At the moment, on the window sill, there are small punnets filled with compost and seeds. One, contains fenugreek. The other, is starting to fill up with little gem lettuce.
In the warm conservatory, Mum has sown runner beans from seeds saved last year.
A leafy, bitter herb, that adds both heat and spice to your dish. Can also be used as green manure on the allotment; a good cropper, it is ground cover whilst you prepare other areas. Fenugreek can be grown in a container, or broadcast sown. It’s a quick growing herb, especially outdoors and when it has rained. A good dose of rain, will ensure that it grows lush and bountiful.
It is an acquired taste; it can be very bitter and is best used sparing when cooking.
How do you cook it exactly?
Well, you can use it dry, like any other herb. Use it to give a background, texture flavour to food. It can be quite intense in large dose; best served metered.
You can also cut, wash and chop the leaves to stuff chappatis. When making your dough with flour and water, add the leaves alongside herbs and spices.
As part of a dish, you can saute alongside spinach and potato, and also add it to aloo gobi.
When you have sauteed onions, garlic and ginger add the leaves. Don’t chop too finely, but keep them coarse. Otherwise it will just disintegrate.
Sow fenugreek in batches, sow it often. It does work as a cut and come again crop. Successive growing will allow for a continual crop. It can be grow up to October-ish. At that point, it works better as ground cover.
If you are going to use it as ground cover over the autumn and winter months, it can be dug during spring time to help prepare the soil for growing.
Thinking of this title, my immediate thoughts were about Cabbage and sprouts. I’ve yet to grown sprouts, and Mama F is rather intrigued to do so. The one time we had them at home, the stalks got attacked by cabbage fly and it wasn’t pleasant. Cabbage on the other hand, has been an interesting learning experience. I didn’t much success with growing from seed, so using plug plants has been far more useful. You’d think that you could plug cabbages in, and that would be it.
Not quite. Leaving them uncovered and exposed invites all sorts to munch away. You’re cabbage patch is soon decimated, you declare war on slugs and it all ends badly. Mama F builds cages covered with netting to held reduce the impact of flies and bugs. It’s a bit like an assault course trying to get in and harvest things, but the crop remains in one piece for the most part. There is certainly a lot of green, leafy things which end up on saag or pakoras. In my experience, the greener, more bitter a cabbage or green might be, the less likely it is to be attacked by anything. Not had much success growing red cabbages. Mum has possible had a couple grow, but there does seem to be more challenge with these.
There is always Spinach and Kale in some form on the plot. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve trundled along to pinch Mum’s crop for Spanakopita. You need armfuls for dinner, but it is something very straight forward to grow. I’ve always broadcast sown the seeds and never bothered with plug plants. Plug plants would certainly help with spacing and reduce the need for thinning out. Every year, Mum sends me on a hunt to find the biggest leafed mustard green that I can find. We always end up with more perpetual spinach that we need, but it does get sown and grown. Kale is probably the more hardy of the two, and can be found to be growing along quietly in the middle of bleak winters. And if it’s Rainbow or Vulcan chard, it’s rather pretty.
When it comes to greenery, this also covers herbs. There is masses of mint on the plot and Fenugreek is ever present. The latter is also a green manure, but wonderfully edible. It’s fire-y and bitter, but can be used in a similar way to spinach. Dried, it’s a burst of flavour when added to dishes that need a kick. FenMint should be contained; as I have found, it is unruly and get’s every where. It is however versatile, with a little going a long way. Just think of all those mojitos….
An unlikely candidate for greenery, would be bolted radishes. Mama F starts of trying to grow Mooli. Only the weather plays havoc with fickle radishes and they bolt. When they bolt, they produce crisp, pepper flavoured pods. These you can snack on, or add to sauteed onions and garlic to make a curry.
Since I have yet to play with the preserving pan and make jam, jellies and chutneys, I have been looking for experiments do. It doesn’t help that I have a lower than expected courgette threshold.
This week, I have considered two things.
ooh, dehydrator; could do home made chilli powder
And hold on, you have a home brew kit that you have yet to christen.
But first, let’s look at what is actually working on the plot.
Floral trug filled with coriander, mint and fenugreek
Vine ripened red-ish tomatoes and some rather lovely raspberries
Plot tomatoes are sprawling, having absorbed a fair bit of sunshine and have sent out lots of yellow flowers. It is quite easy then to spot the red smudge of tomatoes as they turn red beneath the foliage. I somewhat revel in the going red, as with previous experience I have had to ripen tomatoes at home. The raspberries are a combination of polka, a well established set of canes and newly planted ones. Above, you will see that the trug is rather full. Contained in that trug was coriander and fenugreek from Mum’s half plot and my mint. I still have mint to harvest actually, it really is very productive.
And at last! The plot glads are coming through. It does feel a little delayed in happening, but I have spotted two of the blooms breaking up the green tomato foliage. I do rather like the purple ones. Though somewhere on the plot are black ones, and I’ve never seen those in bloom before.
Now, I said something about experiments.
