A (somewhat early) harvest of yacon

We hope to complete on our house sale soon which means I am harvesting vegetables in the Telford garden sooner than I would normally do.

On Thursday it was the turn of the yacon.  I broke off the edible tubers – the long pointy ones in the picture below – and then set about taking apart the growing shoots for next year’s plants.  Because I am harvesting early these roots are quite small for yacon, but you can actually see the growing points which are harder to show on larger roots.

IMG_1073 yacon

I usually use a knife to cut them up as they are quite hard, but I did find when I got to the last plant that it is possible to break them apart.  I had hesitated to do that before now as I thought I might break off the actual growing tip if I had to wrench too hard.  However breaking seemed to work better than the knife.  I have planted the cut and broken parts in nearly dry compost and will find a cool but not cold place to over winter them in the dry.

As I was trying to find enough pots for the yacon pieces I thought of putting some of the pieces back into the garden. I knew they would not be able to grow, but choosing not to take everything (and not just through a lack of pots) would be indicative of my thankfulness to the garden, to nature, for what I had been able to make use of in the first place.

It was at that point when I saw, for the first time, some point to the practice of some religions to make offerings of food and drink to their gods.  I have always been keen to maximise the yields I get from the garden, to harvest as much as I can to eat and to save as many seeds and other parts to grow for the following year; not doing so would have just seemed like waste.  Now I can see such offerings as a tangible way of saying thank you, to give back something I could use, but choose not to.  I guess it takes to learn earth style wisdom – that natural abundance is more than adequate for human needs and by holding back from taking everything is a recognition of this and a way of demonstrating actual trust in it.


DSCN6847 cardoon seed head

How many seeds might there be on this lovely cardoon head?  Far more than I could ever use that’s for sure.

Posted in roots and tubers, Telford Garden | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Of raspberries and other fruits…… and cowslips

Raspberries and other fruits

For the price of one punnet of raspberries you can buy a plant that will give you raspberries for ever.  I will admit that this is in one of the supermarket chains and that is not the ideal place to buy plants, however if it was a choice between the plant or the punnet – you can see what makes sense.

I had just popped in to our local Morrisons store for a couple of bits and pieces, but being a bit of a plant geek I could not walk past the display without taking a look.   I came out of the shop with two autumn fruiting raspberries (Autumn Bliss), one Darwin’s barberry (Berberis Darwinii), one goji berry (Lycium Barbarium), and one Abutilon Megapotamicum.  I knew the first four were edible but had to check the abutilon when I got home which I now know has edible flowers.  The plants were £2 each and cost £10 altogether.

DSCN6835 bushes for the hedge

The abutilon will be going in a new bed alongside a new fence.  As the fence is being finished today I have not planted it yet.  I have just planted the raspberries, goji berry and berberis (above) in the boundary hedge to increase its edibility.

This is the first year I have tasted autumn raspberries, they are lovely and so welcome, I just had to have more!

DSCN6841 autumn raspberries

I don’t know how long these will continue to ripen but we are enjoying them while they last.

DSCN6840 rasp 1This little raspberry tucked in to the outside edge of the hedge beside a foxglove.

DSCN6845and this little one on the inside edge where it is a bit thin.

DSCN6844 goji

The goji (above) and barberry (below) are on the outside of the hedge.  It looks very dark in these photos, but it is an overcast day.  They will get plenty of light.

DSCN6843 berberis

I am looking forward to tasting the barberry berries, they sound very nice on Plants for a Future.

These plants are all small and I did not make any special provision for any of them, just popped them in where there is a space.  I will make sure they have room to grow, cutting back the hazel, blackthorn, hawthorn, etc that they grow amongst if necessary.  Let’s see how many raspberries I have to harvest come next October.

All these plants add to the already considerable number of edibles in the hedge.  At some point in the winter when there is less to do I will make a list.

….. and what of cowslips?

Our neighbours have told us of a time when the bank opposite our houses (which is now a wood) was a field with masses of cowslips flowering in spring.  It was, by all accounts, a beautiful site.  The site of our house and garden was likewise once a field which faced the cowslips across a very narrow valley.  The neighbours had a plant nursery here for some years before building on the land.  My partner and I have removed some of the lawn round the house to make space for flowers (and some edibles squeezed in).  It has been sown with all sorts of things, “weeded” only minimally when something was in the way and otherwise just left to nature to get on how she wishes.  And look what she has given us:

DSCN6833 cowslip

One sweet little cowslip which thinks it’s spring!  The seeds must have been dormant in the ground for many years and now having the opportunity to grow they have done so.  If I had been a regular weeder the small plant would not have had the chance to grow.  In time I will be able to divide the plant and sow its’ seeds.  Then the baby cowslips can join the raspberry, goji, barberry and everything else in and around the hedge.


Posted in Borderland Garden, Forest Gardening, Fruit, Hedgerow | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Moving on

before the tidy up

before the tidy up

It has been a lovely autumn day to spend out in the garden.  A bit windy perhaps but sunny and much warmer that I might have expected.  I spent the time tidying up mainly –  cutting back lots of growth from some of the edges of the garden.

some of what was removed

some of what was removed

Even though I removed a lot of growth, there is still a lot of greenery around.  In the end I could not bear to remove too much, wanting the garden to continue to be a sanctuary for as many small creatures as possible.  As I realised the day I first thought of the possiblity growing a perennial vegetable garden – nature can easily produce a lot of greenery.  It is all part of her verdant fertility.  I have tried over the years to nurture that fertility and gently guide it towards producing edible crops, hopefully increasing rather than diminishing it.

