Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Monday, October 03, 2005


With the warm weather and ample recent rain, the vegetable garden is romping away. This means it is time for salads again making a pleasing change from the roasted root crops of winter, as nice as they are. There are nowadays many different types of lettuce to choose from, long gone are the days of simply being face with iceberg lettuce and a condensed milk mayonnaise sprinkled with raisons! Lettuces are now available in many forms of colour shape and size, to these I like to add edible flowers to add not only more colour but also texture and flavour. An extra bonus would have to be flashes of colour through out the vege patch. Of the edible flowers I have are: pot marigolds, Calendula officinalis, borage, Borago officinalis and nasturtium Tropaeolum majus are the main ones I use, but ofcourse there are many more. I have in the past used rose petals, viola flowers, petals from sunflowers and courgette blooms. The roses I crystallised with egg white and castor sugar, a fiddly procedure, but most spectacular when place on summer berry tarts! Many of the herbs produce flowers suitable for eating as well. In general though, these blooms are used mostly as garnish accompanying the body of the salad which is largely green. Another feature of these flowers is their propensity to grow themselves where they will, and so once in the garden as a general rule you don’t have to keep resowing them. The only thing I do is to pull them from places where I would rather another crop, not a hard or difficult job.

Thinking of my salads, my Belgium white carrots must nearly be of a size now to start pulling. I have not thinned them yet as I fancy having ‘baby carrots’ in salads soon. My intention is to pull every three or four out leaving the remainder to develop fully, these babies can then be lightly fried or just put in salad raw to add texture and a sweet flavour to dishes. Belgium white carrots are as their name would suggest white, and so add a point of interest to food. I think they are even tastier than the regular orange varieties we are so accustomed to. The fact is carrots were never originally orange; it was the Dutch who developed this form out of patriotic fervour! My Pakistani red carrots are a dismal failure this year not only because the seed was not so viable but for the miserable old cat who decided to make his bed in the middle of the row….. oh hang on, I was grumpy last time, best not this time!

Adding to the salad bowl shortly will be the tops off the broad beans as they approach their maximum height or at least a height to which I am happy for them to grow to. These leaves may also be steamed in the same way as spinach. I guess the use of this green might well be put down to my tight ‘bunned’ upbringing but waste not want not is my motto. Although it might seem like a waste, the flowers of the broad bean are also not bad added to salad or stir fry.

Well I better wrap this, it must surely nearly be lunch time!