All posts by Mark Abbott-Compton

Green coriander seeds

If you dont grow coriander then you have probably never had the opportunity to the wonderful green coriander seeds that follow the flowers

Once picked they only have couple of days before they will start to dry out, change colour and flavour and in my experience  the only place you can find green coriander seed is in a garden.

Coriander is one of the herbs that no matter how well you grow it does quite easily bolt and go to seed.Now while dried coriander seeds are fabulous to have in the kitchen and easy to save from your coriander plants the green seeds taste quite different and are like small flavour bombs

Green Coriander’s seeds flavor is truly unique and different from the leaves, its citrusy with a slightly nutty note  and works  well with roasted or grilled vegetables or added to beans, lentils, rice dishes

The seeds are best harvested when they are young and bright green

For cooking green, harvest the seed heads as you need them and pull off the seeds, use whole or bashed to release their flavour in dishes

so the next time your coriander bolts dont be to quick to rip it out and pop it on the compost heap as it hasn’t finished giving you fantastic flavour for your kitchen

 

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Simple explanation of different types of No Dig beds

 


I am often asked “what are the differences between the different types of No Dig beds ?

To begin with lets explore what the use of the term  No dig means

A the one extreme  there is the simple process of covering ground with a layer of compost, and here compost referes to homemade garden compost, greenwaste compost, well rotted animal manure and normally for most people these days this will be produced by horses  or a mixture of the above

Then we have the no dig approach were we cover the ground with a weed suppressing mulch like cardboard  or plastic to kill weeds wait a season or two for weeds to die then remove and plant this is very time intensive

The quicker method is place cardboard layers onto soil and cover this with a layer of compost this is sometimes referred to as sheet mulching or sheet composting and can work really well for potatoes in a NoDig potato bed  and salads especially lettuce so are favoured by micro scale salad growers. the cardboard is essential for suppressing weeds but allowing  roots to grow through into the soil beneath

Raised beds are as the name suggests are growing beds that are raised or higher than the soil level. this is achieved by either wooden sides which can give a neat very pleasing tidy effect and allowing the beds to be worked form the dividing paths.

In a more informal vegetable garden or allotment  by turfs as in ‘Barra’ beds  or deeper bed using hay or straw bales and these also could use “hotbed’ techniques

These raised beds and be filled with either compost as above or a mixture of compost and soil depending what is available. Raised beds warm up quicker and drain better and can be more  intensively cropped,Beans, peas and root vegetables all prefer these conditions

Lasagna beds are simply beds that are made using layers as in a lasagna. These layers can be differentiated from the other two by a greater intricacy of layers and a predetermined focus on varying layers of nitrogen and carbon and can be taylor made for specific vegetables needs

these beds can be as shallow as 4 inches to as deep as 3 feet in the extreme but 4-6 inches can give fantastic growing conditions so then these are raised lasagna beds!

At its simplest you can grow some  vegetables varieties  in the sheet composted bed and they do ok but the time and effort it takes to prepare more specific growing  conditions always is worth the effort

No Dig vegetable gardening

 

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The best tasting Mangetout for home gardeners

Until you have grown Mangetout peas and eaten them fresh you may wonder what all the fuss is about
Mangetout is French for “eat it all” and comes from the fact that the whole pea – including the pod – is eaten.

All peas are well worth the effort of growing, but mangetouts and sugar snaps  are totally different from shop bought  being particularly sweet and crisp

the reason for this is most peas are picked and harvested and frozen by very high tech machines so retain there sweetness were as mangetout  and sugar snap are harvested and packed which allows them to lose there sweetness

this is them compounded by having the ends snipped of and this allows them to dry out as well so they lose there crispness

for these reasons if you are going to grow peas or only have room for one pea and they are pretty enough to be grown in the flower border I would recommend these varieties

‘Carouby de Maussane’ Originating in Maussane near Avignon in France, not only is the flavour superior, this beautiful plant has several unique or unusual traits and clearly differs from modern conventional peas.

The vine of ‘Carouby de Maussane’ are exceptionally beautiful and  you could grow it in the flower border just for its beauty.

The pods that are thin, flat and wide and grow to 12cm (5in) or so long, they are very sweet and tender. They are at their best harvested when the peas are barely showing, but remarkably they retain their flavour even when they reach a huge size and don’t develop any fibre layer at any stage.

 

‘Swiss Giant’ A real gourmet treat. Old French variety not in fact Swiss!  Flat, slightly curved pods which are incredibly sweet. Classified as a snow pea, but not at all like Chinese snow peas. and also called a snow pea  ‘Snow pea Gigante Svizzero’

Grows to around 160cms so a tall growing pea and needs good support either using a Pea Harp or a homemade netting support

Pick when the peas have just started to swell for best taste.  Very long harvest period

Both can be sown Sow: from February – mid May and mid September – end November for overwintering and early peas

 

 

 

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Broad Bean Hummus with Lemon Zest & Mint

 Broad beans tend to be regarded as somehow not quite as good as the borlotti and french beans of high Summer perhaps its because they are easy to grow but for me this simple dip transforms them into a great quick  hummus in under 10 Minutes

Ingredients

160g broad beans podded

juice 1/2 small lemon

15 mint leaves

4 tb extra virgin olive oil, plus extra

zest of small lemon

sea salt, to taste

Method

Boil or steam the beans for 3-5 minutes, until tender. Older beans may need longer cooking.

Rinse under cold water with ice cubes,  drain in a colander.

Remove outer skins  especially with older beans, best way slice one end and gently  squeeze bean out

Blitz beans, salt, lemon juice and mint until smooth in a processor or with a hand held stick blender, adding olive oil in a stream until you achieve the consistency you desire.

If you like a coarse texture you can break up the beans with a fork

chop Lemon zest into fine pieces

A good quality, mild tasting oil makes all the difference to the taste

Once smooth, add zest and taste seasoning.cover with little more oil to keep in fridge for a couple of days if you can resist it

Great with seeded crackers and cool beer

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Using Horticultural fleece

One of the  simplest and cheapest ways we can get things growing in our vegetable beds in the Spring is by offering the seedlings and seeds some protection

You can cover your bed with cloches made of either glass or plastic but that can be expensive a far cheaper alternative is Horticultural fleece

Fleece will warn the soil especially in raised beds and keep off a couple of degrees of frost while allowing light and water through while forming a physical barrier to stop birds, rabbits and deer from eating the young seedlings

By excluding the wind it stops delicate seedlings from dying out and allows quicker establishment of roots

Fleece can be left on for the life  of some crops and the fine mesh  types are perfect for stopping carrot rootfly

You can get differing weights of Horticultural fleece the finest is less than 50p  to £2.50 for heaver gauge per metre

 

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