After the tidy up

After the tidy up

I also took cuttings of jostaberry, blackcurrant, Nepalese raspberry and red Russian kale and dug up some clumps of wild raspberry, sorrel and spinach.  I harvested yacon and Jerusalem artichokes – a bit on the small side, but I won’t have much more time to gather them.  In fact this may have been my last time working in this garden.

After nearly 18 months on the market we have purchasers for the house.  It has been a long wait and during that time I have struggled to know what to plant and what not to.  In fact I have actually done and planted very little in this garden this year, preferring to spend most of my time and effort developing the Borderland garden.

As I was out there working I had the family in mind who will soon be living here.  They have described themselves as ‘not gardeners’ and I don’t know what they will make of what I have done here!  I will be leaving them a copy of my book and a note about the garden as a bit of an explanation and then of course it is entirely up to them what they do.

My partner has lived here over thirty years and I have been here for fourteen.  We have done our bit of stewardship for the future and looked after it as best we could for the purposes that most suited us.  We are ‘downsizing’ and will be buying a flat in Shrewsbury – without a garden.  Being at another defining life stage and handing over something precious into the care of another are stark reminders that everything has its time in the end the land is not ours at all.

Posted in Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Polycultures, Relationship with nature, Telford Garden | 4 Comments

Ground breaking parsnips

Parsnips are not usually thought of as ground breaking vegetables in any sense of the word; but these may be.

DSCN6795 where grown

I scattered a few parsnip seeds, with flowers and herbs in a bed (above) and this monster (below) is one of the products of that scattering.

DSCN6792 parsnip

The soil it was growing in is very hard clay with stones in.  It is difficult to get a trowel or fork into (I have not tried with a spade).  But this lovely parsnip has forged a path deep into the soil and it was relatively easy to gently lever it out with a garden fork.  The old adage is that potatoes are good to break up ground and I would definitely add both carrots (from past experience) and parsnips to this list.

I trimmed the leaves and cut off the top couple of centimetres.  This part was replanted and mulched with the leaves.  I will wait to see if it will continue to grow and hopefully flower next year to give me seed for the year afterwards.

DSCN6796 top cut off


DSCN6798 replanted


DSCN6799 mulched with leaves

Together with courgettes and wild kale leaves from our garden and beetroot and apple from the neighbours it will form part of tonight’s meal – wild salmon (not caught by us), roasted vegetables and greens.


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Catalysis – my new blog

I have started a new blog called ‘catalysis’ which is about looking positively towards the future and can be found here.

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With kindness and care

We are at the end of summer, heading in to autumn and it feels a bit in-between-ish in the garden today.  Too early to harvest my perennial root vegetables, too soon to do much tidying up (not that I ever do a lot of that), but a lovely mellow feeling nonetheless.

I had a couple of hours to spare, which is rare, and went in to the garden to see what needed doing.  I spent some time picking my way carefully along a couple of beds cutting back and taking out plants no longer needed.  In the gaps that were created I sowed various seeds to tide the garden over until next spring – field beans, forage peas and a green manure mix including clover, rye grass and mustard.

Because many of my plants are perennial and those that are not are always left in while they have a function to perform I never clear a bed or border in the traditional manner of gardeners.  This means that to some extent I am always picking my way carefully between plants doing the minimum of intervention.  The down side of this is that it can be seen as being a bit fiddly, but today I decided to think of it as treating the garden with kindness and care.

As an example here are some photos from the border that has been home to what I called the ‘fennel and carrot forest’ this summer.  As well as the aforementioned I grew earth nut pea (lathyrus tuberosus) and I am collecting seed as it matures which is entwined with the carrot and fennel plants.

DSCN6725 enp seeds 2up close

DSCN6726 enp seeds contextand further out.

I carefully (and kindly) cut out the seed heads I wanted leaving the carrot and fennel plants in tact for the time being with the earth nut peas scrambling up them.

Elsewhere I cut the carrot plants down to ground level as they have flowered and I am not saving their seed this year.  The fennel is still in place as the seeds are maturing and feeding a flock of blue tits in the mornings as well.  This is what it looks like on the ground.

DSCN6736 ground levelThis is my new(ish) garden, nearly two years old.  It has a long way to go to improve the soil.  At the moment this is clay, with lots of stones and not much life.  Hence the grey colour and the brown coloured carrot  flower heads that I cut off months ago visible below today’s pile of stems.  There is as yet little soil life to decompose the material I am laying on the surface but it will come in time.

By contrast the bed with most of my perennial vegetables in is constructed largely of organic material and it is bursting with life.

DSCN6692 bursting with life

Posted in Borderland Garden, Polycultures | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

This year’s batch of blackberry chilli syrup

The blackberry chilli syrup I made last October was so good – mellow and fruity with a bit of a kick – that I just had to make another batch for the forthcoming year.   We have been using it in small amounts, mainly on top of fresh fruit and natural yogurt which we often have with a cup of tea in the afternoon and we are on the last bottle now.

My partner collected some blackberries yesterday evening and I made some syrup this afternoon.  I had more blackberries than last year but we were running low on sugar; so (based on the same ratios as before) I calculated how many blackberries I needed to use up the sugar.

I varied the method a little by adding the lightly cooked and sieved blackberries to the syrup, lemon and chilli mixture as it boiled rather than at the end of reducing the syrup.  The chilli was the same variety as last year, in fact the same harvest – it has been in the freezer since then.

I don’t know if it was the change to the method or some effect of freezing the chilli but the taste is very different, explosive you might say, but tasty nonetheless!

DSCN6618 blackberry chilli syrupAnyone for a cup of tea and some fruit?

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