve forgotten how to write.

It’s a phase that’s not uncommon to me, as someone who has made their crust for the past 15 years with writing in one form or other (journalism / editing / communications / whatever the particularly tedious brand of writing is called that is simply trying to persuade people to open yet another promotional email newsletter that they really just want to delete).

I think almost all writers would admit that they frequently compare themselves detrimentally to other similar writers. It was this irresistible but bad-for-the-soul trait that really diminished my enjoyment of working on a big broadsheet back in my 20s.

You’d pick up the paper every morning and look through it, reading the pieces by your friends and contemporaries most carefully.

“Great piece this morning, John,” you’d say as you bumped into John ten minutes later in the lift popping off for a fag on level one. But secretly you were thinking, “Bloody John, that turn of phrase in paragraph two was really brilliant. I’m never going to be able to construct a sentence as well as that. John’s going to get that job that I really want on the books desk and probably a reader is writing in to complain about the factual error in my piece right this very second and I’m going to get fired on the same day John gets his promotion…”

When I’m going through a bad writing phase, though, it’s not other people’s writing that is making me feel depressed, but my own. “Good god,” I think, reading some witty, intelligent and beautifully honed article I wrote a year ago. “I could really write then! That’s a great joke! That’s an insightful but deftly managed point of view I’ve put across there. I will never, never, be able to write as well as that ever again. All my best work is behind me!”

So, yup, that’s where I am right now.

My lovely friend Laura pointed her readers towards a blackberry and apple vodka recipe I posted last year. I trotted over there too, just to remember what I had said and thought, blimey, I haven’t written anything as nicely as that for a while.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve decided that it’s time to give myself a little bit of a break. Stop beating myself up about my lack of writing panache and instead to just ride out the lull until I get my mojo back again.

So, dear readers, if you’ve noticed a certain dullness about my posts recently, an awkward turn of phrase, a clumsy repetition, please bear with me. If my posting isn’t as frequent, it’s because I’ve written something and decided it’s all a load of rubbish and deleted it in a fit of pique. And if I haven’t made you crack a smile for a good few months, my apologies.

In the meantime, head over to my archives and check out some of my articles back from the days when I could really write… There’s a particularly tasty blackberry and apple vodka recipe you might like to start with.

Ode to a broad bean

12 Sep

unappetising broad bean | Wolves in London

Oh green broad bean, oh green broad bean, you’re really rather small.
Oh green broad bean, oh green broad bean, you’re hardly there at all.
Oh solitary green broad bean, I still like you a lot(ty),
Though you hardly bear comparison to last year’s fine borlotti.

Your skin is wan, your colour’s dull, your seeds just number three,
Your black and speckled blotches are as ugly as can be -
And if I, famished from the day, and ready for to sup,
Picked you to feast upon, why bean, you wouldn’t fill me up!

Yet even with these many faults, upon you I heap praise
And I sing about your glory til the ending of your days.
For in one aspect you stand tall: a bean above all others
And so it is you still remain, far longer than your brothers.
Yes, beany, you’ve escaped the fate their sad short lives curtails;
You haven’t yet been eaten by our many slugs and snails.

Single broad bean | Wolves in London

P.S. Yes, I probably should get out more…

Garden moodboard: September

8 Sep

It’s quite possible, looking at this month’s moodboard, that my love for white flowers might be getting a little out-of-hand. But what white flowers they are!

September garden moodboard | Wolves in London

September delights from the garden

Along the bottom row there is a white cosmos (‘Purity’), with a small daisyish flower next to it, followed by Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus, a current obsession of mine). Above them in the top left is a glorious anemone, just below that is a nicotiana and to the right and slightly above, a self-seeded snapdragon.

Oh yeah, there are some other non-white flowers too, but really, who cares so much about them???

Anemone Honorine Jobert | Wolves in London

Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

I think this stunning anemone is my favourite of all. I planted it a few years ago in the front garden, back when we removed the giant cactus. It has a little struggle at the start of the summer each year, when I think it’s not going to make it against its battle with the slugs and snails, and I see everyone else’s anemones in full flower, while mine looks a little sickly but then, a few weeks later, tentative little shoots and buds appear and around now the flowers are looking wonderful.

