Sunlight at last

After some very gloomy days and a lot of rain it was cheering to see the sun this morning.  Everything in the garden looked bright and green in the light.  I picked herbs – rocket, parsley, oregano, sorrel – to have with bread and ham bought in the village while Lo Jardinièr planted out some of the last cucumber and courgette plants.

herbs and oil

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We even had to sit in the shade to eat!  There’s still a very strong wind, the tarral in Occitan because it blows over the land, and we found that some more apricots had fallen on the ground.  There are still a lot left on the tree, luckily.  And we can use the fallen, unripe ones.  We cook them with sugar in a little water and we use them instead of dried fruit in pilafs and other rice dishes.

windfall apricots

The light seemed such a treat, shining on the apple tree and through the rosemary, casting the shadow of one vine leaf on another:

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The wind brought bad news for a friend with a garden just down the hill from ours, though.  His plum tree was blown right over.  It was otherwise undamaged, so Lo Jardinièr and some other friends are going to see if they can help him right it tomorrow morning.

Foraging for flavours

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Found in the garden at lunchtime today, some herbs and flavourings to add to a lettuce bought in the market: wild rocket, sorrel, onion shoots, broad bean tops and a mix of herbs, mint, thyme and savory.

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leaves bursting out on the pomegranate bush

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and the apple tree

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the apricot blossom is over, so I’m hoping to see tiny apricots soon.

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And Lo Jardinièr planted out these red onion plants he bought in the market this morning.

Store cupboard essentials

On yet another rainy day, Lo Jardinièr and I talked as we were eating a lovely lunch of pizza left over from yesterday when he made it, accompanied by a salad of grated carrot (not from the garden) and slices of green and yellow pepper (from the garden).  As we often do, we remarked on how easy it is to make delicious food so long as we have certain basic essentials in the store cupboard and fridge.

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There are ingredients we would never be without, some of which are so essential I haven’t included them in the photo: rice, pasta, the tomato purée we make at least 50 jars of every summer and which last us through the winter and spring until we have fresh tomatoes in the garden again……salt and pepper too, of course.  But apart from these, here are a few others: capers (although when I can find them I prefer the salted ones to these in brine); anchovy fillets; olive oil (of course); raisins or currants; chorizo; garlic (again, of course!); piments d’Espelette or other paprika peppers, fresh or dried); lemon; black olives; bay leaves (and other fresh herbs as available in the garden, thyme, rosemary, basil…..).  Even if we have no other meat or vegetables we can always make something tasty to eat with these.

And as I write this I remember other essentials we almost always have in the cupboard: red and white wine, tinned chickpeas and haricot beans, tahina, walnuts, spices – coriander and cumin especially – and so much else.  But these in the picture are the basics.

For the photo I put all these in a dish which for me is another essential as it’s been in my family almost as long as I can remember.  It was made in Sicily and my mother bought it in Benghazi soon after we moved there in the 1950s. She passed it on to me after she had used it many times especially, as I remember, for rice salads when we had big family parties.

>Garden bloggers’ bloom day

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Apart from lichen and rust which I think look lovely in the spring sunlight …

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….. we have apricot blossom just about to come out (several weeks late this year) …

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…..one lone daffodil and one rather battered-looking anemone (also very late, although one anemone made the mistake of flowering in November!) …..

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…. our neighbour’s almond blossom (cheating a bit, but we can see it over the fence) and the rosemary which has been flowering all winter, even when it was very cold….

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That’s it for the flowers, but we’re still harvesting cabbages, salad leaves (lettuce, lamb’s lettuce and sorrel), as well as herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, bay).

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Garden bloggers’ bloom day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

>Apricot buds and a new cold frame

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One of the good things about writing a garden blog is that I can check back and see how this year compares with last year and the year before.  Spring seems to be late this year, but looking back to last February I can see that the apricot buds are at about the same stage this year, although the daffodils are certainly later.  Last year we had daffodils in flower in time for St David’s day – that won’t happen this year.

DSC01890 DSC01892 The apricot tree should be in flower in a few days’ time.

