It was time - I didn’t think the colour could become any more saturated, and I wanted soup. So I cut off the oldest, highest-up pumpkin, the one that was nesting in a hanging basket. It looked amazing, deep orange, waxy skin, and gratifyingly heavy.
A quick rinse and it was ready to go - the beauty of hokkaido being that you can eat the skin, no faffing around and losing loads of flesh. It seemed to have too much green on the inside for my liking, although the colour contrast made for optical drama. And the inside was pretty hard, with an effort needed to scoop out the seeds.
But it made a really nice soup - and a few days later I accidentally cut down a second one (I was trying to get rid of the big vines, with their leaves taking up too much light and cut the wrong bit), I happily added it to risotto which I ate with a friend.
For the soup I fried up a couple of onions, added a toe of smoked garlic, some ginger and a chilli and then the pieces of pumpkin, putting water in once the onions were transparent. Little sloshes of water and a couple of fresh bay leaves followed until I got tired of looking at it and added about a pint of water and went off to do something else for a while. Once the pumpkin was soft I pulled out the bay leaves and liquidised the rest, and voila, soup for lunch and one for the freezer too.
The risotto was even better - I used whole grain risotto rice for the first time, which although lovely once cooked, did seem to take an age to get there. Onions and garlic fried in a mix of olive oil and some herby butter which was lurking in the fridge.
Once they were going, I chucked in three handfuls of rice and fried it all together in the bottom of the big pan for about five minutes. Then in with some stock (from a packet, although friend did prod me to promise self to make my own and freeze it) and boiling water, and a handful of fresh herbs. Was going to add a bit of wine but forgot.
I’d chopped the pumpkin into little chunks about half the size of my thumb, and fried them really gently for about 20 minutes in a smear of olive oil. They were striped with the bright orange and green and were utterly delicious just like that.
At least one glass of wine, some water top-ups and a good conversation later, the rice was approaching ready so I threw in some chopped kale and broccoli leaves to serve as spinach, and added the cruicial cheesy element - a mix of peccorino and cheddar. A load of black pepper too. And the pumpkin pieces. We ate it with a green salad of my lettuce and cucumber - and generous servings of wine.
The seeds of both went straight back into the compost for next time around. But the risotto was so good that not only the one remaining pumpkin already has risotto written on it, I may save the seeds to grow one deliberately next year.
noreplythanks asked: love your garden Hannah, your pics are amazing too...
thanks very much, it makes me very happy to work/be in it, and also to share.
So when I chucked some compost onto my tomatoes early in the season, it obviously contained some still-viable pumpkin seeds from a previous dinner. Up popped two very vigorous vines and away they went. I’ve had this before, and they’ve never amounted to much, sometimes the promise of a yellow flower or two, but generally not very strong plants.
This year it was oh so different. Look what happened.
The bees loved the flowers
And the plants were so quick and became so large - you can see this one sticking huge leaves up all over the place as well as the flowers. (check out that enormous broccoli underneath)
And the other one was even bigger, suddenly laying a pumpkin right up on a hanging basket - hokkaido I reckon.
The one on the metal is also producing more than flowers.
Although the flowers and their visitors are pretty irresistible.
It’s definitely autumn. I’ve dug up my slippers - as well as, very exciting, potatoes.
I had been kind of torn during the growing process. Although I was very impressed by the size and vitality of the plants, which produced beautiful flowers and even fruit, I’d seen a couple of very disappointing results on Youtube videos, so didn’t want to get too excited about my two little plants in an only medium-sized pot.
However - some success! Here are some pics as they developed.
Down at the bottom of the pot at the start. Probably a week or so in.
They grew like mad - within a few weeks I had covered them up as far as I could and the scene was set.
Then came lovely flowers.
I had poked a finger in once in a while and found nothing brewing, and in any case the tomatoes in front then got too big for me to reach around (I know toms and tats shouldn’t go so close together, but it worked out ok) so I left them to get on with it until last week - when they looked done to me.
And underneath I found these!
Not enough to feed an army, but I had the small ones for lunch one day - boiled with fresh pesto on top. And a friend and I shared the big ones, baked with butter and salt. Fabulous.
Was it one of those evenings where I was in the bar, on my third beer and said “Hey everyone, let’s go back to my place and have a party!”
No, I didn’t think so.
I planted a couple of cucumber seeds with some misgivings back in about April. Even the seeds seemed somehow a bit lame, almost transparent, slim and kind of milky-coloured. And although the conditions on the terrace are pretty good, it seemed to me that cucumbers should be grown in a greenhouse - and I haven’t got there quite yet (working on ideas). So I popped a couple of seeds in the seedling tray, and up they came, slowly, but they came.
