Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Picking the Top of the Crops for Winter Months ; There's Nothing like the Taste of Fresh, Home-Grown Salad in the Depths of Winter - and There Are Plenty of Exciting Varieties to Pick

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Picking the Top of the Crops for Winter Months ; There's Nothing like the Taste of Fresh, Home-Grown Salad in the Depths of Winter - and There Are Plenty of Exciting Varieties to Pick

Article excerpt

ISN'T it always the way - when you remember what you should have done, it's often too late to do it? It's usually just as I'm picking the last of the climbing French and runner beans and putting the plants on the compost heap, that I'm reminded there are very few veg coming along behind to tide us over winter.

(By the way, we don't pull the bean roots out because they go on helping nitrogen availability - on several occasions, they've sprouted the following spring, giving us an early crop!) In an ideal world, our veg beds would be bustling with produce to see us through. Sadly, this isn't the case.

This was an exceptionally busy year and I seem to have been away more than I've been here. Even when my intentions have been good - I sowed and potted on enough brassicas to feed the entire pigeon population of Devon - vegetables need regular attention and I haven't been able to devote time to them.

It's not all doom and gloom, though.

There are parsnips coming along, parsley, leeks and some of the best chard we've ever grown.

One crop that is an ingredient in almost all of my husband Neil's splendid recipes is garlic. And now is the time to put it in.

Few crops are as easy and satisfying to grow. Each separate clove It's time your broad planted in the ground will yield, just a few months later, a great clump of 20 more.

The process could not be simpler.

Individual cloves are lowered into holes just deep enough to hide their tips, and firmed in gently.

This encourages roots to grow rapidly and at this stage of any bulb's existence, that is the most important task. Only when a good root system has developed can nutrients and water be taken on.

Traditionally, the time to plant garlic was on the shortest day - the winter solstice on December 21 - and it would be harvested on the longest day - the summer solstice on June 21. Garlic can go in earlier than that, though. October is fine and it can be lifted from June.

Broad beans are beans for beginners because anyone can grow them. Their only requirements are decent soil, good light and water.

They are the first legume (peas and beans) to be sown in autumn.

Prepare the ground well and cover for a few days if it's very wet.

Plant the big beans - 'Aquadulce Claudia' is a good variety and, with a bit of luck, they'll be ready to pick in late spring.

Just like peas, it is the seed that is eaten raw, cooked fresh or dried and stored to be used over winter.

Their texture is rich and thick and their taste floury and satisfying.

In common with other legumes, broad beans make handsome plants although taller varieties may need some support.

Swiss chard has become a must-have crop on fashionable vegetable plots.

But when it comes to flavour, the striking crimson-leaved variety, with its luminous red veins, can't hold a torch to the green-leaved, whiteribbed plant. …

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