The Canny Gardener

how to be a smart gardener


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where to spend and where to save

There are many things that people do during the summer planting season when they get enthusiastic about growing.  My neighbour plants tomatoes for instance every year.  Tomatoes, potatoes and some herbs (Rosemary, chives, mint in particular) are easy to grow from seeds or cuttings. Sometimes people plant too many and I am lucky to have got plants from neighbours who then wanted to get rid of them.

However, having tried growing some herbs and berries from seeds, I would advise that it is definitely easier to buy some of these than growing them.  These include Basil, thyme, parsley and strawberries.  Supermarket herb pots (as recommended by some blogs) have been a disappointment so I tend to buy them from small nurseries or Kew Gardens.  Strawberries can be notoriously difficult to grow from scratch, especially given the erratic weather.  Here are some of the bought herbs compared to ones I grew from seed- see the parsley and thyme.

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Home grown Parsley and thyme toward the bottom.

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Nourishing Nasturtiums

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Nasturtiums are one of the easiest plants grown from seed at home and at present, in October they are still flowering.  So I decided to use them in a potato salad to make a mouth watering and hormone balancing dish today.

Ingredients:

500gms waxy potatoes such as charlotte or pink fir

6 tsps mayonaise (shop bought is fine!)

3tsps greek style yoghurt

1 tsp Dijon or English mustard

4 Spring onions, chopped

handful of Nasturtium leaves, stems and flowers, including seeds- chopped.

Sand and ground pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes as directed- 15-20 minutes but make sure they still hold the shape.  No need to peel. Make the dressing using the next three ingredients. Once the potatoes are cooled, then add the dressing and lastly, add the chopped Nasturtiums leaves, flowers and seeds.  The seeds are a good and cheap substitute for capers.

Nasturtium leaves have a high concentration of Vitamin C and are also a natural antibiotic. Eating a couple of the peppery leaves at the onset of a cold can stop it dead in its tracks. The gentle antibiotic reaction makes it ideal for treating minor colds and flu, especially at the start of autumn.

Here in the photo I grilled a mackerel and added it to a bed of marinated onions.  Mackerels are rich in beneficial vitamins, minerals and oils.  Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids occur in high quantities in this fish. It contains vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. Various minerals also occur richly in the fish. These include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and selenium. Trace minerals include zinc and copper. The fish also contains protein and the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10. Onions are good for thyroids.


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Wet Garlic

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Wet Garlic may appear in many vegetable boxes now. I was enticed by the name but I did not know how I could use it.  Wet garlic is called so because it has not been hung up to dry. It has to be picked by hand; a very lengthy process. During its short season it is very much sought after by gourmets.  My wet garlic actually came from France where it is well used.  The juicy cloves (you can see how the cloves will form if you cut through it) are less strong than dry garlic.  So wet garlic can give food like soups a particularly creamy, even sweet flavour. The creamy cooked garlic is delicious spread on toast or mixed with butter and used on vegetables or in baked potatoes.  Here are two other quick ways I used it.

1. Wet Garlic with chicken liver and potatoes

I used up some fat left behind from grilling pork left on the baking dish.  Being a lazy person, I put the whole thing on the hob, fried the potatoes first because they take the longest, then added the chicken livers and then the chopped up wet garlic.  It took 20 minutes to do, make sure the liver is cooked through.  I added some salt and pepper to flavour and voila!  a healthy simple meal.  The pork fat was used up in the cooking so not much cleaning up to do afterwards.

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2. Pasta with wet garlic

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Again another simple dish.  I sweated out the chopped up pieces of wet garlic, added some anchovy and pepper with some left over pasta- ready in less than 10 minutes!  Bon appetite!