Since rabbits continue to ignore the spinach on our allotment and there’s also a raised square bed full of spinach (3 different varieties) in our community garden, we harvest and eat spinach all the time. I have by now two super delicious spinach quiches in my repertoire to use the larger leaves. But it feels criminal to cook the crisp, bright green and cute baby spinach leaves and therefore we eat those in salad. Last year there was the spinach salad with citrus and feta, but this year I fell hard for an Ottolenghi recipe. (Wait – I’m having a deja-vu. A multiple deja-vu). I have not made an Ottolenghi recipe that would not turn out awesome. I trust him completely and when he says: spinach + pita + sumac + dates + almonds, I know they will be great together. The salad is everything: sweet and salty and sour – strong flavors perfectly balanced. The lemony sumac accentuates the freshness of the spinach. Read more »
Last time I went to the allotment, our neighbor, a gardening veteran, kindly asked whether I would like some rhubarb. I couldn’t help laughing because the 15 odd plants in our garden are enough even for me and my passion for the red stalks. But the guy replied that then I’m clearly not eating enough of it. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read my blog because anyone who does, could hardly accuse me of not eating enough rhubarb. I would rather expect them (you) to complain about my not being able to shut up about it. But rhubarb is a very seasonal fruit/vegetable and in just a few weeks it will be time to move on to other produce and then I won’t mention it till at least April 2014.
Because rhubarb is one of the few things that come fresh from the garden at the moment, it’s lucky it is so versatile. It can be breakfast, it can be a homey tea time treat, but it can be elegant, too.
This tart with the golden crisp crust + white cream cheese filling + pretty red rhubarb is definitely worthy of crowning a dinner party. Read more »
What’s eating your crops? Do you have a slug problem? Do you hate cabbage worms making holes in the leaves of your brassica? Carrot fly? Birds?
In our organic, very diverse garden, pests are usually not a huge problem. But our new allotment is surrounded by overgrown allotments-turned-forest where rabbits reside. And they apparently come out as soon as we leave and munch on our crops. They do not eat everything (fortunately!), they seem pickier than a toddler. From my research of rabbits’ preferred crops I can inform you that the local rabbits are partial to: chives, mint, garlic, strawberry leaves, pea shoots, broccoli and kohlrabi. I’m sure they would eat all our lettuce as well, were it not protected by plant covers. Interestingly though, they don’t care for spinach. Read more »
These days, it seems every season comes with a superlative: it is either “warmest” or “wettest” or “coldest” or “driest”on record. The current spring is very cold. I do mind as a person who would like to start wearing cute summer dresses, but as a gardener I don’t really mind that much.
Despite the cold, the gardens are lusciously green and many crops are thriving. Notably the cool weather crops like radishes, spinach and mustard greens that tend to bolt quickly during warm springs are growing beautifully. Seriously, I have never grown spinach as tender as this year. Read more »
As mentioned before, we have lots of rhubarb on our new allotment. For the first time in my life I have enough of it to make all my old favorite rhubarb recipes and experiment with new ones. I pick an armful of rhubarb every time we go to the allotment.
Rhubarb is a great plant for the permaculture garden because it not only has edible stalks, but the large (inedible) leaves are also great as mulch. So after harvesting, I cut off the leaves and use them to cover exposed soil around other plants to prevent weed growth and evaporation.
Last week my parents took the kids on a day trip to Arnhem. I baked rhubarb muffins in the morning and packed them in a paper bag for them to eat on the way. My mum said that when they unpacked the muffins on the train, the smell was so delicious it must have made everybody jealous.
And it’s not just the smell – these muffins are delicious. Often, muffins can be boring – they need something to make them stand out- a contrastingly tart fruit or a crunchy streusel topping. Or both. Read more »
It’s spring, we’re in the Netherlands and that means tulips! Tourists from all over the world flock to Keukenhof, the shop window of the Dutch bulb companies to admire the spring plantings. I’ve been to Keukenhof once and was a little disappointed at how old-fashioned it was – lots of ugly combinations of primary colors. There are beautiful parts, too, most of them designed by the famous Dutch garden designer Jacqueline van der Kloet, who is specialized in bulbs. But the overall effect was a little overwhelming.
