It’s been a thrill a minute down at the plot this week. Firstly, the asparagus is emerging at a rate of knots. It’s torture, though, as the luscious-looking green spears must be left on the plant this year. We planted one-year-old crowns last year and according to my various manuals, they mustn’t be harvested until year three in order to build a strong plant. Perhaps I could just pluck one spear to taste? Anyone with asparagus experience, please advise!
On my way to the plot the other day, I detected an increasingly pungent odour as I approached. When I turned the corner, I was astonished to see a flatbed truck heaped full of steaming compost parked right opposite my allotment. I couldn’t believe my luck. A bloke was shoveling the muck into bags while his boss looked on, rolling a fag. I inquired; the guy had just driven this lovely organic compost down from Ireland and they were parked up while it got divvied up for a job in Hampstead. I bargained six bags for a tenner and they delivered them there and then, still warm. This is perfect timing; some extra nutrition and texture for my new beds, ready for the imminent onslaught of planting.
So, at the weekend, Dan and I rolled up our sleeves in the scorching sunshine, grabbed our forks and worked in the compost along with some bonemeal and organic fertiliser. The “roots” patch shouldn’t require any, so we sieved the soil in one row and planted some carrot seed, alongside three rows of early potatoes. In the freshly fertilised “others” bed, I planted spring onions, spinach and rainbow chard (last year’s star crop—endless, versatile and super-healthy). The vicar from the church opposite dropped by for a chat and informed us that we can help ourselves to his ever-expanding pile of grass cuttings and leaves. This is a real score—it’s the perfect substance for mulching and to give good texture to our home-made compost.
Last week Dan fashioned a cold-frame out of an old discarded wardrobe and covered it with glass panels recovered from a skip. Our tiny greenhouse is almost at capacity, so we need this for our newly sown sweetcorn and cucumber seeds. The current lack of hosepipe ban is a blessing at the moment, but I suspect it won’t last. Two of the many changes that being an allotmenteer has brought into my life are, I really, truly appreciate the rain, and I look at piles of junk as potential goldmines.
In the kitchen this week: my favourite way with broccoli.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Broccoli florets can often harbour cleverly camouflaged aphids. Soak the florets in water with a large dash of vinegar and they’ll wriggle out. Best to rinse under cold running water as well.
Roasted Broccoli with Garlic
Preheat the oven to 220 C. Cut broccoli into florets and thoroughly wash and dry. Place in a roasting dish with 3-4 sliced garlic cloves. Drizzle over just enough olive oil to coat the broccoli, then toss with your hands to distribute evenly over each piece. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the florets are crisp and golden, even slightly charred. NB: Large, oiled florets are also great on the barbecue!
(Originally published by The Times online)