Outside they continued to grow, albeit slowly. But while my back was turned, the two vines suddenly exploded into a wild tangle of large leaves and curly tendrils. I tried to get them to grow up a stake rather than down and along, but they’re not really interested, and we have settled on a compromise - kind of a clump.
And then came the all-important flowers. They’re not as big nor as yellow as the courgette flowers, but very pretty all the same - and unlike the disappointing courgette (more of that in a different post) each one seemed to result in a mini cucumber.
The first couple remained tiny and shrivelled and died. I was not impressed, but not so surprised either - darn that still-in-my-imagination greenhouse for still being in my head and not on the terrace. But after I cut off the first couple, the ones that followed started to swell.
And as I go into the habit of assiduously watering (and watering and watering - every day) to help it bulk up the fruit, there they came, delicious, fragrant cucumbers.
And of course, the plant itself is completely out of control.
Yeah right. I feed the birds here, I even buy special seeds for them.
Not just that - even though my watercress experiment has not done very well, (I’m not sitting here spooning spicy creamy goodness into my mouth, more is the pity) I keep the whole wet mess there and topped up because I see the birds drinking from it.
But it has come to my attention (by looking with my eyes), that it is not just the wasps who eat my apples but the blue tits too. Really guys? is that entirely necessary?
This gentle little foxglove grew up through the grating right in front of the door. I stepped over it and stepped over it and stepped over it. Then I forgot, and the foxglove which grew in the wrong place, is no longer.
Sitting in the sun this afternoon, just reading a book, minding my own business. It was quiet, there was no music playing and no traffic, just a bit of clunking around as the neighbours downstairs fiddled around with a barbecue. There wasn’t even any wind, so no leaves brushing against each other or a wall.
Yet there was noise, repeatedly, behind me. Someone was bashing around in something, somewhere. Turns out it was a large bee gorging itself stupid on a foxglove.
Some of these flowers are just too mad really.This is one of the clematis plants (would the plural be clemati??).
This one is brilliant, is huge, and smells really strongly vanilla. Gorgeous.
And the honeysuckle right next to them. There are three plants, all a bit tangled up with each other, but can see two different kinds - I like this one best so far.
I can spend hours looking at the Viking Pagoda with its increasing coverage of flowers. The oak has been there for about a year and is a lovely silvery colour, and the plants are making their way up it. Big hugs to GardenGod for design and pieces-making.
Things are racing along, there’s been a load of rain followed by warm, sunny weather which has even progressed to hot. I am almost convinced that being on the sixth floor means it’s hotter because it’s that much closer to the sun.
Today I couldn’t walk around outside without sandals on - the flagstones were too hot for bare feet! Everything seems to be bulging, there is loads of green, and plants are flowering and fruiting one after another.
Am eating a few strawberries every day, and a handful of sweet peas every other day, and am also carefully picking bits of red-stripe mustard which is gorgeously peppery, to make sandwiches go with a zing.
I was also away for a week (when it mostly rained, which made things convenient for my neighbour-waterers) and it was like it was my birthday when I came back, with big floppy yellow courgette flowers awaiting me.
It was also actually my birthday.
Am quite excited about this cucumber - first attempt, looks pretty happy to me. Friendly vetch from neighbouring container keeping it company.
The second shot at french beans in hanging baskets are doing very well - reaching for the sky. To try to prevent drying out problems - the baskets just aren’t really big enough - I’ve put in some of that odd hydrating gel as an experiment. Seems to be working well enough so far. Will be introducing that ambitious tendril more firmly to the pagoda wires soon enough, for some up-and-over and dangling bean action…
In other Bean News - bush beans, which remained where they were despite the low-flying blackberry, have flowered and have little beans!
The purple french beans on the dead rose bush are not to be outdone, and are doing the same.
The rose bush that didn’t die, and which is a little too pink for my liking is making such a great effort, it can definitely stay.
Less glamorous at the moment, but also exciting because so vigorous, I brought back a few seed potatoes from the UK and popped them in a pot. They were raring to go and are now right on it. Am putting new soil on/around them practically every day. Have only ever seen miserable failures of the potato barrel idea on youtube, but a woman on Gardeners’ Question Time said as long as there aren’t too many potatoes in the barrel, it should work. I tried to be restrained and only put in three.
A question - can it happen that a redcurrant bush had so many flowers that many were not fertilized and therefore didn’t produce berries? Or do I have a feathered-friend problem? Turning a nice colour, mind.
I was given a lemon balm plant last year, and duly popped it in with all the other herbs. There it sat, looking vibrant, being fragrant, but untouched. I used and used and used the oregano, even chucking its flowers into tomato sauces, and then chopped it right down, hung large chunks in the kitchen, and used it all through the winter. Thyme, basil, sage, chives and loads of rosemary, all used and very much appreciated. But the lemon balm. Not even not so much. Just not.
