Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A Temulence of Tomatillos

Temulence - an intoxication


Anyone guess what this is?  Answer tomorrow.

The answer as guessed correctly by Happy Mouffetard is a tomatillo husk.  I noticed it's glinting spun gold, floating around the garden like a fairy's ball gown.

The extraordinary intricacy of the husk detailed in it's cast shadow.

The tomatillos have been this years Socks' success story.  The Bedsock was keen to grow them to flavour his Mexican cooking.  I had my doubts wanting a less 'experimental' crop for the first year of greenhouse growing - but now I am converted.  What's not to love? They grow profusely, hanging decoratively from the stems the charming little green lanterns hold the promise of a plump fruit.  The husk eventually goes papery and the fruit falls.  Peeling back the husk reveals an attractive, shiny, hard, slightly sticky green fruit which will keep for weeks.

This weekend we tasted them for the first time ever.  The Bedsock oven-roast them

made them into a salsa

then added the salsa to a spicy chicken stew.

They also added extra excitement to a guacamole.

We haven't tried the tomatillos raw yet but the taste of a cooked one is quite unique.  Fruity but with a warm earthiness and slight aftertaste of melon, was my first reaction.  Excellent for mixing into a subtley spiced sauce.

We have never seen tomatillos on sale even in specialist shops - surprising as they are easy enough to grow.  Perhaps it is because they can't be eaten as a fruit and lack versatility.  Definitely a crop to be grown again next year although one or two plants should be enough for our use.

Friday, 13 August 2010

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few.”


 The blog title is a quote from American poet Emily Dickinson, I think that in the making of Sussex Prairie Garden there has been a lot of revery and rather more than a bee and a clover.

We visited for one of their Open Days last weekend meeting up with our friend Lazy Trollop who has already blogged about it here with very similar photos to the ones I have taken below - although my butterfly is not the same one as hers.

On arriving at the Prairie Garden my first impression was "Oh - a flat field with some bushes!" it doesn't look wildly exciting although the barn at the back of the field looked pretty promising in the homemade cake department. There are some hummocks near the entrance and mounting these (one must always "mount" a hummock") we were instantly engaged with the whole concept.

The garden is designed as a spiral of large flower borders interweaved with some small ponds around the field.  What the flat field lacks in sculptural interest is provided by the fact that you can walk within the borders, where rivers of echinacea, sweeps of verbena boniarensis, tunnels of wild fennel, and spikes of 'red-hot pokers' provide the architecture.

 Wending our way on the paths that wind through the flower beds bought us up close and personal with the flowers and insects that surrounded us.

I absolutely adored the textures and colours of these mass plantings.

For some reason this made us laugh for quite a long time...

This echinacea is doing something a bit strange - any ideas?

And these sheep were a bit out of the ordinary too..

Along with so many others I start to lose interest in my garden in August when everything is past it's best but my pulses quickened with excitement at the fabulous flowers at their peak in the Prairie and inspired me to ensure that I cast a little of this summer magic into my own garden.

We were told that come September/October the grasses were even better so a return visit is called for.

And for those of you who realise the importance of these things - the cakes were excellent!!!!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Kitten Diaries Part 7 - The Unspeakable and the Inedible

It is possible that 'kitten' is now a misnomer for Spook, he is just over a year old now but he still seems very young and playful with his interminable games of 'fetch'.  Concentrating on the computer,  I was vaguely aware of him wandering in and out of the study but it wasn't until I saw him approaching with my  my new bra clenched in his teeth that I realised what he had been doing - rooting in my overnight bag and taking one by one, all the sterilised and neatly wrapped dressings, tape, and scissors that the hospital had provided for my post-op care, and piling them at my feet. When I began to admonish him he just struck an 'on starters marks' pose ready to fly after the object I was expected to throw for him.  What could I do but chuck my new bra down the stairs with a clattering cat in its wake, who seized it, killed it, then bought it back for me to throw again.

Yesterday I was treated to the sight of the Bedsock chasing Spook around the house to retrieve the raw sausage stolen from a momentarily unsupervised grill pan.   Even Spook's demonstrations of affection can be quite violent as he headbutts your nose, bites your chin, digs his needle claws into your shoulder and clings on like a crazed limpet squeezing his soft, silky body as close in as possible so the unlucky recipient of this 'cuddle' has to wrap their arms tightly around him to prevent the claws penetrating deeper in his attempt to anchor himself on.

Hebe is now four years old but rather than teach Spook a few lessons in dignified cat behaviour she has regressed into being nearly as naughty and wilful as him. Her latest trick is to climb along the gutter of the greenhouse and then onto the sloping glass roof where she vainly bats at the fluttering, flying, insects trapped on the other side of the pane.  Spook, uninivited, will immediately join in the game with her - "monkey see, monkey do" as my mother used to say when I copied my brother's bad habits.

Spook helping in neighbours garden

Over the summer Spook has made some new friends. Our elderly neighbour's dog died and Spook, in a fit of opportunism  bordering on coffin chasing, was in there like a shot. Racing around every time Doug went out into the garden and rolling around on his feet and purring around his legs was doubtless quite charming but I did warn Doug that Spook would be scavenging around his kitchen the moment he got a chance. "Oh no, I'll keep an eye on him" Doug reassured me, whilst even as he spoke Spook was  trotting  in through his back door and eyeing up the dining opportunities.  Spook's love affair with Doug lasted several weeks until the excitement of the new fence and a new sport of fox-bothering engaged his fancy.  One day Doug's plaintive face peered over the wall "Spook doesn't come and see me any more.." he accused. "Yes, I'm afraid he's not very loyal" I replied "perhaps he will be back when he has lost interest in the fox."

Sadly didn't have time to focus before both fox and cat cleared off

After the outcry of vicious foxes rampaging into people's houses looking for dining opportunities I have to admit to falling victim to a slight hysteria with regard to the resident fox making a meal of Spook. Over the last few years a family of foxes have taken over the territory and whilst originally sightings were occasional enough to engender some excitement, they are now an everyday part of our lives.  One often wanders down our garden, drinking at the pondlet and nosing around by the patio doors or joins the afternoon passegiata of felines parading up and down the back walls.  My fears that Spook will end up a fox feast are hopefully unfounded as Hebe sees the fox off, chasing him into next doors garden and standing her ground until the panicked fox scrabbles his way up and over the hedging.  Or both cats will sit on the wide top of the new fence and leer at the fox below ready to ambush him when he walks past. The young fox appears to have taken up residence in next door's overgrown garden and sunbathes in the same spot every afternoon where Spook often joins him curling up just a few feet away. My worry is that Spook will suddenly display the same penchant for attacking the sleeping fox's toes as he does with mine when I am trying in vain to have a snooze.  This could only end badly.