More peas

A close-up view of a bowlful of freshly shucked peas and broad (fava) beans. Vegetal candy.


Celebrate with sweet peas

The sun is out! It’s been hot and gloriously bright this week. For too long everything seemed in suspended animation – under the spell of soggy gloom. Now plants seem to be visibly growing before my eyes. Finally the wigwams of sweet peas are exploding with colorful blooms.

I’ve cut several big handfuls of sweet peas already. Beautiful and deliciously scented, they perfume the whole house.

Photo of the week!

In contrast to my last post, the image for this week is also a seasonal drink, but for the opposite climate! The weather has changed quite dramatically just over a couple days from gloom and wet to bright and hot (well, this is England so what can I say). Notice my brilliance in matching the pink rose with Isobel’s rather summery frock. Finally – school is out for SUMMER!

Isobel under the bright blue skies holding a glass of zingy homemade lemonade.

What’s green and delicious…

but not allotment veg?

Isobel’s star turn as the Wicked Witch of the West, that’s what. She thrilled audience members with her menacing demeanor, deliciously evil delivery and maniacal cackle.

The Wicked Witch and her best friend, Dorothy.

Not to be outdone by her little sister, Zoe sparkled as a Shark girl in her school’s production of “West Side Story” the very same week.

Maria and the girls all feel pretty. See that senorita standing, arms outspread, on the right?

Allium harvest

Autumn-sown onions

I’ve lifted the autumn-sown onions as well as the shallots. Some were rotten and split from too much rain, but the rest are good, though not handsome. There was no opportunity to let them dry on top of the soil in the sun this year, needless to say. Instead I spread them out in the utility room. For a day or two the room was redolent with their pungent smell. The onions won’t keep well so we’ll have an onion tart or two – perhaps a batch of chutney. Next up, the garlic.


And the bad

Not to dwell too much on the negative, I will try to be brief.

1) Slugs and snails have overrun the earth. The constant rain and cool temperatures have been perfect conditions for gastropods. They continue to decimate crops. The fennel and carrot seedlings – gone. Courgette flowers, leaves, stems, and, worst of all, baby zucchini, are mercilessly attacked and eaten. I have yet to have any cabbage, arugula or kale successfully established. Even my sweet peas, which are usually resplendent, have slimy trails on them; buds are eaten off, leaving the long stem mockingly behind.

When I planted out my second round of bean plants I attempted to protect these with a barrier of sharp-edged eggshells:

Ouch, ouch, ouch. Like walking on shards of glass with bare feet, or one giant foot, if you’re a slug.

The Amazon slugs must just have laughed at this pitiful attempt. My bean plants lasted a couple days longer than the first ones before they, too, became leaf-less sticks. I was too disheartened to take a photo. (In other news, neighbors who liberally carpet the ground with little blue slug pellets have flowers on their runner beans…)

2) Remember those ripe and succulent redcurrants still to be harvested? When I went back to pick them I found the bush bare, stripped of every last crimson orb. Somehow a bird (perhaps a whole flock?) had gotten in through some gap in the netting and eaten the berries leaving the stems hanging empty. Never count your berries before they are picked! It’s made that first punnet taste especially good, though.

3) I’ve lost my set of keys somewhere on the allotment. Even after borrowing a friend’s metal detector I am no closer to discovering them – though I do have a nice collection of rusty nails.

The funny thing is that though I get mad, frustrated and disappointed, ultimately I’m an optimist when it comes to the garden. I’m willing to try again, to wait ’til next year, to be grateful for what we’ve managed to grow (since thankfully we don’t have to subsist on it).

Though who knows how long that essential optimism will last if this gloomy summer weather becomes the new normal year after year.



The good news…

It’s mid-July and we are harvesting some home-grown produce: lettuce of varied hues, pods of young and succulent broad beans, handfuls of black currants, robust supplies of mangetout (snow peas), and new potatoes.

The first new potatoes of the season. These are Orla and they are absolutely delicious with butter and freshly snipped mint. A taste revelation for all who have only eaten shop-bought spuds!

Mangetout – delicious and prolific.

Nice potatoes – but look more closely. The leaves (or what’s left of them) tell the real story of our sodden summer.