Hesperantha coccinea | Wolves in London

Same flower, new name

I’ve shown you this Hesperantha coccinea before, but it’s changed its name since then. It used to be called Schizostylis coccinea, but for some reason unknown to me, that changed. A rose by any other name, etc etc… I’ve only had a few of these by the pond so far this year, last year there was a veritable forest of them, so we’ll wait and see what happens later in the season.

Rosa rugosa rose hips | Wolves in London

Hip to be a rose…

Also autumnally-coloured, these are the rose hips from my new Rosa rugosa hedge. I think rugosa hips are good for eating, so I shall definitely be trying some culinary experimentations with these later on this year. (Not these actual hips in the photograph, of course. I don’t think they would last that long…)

Nigella | Wolves in London

So frothy!

Along with a mass of seed heads (on the bottom right of the main picture) my nigella has also put out a few more tiny little flowers in the last week. It’s nice to have a little bit more blue out there. On the left of this photo is some campanula, which has struggled on throughout the summer, producing the odd flower here and there. I really need to figure out something else to plant alongside it to cover up its rather unattractive leggy stems. (And, be still my beating heart, the lovely Erigeron is on the right of this pic again…)

Nicotiana | Wolves in London

Yeah, okay, it’s a looking a little blotchy

This photo doesn’t do my nicotiana any real favours (especially with those odd brown blotchy bits on the flower) but I’ve not photographed it yet this summer, despite its almost constant flowering. It wilts almost immediately after being picked (and often throughout the day on hot days) but looks and smells utterly wonderful around twilight. I don’t know what type of nicotiana this is (it looks just like ‘Lime green’ except for the fact it’s not, obviously, lime green) so if anyone knows, do drop me a comment. I bought five plants from the garden centre back at the start of the summer and they’ve just kept on going ever since…

Salvia seascape | Wolves in London

Salvia seascape

Finally, woohooo, a little bit of new colour. I grew some of these salvia seascapes from seed this year. They’re mixed colours and actually all the other plants are white, but this one is just starting to put out some blue flowers. In retrospect, I slightly regret cutting it down just to take its photo — but I think there were a few more flower spikes coming up on the same plant.

So there we have it, the joys of September. I’m thinking this might be one of my last monthly garden moodboards; for the time being at least. I feel as if I might be reaching the end of my range-of-plants-photographed-against-white-background capabilities. I’ve been joining in with Karin and Asa for just over a year now and have thoroughly enjoyed watching my little garden progress, but, at least until I do a major planting session anyway, I feel as if I’m now getting to a point of repetition in plant photography… Anyway, I’m not making any definite decisions, but we’ll see how the mood takes me in October. It may well be time for pastures new though. (Pastures such as Grow, forage, cook for example!)

Related articles:

Grow, forage, cook: a disappointing harvest

4 Sep

As August has bid us farewell and summer has melted into the season of mellow fruitfulness, I’ve started to feel a little bit of a fraud.

It’s been great to see so many of you joining in with our Grow, forage, cook series; Laura posted what we hope will be the first of many round ups of some of your mouth-watering photos and recipes last week: August round up.

I am practically salivating onto my keyboard at the sight of all the wonderful jams, pies, salads and other delights, made from homegrown or foraged foods.

I, on the other hand, a founder of this wonderful series have not, I confess, been out day after day picking the bounty of my garden.

Despite Laura’s kind words about my gardening prowess, back when we launched this series a month ago, this year has been my least successful when it comes to growing food.

Homegrown apples | Wolves in London

Apples from my tree: about the only edible thing in my garden right now

There was the excellent plum bounty, to be sure, and the apple trees have produced a small but steady supply of really delicious apples (though nowhere near the apple glut we had the first year we moved in). The brambles at the bottom of the garden by the greenhouse have been nothing if not prolific.

