Posts tagged ‘tomatoes’

April 17, 2011

Edible of the week: Borage

by growingpeople

It’s been many weeks since I’ve done one of these, but as I’ve just sown some in my garden it felt like a good choice to kick start the series with.

Borago officinalis is an annual plant and prolific self-seeder which can grow to 1m tall and just generally seems to take up a lot of space within very little time – perfect for filling up an empty space with colour. It’s a fantastic companion plant, both attracting beneficial insects and repelling the tomato hornworm. The leaves are rich in potassium, which is needed for fruiting, so it’s a good idea to use the leaves as a mulch around potassium-hungry crops such as tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and squashes. The leaves are also edible, but they are hairy and tough so best picked when young if being used in a salad (shred them finely in either case). They have a cucumber-like taste and were traditionally used in the preparation of Pimms before cucumber and mint became the norm.

The seed of the “Starflower”, as it is also called, is the highest known plant-based source of gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid thought to be beneficial for the treatment of arthritis, eczema and premenstrual tension.  Hemp seed, Evening Primrose and Spirulina are among the other more well-known and widely-sold sources of the same substance.

Borage flowers are a curiosity in themselves as they start off pink, turn to blue in the mid-summer, and often revert back to pink as the summer draws to a close – the latter is thought to be the effects of UV on the flower. They work beautifully as a garnish in salads or cold soups, on cakes or frozen into ice cubes and added to summer drinks. Thanks to Eggs on the Roof for Gazpacho recipe and illustration.

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April 4, 2011

April

by growingpeople

Spring is here. I can say that with conviction because I’ve worn sunglasses and flip flops for 3 consecutive days (granted, I’m cold blooded) and because I took the tomato seedlings outside for a sunbathe on Saturday. And Reda has started cycling to work again, which, as those who know him will vouch, can only mean one thing.

 

sunbathing tomatoes

...and Safi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So.

Technically there could still be some late frosts between now and the end of April so hold off on moving tender seedlings like peppers, aubergines and tomatoes out permanently until early May, but the vast majority of your seeds can be sown outside this month. That includes carrots, radishes, fennel, peas, beetroot, spinach, kale, chard, lettuce, turnips and spring onions.  I recommend starting kohlrabi, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli off inside and planting them out in May though, when they are roughly 8cm tall.

Potatoes and other tubers can go into the ground now if they aren’t already.

You can also sow a huge range of edible or beneficial flowers around this time, including marigolds, sweet peas, borage, nasturtiums, chamomile. Sunflowers should be sown indoors for another few weeks.

And parsley, dill, sage, chives and coriander can all be sown outdoors sometime this month, while the more tender basil should be started off indoors and planted out in May.

Hold off on beans and courgettes – these are two common vegetables which really need warmth and which you need to wait until June to sow.

Have a look at these pages for ideas on what to plant together – particularly if you’re lacking in space or using containers.

March 31, 2011

Growing by numbers

by growingpeople

The British (or at least the writers at the Evening Standard) are fond of attributing monetary worth to the most unquantifiable of events, informing us for example that the magical London snow day in February 2009 in which every Londoner woke up happy and strangers said hello to each other in the street cost the economy £3 billion. It’s not surprising of course that in our society the media insists on this kind of “expert” analysis (or at least less surprising than the fact that the Royal Wedding will cost the British economy £5 billion), but I think there’s something inherently sad at the heart of it – as though nothing can ever simply just be, without having to be worth something in order to have a purpose (or lack of).

So for once I was pleased to read the article in this month’s Jellied Eel about the Tufnell Park resident Mark Ridsdill Smith who has calculated that he has grown £812 worth of fruit and vegetables on his balcony, measuring less than 3 square meters (that’s £270 a meter). Among the runner beans, courgettes, carrots and potatoes,  Smith grew the equivalent of 100 bags of salad, 92 supermarket punnets of tomatoes and 120 packets of herbs.

you won't find these in Sainsbury's

Gardening is certainly not something I started to do for the money, but in the great British tradition, I’ve succumbed to the fact that as well as reaping ecological and health benefits, it can provide you with massive  savings on your food bill. Or at the very least, a couple quid’s worth of parsley.

Smith details how and what he grew, with minimal space and an abundance of creativity as well as the “worth” of each of his harvests in his fantastic blog, Vertical Veg.

November 12, 2010

The first of many posts about tomatoes

by growingpeople

People who know me will tell you that there is nothing I care more about in my garden than tomatoes. The first time I flicked through Real Seeds and Organic Gardening catalogues and discovered that tomatoes didn’t need to be red (they can be purple! yellow! black!), I was hooked. They’ve become a healthy obsession as far as gardening is concerned, and each year I’ve looked forward to February when I can start off my new varieties inside the bedroom window.

Last year started well enough. I chose ‘Galina’, a yellow cherry tomato from Siberia, ‘Costoluto Genovese’,  an Italian variety with distinctive ribbing, ‘Purple Ukraine’, a beautifully deep purple plum tomato, ‘Orange Banana’, which basically does what it says on the tin, and the ‘Red Cluster Pear’ centiflor tomato, whose trusses bear tomatoes like a bunch of grapes. I was particularly excited about that one.

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