I sowed some mangetout peas about a month ago and had almost given up hope of the plants appearing.  I thought the seeds had been washed away by some of the heavy rain we’ve had and today I decided to sow some more in the same place.  Luckily I had a close look first because I noticed that they’re coming up at last.  We’ve covered them with chicken wire because the birds seem to like them.

DSC01893 mangetout peas emerging and, right, the garlic doing well. DSC01906 DSC01901 But the daffodils are late this year.

We’ve already got two rustic-looking cold frames in the garden, but our neighbour gave us an old window so Lo Jardinièr decided to make another one – they’ll all come in useful when our pepper and cucumber plants need a bit of protection before being planted out.  He made a base of sand covered with old terracotta floor tiles, made walls with concrete blocks and rested the window on top – very simple.

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While he was doing that I sowed another double row of broad beans and a row of spinach.  We lost at least three sowings of spinach to heavy rain in the autumn, each time I re-sowed them there would be another storm and no sign of spinach plants, except for a solitary one which has survived the winter.  We miss having the young spinach leaves in our salads, so we hope to grow some now before the weather gets too hot and dry. 

Today’s harvest:

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Rosemary, thyme and bay, which the garden provides all through the year, whatever the weather, chard, which is just recovering from the cold weather and starting to grow again, and cabbage.

>Planting garlic

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According to the calendar of the moon, last weekend was a good time to plant garlic, but we missed it, so we did it today, in a bed which we put a lot of goat manure in last winter.

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Some of the garlic we bought in Villereal market when we were there in September – we bought 5 kilos, so we haven’t eaten it all yet!

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We’ve put a drip-feed hose along the middle of the double row so that we can water the garlic easily in the late spring and early summer when it needs a lot of water. After planting the cloves about 7 or 8 cm apart we covered them with straw to conserve moisture and to try to stop the birds pulling them out before they root.

Our leeks are growing well and we pulled the first two today. We’ll eat them tonight sautéed in butter with pancetta.

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DSC00166 Since we’ve had some rain and the ‘second spring’ has begun, the oregano has started to grow again, so I’ve cut some leaves to dry and store for the winter.

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There are a few small aubergines still growing – we barbecued two for lunch today, with a sweet onion. The aubergines should carry on growing slowly until the first frost which could come any time now, but isn’t forecast for at least the next week.

There’s still a lot of colour in the garden – roses, especially, and the leaves of the cherry tree in the garden next to ours:

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And we’re still harvesting green chillies although they won’t turn red at this time of year. I picked one today – there are more, but we don’t eat many hot peppers so I’ve left the rest for another time.

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>The hungry gap? / Le trou affamé?

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There isn’t much to harvest in the garden at this time of the year, when the winter cabbages and leeks are finished and we’re still waiting for the summer crops of tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines and peppers. But there is still a huge range of varieties of plants growing in and around the garden which we can eat.

Il n’y a pas beaucoup à ramasser au jardin à cette saison, mais il y restent plusiers de variétés de plantes qui poussent dans le jardin ou près du jardin que nous pouvons manger.

Yesterday we picked and ate 16 different varieties of leaf or flower:

Hier on a ramassé et mangé 16 variétés differentes de feuille ou fleur:

cos lettuce (laitue), spinach (épinards), sorrel (oseille), broad bean leaves (feuilles de fève), wild rocket (roquette sauvage), mint (menthe), parsley (persil), savory (sariette), oregano (oreganum), thyme (thym), chard (blettes), rainbow chard (feuilles de bette) – from the garden / du jardin.

borage flowers (fleurs de bourrache) – from the wild / sauvage.

coriander (coriandre), oak-leaf lettuce (feuille de chêne), mizuna – from the balcony / du balcon.

The chard and rainbow chard we ate cooked with mussels and an onion and white wine sauce. I used the herbs with goats’ cheese to make parcels as I did with the borage leaves the other day. The other leaves made a salad to accompany them.

On a mangé les blettes et les feuilles de bettes avec des moules à la sauce au vin blanc. Avec les herbes j’ai fait des parcelles comme celles à la bourrache. Avec les autres feuilles j’ai fait une salade pour les accompagner.

