Goodbye Jerry & Margo. Hello Barbara & Tom...
After a busy week hunting out vintage treasures and refinishing some of my recent vintage finds, I decided to take the day off and instead, focus my attention on our cottage garden.
As part of mine and my hubby’s dream to give up our successful careers in the city and say goodbye to the rat race, we decided we wanted to try and become a little more self-sufficient in terms of home grown produce and join the ‘Tom and Barbara’s’ of the world, rather than the ‘Jerry and Margo’s’, as we had been previously.
The nearest we had come to self-sufficiency prior to moving to rural Cornwall extended to growing herbs in a tiny planter on our roof garden but if I’m honest, it was more akin to having the Kam Tong Garden on speed dial.
Regretfully, we simply didn’t have the time or space to offer to anything ‘vegetable’ in our old life other than the sad little planter of herbs, so it was with much excitement and trepidation that we set about designing our own veg plot that would maintain and grow this wonderful Cornish cottage garden we had visualised in our minds eye.
Having never grown vegetables previously, I quickly set about mentally downloading as much information as I could on the subject. Books, the internet and friends were all great sources of information, advice and guidance.
First things first, we needed to build our beds… This element of the project initially seemed quite straightforward, that was until we realised the lovely Cornish home we had recently purchased had in fact been an old working dairy and had predominantly sat on concrete. Just concrete. The lawned expanse we had eyed enviously, apparently sat 1 metre above said concrete.
Not being one to be put off by such a challenge, we quickly racked our brains on ways we could work with the set-up and how we might manage drainage, root foundation etc. – all things essential to a good vegetable garden…
Hubby quickly got to the back breaking work of digging up the lawn in an attempt to establish our plot, turn the soil and add some rich nutrient compost to help our new seedlings grow. It was then that we hit (literally) hitch two of our cunning plan… Neither of us had envisaged how much slate, stone and general builder’s rubble had been added to the soil, no doubt to bolster it when it came to converting the property from a working dairy in to a residential dwelling. Back to the drawing board we went…
Finally, hubby struck gold with cunning plan mark two… building raised beds into the hill.
Yes, slap bang in the, middle of our dream one-acre plot, was a dirty great big hill. No doubt perfect for sledging, if we ever got snow, which we had already reliably been informed by the local farming fraternity that ‘Snow!?, Ooo argh, we don’t get much snow down these parts’. Marvellous!
With gusto, hubby started banging all manner of timber together in order to form our new raised garden shelving unit. He really was quite handy with a hammer… How had that escaped me these past 12 years…
Very soon our beds started to take form and were filled with nutrient rich compost – compost that had been left on the property and that we’d added to since our arrival. All manner of compost friendly additives had been heaped onto the mound… including chicken poop from our own hens. Yes, we have hens too. Step 2 in our Good Life plan of action. Barbara would be proud.
Sowing started in earnest, and having read and fully digested the guidelines on veg growing (and what to grow where), Courgettes, Peas, Fennel, Carrots, Corn, Butternut Squash and Radish were all the produce of choice.
So two months on… where are we? The carrots and radish were the first to quickly get established, followed by the glut of marrow-sized courgettes. I was sure at one point we’d end up looking like a courgette if we ate any more.
A girl can after all only come up with so many courgette inspired recipes… courgette curry, courgette quiche, courgette and parmesan soup, courgette frittatas, courgette linguine, stuffed courgette flowers, tempura courgette… I don’t recall any of my veg information downloading or well-meaning like-minded Barbara and Tom friends mentioning that we’d be eating courgette every day for life. Ho hum, bloody good job we like courgettes, is all I can say.
And, three months on?.... Well, that would be today, and our corn, fennel and peas have come on a treat. The butternut squash is just forming and our giant marrow-sized courgettes… well, we still have enough of those to feed the whole of Cornwall, and some, but it’s great to be enjoying the fruits or our labour.
My youngest cocker spaniels, Hebe, Poppy and I, have enjoyed being transported back to childhood (well, I have) by sitting on the lawn in the mid-afternoon September sunshine, stuffing our merry little faces with freshly picked peas plucked from their pods, wondering what all the fuss was about.
Life doesn’t get much better than this
Stuffed Courgette Flowers
8 to 12 courgette flowers
Sunflower oil for deep drying
2 tbsp Parmesan, hard goats cheese or well flavoured hard cheese
A large handful of mixed herbs such as parsley, chives with a little marjoram or thyme or mint, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly grounded black pepper
100g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
200 – 225ml ice-cold parking mineral water to finish
Flaky sea salt
Nasturtiums or other edible flowers
For the filling, beat the ricotta until soft and smooth, then stir in the cheese, herbs and some salt and pepper. Carefully scoop the filling into the courgette flowers: you should get 2–4 teaspoons in each one, depending on size. Twist the petals gently to enclose the mixture.
Just before you’re ready to cook, prepare the batter. Sift the flour, corn flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Begin whisking in the water, until you have a batter the thickness of single cream. Be careful not to over-mix and don’t worry if there are a few lumps.
Meanwhile, heat about a 6cm depth of oil in a deep-fat fryer or deep, heavy saucepan (to come no more than a third of the way up the pan), till a cube of bread dropped in turns golden brown in about 1 minute.
Dip one stuffed courgette flower into the batter and immediately lower into the hot oil. Repeat with a couple more; do not cook more than 3 or 4 at a time. Cook for 1–2 minutes, until puffed up, crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper while you cook the remaining flowers.
Serve as soon as possible, sprinkled with a little flaky sea salt and decorate, if you like, with other edible flowers.
Enjoy! <div id="MjE4ODI4NDM="><a href="https://activate.bloglovin.com/profile/21882843"><img src="https://activate.bloglovin.com/common/images/badge1.png" width="200" height="92"/></a></div>
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