Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weeds and seeds....

apple tree

My late return from the UK coupled with guests in the holiday accommodation has made a significant impact on my seed sowing and  garden preparation for the 2010 season. The no fly zone over northern Europe has also resulted in some unexpected meals being served.

However, I am at last getting down to some serious work in my garden.  Well, when I say getting down to some serious work, I guess I really mean getting down to some serious thinking about the work I need to be doing.

courgette d'Italie I sowed a few courgettes the other day and as you can see they are developing nicely.  I have prepared a bed in the garden and shall be putting them out in the next few days.  These are Courgette d'Italie and were very successful last year.  I have grown these from seed I saved.
Ian's Red Cherry Tomato I've had a great deal of success with this little red cherry tomato which last year I called Ian's Red Cherry.

The seeds have survived the best attempts of all the mice in south west France to devour thyem and as you can see, rather a lot germinated.

These were saved late in the season and I did nothing whatsoever to help them on their way.  The seeds I originally saved were eaten so I took a few tomatoes I had left and scraped the seeds out onto paper kitchen towels.  By this spring, they were such a mess that I simply put the whole towel in the seed tray, covered with potting compost and hoped.
Veeroma Last year I grew some Veeroma tomatoes from seed I was given by Miss Fuggles.  They were big and juicy and beautifully elongated and made fabulous sauce.  I enjoyed eating them fresh but I know the rather fleshy texture is not to everyone's taste.

Well, I'm growing them again this year and am very seriously hoping to haveboth  Ian's Red Cherry and Veeroma tomato seed to swap next year on the bloggers seed network.

sadly, I lost all my Ananas tomato seed over the winter but I gave a few seeds away last year and am hoping to get a few plants back from that gardener.  I saw them today and they are a bit slow starting but doing ok.
Joy's Cos Lettuce I've also sown some Marmande Tomatoes and just a few Moneymaker Tomatoes.  These will both be new varieties for me, although I love the taste of the Marmande

Another success last year was some "Joy's Cos Letttuce" grown from seed given to me by Kate of Tasmania, originally from the Hills and Plains Seedsavers of South Australia.

They grew well and I enjoyed eating the tasty cos lettuce.

I'm hoping that this year I'll have enough plants to add significantly to my salad garden
Winter Salad Bed And finally, I thought you might like to see what I still have left to sort out.

This bed is my winter salad and brassicas bed which had quite a rich variety of things including lettuce, cabbage, beetroot and chervil.  By the time I got back from the extended stay in the UK, it had quite a rich variety of weeds as well....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Poletschka Beans.

I've not had a great success this year with my seed saving as two trips and two invasions by mice have poletschka seriously depleted what stocks I had.  Following recent advice, my seeds have all now been moved to better storage jars or boxes of either heavy plastic or preferably, glass.

However, one of the things I was successful with last year was the Poletschka bean.  A purple pole bean, which has a beautiful small variegated bean.  I don't really know whether I can call a bean variegated...  but I'm sure you'll all know what I mean.  I originally got the beans from Miss Fuggles at A blog called Fuggles, and grew them here for the first time last year.  They were very successful.

I'm just sowing these now and it's a little bit late but if anyone would like to try them then I have a few beans I could let you have.  Sadly, the offer can only be made to those people resident in Europe as the problems of shipping seeds beyond our borders is simply too complicated.

If you're interested, please leave a comment here or better still, email me.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hot Cross Bun Day

It's Good Friday, a Christian festival which in many parts of the world is celebrated by a national holiday, although, as it happens, not here in France.

Traditionally, Hot Cross Buns are made and eaten on Good Friday.  I'm not completely sure of the reasons, but think that, like Pancake Day, it's another food feast related to abstinence at Lent.  In this case, those foods which were forbidden during Lent, eggs, butter, milk etc, are once again used to make a delicious dish, in this case a tasty bun.

I determined to make my Hot Cross Buns this morning but things were working against me and it wasn't long before I realised I was running out of time.  Hot Cross Buns are delicious to eat, but take up a lot of time in preparation with bursts of activity interspersed with 20 or 30 minutes wait whilst the dough proves.

Admitting defeat, I turned to the internet for a simple recipe where I could throw everything in a pan and walk away...  and yes, the pan turned out to be my bread maker.  I use my bread maker a lot, but have only ever used it to make...well, bread!  But the recipe seemed easy and gave me the time I needed for other things.  I'll repeat the recipe here, but a big thanks to Bella Online for the original recipe.  I have changed just a couple of small things in that I glazed the buns with warmed honey and omitted the cross!

Well, omitted, is a polite way to say "forgot".  I made the buns, prepared the oven and popped them in before putting together a piping bag to add the cross.... it was only then that I remembered the cross has to go on the buns BEFORE they go in the oven.

The finished buns are not the most gorgeous buns I have ever made and they didn't rise very well.  However, I want to say that I have no doubt that the problems reflect the state of my attention in the kitchen today and are no reflection on the recipe from Bella Online.  They do, however, taste truly amazing.

IMG_0689  My own buns


From Bella Online


  • 1/4 cup water - at room temperature or slightly above
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped, mixed candied fruit


  • 2 Tablespoons of honey, gently warmed
  • Although it's not what is recommended in the original recipe, I always use a mixture of flour and water to make the cross, and pipe it on just before putting the buns in the oven.


    Preparation -
    Place all the dough ingredients, except the raisins and fruit, in the bread machine pan. Set on the dough only cycle. Add the raisins and candied fruit at the bread machine's signal for adding extra ingredients. Remove the dough from the bread machine at end of dough cycle. Place it in a bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for 10 minutes.

    Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Shape the pieces into balls and place them 3 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in warm place until almost doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour. Bake in a preheated oven at 375º for 15 to 18 minutes, or until light brown on top. Remove from the oven. Place the baking sheet full of buns on a wire rack to cool. Prepare the glaze, then spread it over the warm buns. Let the buns continue to cool on the baking sheet.


    Oh, The top picture above is of my own attempt but the second picture is the "official" photo from Bella Online, which I thought looked better.