Food with friends and ginger

Today we went round to see some friends for brunch, being treated to fresh pineapple, bottled damsons, blackcurrant jam, homemade bread and Grossmutters Rührei mit Schinken* (that’s grandmother’s scrambled eggs with ham, in case you weren’t sure). It’s lovely to have friends from round the world in order to be exposed to different culinary experiences from a home kitchen rather than a restaurant. As you might guess, one of our hosts is German, so the bread was sourdough and the scrambled eggs were not the usual British variety.

Suppliers of the Llwynhelyg Farm Shop (from

Suppliers of the Llwynhelyg Farm Shop (from

On the way home we called in at one of our favourite shops, the Llwynhelyg Farm Shop. As always, the place is stuffed full of local food (some local and some very local), although at the moment we don’t need to buy any vegetables as we are well supplied with lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, mange tout and courgettes out of the garden (and we will soon have runner beans and sweet peppers). However I needed live yogurt, as mine had turned whilst I was away over the weekend and I needed a new culture to get going again making my own. Of course we were also tempted by a variety of other produce and, just as we were about to pay, I noticed a basket of root ginger that was starting to sprout (ok, not everything they sell is local). It was all a bit shrivelled and unlikely to be bought by anyone planning to cook with it, but I wanted some.

Sprouting ginger root

Sprouting ginger root

I used to have a ginger plant grown from a root piece that I bought in a supermarket, but I lost it one winter and I’ve been keen to get another one going ever since. So, I bought a likely looking piece and came home to read up on what I need to do to nurture it. According to the ginger section on the Plant Cultures website, which is run by Kew, they are relatively easy to grow, but it’s unlikely that I will manage to harvest useable roots and it will probably  die over the winter (like the last one). Apparently they need high temperatures (more than 30C) and lots of light… according to the website, it’s the lack of light that does for them over the winter. Anyway, I have planted it in some potting compost and it’s currently residing in a toasty greenhouse. I try not to believe everything I read, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to produce some local ginger and keep it alive over the winter; if not, I will have had fun cultivating it and will have used something that was probably just going to be composted otherwise… not a bad outcome either way.


* The recipe can be found in Free Food for Rats by Anja Forrest Dunk; she also writes a lovely food and family themed blog.

Reasons to be cheerful (or give thanks!)

Normally at this time of year we would be enjoying a wide range of stored produce from the garden, but 2012 will not be remembered as a year of gluts, so we have no pumpkins and squashes, few runner beans in the freezer, and only a limited amount of apple (stewed and frozen or pureed and bottled). I am thinking wistfully about the mountains of apples last year, the winters when we have eaten gallons of courgette soup and the times when we had enough ripened squashes in the loft to provide stored sunshine on even the gloomiest days. Not this year, though.

Sunrise 18 November… from out of our back door

So, what s there to be grateful for this year? Well, the first thing is that we don’t have to rely on what we grow to feed ourselves – if we did, we’d starve this winter. Fortunately, even if we only buy locally produced food, there is plenty – potatoes, meat, leeks, onions, swede… so we won’t go hungry. Living in a marginal area, the country has lots of land that isn’t suitable for plant crops, but is suitable for raising sheep, s0 there’s a source of protein from land that, in arable terms, is pretty useless. Living in the countryside means not only lovely surroundings, but lots of local growers, producers and foragers, allowing us to support the local economy whilst eating well. Llwynhelyg, our local farm shop, sources the majority of the produce that they sell from Wales or the borders, so we even have a one stop shop that delivers the majority of our needs from fairly local farmers and makers.

Peppers ripening today in my office

However, we are also still producing at least a little of our own food. There is a raised bed containing broccoli (fingers crossed for a good harvest from January onwards) and kale (which we have already started eating). We also have leeks growing and still some bunching onions (some of which we ate this evening along with broad beans that were frozen a few moths ago). The Claytonia that I planted doesn’t seem to have germinated, but the oriental greens have and I have high hopes for them plus there is some root parsley that seems to be coming along nicely… and we are using the leaves already even if the roots don’t do well. Meanwhile indoors, there are still a few sweet peppers on the plants that we are hoping to overwinter and some of the rocoto chillis are now ripening up. By the look of the picture here, they may well make great Christmas trees! We even, believe it or not, still have mange tout growing in pots outdoors, although a frost will finish these off soon, no doubt.

November mange tout

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