But, to the production of these delicious fruits I have assisted but a little. Yes, I did prune and thin the apple and plum trees earlier in the year (I recall the rather worrying incident of a heavily pregnant lady swaying atop a rickety ladder fairly well). And when it comes to the brambles, well, I have actually spent quite a lot of time and effort trying to eradicate them, so far completely unsuccessfully.

But everything that I have actually tried to grow has been an unmitigated failure.

Come take a stroll with me, if you will, and see if you can spot the problem…

Horrible courgette | Wolves in London

Erm, what can I say, this looks utterly vile

Now, I hope you’re not eating anything when you take a look at the photo of my single courgette. Yes, this limp (I am restraining from using the word “flaccid”) nibbled, part yellow specimen is the solitary courgette produced from my courgette plant. Appetiising? Not so much. Everyone, but everyone growing courgettes has the September “what the hell am I going to do with all these courgettes?” quandary. Everyone, that is, but me, who knows perfectly well that this sad looking specimen is headed straight for the wormery. The slug damage inflicted is just too great for any recovery now.

A few steps over and you find this glorious prize winning aubergine.

aubergine flower | Wolves in London

Yes, it’s really pretty, but can you turn into into baba ganoush?

What’s that you say? Just a tiny little flower? Oh. Yes. So it is.

Though the plant has put out about 30 flowers this year, not a single one has produced a fruit. I don’t know whether it’s lack of germination, or lack of water at a crucial time or just lack of luck, but this is the best I’ve got from the aubergine plant…

I can’t even show you a photo of my purple sprouting broccoli plants, veg that I have grown in previous years and eaten with delight for the whole of the winter months. I lost them all a few months ago to caterpillars. Overnight.

The broad beans are certainly more successful because they have, gasp, produced one whole entire almost certainly edible bean. Hurrah! This is he.

Broad bean | Wolves in London

Granted, the slugs might have a harder time if I actually weeded around my poor bean plant

Hot on the success of my lovely borlottis last year, I planted half borlottis and half broad beans. I cared for them, nurtured them from seed, watered and loved them in the greenhouse and, in May, certain the last frost was over, I planted them out into a specially prepared patch in the garden. There were 24 plants in total.

Two weeks later there were three.

Now, there is just the one, with this single bean hanging from its stem.

Slugs. Bloody slugs again.

Even the cucamelons, something I declared both prolific and fail-safe after my first attempt growing them last year, are struggling on, pitifully, producing a few fruits but mostly dying down.

Cucamelon | Wolves in London

Awww, I never tire of their cuteness!

The problem with it all, of course, is lack of time. I never use chemical bug killers or computerised sprinkling systems because of environmental / sustainability issues. But hand slug-removal and hand watering are only good if you actually *get out into the garden and do it*. This summer, what with one thing or another (thing one: a toddler, thing two: a baby) free time has been slightly on the rare side and the poor garden has rather suffered as a result.

The one hope for any sort of real harvest I have are my beetroot, which succumbed in a big way to some sort of fungal disease a month back (the result, I am certain, of letting the sproglet be in charge of watering them, which will have bounced the fungal spores all over the place. Never water from above in the middle of the day, I know that, of course, but the sproglet loves watering the garden so much that I feel exceedingly mean to deny his enjoyment…) At one point they had not a single green healthy leaf among them. Now, amazingly, a pleasing resurgence and they look as if they might yet produce some decent roots for eating.

 

Beetroot | Wolves in London

Sunkissed and, astonishingly, still alive, hurrah!

So the verdict from my garden this year. Pests: 1; Sabrina: 0.

I’d love to end on a deep philosophical note about how gardening isn’t just about the end result, but also the pleasure of time outdoors, taking a moment out of your life, yadda yadda yadda < insert appropriate homily here> but, you know what, I really wanted to actually grow something to eat this year and I am pretty miffed at the sorry show.

