Autumn is fast sliding into Winter, the gardens and greenhouses look quite different to when the 12 Week students arrived in September. On the first day, when I was showing them around, I urged them to take photos to remember the changing landscape. We picked the last tomatoes off the vines a couple of weeks ago and made green tomato jam and chutney with the last of the fruit.
Basil hates the cold, those few nights of hard frost that gave us the spectacular autumn colour killed the Genovese basil but surprisingly the Thai purple stemmed basil survived rather better. Cucumbers too, have finished for another year but we’ve still got a few tiny aubergines to pop into a Thai green curry during the next few days.
The last of the borlotti beans are drying in the pods on the plants, they will be wonderful for hearty bean stews and winter soups.
So now we’re well and truly into the root vegetable season… Parsnips are unexpectedly sweet once again due to the nights of hard frost, which concentrated the sugar. We’ve also started to use the knobbly new season Jerusalem artichokes – what a brilliant winter vegetable, super versatile, they roast deliciously, are great in gratins, soups and stews, and make the most irresistible crisps to nibble or scatter over a salad.
The winter greens are flourishing too, there’s a forest of curly kale, cavolo nero, red Russian, curly kale and lots of chard, so when I’m asked how do you manage for veg in the winter, people are astonished at the variety and I haven’t even mentioned leeks, celeriac, romanesco or swede turnips.