Of the other, much-loved herbs, only the chives and parsely came back. Even the rosemary got too frozen to return. But the lemon balm popped up again, a very appealing bright spring green, and it’s already become a veritable bush. I’ll give it points for trying, but really, what are you supposed to *do* with it? I mostly like my tea with milk, and minus big floppy floating leaves.
Then! I realise that the millions of tiny little sprouts coming up all over the place - largely but not only in the same container as the lemon balm - is more bloody lemon balm. And the little oregano seedlings I had been so carefully nurturing were not oregano, but also lemon balm. No idea how that happened. It said oregano on the packet.
So I look it up, and lemon balm is related to mint, which would explain its expansionist tendencies. And there are about a million health reasons to be ‘taking’ it - calming for internal organs including belly and cramping uterus, and the mind apparently too. I may have to start drinking lemon balm tea to release my lemon balm tension - I SEE WHAT YOU ARE DOING, DON’T THINK I DON’T!
Sometimes it just seems a bit out there that a few boxes of soil and some water sitting around on my terrace can produce all this. I mean, I know how it works, but the fact that it actually *does*, regularly blows my mind.
This is the front balcony - south-facing but fairly windy. Here you can see the strawberries giving it what for - they have filled the boxes almost completely. I’m actually pulling up a few to give to my neighbour (my friendly form of colonisation) and make some space for other things.
On the left hand side up the wall you can see the rose which came back well after the winter and has loads of buds. It was sold as a scarlet climber, and while it has climbed, the flowers are a heavy pink, and although they’re pretty, it’s not really quite my thing.I think it knows it’s here on sufference and seems to be making quite an effort, so it stays.
Right at the back going up the railing you can see one of the blackberries complete with long arm which I couldn’t bring myself to chop off. It’s got loads of flower buds as well as loads of new leaf growth so seems happy enough. Underneath in that corner is a pot of bush beans which are going to have to go somewhere else soon - they’re not going to fit under a trail of blackberry which I now cannot move out of the way because of the rewinding-around-the-railings job I had to do when putting in the wind protection thing (a floor mat that was left here by the previous people).
Back on the more sheltered terrace (also south-facing - *tries not to look smug or smirk*) , the mange tout peas are doing brilliantly, making a decent start on the rather imposing trellis I set them up underneath.
And the first flower is out - this picture especially for the sceptical French posse.
The plants took a little while to establish themselves outside and in the new pot, but seem to have really got their bearings, and are thick and muscular, with great big fistfuls of leaves unfolding.
I’ve tried a load of sunflower shoots, which I’m going to eat - they’re lovely, kind of nutty with a bit of an edge.
And I found this little guy on one this morning. Two and a half years ago when I moved here there was nothing. Now the place is full of all sorts of stuff.
I’ve never grown aubergine before. The books say all sorts of intimidating things about soil temperature. These things came up nice and easy in my office-nursery exactly where I had planted the seeds, but I’m less and less convinced they’re the right thing. Going to see what they produce.
The blueberry bush is flowering - it’s not very bushy, with one branch that pokes up vertically, which would be the first candidate for a prune, but is far and away the best producer of berries, leaving the other bits looking pretty lame. Should I cut it off and make it all a bit more bush-like nonetheless?
The red currants seem to be completely out of control. The flowers are not quite finished and now there are berries all over the place. Already making plans for jam and frozen berries. Seriously, there are going to be millions, I’ll be able to bath in them.
Very exciting - first promises of plum. Put the tree in last autumn, and it looks very happy, despite being in a slightly small pot. Promise to put it in a bigger one this autumn.
And a recovery story - these were some of the French beans that grew too fast right at the start of spring. Some which I put in hanging baskets got bashed by a rain storm and I pulled up the remains and replaced with new seeds. These ones were not so bashed as they went out a day later and missed the storm. But after a week or two they looked really peaky - their leaves went purple and started to dry up and I thought they were going to be goners too.
But they’ve recovered from whatever it was that was ailing them and shot out a load of nice-looking growth from between the ill leaves and the stem, and look pretty perky now. I thought perhaps I had let them dry out, but am not convinced. I did have beans in that container last year and promised to feed them this year - haven’t yet. Some of their friendly strawberries look kind of yellow too - ok, ok, will get some liquid feed today.
This just reeks of childhood to me - forget me nots and wild strawberry.
And look, how lovely, lily of the valley by the compost heap. Overwhelmed with nostalgia, I took some from a friend’s garden last year and they didn’t do so well - obviously took them at the wrong time. But they’ve come back so strong!