My kitchen garden has been a busy somewhat wild space again this year. A space of solace and slug related rage. Foxes, occasional rodents too. The downside of living opposite the common is that when word gets out about the tomatoes, they come and explore. And I shriek. They are a garden pest, and I despise them. But I love my garden, so I will persist. I have only seen one, but one is too many.
If you are still here after the dreaded R word, let’s talk details. This year I put down 3 wonky wooden raised beds (2 metre square and 1 metre long but narrower). In these I planted tomatillos for salsa verde and other as yet unimagined things. They are a curious vegetable (or are they too a fruit?), secretive in their green hoods, maybe it is a stiff veil. I planted five plants, purple and green, and they stand strong and deliberate, all reaching now almost all 5 ft 3 of me.
Next to them, some courgettes, yellow, green, shiny and dull, and roman ridged. One a burst of joyful patty pans. Next to those, two aubergine plants, slow but productive, unlike the cucumber looming tall overhead, cucumber bursting from yellow flowers every week. Some peppers, stubborn in their green, refusing to turn yellow. Lining the wall of the house and dominating the window sills and ground beneath tomatoes, over 30 tomato plants. Vine tomatoes, tumbling ones, bush tomatoes and small strong patio plums reaching no more that 45cm high. And more little wild ones that came back of their own accord and I let them stay, how could I not? Those tomatoes that fell to the ground and never made it to the table produced a bounty this year, I love nature for that. The most delightful are the Santorini tomato plants, productive and cheerful, and some beautiful yellow ones.
What else? So much. Wild strawberries in terracotta and red felt veg trugs, elevated from the ground and away from all of the beasties that love to eat them (so I learned last year). Herbs, of course. Basil, lemon basil, purple shiraz basil, Vietnamese mint, oregano, chives, and Chinese chives, more punchy and insistent in their flavour (and of course my favourite). Beans! Proud among these are purple hyacinth beans. Fuschsia flowers relent and become a vibrant violet flat bean, not unlike a mange tout (which I suppose they must be?).
I have a chilli bed, a raised plastic bed bright yellow on sturdy legs, and tumbling with chillies of many types. The most cheerful have to be the cayenne and jalapeño. Also others on the windowsills and where ever I can find space on the ground, front and back.
You will have noticed lots of edible flowers on my food this year, and these come from the garden too. Lots of nasturtiums of different colours, standing on their own and clambering out from under the tomatillos, violas, star bursting violet chicory ones growing on tendrils from a chicory plant that grew up to 3 metres tall before falling over, I left it fall and watched the tendrils reach up. I clamber over it every day, in mud lately. Borage too, everywhere it could return from and a few more. I admire its energy and enthusiasm. Perfumed bright red bergamot returned in force too. I love when I accidentally catch a whiff of it, it is sublime. This year I also have some cheerful daylilies and some proud dahlias.
As I prepare everything for winter now and pull out some plants to make space for others, I have much to share in terms of recipes and garden tips. What would you like to know? Gardening for the kitchen is a joy for every cook, and it is possible in the tiniest of spaces, even just a windowsill. I have grown patio plants, dwarf plants, rampant climbers. There are so many possibilities.
Do let me know and in the meantime, here is to another week! Let’s make it a good one.