Thursday, 22 July 2010

French Bean 'Ice Crystal'

I love French beans, both climing and dwarf. One of the varieties I picked up when I attended Patrick of Bifurcated Carrots seed saving event last October, was 'Ice Crystal'. This was given to me by Dr Simon Platten who also attended the event. He is doing some interesting research on British home gardens and the levels of diversity in them.

I picked up several other Dwarf varieties and sowed some bog standard ones (ie. that you can easily get from garden centres or online), but so far these ones have been the most successful.

Even though the plants are not in the best position, they are in partial shade, they look incredibly healthy, as you can see. They are also quite prolific. Given I only planted five plants, in a week I've had two meals off of them (one for two people, another for three) and plenty more are growing.

They are unusal looking, in they are quite a pale green.

They might look a little anemic, but they were crunchy and juicy, a delight to taste. They went very nicely with my freshly dug Pentland Javelin potatoes and some honey mustard dressing, though just lightly steamed on their own would have been just as good.

I haven't always have the best success with French beans in the last couple of years, being so wet; French beans (dwarf or climbing) do like regular warm sun to get going in my experience. Other standard varieties you can get at garden centres or online, like Maxi and Tendergreen, planted close by, haven't done near as well, I guess they need more sun. I like that the Ice Crystal have done well under partial shade, as it suggests they might be a good variety for indifferent English summers.

I'm so pleased with them that I've decided to not pick any more, but just let them go to seed so I can save them and grow lots more next year.

Butterfly cakes

My first attempt at Butterfly cakes:

They tasted great too!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

In the wars, and parsnips

No, not the Split Enz song.*

The lack of blogging is due to not just being too busy with two jobs, but also because the last couple of weeks have seen me in the wars. I, a) put out my lower back again, b) have my left elbow clicking out of place and therefore put all the muscles into spasm and causing constant pain and c) then got my left fingers  burnt. All of which has meant I've had to limit computer time to just work instead of blogging. Thankfully, the lower back is ok now and the burns are healing. My arm is still giving me hell, so I'll make this a short blog.

The point of this blog was not necessarily to complain, although I did manage to sneak that in. Did you notice? I wanted to share some good news. Gardening news that is. Kevin and I pootled down to the Lottie on Sunday to do some watering. Well, Kevin did the watering, and I directed - cannot lift anything coz of my arm you see. And I got a nice surprise. Parsnips.

You see, I was pretty much giving up on having much of a parsnip crop this year. I have sown quite a few rows at home and on the Lottie, but apart from the 10 that I specifically germinated and planted individually as a trial, nothing was germinating. About a 6 weeks ago I gave it one last shot, sowing some Turga, Tender & True and Kral Russian (from the Heritage Seed Library). I didn't really expect them to germinate, particularly with such warm weather. You usually sow parsnips between about February and May, so mid June in the heat seemed like hope over what's on the seed packet.

But to my great delight, there the little buggers were - growing! Real little parsnip leaves and everything. I forgot to take my camera, so you'll  have to take my word for it. But boiling weather and no rain and I got parsnips to germinate and grow. Well I'll be...

So not plant pics, but here's me looking cheery at Bee Day last Saturday at Barracks Lane Community Garden.

*As a teenager, and in fact still as an adult, I loved/love Split Enz. On their Corroboree album is a song 'In the wars' and immediately I hear Tim Finn singing it in my head singing every time I hear the words 'in the wars'... So couldn't resist putting it in the title.

David Cameron & West Papua

It's not often that West Papua gets on the news. Rich in resources and a highly biodiverse environment, but controlled with brutal violence by Indonesia (largely because of those resources), the West Papuan people undergo daily human rights abuses, and have no say in the governance of their country. Most countries and the UN quietly ignore what's going on in West Papua, and have done for over 40 years. So it comes as a surprise to find that David Cameron is a hero to West Papuan people.

This ITV news piece explains why Cameron is considered a hero in West Papua. They believe him being PM of the UK will help them gain their freedom from Indonesia. On the one hand, getting West Papua into the news is good, because it raises the profile of their occupation and abuse. But Cameron a hero? The man is very good at speaking without saying anything, let alone commit to anything, unless it's free trade or no taxes for the rich. (I guess he is a hero to the rich.) I hope he doesn't disappoint the West Papuan people and their faith in him. So let's step up the pressure on Cameron and the UK government.

The Free West Papua Campaign is asking people to write to their MP and ask her/him to write to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and remind him of the hope West Papuans have of Cameron's government. Ask what action the UK Government plans to take towards achieving self-determination for West Papua. I suggest you also write to David Cameron with the same question too.

Just before the May elections, Cameron described what what happening in West Papua as a terrible situation. Fine - let's see you do something about it then Cameron.