The summer table is full of delights

Vegetables of the moment, sweetcorn and courgette. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Vegetables of the moment, sweetcorn and courgette. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Before home dining, I look at the ingredients for a typical three-course summer meal.

For starters in June it’s spears of asparagus from a bed 1.5m square that holds 18 plants, introduced as one-year-old crowns. You could easily fit a dozen plants into a standard raised bed.

In August/September it’s corn on the cob with a knob of butter. Raised from seed started in pots each year, 16 can be slotted into one square metre.

There’s plenty of choice in vegetables for the main course. Cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, beetroot, turnip, courgette, young leeks and onions, peas and several types of beans are all possible, but more often than not it’s the irresistible salad bowl.

Sliced tomatoes from beefsteak, cherry or plum-shaped, in red, gold, yellow, black or striped, form a base. Radish, peppers, cucumber, spring onion and grapes can all go into the mix. Optional is the leaf lettuce, chosen from the myriad of colours and forms found in most seed catalogues. Each of these ingredients can be home-grown between garden and greenhouse.

Two further additions prevent us from claiming a totally home-grown salad – dates and olives. The former is impracticable, but we are working on the latter. A five-year-old standard olive tree (Olea europaea) did flower and develop clusters of pea-sized fruits last spring, but they failed to progress.

Growing fruit for dessert is far from difficult, and you can simply open the freezer for a batch picked earlier.

The soft fruit season in this garden starts with strawberries in June and closes with autumn raspberries that can continue into November. In between come currants, raspberries, gooseberries and thornless blackberries. The first top fruit of the year is a peach in the cold greenhouse, which ripens in June, and last to harvest are the late apple cultivars that ripen in November.