So please, keep your pictures coming so I can live vicariously through your gardening successes! Tag your photos #growforagecook on instagram, tweet us your blog posts (to @circleofpines or @wolvesinlondon) or just leave a comment below.

Meanwhile, over here in slug city, my love of stocking the larder won’t be thwarted (Autumn time to me = permanent eye-watering vinegar aromas in the house as I pickle / chutnify everything I can get my hands on…) But if it’s not made from plums, apples or blackberries, it’ll be from the veg box this year, not the fruits of manual labour.

Ah well, seed catalogues have been circled and next year’s planning has already begun…

August break 2014: the last week

1 Sep
August break week 4 | Wolves in London

Prompts, top to bottom, left to right: memory, nature, lines, love, small, adornment, morning, something new, nature (again)

So, a whole month has passed, just like that. *Clicks fingers*

Much as I love participating in projects like the August break, or my monthly garden moodboards, I am often put off by the side effect of an increasing awareness of time passing.

You start out thinking, oh yes, a photo a day for August, how lovely! And before you know it, you’re writing about the very last photo, August 31st, and the month has gone, poof, disappeared in a puff of smoke, and you’re sure you barely had time to get out of bed and brush your teeth.

Perhaps it’s something about marching, inexorably, towards my 40s that makes me rather reluctant to notice the passing of the days / weeks / months, but prefer to just live in them.

Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this August break.

I’m fairly proud of a few of my photos. I’m slightly embarrassed I posted a couple of them (two proved to be slightly out of focus when I looked at them on my computer screen rather than my phone). I struggled to think of a decent interpretation for a few of the prompts. And I’m constantly surprised by which ones prove the most popular on instagram.

(Of all the photos I took, the one from the first week, of my feet on my bathroom floor was the most popular. A great photo? Erm, probably not. Just some very lovely tiles. All credit for which surely is due to Fired Earth for making nice tiles and not to me, photographer and feet owner. Ah well…)

And so on, into the first day of September and I am already missing a daily prompt to make me think, take a few minutes to decide on my interpretation and head out there, armed with my little phone, to try and get a snap of something.

Related articles:

  • It’s all over for this year, but you can read all about it (and get ready to join in next year?) on Susannah Conway’s blog: the August Break 2014
  • And, of course, I’ll still be sharing pictures on instagram, so do follow me there if you fancy

Grow forage cook: spicy plum chutney

26 Aug
Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

Spicy plum chutney: the harbinger of autumn…

There’s been a definite chill in the air this week and I have to keep reminding myself that, yes, it is still officially August and still officially summer. For one more week at least…

I’m sure I can feel the days shortening imperceptibly each evening and my summer duvet is wrapped more tightly around me each night.

I’m trying not to moan because, after all, we did have a glorious July, but there is something a little depressing about an August that already feels as if autumn has hit.

But, on the plus side, the arrival of autumn a little early this year means the early arrival of harvest time, hurrah!

And what a bumper harvest it has been so far.

It seems to have been an especially good year for plums. My fellow Grow Forage Cooker, Laura (of Circle of Pine Trees) shared three glorious looking plum recipes last week from a basket filled to the brim at the local PYO.

This is a selection of seriously delicious looking plum treats: plum clafoutis, plum cake and plum jam. Head over now if you’ve not already seen the delights: a basket of plums.

This week, I’ve got plums in my hands too, hem hem, since our plum tree has had a rather magnificent bounty this year.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

What a bowl of plums!

So if you, too, have more plums than you know what to do with, here’s another recipe, this one for a spicy plum chutney, that tastes particularly fabulous at Christmas time with cold meats or cheese.

(I know, I know, despite the chilly weather it’s still far too early to think about Christmas, but this chutney is best matured for a few months, so if you make it now you can forget about it all over again until December…)

And if you’re growing, foraging or cooking anything yourself with seasonal ingredients, do please share it with us. Use the hashtag #growforagecook on twitter or instagram and tag either of us (@circleofpines and @wolvesinlondon) or leave us a comment on our blogs to share any photos you’ve taken, recipes you’ve made or blog posts you’ve written.

