Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Rhubarb, broccoli, beans and a special daffodil ...

rhubarb flourishing in the walled garden
It's rhubarb season again, and ours is flourishing in the walled garden. Look out for it in the seasonal treats on offer in the Potting Shed Cafe: rhubarb scones baked freshly every day, and the lovely Rhubarb and Almond Cake too. Rhubarb is best known for its role in the ultimate comfort food, the crumble, but it can also be used in chutneys and jams.

It's ridiculously easy to grow in your own garden, clumps can be divided and split in the autumn to maintain vigour, or you can leave them to do their own thing for years and years. They will be grateful for a little mulch of compost or well-rotted manure around their crowns in late winter.

purple sprouting broccoli is at its best now
Purple sprouting broccoli is also at its best now, and tastes wonderful in a stir fry, or as a vegetable just steamed for a few minutes and tossed in some butter with a little salt and black pepper.

You can sow purple sprouting broccoli outdoors from the end of April and it will offer up a bountiful harvest in the following spring. Some varieties, such as Kabuki, may even give you an autumn picking. Wood pigeons and caterpillars might prove problematic, and many people will net their crops to protect them. Our plants were left to fend for themselves, and were certainly munched, but seem to have come through with a nice crop all the same.
baby broad bean plants emerging
Broad beans can be sown directly into the ground at this time of year, or if you were sneaky and started them off in a greenhouse earlier, they can be hardened off and planted out. Harvesting the pods when they're young and tender means you get lovely sweet beans that taste delicious pan fried; or you could be a little more adventurous and use them in a broad bean hummus. If you have a glut of broad beans, simply blanche them and pop them in the freezer.
Narcissus poeticus looking to the skies
And whilst you might not be able to eat this daffodil, Narcissus poeticus is one of my favourite things in the garden at the moment. Poetic indeed, its pristine white petals and small red-edged cups make it stand out from the crowd, but what's really special is the sweet scent each flower exudes. It has an RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit) and if you're thinking of adding one more daffodil to your garden then let it be this.