After strawberries come plums… already?

For the past week we’ve been eating plums for dessert almost every day. It’s come as a bit of a surprise to this urban person! The label said “harvest in August” and yet I found myself wondering why a couple of plums had dropped from the tree at the start of July.

plums

After rescuing a couple from the gentle critters that would have cleaned the fruits up – woodlouse in English, they also tend to eat strawberries when they can get at them in wet weather, and slugs – I washed them, cut them open to check the inside, smelled them, and ate them.

These plums are ripe.

Wow. They’re ripe – over a month before they were ‘supposed to be’. So out I went with any kind of bowl or pot I happened to have. And picked about fifteen plums. And told my husband, and put our son in his bed. When I came downstairs said husband had picked another dozen.

After having gained that little bit of knowledge about strawberries “strawberries don’t ripen after they’re picked”, apparently, I was a bit alarmed by the fact that some of the plums looked decidedly unripe. I needn’t have worried – plums do ripen rather well if the temperature is high. Which was probably what had led to our early harvest.

Do you happen to have a good recipe for plum pie?

So we’ve eaten a big bowl of plums by now and I know that for next year I really want a good recipe for plum pie. I’ve had some wonderful pies in Germany over the years. The cherry pie I once decided would make a great lunch (cherry layer: two inches) wasn’t bad either! But I don’t think we have room for a cherry tree as well. Oh well.

For now we’ll just have to munch our way through our harvest. So far we’ve combined plums with strawberries (from the shop, unfortunately – ours have run out), and yoghurt. I think they’ll be great with banana. All in all we have been having more fruit than usual. And that’s our first harvest from the plum tree!

There’s still some fruit on the tree and there must be around twenty plums on the ground and in the box hedge near it. They’re already half-eaten, so I’ll leave them where they are expecting that the nutrients will end up back in the soil at some point.

P.S. Looks like the peas want harvesting. Investigate tomorrow. I hope. Unless we get another month’s worth of rain pouring down – again.

Pea party? Lessons from my garden

Early this spring – in March – I discovered two pea plants in the garden. After racking my brain I remembered I’d chucked a couple of peas into the garden after leaving them too long so they’d turned into dry peas of their own accord.

Lesson one: peas are easy to dry.

Do absolutely nothing for best results. If, on the other hand, you mean to eat the peas, don’t wait when the pods start to turn yellow or the plants start to get dry. It’s the end of their season. Harvest and enjoy, or wait and collect seeds (dried peas) for next year.

A while later, I found only one pea plant among all the other plants (including narcissae, unplanned grass, and loads of ‘weeds’). It had happily used the other plants as support – peas will knot thin strands around anything they find and grow on. The other plant had probably been eaten by slugs hiding in the dense undergrowth. The remaining plant gave us several pods of deliciously sweet and tender peas.

Lesson two: peas from your own garden taste at least ten times better than the stuff that comes in tins.

Last year I left some peas half-covered in a muddy pot for days before getting round to planting them. I found many of the peas had developed roots by then. So this year I decided to put a handful of peas from a bag that had been open for two years in a bowl. First, I let them soak for a night. The next day I did this:

peas in a bowl

Peas nice and snug in a bowl next to the kitchen sink

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Spring is here. Definitely

Our small town garden is busily trying to spiral out of control. That’s spring where I live!
Fortunately, I love to watch stuff grow. But keeping up with the weeds (that is, finding a use for most of them in our limited space) is a bit of a challenge. In

Gaia’s garden

, a book about permaculture, is a chapter called ‘Pop’ goes the garden. I suppose it’s wonderful if that happens to a patch of neglected or poor soil. Around these parts, however, it’s a yearly feat which usually means it’s time to put your wellies on.
The strawberries are flowering like mad – but they’re hiding their bounty under big leaves thrust upward to catch more of the sun’s rays. I’m really hoping that it either won’t rain too much – soaking their roots – or the shrubs and tree nearby will lap it up as quickly as it falls.
Being in the garden in the evening means I don’t get around to blogging very often. So I’m writing this post while commuting by train. Perhaps I should try blogging while I’m in the garden?
One thing about evening gardening: as the light fades, faint noises can be heard between the shrubs and leaf litter. It’s snails and slugs coming out for dinner, or possibly breakfast. It’s quite possible we have ‘a lack of (slug-eating) ducks’ but last time they visited I shooed them off because I don’t need that particular kind of action in my rather small backyard…

Update: all weathers including rain and storm this week. Need to keep an eye on the plum tree because its branches were flopping all over the place. Prune those, or risk losing plums next year by branches getting ripped off.