We’re looking forward to the summer vegetables, but in the meantime there are plenty of exciting flavours in the garden!

On attend avec impatience les légumes d’été, mais pour le moment il y a beaucoup de saveurs dans le jardin!

>Happy new year! / Bonne année

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Best wishes for a happy and peaceful 2009 to all.

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olives and artichoke (leaves) / olives et feuilles d’artichaut

Happy new year! / Blwyddyn newydd dda! /

Bonne année / Bon an!

Some hopeful new year signs in the garden today: sunshine at lunchtime, the garlic, broad beans and peas growing well, a salad picked and eaten straight from the garden.

Des signes d’espoir au jardin aujourd’hui: le soleil à midi, l’ail, les fèves et les petits pois poussent bien, une salade ramassée pour manger en directe du jardin.

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lettuce, spinach, rocket, parsley, mizuna and sorrel picked for a lunchtime salad – the thermometer registered only 13 degrees C but it was warm enough in the sun to have lunch outside.

>La Sainte Cathérine

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On the French calendar, provided for us each year by the local fire service, today 25th November is Sainte Cathérine’s day.  And the saying which everyone here repeats whenever tree-planting is mentioned is: À la Sainte Cathérine tout bois prend racine.  On Saint Catherine’s day all wood takes root.  This is the season for planting trees and shrubs.  We’ve already planted two cherry tree cuttings, a fig tree and our lemon tree.  Today on this special day for planting we put in a Pyracantha coccinea shrub, which will have red berries.

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Pyracantha coccinea
Pyracantha coccinea_1_1 Pretty red stems and dark green leaves

Aujourd’hui, la Sainte-Cathérine, en suivant le dicton ‘ À la Sainte Cathérine tout bois prend racine’, nous avons planté un buisson de Pyracantha coccinea.

The lemon tree seems happy in its new sunny corner, the flowers are opening and the fruit is ripening.  We’ve covered it with a sort of ‘tent’ for the next few days as cold nights are forecast.

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Le citronier va bien dans son coin ensoleillé.  Les fleurs ouvrent et le fruit mûrit.  Nous l’avons couvert d’une sorte de ‘tente’ pour les prochains jours parceque des nuits froids sont prévues.

Today’s harvest / Le moisson d’aujourd’hui

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Leeks, turnips, rosemary, oregano and sage

poireaux, navets, romarin, oregane, sauge

>More watering . . . and passion fruit?

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One of Gabian’s fountains

Gabian is lucky in having a spring, La Resclauze, at the top of the hill above the gardens. For centuries this has been used for watering the gardens and, of course, that is why the gardens are where they are. The stream which runs down from the spring also powered mills which ground corn and wheat for flour and olives for oil. These are all in ruins now, unfortunately, although the Mairie and the municipal council talk of a restoration project. A couple of hundred years ago there were rules about when gardeners could take water from the stream,and each gardener could take water only on certain days. Nowadays there is a reservoir at the top of the hill, which provides water for the village and its three remaining fountains. The overflow from it is regulated. For the past couple of years of drought there hasnt been any overflow and the stream has been dry throughout the year. This year, after the unusually wet spring, there has been water in the stream again.

collecting water from the stream

Today we installed a pipeline from the stream down to our garden to fill our water butts and to water the plants. It needs some more work on it to feed it into the irrigation system which we put in last month, but for the moment were pleased with our primitive system which involves only a plastic bottle, 50 metres of cheap hosepipe and a couple of connectors. The water is free, unlike the metered supply to the garden, and hasnt had chemicals added to it.


We have a climbing passion flower growing on the shelter over the terrace where we eat and this year, its third, it has really taken off. Weve had lots of flowers and now there are fruit, mostly green at the moment, but one is ripe and a lovely apricot colour. As this is an ornamental plant Im not sure whether we can eat them – they certainly look edible. Does anyone know?


Passiflora


and a ripe fruit

In the rest of the garden, the tomatoes are ripening


and today we made this salad


tomato, cucumber, green pepper, garlic, basil leaves and oregano flowers all straight from the garden