Powdered mint and fenugreek
The experiments are two fold. In the first instance, I decided to find dehydrator. Primarily as I fancied dehydrating chillies for chilli powder. However, we also have lots of mint and fenugreek. These were the first things to go in, as well as some garlic, red habaneros and also some mango. Garlic, didn’t go so well; perhaps I should have sliced it a little thinner. Ir’s still usable, just very very dry. Red Habaneros, had me sneezing and took over a day to dehydrate. These were shop bought though, from a local Indian supermarket and were effectively a pilot study should I actually get a few chillies from the poly tunnel. The mango was also shop bought, and was a collection of under ripe fruit that I wanted to make mango powder. I use mango powder for chutneys, it has further uses in Indian Cuisine. Again, an experiment; as it took two dozen mangoes to get 100g powder. I shall be reflecting further on the merits of garlic and mango dehydration. What did work well, and took hardly any time at all, was the drying of the herbs. I was rather pleasantly surprised by how green the powdered fenugreek was.
Then there is the second experiment. The rather boozy one.
First thing first, I have parental consent (There are people who will huff and puff at this, I assure you; as an activity that a bollywood young lady ought not to do. So let’s make clear, that :: blows raspberries:: Beyond that, not my roof, there are still agreed understandings). I am old enough-yes, I am-to imbibe it, and I’m not distilling anything. Look, there are far worse hobbies, and with less palatable outcomes. With the parental consent, comes the first refusal of quality control and production management.
(I had actually decanted a year old steeping of Cherry brandy actually, as Pop’s wondered where my experiments had gone from the pantry; so it’s not as though the experiments have noses turned up at them. Was a case of “Punam, you had bottles of gooseberry gin, where did they go?” You’ll have to imagine it being said in Punjanbi).
As you may already be aware, I dislike strawberries. However, the strawberry God was kind this year and blessed us with with pounds of the things. All frozen, they were waiting for their fate to be decided. With the preserving mojo a little off kilter, I wasn’t too sure about what to do with them. Then I remembered that I had a brewing kit, yet to be christened, and a second hand wine making book. Not to mention, some rather lovely Grape Family members who are rather experienced home brewers. (My immense and heartfelt thanks to these lovelies who have been so supportive in getting my experiments of the ground.)
It just had to be done really.
Fruit was defrosted and the kit actioned. There was a bit of drama this morning, as it became apparent that we were having a ‘Jaws’ moment.
We needed a bigger bucket.
Over night, as expected there was fermentation; happens when you add yeast, sugar and water. I awoke to the smell of fruity boozy-ness, and found myself fighting strawberries off with a plastic spoon. All in an attempt to not make a mess of the carpet in the garage.
Needless to say, we have found a bigger bucket. There is just over five litres of liquid in there. A demijohn is at the ready, to decant the must in the next few days. This is my first foray in proper home brewing, so you can imagine the nervousness, and the first of a list. But first, let’s get this one done.
Experiments. Always the best way to learn.
(Sat here, it is impossible to avoid the waft of fermenting strawberries.)
My dinner tonight, was methi roti and raita. That’s chappatis that have been stuffed with fenugreek.
Mum had broadcast sown fenugreek seeds right at the foot of the allotment in an area that had had been previously uncultivated. Fenugreek is used both as a green manure and as part of Indian cuisine. The former, was my intention, the latter was my mum’s. The rain and warmth have formed a lush carpet of green leaves that can now be harvested. Mum has been after a harvest for days, so this evening we harvested two fists full of the stuff. As you can see, that is quite a lot int he harvest and quite alot left on the plot. What was harvested tonight, was enough for about six stuffed chappatis.
Ma loves this stuff. For most gardeners, Fenugreek is a green manure. Not many might think it’s edible. It is. Makes for lovely stuffed chappatis and curries too. As a green manure, it will help with nutrients when dug over. I will probably dig this over, once ma has made a final harvest.
As you can see, we have one 2mx1m raised bed, half of which had fenugreek in it. There had been baby green tomatoes sat next to it. Ma swears blind that there are different types of fenugreek, and the ones her dad grew when she was a child were taller and greener. She might be right, but I don’t remember them being taller or greener.
Used in Indian cooking, Ma does rather like the leaves. She also likes the mooli pods you get when you have bolted japanese radishes. She’d actually curried those yesterday.
How do you make a stuffed chappati with these then?
Using plain or wholemeal flour add the washed and chopped leaves. Add water and make a dough. Make small balls, and roll out to 3-4 mm and heat through on a flat pan or a tava (Indian pan used to make chappatis). You can also put into mashed spuds and stuff into chappatis.
Saute sliced onions, garlic, ginger and cumin in a teaspoon of oil. Once transparent, add fenugreek leaves, add garam masala, salt, pepper, and potatos with some turmeric. Fenugreek should wilt down, and you can also add cayenne or green chillies. Add a little water, and you can steam the spuds to cook. Fenugreek has quite a bitter taste, and therefore an acquired taste. Dried, it can be used it the same way as herbs. You can also do the same with Mooli pods, which you do have to bash first.
