Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

Trials Tribulations and Triumphs Part 2 2016

I have been procrastinating in writing this particular blog.
Due to circumstances beyond my control I have temporarily become a kitchen gardener without a regular chef. Juggling the produce for three guest pop up chefs has been challenging to say the least.

The upside to all this was the collective delight, enthusiasm and deep appreciation that all of the freshly harvested produce received.

Good honest food was produced by ‘The Horsebox’ who loved roasting the ‘Early Crookneck’ summer squash with sumac.

Sweet, but even sweeter roasted.

Sweet, but even sweeter roasted.

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Wild rocket and kale was harvested daily, I can heartily recommend the kale salad served with anchovies and a walnut dressing. The controversial courgette ‘Tromboncino’ caused kitchen squeals and was immediately put on Instagram.

Size 9 boots for scale!

Size 9 boots for scale!

Some welcome light relief.

Some welcome light relief.

Reluctant to cut into the gentle giant, it was 24 hours before it got served. I loved their take on a cheese and tomato toastie and savoured the slow roasted heritage tomatoes and feta on sourdough. There is something so innately satisfying about eating a dish made using food that seven months ago was just a seed. In a packet.

The organic flatbread filled with slow roast pork was sublime. I know because I had it many times.

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The chef Martin Shaw turned up and produced a really interesting Balkan menu. Emails were exchanged before he arrived discussing what produce was available. He turned out to be a very chilled out relaxed guy who apparently started his mornings by saying “Good morning” to the freshly caught mackerel. He really appreciated the curly long ‘Corbaci’ peppers and griddled them the same day.

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Redbor kale and Cavolo Nero was served crispy.

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A courgette pilaf was created using many of our homegrown ingredients.
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Our beloved tomatoes and celery were transformed into a Dukkha Rusk Salad & Red Celery.

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Obviously this has to be tested. What a chore. It was divine.

We nibbled the freshly snipped Broccoli raab early one morning and agreed that even though the yield was low, it was incredibly tasty.

‘Nights at the Round Table’ arrived from London. Beautiful young women with their urban chic initially they looked slightly out of place deep in Suffolk, surrounded by plants and the quirkiness that is Darsham Nurseries. Despite the flash flooding that can suddenly happen here in coastal Suffolk, the harvests of tender young radicchios and chard ‘Pink Peppermint’ were greeted with big smiles. Again the chore of eating the freshly sautéed peppers ‘Padron’ was undertaken by yours truly, accompanied with wilted chard, mushrooms and parsley oil. I didn’t pause long enough to photograph it, but here is one of their other dishes.

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They didn’t disappoint, the Goat ragu David assures me was the best he had ever tasted. Now that is praise indeed.

Teamwork and good communication between the chefs and everyone here at work have kept the losses to a minimum. Overall it’s been quite a difficult month. But the plants grow regardless of the circumstances surrounding them so here is an update on the successes and failures so far this year.

Triumphs
The tomato harvest overall was an absolute success. In particular the second sowing on 1st of April means that even today we are still getting a few boxes a week of heritage tomatoes. The tomato taste test was held and the top tasting varieties rated.

The second sowing photographed on the 10th of October.

The second sowing photographed on the 10th of October.

The battle of Spanish Slug invasion versus gardeners was been fought, and we are victorious. Extreme measures were taken, which involved early morning slaughters armed with secateurs. Each day there were less monstrous slimy victims and today radishes are back on the menu.

The peppers and chillies harvests have been downright marvellous. There are still plenty of fruits to come. Pinching back the young plants severely is definitely a technique to repeat.

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A personal achievement, finally I have cracked the cauliflower code. The absolute key to success is in the plants reaching maturity in cooler conditions. That is trickier to achieve than it sounds. But they are mighty fine when they do.

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The first ever harvest of the French nutty bean ‘Coco Nain Blanc’ is about to start, whilst not difficult to grow, their yield per plant is low. These command a high price, and I now realise why. Raw, these are delicious from the pod, a very distinct flavour.

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I forced an abandoned mature radicchio by trimming it back and placing in a darkened pot of damp compost. It works! This is great news for the winter menus. The challenge now will be to create a constant supply for the kitchen in the depths of the coming winter.

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Growing watermelons was pretty straightforward.
The harvest whilst not huge was fun and satisfying. I would repeat growing this variety ‘Sugar Baby’ in hanging containers. Two fruits were harvested from each plant.

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Lastly I am personally extremely proud to be part of a hardworking team that helped to create gardens that secured a feature in ‘Gardenista’.

imageHere’s the link.

Shopper’s Diary: Darsham Nurseries on the Suffolk Coast

 

Tribulations/ Trials

I attempted to extend the courgette harvest by sowing the last batch of seed on 1st of August, then growing them inside the polytunnlel. Initial huge harvests were gratefully gathered but just a slight drop in night time temperatures affected the plants overnight and the young courgettes were dropped to the floor. I suspect that a tweak is needed, next year I will sow the seeds mid-July, and hope that it is more successful.

The potatoes planted for the Christmas menus contracted blight. I don’t think that they had enough growing time to form for even a minimal harvest. A downright disaster.

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Chick peas… hmm, shit peas more like. A complete waste of time. The peas were so small they were not worth harvesting.

The aubergine harvest was dreadfully disappointing. The seeds were sown at the same time as the peppers, chilies and tomatoes. The stark difference in yields has made me reconsider the worth in growing our own aubergines.

The indoor beans sown also on 1st August however are a success. I didn’t consider the dizzy heights of 12 feet that they have reached, so a low ladder is needed to reach the beans.

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Looking forward, there are a couple of new trials:

Inside the polytunnel we are repeating the sowings of last year’s kale, radishes and spring onions. This year beetroot, carrots, salad, rocket, baby leaves and forced radicchio will be added.

I intend to try and overwinter the most successful chilli and pepper plants. They don’t have to be grown from seed every year as their natural tendency is to be a perennial. The rule of thumb is to keep them in temperatures that we would also be comfortable in, so I am going to bring some home and keep them in a conservatory. They won’t be fed and will be given very little water. In the spring I shall repot them. If it is successful, these plants will produce pods much earlier and have bigger harvests. Space however is limited so Padron, Poblano, and Corbaci have been chosen as these varieties were popular with all the chefs this month.

Overall a tricky month, with many highs and lows. One thing is for sure, boredom is never an option here at Darsham. For me personally it’s been a steep learning curve in flexibility, communication and teamwork. It’s been a real pleasure to work with the temporary chefs this month, they have all worked extremely hard producing plate after plate of delicious food.

It was reassuring to realise that chefs really do care where their ingredients come from and what chemicals have/have not been used. Witnessing the different styles of creating dishes from freshly harvested homegrown vegetables has been in retrospect highly educational and may actually influence the choice of the varieties that we grow in the future.

limegarden@sky.com • 12th October 2016


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