First cucumber, first aubergines

Summer starts here, for me, with these firsts, as well as some small peppers which were delicious grilled whole with one of the aubergines on the barbecue.  Some mackerel fresh from this morning’s market followed, but I didn’t take pictures.

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And another half kilo of haricot beans which I’ve put in the freezer.

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It was 34 C this afternoon – a real  summer temperature – so the vegetables need a lot of water these days.

As the sun went down and darkness fell I went out to see if I could catch the eclipse of the moon, but I think it’s too low on the horizon and can’t be seen from the village because we’re surrounded by hills.

>(Almost) full moon and a pumpkin

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First thing this morning, as the rain clouds cleared away (for a while), the moon was still shining.

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A friend and garden neighbour gave us this pumpkin a few days ago.  We’ve cooked it in different ways as part of several meals.  The easiest, and a very tasty way, is to cut it into chunks and roast it in olive oil with garlic, rosemary and thyme in a hot oven until the chunks are browned on the edges.  We ate it like this with the pot roasted guinea fowl I made the other day – recipe here.  Another way – Lo Jardinièr made this, is to parboil the chunks and then sauté them in olive oil in a cast iron pan over a high heat and then add ground cumin seeds at the last moment.

Other ways with pumpkin …

Pumpkin gratin, the recipe for which I put on the Mediterranean cuisine blog last year, is delicious too.  Or you can purée the pumpkin, put pieces of blue cheese on top and brown it under the grill.  I use Bleu d’Auvergne or Bleu des Causses for this, but Stilton would work just as well.  This makes a light meal or a first course with some crusty bread.

Pumpkin soup would make a good warming autumn dish too.  Maybe I’ll make it with the piece we’ve got left.

>Potatoes and the moon

>I missed the total eclipse of the moon early on Thursday morning – I looked out at 4 a.m., but couldnt see the moon because it was covered by cloud. Just in case the moon does have its claimed influence on the garden, though,today, the day after the full moon, we planted our potatoes to give them the best chance. It gets so dry here later in the year that they have to be planted in February – 75 days till harvest for the earlies, it says on the label, so we should have new potatoes around the beginning of May. Any later and they will need too much expensive water.

Traditionally the phases of the moon have been seen as having an effect on the growth of plants and gardening planting, sowing and harvesting have been governed by the lunar calendar. The experienced gardeners here in Gabian refer to it often, although they dont always follow it. Because vegetables contain a large proportion of water, the idea is that the moon affects them as it does the tides in the seas. A new moon draws water upwards and so this is the best time for planting leaf crops like salads and cabbages. After the full moon, its waning encourages water down towards the soil and this is therefore the best time for planting root crops like potatoes, and for transplanting. Detailed lunar calendars are published which give precise dates throughout the year when particular garden tasks are recommended. I bought one last year, Le Calendrier Lunaire du bon jardinier although I didnt follow it very closely. Well see whether the potatoes do better this year than last year when we planted them at the wrong time.

I knew that in Wales the traditional day for planting potatoes has always been Good Friday, but I didnt know why until our friend Drew, who now lives in Navarra, explained that it would be the day of the pascal moon. Drew also sent me a quote about pig killing from Flora Thompsons Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy: the killing had to take place some time during the first two quarters of the moon; for if the pig was killed when the moon was waning, the bacon would shrink in the cooking, and they wanted it to “plimp up”.

The anemones are coming out now, too.