Hunter, gatherer…

My young pea plants were practically grabbing me round the ankles as I walked past. So yesterday evening we wandered into the woods to a recently coppiced area where I knew I could find what I needed. In a previous life, I used to coppice woodland for conservation and had already admired the neat stacks of logs and the long rows of brushwood. It was amongst the brushwood that I found just what I was looking for. I sorted out some twiggy pieces of oak into a couple of bundles and tied the stems together with rafia so we could carry them home.

Thanks to a gift of more than a dozen tomato plants last week, the garden chez nous is now pretty well full. I could squeeze in a row or two of something else where the carrots have failed to germinate, maybe some late spinach or a few radish, but I think I’ll wait for rain. The mixed lettuce are already providing more than we can eat, and I’ve had two mini-cucumbers which are quite fun and just enough to add to the salad bowl.

Raspberries - eat some fresh and save some for the freezer

My favourite of all fruit is the raspberry. Earlier this year we spent a couple of hours sorting out the raspberry canes which had strayed way beyond their allotted place and with neglect on my part, had become more of a bed of nettles and bramble than a raspberry patch. Mulching the base of the row with grass clippings (yes, we did cut the grass a few times before the drought) as advised in a lovely old book on growing fruit by Geoff Hamilton has really paid off by suppressing the weeds and keeping the base from drying out. OK, the berries are a little small but the taste is wonderful and I love hunting along the row for those dark jewels of fruit. I love eating them fresh but they are very easy to freeze. Spread out flat on a plate or tray until frozen, then transfer to a freezer bag and take them out by the handful as a topping for meringues or rich chocolate dessert or to add to an apple crumble.