On the plus side… well, let’s say next time I’ll explain why I’m up to my eyeballs in pea plantlets :)

 

Early spring musings

The promise of spring is definitely in the air. In fact, the weather forecasts predict up to 20 degrees Celsius this Sunday. Our baby narcissus is flowering in a modest clump in our front garden. The buttercups are in for a great year, if the amount of leaves covering the soil are anything to go by. I’m definitely going to have to take a look around, to see what needs doing out there and in the back garden.

A few drawbacks?

Note: when I say garden, these two bits of land might add up to a small garden. With a car taking up nearly a quarter of the available space. And another quarter I don’t want to plant anything edible in because of the car. And other people’s cars driving past.

Then we want something like a sitting area. After a couple of years of baking in the afternoon sun, we decided to soften the local microclimate by putting in a tree or two. I’m waiting for them to start growing. So far, they’re looking happy – but not quite budding yet. Night temperatures do drop to nearly freezing point, so I’m happy that they’re in no hurry.

I planted some herbs like basil in a sunny spot almost in the hedge. These were annuals, which is just as well, because last summer I learned from our neighbors that they had sprayed the hedge (beech – it’s a monoculture in most new or renewed parts. A feast for specialized insects). If any of our hedge plants give up this year, I’ll put in an entirely different plant. Maybe something edible.

Spring promise

About two square metres of garden are filled with strawberry, blueberry (I added oak leaves for acidity) and herbs. The place is crammed and looked great even in winter. If you don’t mind the leaves. And I don’t. Most of them are gone by now, because we had a typical winter – if a sea climate winter is the kind you like. A sprinkling of snow in half the country, excluding where we live. Not enough ice to go ice skating (if any!), not this year. Rain. The kind of winter you end up calling “but really it wasn’t a winter at all. Not a proper winter.” Except it’s the kind we had a lot, until it started snowing a couple of years ago – in December! This year, people acted as though they’d been cheated out of a white Christmas they were entitled to. It’s quite possible that goldfish have better memories than humans.

So my early spring checklist looks like this:

  1. Watch Gardeners’ World (coming up…)
  2. Check if the stinging nettle is still in its corner by the water.
  3. Check if there are cat droppings among the plants; if so, cut a few leaves from the thistle in the other corner. Cut them into pieces of about 10 centimetres and spread them around.
  4. Empty the bucket of sand and goo that’s been standing around for no purpose at all.
  5. Find out if the sand box is full of water again, and consider getting rid of it. It would help if it’s broken. I can explain broken to a 4-year-old.
  6. Find out if old peas will still grow into plants. If not: go get new ones. There’s nothing like fresh peas. I had no problems explaining them to a 3-year-old last summer :-)

 

Mulberry mix

I was halfway down this week’s bowl of energy food when I remembered to take a photo of it – so here it is, just to show you what I was on about in my earlier post.

Actually, this time I added milk to spare my teeth the ordeal of munching down a bowl of crispy oats with acid from orange juice. Feel free to have a glass of your favorite vitamin C drink instead.

mulberry mix

As you can see, I had white mulberries. From what I’ve read, the black/red mulberries taste best – I’ll have to try those.

Mulberry

Just in case you love that variety of mulberry, I did happen to read you shouldn’t plant a mulberry tree near your driveway unless you don’t mind the stains. So you have been warned :-)

I don’t have the kind of garden where I can stow away a mulberry tree in a corner somewhere (no corners to speak of). Mulberries are slow growers, but they can grow up to 9 metres (27 or so feet). They do have wonderful big leaves from what I saw. It’s definitely worth keeping in mind while I look for a bigger garden ;-)

Read more about mulberries while I await the official arrival of spring – and the return of our esteemed Italian icecream masters.

4 issues surrounding Google Plus

There are a couple of issues surrounding Google Plus and its success or lack thereof. One of them seems to be that it’s hard to survey people because they get confused. Are they talking about their usage of Google Plus, or of any Google service? Offering everything as an integrated, wholistic Google universe can do that. Continue reading