Welcome to Hobbitland, or at least my little part of it. In Birmingham, England. For the benefit of new and future readers, this is a patch of land. A vegatable pot, rented from the local council for, the cultivation, funnily enough of fruit, veg, and flowers.
What started off as 100 square metres, is now 200 square metres. I took on the second half last year, and to be fair at that point; it felt as though I was running out of space.
There have been perils and puddles, you can read all about them in the past posts. But now, the plot is starting to get going properly. The amount of things you learn, is phenonemonal. Yet one growing season won’t necessarily be the same as the next.
The black and white diagram that you see above, is something of an annual exerise. An opportunity to plan out and prepare for next spring. Each of the squares is either a raised bed or a bed in open ground. The shaded boxes, are the smaller wendy house and the large 2m x 3m Polytunnel. The polytunnel is currently home to a clutch of Chilli Pepper plants.
As it stands, now is time for me to tidy up the plot and to also grow over wintering crops such as garlic. Sadly, there are times where the British Winter does get in the way. Come to think of, the summer also gets in the way too. Especially when it is wet, windy, and downright drab. At the moment, the one bed does have garlic in it. There is also fenugreek and spinach still cropping, as well as lovely red vulcan chard. In years passed, I have at this time of the year sunk lots of bulbs for the spring. However, I am happy for now to have roses up and down the plot. There two dozen, perhaps, roses, that in the height of summer have produced fantastic blooms. I concede that they are not really edible. But what would an English Garden be without a few roses. There is even one called William Shakespeare 2000. As well as would be posh roses, there are some less posh ones. Some from a poundshop, some that are mysteries entirely. They are lost label roses, and could be anything. All of them will be pruned in the coming months to help them regenerate for next year.
You might have observed that there are some fruit trees. I have forgetton, to label the rhubarb. Most of these trees are two-three years old. I have victoria plum, braeburn and falstaff apple, rochester peach, a cherry tree the name of which escapes me. Concorde pear as well. The plot is home to one domesticated ‘Reuben’ Blacberry. In being domestic, this is thornless. Wild blackberries are full thorns and will tear you to shreds. I am lucky that the plot is edged on the far side by such wild blackberries. These have been jammed quite a bit this year.
I was awoken by mama h this morning, she was in full bounce. Whilst I would be having a short lie in; she was going down to the plot to harvest fenugreek for dad’s dinner.
So it had to be cooked, didn’t it.
We had also gone to the shop around the corner, as mama h wanted a second watering can-the kenny-for the plot. As then it would be quicker to water things with two of us. Whilst we were there, we picked up some bedding plants.
On the left are some red, white and salmon pink geraniums. In the middle Are marigolds, with Indian pinks on the right. There is a part Bollywood theme going on here, I think.
There was some shuffling in the Wendy house. Was about 30 degrees in there today, not the 40 as seen during the week. I have decided to carry out an experiment.
I used to grow chillies like this many years ago, when I actually as some success with them. The black pots are very heavy, space in the Wendy at premium. So these are sat outside, near the raspberries. Each pot is effectively a a small greenhouse/cloche with bag over it.
Still have a bag of 75pence experimental wilkos bag of onions to sink.
With the heralding of the May Day bank Holiday, you would have been forgiven this morning for being bah humbug as the heavens opened. Everytime I went to even think about putting my wellies on, the heavens opened. It was noon before the threat of rain dissipated. Having spent over a week away, this was an opportune time to see how the land lay as Mama H had been watering in my absence. I have also resisted, in clearing my window sills.
So down we pootled, my mother and I. You go to do one job, mum finds you another 76 to do. The one urgent job to do was to plant out the caulis from
Aunty Tish and net them. There was also a Sunderland Kale that needed to be put out too.So mama H did that as I was charged with watering things. As you can see, lots of fenugreek and various spinach like seedlings are germinating in a carpet of green. Looking good there.
With being charged with the watering, if did so. The potatoes are still asleep, no green shoots there yet. There is still a threat of frost. Frost, that hopefully will leave the blossoming Concorde tree alone. Last year, this was the one tree that stood there sulking; with the apple and plum flowering and fruiting. Something positive to take note of there.
Carrying out a couple of experiment, early direct sow. Dwarf French beans. Varieties sown were purple queen and borlotto dwarf. These are somewhat speculative, as we only just into may. The other experiment, is the laying of shredded paper as a mulch on a potato bed. That one is for further observation.
The Garlic, looks lovely! As do shallots. They in particular seem to have bloomed out of nowhere. Looking fairly sorry for themselves, they have taken on a whole new look for themselves. Some of the spring planted garlic is starting to send out some green shoots as are the onions. These were all mulched today, I really don’t fancy the weeds that have started to pop up.
Finally a few splashes of colour. Not as many as last year, but the tulips are blooming and looking lovely. More anemones were sunk today; whilst racked with pansy envy. There are no survivors on the plot, but at home we have about five or six that were pinched by Ma and put in pots. Providing a burst of red, white and purple.
So much to do. Really would have wanted to plant out a couple of squashes. Might try with a couple later this week. Another experiment….
Have a lovely may bank holiday where ever you find yourselves.