Friday, 25 July 2014

Salad Days: The Food Programme

Screen grab taken from the Food Programme page on the BBC website

Whilst I was away, Radio 4's Food Programme broadcast a very interesting programme on Salad Leaves. The appropriately named Dan Saladino revealed that:

  • The UK's demand for salad leaves is worth £600 million annually and demand is rising steadily for leaf production throughout the year
  • Many of the salad leaves we buy are imported from Spain, particularly during the winter months
  • Chlorine is still used extensively by some firms as part of the bagged salad process as spring water supplies aren't sufficient for what's needed
  • A new indoor growing facility in Essex is the size of 10 football pitches. This is set to grow to 20 football pitches to meet increasing UK demand and to compete against imported leaves
  • Soil cleansing is practised at the Essex facility to reduce pests and diseases (but also eliminates the beneficials) and fertilisers are added to the soil before each crop cycle
  • Rose bay willow herb is edible and is being considered for inclusion in salads - a great way to b(eat) your weeds ;)
  • There's a major salad producer right here in Wiltshire (as well as me!)

It's well worth a listen (NB link is to a MP3 download) - the programme should be available for at least another year.

The programme's website page is packed with interesting information, including some new varieties to try and tasty recipes. There's also a link to Dave Bez's blog Salad Pride - Dave has produced a different salad for his lunch every day for four years. His blog is worth a good, long look, especially if you're stuck for ideas for your next salad.

The programme confirms why I started The 52 Week Salad Challenge over two and a half years ago - it's far better (and cheaper) to grow our own! 

If you're looking to start, you don't need a lot of space - a couple of pots or a windowbox will do. It's a bit hot to start growing lettuces right now (germination is suppressed when daytime soil temperatures go above 75 degrees Fahrenheit*), but you can start by sowing some mizuna, various mustards, rocket, pak choi and kale instead.

* = however, if you have a cooler, shadier spot then it should be OK to go right ahead :)

Monday, 21 July 2014

Postcard from the Pacific North West

Mount Rainier seemingly floats in the air - as seen from the Bainbridge Island to Seattle ferry
I've just got back from an amazing holiday in the Pacific North West aka the Washington and Oregon states in the USA.

The main purpose of the holiday was to join the Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, but a long journey across the pond deserves to be made into a road trip, which is precisely what Victoria, Charlotte and I did.

We flew into Seattle, where our friend Marty Wingate had arranged an amazing pre-fling garden tour for us, including another visit to the Bloedel Reserve, plus the company of Dan Hinkley to show us around the legendary Heronswood.

We then drove down the coast to Portland for the Fling. Here the organisers managed to squeeze us into an itinerary that included 15 gardens, 3 nurseries and one publisher (Timber Press) in a mere 3 days.

Our final stop was in the heart of Oregon, where Victoria found the wonderful Airlie Farm B&B for us to have some well deserved R&R. This included a couple more nurseries, a trip to the coast, plus horse riding Western style.

I'll be telling you more about our adventures over the coming weeks...

Friday, 18 July 2014

Impromptu Harvest


I've been hacking away at an enormous bramble up at the plot to try to get rid of it at long last.

An unexpected side effect was uncovering lots of ripe gooseberries which had yet to be discovered by the birds. Therefore it was important to harvest these straight away before the pesky critters realised what was there.

However, I hadn't expected to be harvesting anything and so hadn't bought any of my containers. My solution to the problem? An extra use for the gauntlets I did have with me. One gauntlet = half a kilo of berries, ready for making some delicious gooseberry fool later on.

I discovered the next day I should have checked the fingers for stray berries before putting them on again ;)
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