A much awaited package from Blackmoor Nurseries meant a weekend of digging trenches for our new Asparagus beds! I am so excited to see the new shoots emerge but 'no picking' at least for a couple of years while the roots get established. This is a long term crop. However, our digging unearthed a whole row of 'Charlotte' potatoes which had been left accidentally in the soil over winter! Not sure how we missed them, but this has extended our potato reserves still further and they are currently making lovely chips.
It is clear to see, even this early in the season, that our fruit crops will be stunning this year. After many years, I am at last getting to grips with those complicated diagrams in horticultural books about pruning. You know the ones that have small lines across branches and then show a before and after picture. They always seem such a confusing maze but with the real thing I think I can say I have got the hang of it this year and my gooseberry, currant and tayberry bushes are looking amazingly full of blossom and in great shape. Lying quietly in a corner of the fruit area are my rhubarb crowns and so with their new crop of pink stalks I made my regular rhubarb jam. For me, it runs a close second to raspberry jam so do have a go at making your own. If you like adding variations then some preserved ginger is a good choice or vanilla seeds from a pod ( not essence.)
Rhubarb stalks - washed & chopped into small pieces. Do not eat the leaves, they are poisonous
1 Lemon - juice of.
For every pound or gram, add the same amount of sugar. So for 1 lb rhubarb, use 1 lb sugar OR For 500g rhubarb use 500g sugar. For the jars above, I used 3 lbs rhubarb and 3 lbs sugar.
Wash and weigh your rhubarb. Chop into small pieces, and place in a large bowl with the correct amount of sugar. Stir together and then leave overnight or at least a few hours.
Put the rhubarb mix and the lemon juice into a maslin or preserving pan and over a low to medium heat ensure all the sugar has dissolved. Then turn up the heat to reach boiling point. Leave the jam on a rolling boil until you think it is ready. At this point 'test for set'. You can use a jam thermometer and check it has got to 103/104 degrees but I like using a small pot which I have previously put in the freezer, dabbing a spoonful of the mix onto it, waiting a minute and then running my finger through the jam slowly. If you get some wrinkles, it is done.
Take off the heat. If there is a little scum on top add a very small knob of butter to disperse it. Pot up into warm sterilised jars, label and enjoy. It is ready to eat straight away.
WILD GARLIC PESTO
At the moment, our hillside is cloaked in beautiful wild garlic blossom and each year we watch the 'march' of greenness descend still further into our 'cultivated' borders and beds. Wild Garlic is so successful because it spreads via its bulbs below the soil and also on the wind via its seed heads, so we really have no chance of stopping it...but sometimes it does seem like an unwelcome invader. So it is with great relish that I pick large bags of it and then set about preserving its distinctive flavour for the year ahead. I have tried freezing washed and dried plain leaves but I find this less successful than making into frozen soups, butter, pesto and pickled buds for salads. In fact I have collected a whole range of wild garlic recipes so that we can feast on 'Ransoms' for a while. Here is my favourite pesto recipe which we stir into pasta with a few fried onions & mushrooms - meal done! Using sunflower hearts, almonds or walnuts make this cheaper than using the usual pine nuts. You can mix up the combination of nuts you use too.
300 g wild garlic stalks removed
100 g sunflower seeds, walnuts or almonds
100 g Parmesan
1 lemon juice and zest
200 ml rapeseed oil + more for pouring into the filled jars
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Wash and dry the wild garlic very thoroughly. Chop the leaves and place them in the food processor with some of the oil to make it easier to process. I only have a 'mini chopper' gadget so this takes a while and I do it in batches.
2. Also process the nuts, lemon juice and zest and parmesan and add the rest of the ingredients and process everything to obtain a smooth paste. You will need to scrape the walls of the food processor a few times in between.
3. Place the wild garlic pesto into small jars, pressing down to avoid air holes.
4. Pour some extra oil on top to cover the pesto with a thin layer & cover with a lid..
5. You can keep the pesto in the fridge, covered with the thin layer of oil, for at least 2 weeks. To keep it longer, place it in the freezer in ice cube trays or small serving sized pots ready for use. Use before 6 months.