Mid August and the kitchen garden is at its best. It is such a fleeting moment of time, this zenith of the vegetable gardening year when the fruits of all labour is enjoyed. As always, everything tends to be ready at once which means I have been busy preserving beetroots, making blackcurrant marmalade and freezing beans as well as gifting vegetables to my friends. It makes me happy to receive their messages with pictures of the food they are making, from squash soup to beetroots with chèvre. The zucchinis have been going crazy now that the weather has turned and it rains every other day - no matter how I try to harvest them often they grow into monsters!
The carrots are coming along leaps and bounds, and I only harvest as much as we eat for the next meal. They are sweet and juicy just out of the earth - quite different to later in the season when I have stored them for a few months. My onions always grow in blocks between the rows of carrots as legend has it they deter carrot flies. I don't now if it's true, but they seem to coexist so happily that at least something works. I rotate the crops in the beds, and last year this bed contained brassicas which are a greedy crop. This year I discovered a new benefit of crop rotation which is that as some weeds are perennial like the creeping thistle they are much easier to control when crops vary. After the enormous brassicas this bed contained last year, this summer it was filled with creeping thistles and couch grass, because I had simply missed a lot of them hidden underneath. This year though, with a low crop growing in the bed, I managed to really wage war and dig them out as soon as they appeared. And yes, I do weed by hand and not with chemicals. It is labour intensive but I look at it as exercise and meditation combined. Plus, it is a great way to get rid of any irritations or negative emotions when done with a concentrated mind...
The brassicas have been really great this year, and each day I pick a handful of broccoli for dinner. I pick big ones if I have family over for dinner, and small off-shoots if it is only me. The small ones are tender enough to eat raw with hummus, an absolut delight! Sometimes I miss a day or two, and they promptly start to flower but as I do actually eat flowering broccoli too I don't really mind. I think the only one who minds is Luna, who loves chasing butterflies in the kitchen garden but can't stand eating vegetables. She brings me breakfast early in the morning, and although I reward her for any mice she brings in we just don't share the same taste in food.
The ones who do share my taste for brassicas are of course the pesky kale butterfly larvae. I pick and pick, and feed them to the chickens, but however much I try to keep them at bay they nevertheless have the upper hand in their sheer numbers. For the longest time they didn't get into the brassica bed as I kept it firmly covered with fleece, but now alas they have entered and are spreading at such rate I took the net away to be able to more effectively pick larvae. I just hope my beautiful Brussel sprouts survive the onslaught long enough to give me a decent harvest!