We’d love to get some inspiration / drool over some delicious photos.

At the end of each month, we’ll share a round up on our blogs of some of our favourites and pin them to our Pinterest board: Grow, forage, cook.

And a huge thank you to everyone who has joined in so far!

And so, on with the plums…

Spicy plum chutney

Spicy plum chutney | Wolves in London

Another, slightly closer up view of the chutney

This makes 5 – 6 jars. You can scale up or down all the ingredients depending on how many plums you have.

Supplies:

  • 1kg of plums
  • 1kg of apples, cored and chopped
  • 400g granulated sugar (I like to use white sugar as the chutney stays a wonderful pink colour, but you can replace with brown if you prefer)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tbsp chilli flakes (or more or less, as you prefer)
  • fresh ginger, an amount about the size of two thumbs
  • garlic: one bulb, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 350ml of cider vinegar
  • Large heavy bottom saucepan, stockpan or (ideally) jam pan
  • 5-6 jam jars
  • wooden spoon

What to do:

1. First of all, get your jars on to sterilise. You can either put them through a normal wash on the dishwasher, or wash them in soapy water and then put into an oven on a low heat. If you do the latter, put them onto a baking tray and then you can pull the whole thing out at once, rather than handling lots of hot glass jars.

You’re supposed to use new lids every time, or sterilise them in boiling water, but – confession – I just stick the lids through the dishwasher as well…

2. Chop the plums in half, remove the stones and weigh them. Incidentally, this will leave you with genuine brown, wrinkled prune fingers; washing them in a bit of lemon juice helps remove the stains…

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

First, chop your plums…

3. Match the rest of your ingredients to the amount of plums you have, by scaling up or down the ratios. For every kg of plums you want approximately a matching weight in apples, 350ml of vinegar and 400g of sugar. Specific quantities aren’t crucial, so don’t worry too much about matching this exactly. The apples on my trees are only just starting to ripen, so I couldn’t quite match the weight of the plums, but just added what I could… It didn’t matter in the slightest.

4. Core and chop the apples – controversially, I don’t worry about peeling them, since I think the skin softens enough not to be noticeable and I am a rather lazy cook – but if you’d rather peel them, go right ahead.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

Apples from my trees

5. Stick everything into a big saucepan and bring to the boil.

6. Simmer, stirring every now and again for around 90 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced and become a thick gloopy consistency.

7. Spoon into the jars while still hot and twist the lids onto the top. The lids should depress at the top and you know a seal has been made.

8. Put aside for at least a month if you can, before eating, to let the flavours infuse. This should store well for at least a year…

Delicious with meats or with cheese and biscuits.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

Plum chutney, cheese and oatcakes. A rather excellent snack, I can attest…

So tell me, what have you been growing / foraging / cooking recently?

Related articles:

I love me a bit of preserving. Take a look at a few of my other recipes:

August break 2014: week three

24 Aug
August break photo collage | Wolves in London

Prompts, left to right, top to bottom: bookshelf; black and white; treasures; peaceful; shadow (twice)

Well, another week over and another weekend reached. Tick, result, breathe…

It’s started to feel a bit like that as I’ve been battling not only toddler daytime meltdowns but toddler and baby lack-of-nighttime-sleeping this week.

I just keep trying to remind myself that one day I will look back on this time and remember only the cute adorable bits, completely forgetting the sheer exhaustion of sleep deprivation and the frustrations of dealing with someone too little to understand reason who would really like to jump on top of his baby brother right now, irrespective of said baby’s need for a nap. (Cue one hour meltdowns all round…)

Anyway, the phone was about somewhere during it all and I managed to snap a few pics for the August break. Not my finest, for sure, and I missed a day for the first time too (the prompt was “jump” and nobody I spent the day with can do that yet!)

Here’s the montage from the last week. As ever, if you want to see anything larger, just click on the pics and zoom in…

Already feeling more relaxed, half way through the bank holiday weekend. If only every week had three days respite at the end!

Related articles:

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