2020: A Year in the Garden

With 2020 drawing to a close it’s time to look back on another year in the garden. Ever since we started four years ago, gardening and growing vegetables has always been a great source of joy for me. But this year especially, it provided a wonderful and welcome escape from being stuck at home; something I’ve been incredibly grateful for from the very start. Despite everything, there wasn’t a single visit to the garden that wouldn’t leave me a happier person.

In this post I’ll give you an overview of what we ate and harvested from the garden this year, as well as a brief breakdown of what happened in the different seasons, including some meal suggestions and links to recipes on the blog.

The garden in spring: I’m weeding between the lettuce, behind me you can see the peas and broad beans and in the back, underneath the white fleece are the carrot and spring onion seedlings.

What we harvested and ate from our garden this year:

Vegetables:

Spring onions; carrots; green peas; broad beans; yellow onions; beetroot; lettuce; courgettes (yellow and 8-ball); (large) cherry tomatoes; beefier tomatoes; cucumbers; potatoes; kuri squash; butternut squash; kohlrabi; cavolo nero; mizuna

Fruit:

Raspberries; strawberries; redcurrant; haksap berries; plums; medlars

Herbs:

Rosemary; thyme; oregano; mint; sage.

What we tried to grow but failed:

bulb fennel; aubergines; onions (not entirely failed, but a very small yield)

Next time I would also like to grow:

Edible flowers like nasturtium and calendula.

Lessons for next year:

Soil health is incredibly important. Growing vegetables is all about having good soil. Forgetting to add a new layer of compost (or composted manure) on your raised bed in the winter will not go unpunished next growing season.

Spring:

We sowed carrots (a short and stumpy variety) and spring onions directly into the raised bed. They were off to a slow start, but yielded a really good harvest by the time we had to remove them to make place for the tomatoes. The spring onions were lovely in this Korean-inspired savoury pancake .

The carrots were sweet and juicy. We had them raw, in a root vegetable a pie and finally also fermented a bunch.

The carrot and spring onion bed. Interplanting with alliums is a good way to keep carrot fly at bay.

The strawberries were also abundant again this year, after being virtually absent last year. Some were slightly watery – but the good ones were exceptionally good.

This year we sowed romaine lettuce directly into the beds again and they yielded abundant amounts of firm, tasty lettuce heads.

The good thing about Romaine/little gem/cos lettuce is that it’s firm enough to grill and also holds up nicely when briefly stir-fried, so that it can be used for more than just salads.

Grilled romaine lettuce with Caesar dressing and toasted pecans.

Summer:

The peas performed slightly less well this year, which might have something to do with the fact that we used a different variety. The broad beans were also a new variety, but although the pods were slightly smaller than we were used to, the plants produced lots and lots of them.

The really young beans were delicious to eat blanched and dressed with nothing more than olive oil, salt and pepper.

However, by the time they had gone a bit starchier and we still picked big bags of them, I was forced to get a little more creative. Go here for tasty recipe suggestions.

A delicious, zesty smashed broad beans and green peas mash on a piece of sourdough.

Our berry bushes are still quite small and unprotected against snacky birds, but this year we had enough redcurrants to make these little custard tarts.

Beets performed brilliantly as usual, and kept us fed from early summer to late autumn. The leaves were used as spinach in basically anything that could do with a bit of leafy goodness and the beets themselves were roasted, marinated, or used to create beautiful pink foods like this fresh tagliatelle.

The potatoes, though plentiful, were a little less successful than last year. We suspect the quality of the soil had something to do with it, in combination with extremely dry weather at the start of summer. While they were still nice, their peels were rough and patchy, and texture-wise they struck an awkward middle between starchy and waxy.

The cucumbers were also a little less prolific than last year, but still delicious. Tomatoes on the other hand, were more successful than ever. We grew a small, juicy and slightly sour cherry variety and a bigger variety, which was firm and incredibly sweet. Tomatoes were usually picked at the point where they started to turn yellow/orange and left to ripen in the fruit bowl at home next to some bananas, which worked a treat and made them turn a deep beautiful red within a few days.

The tomatoes were some of the best I’ve ever eaten and there were lots of them. However, most of them took a long time to turn red and we were still left with lots of green ones when they suddenly all had blight and sadly needed to be discarded.

Our courgettes were off too a very slow and rough start, mainly due to some late frosts in Spring, but after we gave them a lot of extra composted manure, they picked up and produced some nice fruit. My favourite was this beautiful round 8-ball variety.

By this time, at the end of summer, we could also pick the first Kuri squash.

Autumn:

The squash was delicious roasted in savoury dishes, but a bit on the starchy side for a pumpkin soup. They did lend themselves very well to these soft and fluffy spiced pumpkin cupcakes however.

The purple kohlrabi was a joy to look at. Even though not all bulbs reached a good size (probably due to mice digging tunnels underneath their roots), they were perfect for one of my new favourite ferments: kohlrabi kimchi.

Winter:

While winter is always a time to prepare your beds for the next growing season, things are still growing. For the first time we are trying to grow some winter-hardy vegetables, such as cavolo nero and leek, and we have also planted garlic, which should overwinter and then crop next Spring. In our little greenhouse, where we once again unsuccessfully tried to grow aubergines this year (what is it with those aubergines?), I sowed mizuna straight into the soil and by now their little peppery leaves can already be picked for garnish. Hopefully, the slightly more sheltered conditions of the (unheated) greenhouse will help them to withstand the cold and allow the to grow a bit bigger still.

Medlars: a strange winter fruit that needs to rot or “blet” before it becomes edible and tastes like apple pie with cinnamon and marzipan.

To protect the young cavolo nero and kohlrabi plants against pesky butterflies – and their even peskier caterpillar offspring – we have made a construction with bamboo hoops and fine mesh netting.

Cavolo nero is a hardy and delicous kale variety that can withstand frosts and can be picked leaf by leaf: a perfect winter vegetable that will lend a hearty, umami note to all your stews and soups.

The garden in early Autumn

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