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.

Comfort Food

When my children were small we had a saying ‘The Tom and Jerry Fridge’. A fridge newly filled to bursting with all sorts of lovely fresh food.

A communal sense of well-being descended upon all of us as we unpacked a large grocery shop. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having to make several re-adjustments of the fridge contents just to get the door shut.

I don’t feel comfortable with half empty larders, food shelves should always if possible be full. I’m sure that a therapist could unpick these emotions, but hey I’m sure there are worse traits.

Similarly, an empty raised bed meant for vegetables makes me twitch. The last couple of months my dibber and I have been quietly filling every possible growing crevice with seedlings ready for the winter harvests.

The potager has been filled with mustards, kale, fennel, chard, radicchio, and winter salads.

This year a potential hedge of mustard ‘Red Giant’ was created by Jevan. By Christmas it should make quite an effective edible display.

The use of two distinctly different coloured varieties of leeks worked well visually.

'Northern Lights' and 'Jaune de Poitou' looked good this autumn.

‘Northern Lights’ and ‘Jaune de Poitou’ looked good this autumn.

They have all been harvested now and next week be planting our broad bean beds. The varieties Red Epicure, Crimson Flowered and Karmazyn will be planted in the potager while the old favourite Bunyards Exhibition will be planted in the allotment. The planting space allocated to broad beans has been doubled as its one of the few spring vegetables that is substantial enough to be transformed by the chef into a main plate .

The café beds are finally fully planted. The beds seemed tired, the displays from late summer into autumn were spectacular. Lots of bone meal and home-made compost gave them a well-deserved pick me up. Alliums and tulips were then planted. Red and green mustards, with hundreds of ornamental kales have been planted. Thousand headed Cottager Kale was planted too as this variety is unpopular with pigeons. Radicchio’s, lamb’s lettuce and hardy salads filled any gaps.

Cold weather deepens the tones of the ornamental kales.

Cold weather deepens the tones of the ornamental kales.

The indoor vegetable garden in the polytunnel was really productive last winter, and deeply fulfilling to grow food in a mostly rabbit and slug free environment. It’s a great place to potter when the weather is too harsh outside. I’m hoping the daily doses of Radio 6 Music add to the flavour.

This indoor Kale should with luck feature daily on the menu from December until April, with staggered plantings in the last few weeks of Red Russian, Redbor, Seaweed, Cavolo Nero, Dwarf blue and Hungry Gap.

As ever new varieties have been added, this year Dazzling Blue, Red Ruffles, Asparagus Kale and Tronchuda are being trialled.

New this year this variety ' Dazzling Blue'.

New this year this variety ‘ Dazzling Blue’.

The kale has been under planted with rocket. Rocket leaves will feature heavily too, Napoli, Dragons Tongue, Discovery, Victoria, Wild, and finally Green Brigade are already giving regular pickings of leaves.

Two new winter greens are already doing well, Spigarello (really tasty) and Broccoli Raab.


I found a tray of what I thought was cabbage seedlings, they turned out to be Naone Gialle Cabbage Turnip, an ancient Italian rare vegetable. The perils/advantages of being a seedaholic. Google hasn’t helped with any advice for this one, so I have planted some outside and the rest in the polytunnel. I will let you know how I get on.

Three types of spinach Red Kitten, Bordeaux and Giant Winter have also been under planted with lots of different salad leaves including Endive, Red Rib chicory, Black Seeded Simpson, Salanova, Burnet and Radichetta. Turnip tops will be also sown at intervals.

In the polytunnel early spring radicchio’s have been transplanted into modules and they will spend a few weeks in ‘The Hot Box’ which I hope will mimic early autumn conditions and encourage rapid growth.


Some abandoned guttering lengths came in handy, a radish wall has been created freeing up more floor space.


The main radicchio crop for now is ‘Catalogna Gigante Chioggia’ which was sown in August. It proved easy to grow and was rejected by the rabbit population. It has already featured in many dishes.


The other late summer sown Treviso varieties of radicchio are now being dug up in batches and regrown using the ‘forcing method’. The autumn growth is not bitter, so nothing is wasted and these heads are being used by the kitchen as part of a winter salad.


Be still, my beating heart. The blacked out containers are tantalizing.

The new growth comes from the mature root, fingers crossed.

I can’t resist checking them. I am hopeful that finally this year I will finally succeed in growing this delicacy. Every week more Treviso varieties will be added. Here’s what I planned back in July


It’s always satisfying to utilise every spare inch of space in order to create a yearlong harvest for the café. Ideally I would love to turn most of the entire large polytunnel into a winter vegetable garden.

My 2016 season at work is nearly at an end. The arrival of Christmas trees is the signal to prepare to go on annual leave. But I may pop back now and then to have a little catch up with the kales.

limegarden@sky.com • 23rd November 2016

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