Monday, 2 May 2011

Finishing off the Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Amazingly some of last year's Swiss chard survived the heavy snow and ice we had this winter, but they are starting to bolt and look as though they are about to run to seed. Interestingly, the red rhubarb chard succumbed to the severe weather conditions so we are left with just the green varieties. Yesterday I harvested about half of the remaining crop and made a swiss chard tart from it.

Recipe: Swiss Chard Tart

This makes an 9 inch diameter tart 1.5 to 2 inches deep.


Shortcrust pastry made from 3oz of white plain flour, 3 oz of soya flour, 3 oz butter,  2 oz of grated cheese, 1/4 tablespoon salt, water to mix to a dough. Alternatively you can make a 'standard' shortcrust pastry using white plain flour or buy ready made pastry.

3 tablespoons  of olive oil
2 medium sized red onions thinly sliced
1lb swiss chard - stalks and leaves separated
3 medium/large eggs
200 ml crème fraîche or crème fraîche + greek style yoghurt
8 oz grated cheese (if you want to keep it "Swiss" use Gruyère or Appenzeller)
salt and freshly ground pepper
sprinkling of oregano, thyme (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 190 °C

2.  Roll out the pastry and line a round loose bottom tin or tart dish.  Then line the pastry with a circle of baking parchment and fill with baking beans to bake it "blind". Bake  for 10 minutes, remove the paper and beans and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Remove the pastry from the oven and turn down the temperature to 175 °C

4. Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the sliced onions until soft. Chop up the swiss chard  stalks and add to the pan. Cook until soft  (about 4-5 minutes). Slice the chard leaves and add them to the pan. Mix everything in the pan together and cook until the leaves have wilted. Set to one side.

5. Mix the eggs with the crème fraîche (or crème fraîche/yoghurt mixture), add salt and pepper and the herbs (if you are using them) .

6. Sprinkle the bottom of the baked pastry case with about two tablespoons of the grated cheese. Then add the onion and chard mixture.

7. Add most of the rest of the grated cheese, keeping back about 2 tablespoons. Gently mix the cheese into the onion and chard using a fork (try not to gouge out the pastry base with the fork!). Pour over the egg mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cheese on top.

8. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until the filling has set and the top is just starting to turn golden.

Eat hot, warm or cold.

Ingredients from our own garden: swiss chard, oregano, thyme

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Early potatoes and jerusalem artichokes

Early potatoes and jerusalem artichokes

The garden is now really starting to take off with all the warm weather we have been having in the UK. The early potatoes and jerusalem artichokes in particular are surging ahead. I left some artichokes from last year's harvest in the bag and they obviously survived the harsh winter we had this year. The seed potatoes came from Marshalls and I started then off in egg trays indoors in late January.

I decided to take a risk with the weather just over three weeks ago and planted them out.  I half fill the bags with soil, place the chitted potatoes on the surface and then add just enough soil to cover the tubers. As the shoots grow I add more soil until the bag is nearly full. This method has worked really well ever since we started using the bags four years ago and although we only get enough for 4-5 meals for two of us it is just so nice to taste new potatoes straight from the earth. Once the potatoes are finished we plant courgettes and squash in the bags.

We started using bags at that end of the garden because of the tangle of roots that are close to the surface and come from the trees and bushes by the fence.  It is so much easer to use the containers instead of continually trying to convert that patch of ground into something usable.

Next job: potting up the tomatoes

Friday, 7 January 2011

Time to clear the garden and order seeds

It is raining here in Caversham at the moment but last weekend we had a couple of hours of sunshine - enough time to clear most of the debris from the garden. There was a lot that was not suitable for the compost heap - thick branches from the bushes for example - so they went into the green waste bag.  It is now full but our next collection date is February 1st. So, if there is any more garden waste for recycling over the next few weeks it will have to sit in a refuse sack and then transferred to the green bag once it has been emptied.

Garden cleared of debris

There is not much left in the ground now: swiss chard, spinach, parsnips, scorzenera and jerusalem artichokes in one of the bags at the back.  The other two bags will be planted with early potatoes and once they have been harvested  courgette plants will take their place.

It's also time to finish ordering seeds for the coming year. I usually order tomato and chilli seeds from Simpson's Seeds. Simpson's started out as the Tomato Club and specialised in unusual tomato varieties. They now sell a wide variety of vegetable and flower seeds, and in recent years have expanded their hot chilli collection. There are no pretty pictures in the printed catalogue but the web site more than makes up for that.  The other companies I use are Marshalls, Mr Fothergill's and Thompson and Morgan.

Seed catalogues
My next task will be to draw up a schedule for sowing seeds  both indoors and  outdoors.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Welcome to a Caversham Garden

I set up this blog a year ago with the intention of blogging the successes and disasters of growing vegetables in a small back garden in Caversham. My husband and I have been "growing our own" ever since we moved to Caversham in 1982 and many of our friends have encouraged us to share our experiences with others. Well the blog didn't happen in 2010. We are both self employed consultants and are also actively involved with various professional bodies. For my part, I have now stepped down from most of the committees I was on, which means that I have no excuse whatsoever not to get this blog going!

This will be a sort of diary of our gardening year: from ordering the seeds through to harvesting and eating the produce. It will cover disasters as well as successes and l might also include some of my favourite recipes.

Comments and your own experiences will be welcomed.