You’d be forgiven for thinking we were in Southern Europe with the hum of bees, a chilled glass of wine, ricotta stuffed courgette flowers, and a slice of honey and lavender cake…
When you live this far north it can be a struggle to get some crops to ripen before colder nights nip growth in the bud; pumpkins and sweetcorn can be particularly troublesome. Sweetcorn is one of the few seeds that I buy as F1; you pay a lot for these seeds and get very few in the packet but what they guarantee is uniform growth – farmers choose F1 so they can harvest everything at the same time. The home gardener usually wants to avoid a glut but it is essential for getting a ripe sweetcorn crop.
When space is limited sweetcorn can seem to take up a lot of the plot since it is wind pollinated and needs to be planted in a grid system. You can optimise space and garner three crops in one by using the Native American ‘3 Sisters’ method: sweetcorn with dwarf beans plants climbing up them and squash plants planted in between. The huge squash leaves provide some shade over the roots and reduce the amount of water lost from the soil – of paramount importance this year!
Ricotta Stuffed Courgette Flowers >>
Courgettes, and other members of the squash family, produce male flowers on a straight stem and female flowers with a bulging fruit (courgette/pumpkin) forming at the base. Taking off the male flowers does not reduce the crop, but at this stage you may actually be happy to remove some female flowers too if you are drowning under a mountain of courgettes. Remove the stamen inside the flower with tweezers along with any little resident black bugs, then stuff the flowers with ricotta cheese seasoned with chives and black pepper; twist the ends of the flowers to seal them and dip in tempura batter. Deep fry in very hot oil for two minutes, until browned and crispy. Serve immediately with
a homemade tomato sauce.
Honey & Lavender Cake >>
Northumberland Honey Company placed four bee hives here in April in preparation for our Introduction to Beekeeping Course and we have just tasted the first wildflower honey from Linnels Farm – is that a hint of tulip pollen? We have the pleasure of meeting the kindest people who come on our courses and one perfect example is two lovely sisters, Jenny and Carole, both green-fingered gardeners, who brought over a divine bouquet of their hand-dried lavender stems.
I think of them each time I sprinkle a little bit of lavender and love into these cakes (adapted from a recipe in my now seriously battered copy of the Ottolenghi: the cookbook). This makes enough for 8 bun tins (or a 2lb loaf but it will need an extra 10 minutes in the oven).
225g (8oz) unsalted butter, softened
120g (4oz) caster sugar
120g (4oz) Northumberland Honey Co. Wildflower Honey
3 large eggs, beaten
250g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1tsp dried lavender flowers chopped
110ml soured cream
Juice of half a lemon
For the icing: mix juice of 1/2 lemon with 2tsp of honey and enough icing sugar to coat the back of a spoon – drizzle the cakes and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tsp of lavender over the top.
Cream the butter, honey and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour, cinnamon, salt and 1/2 tsp of the lavender flowers along with the sour cream. Bake at 170°C for 25 minutes (longer if using the loaf tin) or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Ice the cakes when cold.
Jobs to sort >>
POTATOES: Harvest on a dry day, leaving the soil to dry on the tubers before storing undamaged tubers in hessian sacks. Make the most of any damaged tubers by peeling, parboiling and rolling in goose fat – lay out on a flat tray then pop in the freezer. Bag them up when frozen for use over winter as super speedy roast potatoes!
SOW NOW IN THE VEG PLOT: If you’re quick you can get a final crop of salad leaves sown, or have some cloches handy to keep a ready supply of salad leaves over winter. Order garlic varieties now for planting October onwards.
HARVEST FRUIT: Late raspberries, apples, plums, damsons – if you are not going to use them immediately then get them in the freezer and use them over winter when you have more time to deal with them.
Beautiful Baskets – willow workshop with Phil Bradley
Phil Bradley is a basketmaker and willow grower in West Cumbria. He has been making baskets and all manner of willow sculptures since 1992. On this course you will learn all the techniques required to produce your own willow basket to take home with you. All tools and materials will be provided.
Chutney & Chilli Jam
Worked hard all summer and want to preserve a little bit of that sunshine for the cold winter months? On this practical workshop you’ll learn the art of making jams, chutneys, jellies and vinegars. Depart with jars of your handmade goodies at the end of the day.
Wildlife Gardening with Rachel Penn
This hands-on course will consider what role nature plays in gardening and practical ways to encourage wildlife. Discover the unexpected benefits of wildlife gardening when you depart, with both confidence and your handmade jar of rowan marmalade. Rachel is a professional ecologist who has been working on biodiversity projects for over 25 years.
Annual Bulb Sale
29 & 30 September
We import amazing varieties of beautiful tulips, scented narcissi, towering alliums and other little beauties. Spend a relaxing time choosing which beautiful bulbs will adorn your garden this spring. Planting advice on bulb choice and colour combinations is available. Time: 10am – 2pm.