So today, instead, I would like to take you on a little walk through our street. Because we’ve got tulips, too! 2 years ago we got a small grant to set up our plant swap and when there was a little money left, we bought tulip, narcissi and allium bulbs and distributed them among the inhabitants of our street. There are many planters throughout the street, usually cared about by those who live closest and this is where the bulbs went.
The first time I was in Hengelo, we cycled around a lot and I remember telling my then-future-husband that this was a street where I would like to live. About three years later we bought a house here. It is still my favorite street in the whole city. I am proud to have contributed a little to making it even more beautiful.
Today I ditched my schedule, grabbed the camera and captured the fleeting moment. I hope that there are some tulips flowering where you are! Read more »
One of the most fun and most rewarding projects I did last year was initiating a community garden.
Every year we organize a neighborhood plant swap and plant sale, which is great, but I thought it would be nice to have something more permanent. A small vegetable garden that would show people from the neighborhood how much food you can grow in a small space and how little work it actually involves if you do it right.
I presented the idea in our plant group and everybody was immediately enthusiastic. We got a piece of ground behind the football cage at the playground, and within weeks, we made it happened. To prevent the regrowth of weeds, we covered the ground with cardboard, put raised beds on top of that and filled them with clean soil. We sowed, planted, mulched, watered and the garden flourished. Read more »
As you might or might not know, the Netherlands is a monarchy, a constituent monarchy to be precise. That means the monarch is the head of the state but though he or she has to sign all laws, the parliament really makes them. Thus the role of the monarch is mostly representative (read: decorative). The Royal House costs a lot of money but provides the folks with some entertainment and the tabloids with something to write about and we get one day off every year to celebrate the monarch’s birthday. Yesterday was the last time this was celebrated on the 30th April. Because yesterday queen Beatrix signed the deed of abdication, making her son, Willem Alexander, the Dutch king.
On our new allotment, there are no nettles. I am sure I w ill be grateful for that in the long run, but right now, after the long winter largely devoid of fresh greens, nettles are my favorite vegetable.
Luckily our neighbour’s allotment grows lots of nettles, in fact, there’s nothing but nettles. In the fall he enthusiastically started cutting back all the weeds but ran out of steam and this spring the nettles grew right back and are as lush and green as can be. So we pick lots of them. The first nettle dish I made this year was this soup. It’s a soup brimming with chlorophyl, that looks and tastes like liquidized spring. It’s simple enough, just nettles and a few pantry staples: onion, garlic, potatoes. Instead of adding stock, I added a handful of lovage shoots, that have a very strong celery-like flavor. You could use stock, if you don’t grow them. But especially if you are a moderate-climate gardener, considering planting lovage in your garden. It’s very easy to grow, it handles part shade well and just one plant will usually be enough for a family. It is great for adding flavor to soups and stews, but I also like to add the young leaves to mixed salads.
This soup feels like medicine (but tastes great!), just what we need to be eating in the spring: lots of vitamins and minerals. It’s also fast to make which is important these days when I’m spending more time in the garden and less in the kitchen. Read more »
I have complained at length about our new allotment: it’s smaller, there’s too much shade, the soil is in a much worse state. But there’s actually one very good thing about it: the rhubarb plantation. Probably because a good part of the plot is too shady for annual vegetables, the previous owner planted it with rhubarb. Lots of rhubarb: there are at least 20 plants. If you’ve been around for a while, you might have noticed I love rhubarb – there are already 3 rhubarb recipes in the archives. But we never had enough of it and now we do. I already have at least three other recipes lined up that I want to try, but our first harvest of tender pink stalks deserved a gentle treatment with little adornment. Read more »