Spring Harvest Notes: 11 October 2015

Our first spring harvest:

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Peas, broadbeans and mint. Hardly enough for two people as a side dish but I love it nonetheless. Technically my first harvest consisted of some turnips, but I picked, cooked and ate them without thinking to take a few pics.

Also available are tuscan kale, chives, sage, tarragon, parsley, kaffir/makrut lime leaves, and borage and calendula flowers.

Coming soon are fennel, garlic scapes (hopefully), strawberries, artichokes, dill. Judging by the baby asparagus I just planted, I’ll also have asparagus at this time in a year or two.

I had pretty limited space for vegies in autumn and winter this year so I expect to…aspire to anyway, be harvesting more vegies in spring next year.

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Peas

I sowed about 24 seeds directly in autumn (didn’t make a note of when exactly) in full sun, on the same day, at about 15cm spacings. I topped up the existing neglected soil with lots of compost, manure and straw. There is one long row climbing up reinforced mesh, and two lots climbing up cylindrical chicken wire structures. The varieties are Dwarf Sugar Snap, Greenfeast, and Novella. I didn’t make a note of which varieties I planted where, so can’t say much about the varieties. They are all really delicious. My 2.5 year-old ate all of the peas in the picture at top of page, raw, for dinner last night. As if they were blueberries.

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As a whole they’re growing well, although I think maybe I’ve planted them too closely. They seem too tangled up in each other rather than growing up, but maybe it’s they’ll shoot up more at the end. Greenfeast is supposed to grow up to 200cm, and I can’t see that happening before they finish fruiting.

IMG_8301Last year I only sowed about about 24 (two in each hole), and only about six in total germinated. This year I sowed about 48, and I’d say I have about half that number, so a much better germination rate. They are supposed to rot easily once sowed I think. I tried not to over-water them this year so I think that worked. I made sure to check the soil carefully before I watered.

I’m not sure if this will be enough to feed us this year. There only seems to be a handful of peas ready at one one time so far, so they tend to get eaten outside. I’ve just read in Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Companion that in a cool climate you can plant them from January-October, and it recommends you plant 10 plants every three weeks. I need to read up a bit on planting times and succession planting to extend my harvest I think.

Broadbeans

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I planted about a total of 35 seeds, in two groups about two-three weeks apart (some of the earlier seeds didn’t germinate so I topped up with a few extras in the second sowing). The seeds are about 15cm apart and the rows are about 50-60cm apart. They are in full sun, and the existing neglected soil was topped up with cow manure, compost and straw.  They are all heirloom varieties, pictured below form left to right: Chocolate Flowered, Aqua Dulce, and Crimson Flowered:

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These are growing really well. There were a few rusty looking spots on a plant or two but that doesn’t seem to have spread. The rows are perhaps a little close for easy picking (and it’s so hard to see the pods behind the leaves) but then I didn’t stake them either and they more or less survived really strong winds last week (a few were knocked over but not uprooted). So I think they supported each other. I wonder whether the close rows will lower the yield though, because the lower parts of the plants are shaded by their neighbours?

Yesterday I was a bit alarmed when I went out in the middle of the day after a night of rain, and found them very wilted in the sun, on a not so hot day in spring. Are broadbeans one of those plants that dramatically flop (the leaves anyway) in hot weather, recovering as soon as the sun drops? Anyway, they seemed fine by day’s end.

From my experience this number of plants was plenty for two adults with loads to spare last year. We tried a lot of broadbean recipes last year. We had to eat them every few days for about four weeks and it was hard to catch them when they were smaller and tastier. I haven’t really tried successive planting to see if I can extend the harvest period so interested to know if this works for others – or do they tend to just flower and fruit at the same time regardless of sowing time? Do I want to be eating so many broadbeans for more than four weeks….

Mint

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This is moroccan mint. I bought one punnet from the Diggers Club a few years ago, and last year divided it up into about seven pots, so I have plenty now. I did nothing at all to it over winter when it had died down, and it all sprung up faithfully in early spring. Diggers describes it as a “superior” kind of common mint, excellent for mint tea and flavouring water. The leaves seems smaller, greener, and more fragrant than the other common mint I’ve grown in the past. It seems to have a nicer form too, at least in my post. More compact and bushy and strongly upright. It did seem to not cope so well with hot sun in high summer but I wonder if is more to do with being grown in pots? Should I protect it from afternoon sun?

Recipe

Peas, broadbeans and mint are natural partners. Here’s one of my favourite recipes by Nigel Slater, and this one by Jamie Oliver is good too. I mix the two, so I add cooked peas and lemon zest (ie. hopefully homegrown in the future, minus the wax that commercial varieties come with).

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