Sunday, 30 June 2013

Open Gardens 02

Not many visitors from the 'Open Gardens' today but other folk came by making it a lovely day.
We installed a sink, weeded bind weed and tidied up around the pond. We also cleared some vigorous pond plants to reveal some water! It's not the best time to do this as the pond is full of mid summer wildlife but we shook the plants well and then left them at the pond's edge. This way any little creatures can crawl back in.
The clay oven was on as usual and hordes of people arrived with goodies to cook; breads, stuffed cabbage, vegetable pots, fish with garden herbs and chicken.
We're now looking forward to our first new potato meal later in the week; come along on Thursday if this sounds appealing.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Open Gardens 01

A first day for the yearly Open Gardens fundraising weekend. All monies go to the Sussex Beacon. Our contribution will most likely be modest but we did have some visitors today. Apart from reported difficulties in finding us, nothing but praise was given and it was interesting to receive feedback from like minded people. For instance, one visitor swore on following a lunar calendar for planting. Perhaps we'll try next year. According to this, months are divided into four cycles that correspond to vegetable categories: fruit, leaf, root, flower. In addition to this it will tell you when to sow, harvest, water etc.
Well, I'm sure more wonderful tips will be shared tomorrow.

There's something hiding in the garden! #1

Shiitake E. edodes
As many of you may know, the Garden is in it's second year and is looking splendid. It is also full of the most fantastically tasting and fragrant herbs and salads you can imagine; nothing to add but the time and energy to prepare by rinsing and tossing liberally in fresh air. At the garden we don't add anything to our soil that isn't natural and we never use slug and snail pellets. Sure, we lose a few plants but the extra work re-growing pales in comparison against the rewards of pulling, picking and eating the best tasting food the effort brings about, which is very little really (thanks largely to Liz and Jeanette). But whilst the garden is blooming and has come a long way in just two years there are other edible gems in the garden hidden until the correct weather conditions arrive allowing them to fruit. They are the Mushrooms!

Now, before I go any further please be aware - there are poisonous fungi that naturally occur in and around the garden. Please do not turn up and pick the mushrooms with the idea in mind that they must be edible because they are in the garden - there really are mushrooms that will kill you and they dwell among us! There are however only a few more than a handful that are seriously dangerous and a few more handfuls that will make you very ill and thwart your interest in mushrooms for a long time afterwards.
All mushrooms are edible but some just once.  I cannot stress nearly enough the importance of knowledge and experience when it comes to eating mushrooms. That said, there are not many things as nice as growing or finding your own edible fungi.

There are no guarantees that we will have mushrooms every season and none that we will have mushrooms this season. Unlike plants we can't tell how they're doing until they fruit, or otherwise.
It takes time to establish successful mushroom patches but with patience, persistence, trial and error, we will have mushrooms for the environment, the table and the medicine cabinet.The mushrooms we're growing aren't  your common everyday button mushrooms but delicious, unusual and exotic delicacies such as the Pearl Oyster mushroom (P. ostreatus), Wood Blewit (L.nuda) Shaggy Inkcap (C. comatus) and the Wine Cap (S. rugosoannulata).  In closing I'd just like to say things are in motion too for some other species such as Hen of the Woods (G. Frondosa) and Chicken of the Woods (L. sulphureus) and eventually we hope to have a permanent, year round supply of Shiitake (L. edodes) Logs.

May you go merry on your way!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Food food food

More cooking and eating today. We harvested baby kale, onions, garlic and lots of herbs to make a pot to go in the clay oven. Together with freshly baked bread it was a treat.
The forest school was on in the woods as usual and the children observed that the little bird chicks they found in a hole in a tree were gone. Hopefully out flying now.
We had a visit from two young Swedish girls, Alva and Johanna, and they helped with more seed sowing.
Otherwise we watered as although we've had some rain it's still very dry. The asparagus pea that we were very excited about this year as it's a new crop to us has grown incredibly slowly (pictured). It's very pretty though.
And the cabbages! Amazing growth but what do we do with them all? Might try a pot with cabbage and mince meat next week. Have a lovely French family recipe.

Monday, 17 June 2013


Kat just texted that her yoghurt batch was a success. She put it in the clay oven last night after a whole days firing. Initially a bit concerned that it was too hot this is her comment: 'OMG it actually worked, it's thick, creamy and smoky!' I guess it's Elsa's breakfast this morning.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Oven action

Liz was already on site at 9am this morning getting the oven ready for her vegetable casserole. I brought some sourdough bread that had been raising over night. She fired the oven for about 2 hours before both casserole and bread went in together. Only took 30 min to get ready. Delicious taste and the bread had a beautiful crust. Should think we'll carry on firing it up on workdays so bring your dishes to cook! Lots can go in together and it's good to make proper use of the whole cycle of heat.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Sold Out: Stanmer Park Festival of Nature

Over 100 servings later it was all gone. The last two portions went for free, in a flash, as Liz wrote the word FREE on the board. Lovely weather too and how nice it is to serve people food you've grown yourselves. We'll do it again. Thanks to Djuma, Liz, Kat and myself; what a team.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Done... gone!

It stayed in the oven for another two and a half hour in the end! Not because it needed it but because I was waiting for everyone to come back from the festival. In the end I think it could easily have come out after three hours.

The meat was tender, coming of the bone like you wouldn't believe.
So the oven works; next challenge is to fit three pots in the oven.

Two and a half hours in...

Yes, it cooks alright!
I snuck a peek, and it looks like it's working just fine; 1 or 2 more hours and it will be done.

Clay oven trial run

Whilst Jeanette and Liz are out representing the garden at stanmer festival, I have decided to give the oven a trial run.

I brought a leg of lamb, which should be perfect after 3-4 of slow cooking. In a pot with potatoes, garlic, lemon, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper, olive oil and a glass of white wine.

I have brought the oven to what I think is good temperature - one hour with a medium fire. The pot is in, and I am just waiting now...