GARDENING: Home-grown ingredients for perfect festive dinner

One week to go and counting! Can’t believe Christmas is just around the corner, but sure enough time has come to check that all the natural ingredients are in place, thus avoiding a Corporal Jones (Dad’s Army) situation.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 17th December 2020, 12:00 am
Charlotte new potatoes for Christmas.
Charlotte new potatoes for Christmas.

Fruit, vegetables, and ornamental features sum up the plant offerings from this garden. Some are permanent fixtures, most notably the perennial plants that add so much to indoor celebrations by way of natural arrangements. Others were put into storage or started into growth several months ago with next weekend in mind.

Our preparations began as summer arrived with the freezer-storage of surplus soft fruits, plus sowing and planting of hardy winter vegetables. In between came the continuous bagging of Victoria plums that remain so fresh in their frozen state.

Apple varieties, dessert and culinary, were packed in the garage-based tower of storage trays as they ripened. Deliciously large and sweet Braeburn was last to be picked in mid-November, completing what has been a good apple harvest.

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Pests are more interested in our veggies than the fruit crops, blackbirds being the exception. So, given the long growing period before harvesting, winter greens need constant protection. But we always get the lion’s share!

Carrots and parsnips store well in boxes of sand that stand in the cold garage. This allows easy access throughout winter and obviates trying to harvest them from the garden when the ground is in the grip of a hard frost.

The winter brassicas, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, revel in such conditions. Growing them from seed to maturity is no sinecure but oh so satisfying. Even the leaf lettuce crop has a high tolerance of cold conditions and is harvesting well.

Back in August, I started planting second cropping potatoes in containers at fortnightly intervals. This to stagger harvesting from deepest autumn into winter. They stood outdoors but were transferred to the unheated greenhouse in late October. We harvested the first in November. Deliciously fresh and new to taste, the skins were rubbed off with finger and thumb. Now there`s a choice of Charlotte, Nicola or Maris Bard for Christmas dinner!