Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Tomato plant recovery

The poor little tomato plant that took such a battering in the wind when I first put it outside a few weeks ago seems to be recovering well. It's got loads of new shoots on it now that are doubling in size every day at the minute so it seems to be fighting back.

I'm really hoping that it's going to come back from the brink and actually produce some flowers and fruits!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Gnome from the north

With the transfer of our green troughs out to the windowsill a few weeks ago our little chrome gnome from the north has moved outside with them. Here he is shining away happily watching the world go by. He also appears to bring good fortune to the plants he shares a windowsill with as we've now got chillies, sweet peppers and tomato plants all fruiting out on that ledge. Maybe it's the sun reflecting off his shiny hat...

Sunday, 25 July 2010

A lamb steak with peas and mint

Some of our windowsill mint was put to excellent use for dinner last night. A quick, very tasty and summery dinner (if a little light on the carbs!) can be found in Nigel Slater's recipe for a lamb steak with peas and mint in Tender Volume 1.

You just blitz the mint together with melted butter and peas to make a pea puree, top that with a lovely grilled lamb steak and then finish off with a little pile of pea shoots and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. A divine and easy supper for a summery weekend evening.

However, due to the lack of carbs it's not going to fill any big holes if you are feeling hungry. Luckily I had a blueberry and peach cake on hand for dessert to do the honours. Another Nigel in fact, the recipe appeared in the newspaper a few weeks ago.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Sweet peppers on the way

I think that I've got two little sweet peppers on the way!! I can't be sure as having never grown sweet peppers before I'm not sure what they're supposed to look like but the sweet pepper plant that went out on the windowsill two weeks ago now appears to have two little green bulbous nodules in the place of where flowers once were.

Exciting times out on the windowsill indeed!


The original design was only ever meant to be temporary, I had never blogged before and didn't really know what I was doing and so just chose a template for a short while until I figured things out a bit more. And so this morning comes the redesign. Tomatoes were the first vegetable (fruit!) our windowsill produced and so seemed a fitting background. I hope you like.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Windfall chilli enchiladas!

Well the chillies that managed to survive the winds are going strong still out in the occasional patches of sunshine that we've had this week but the windfall chilli met a good end too. As the chilli seeds originally came from Wahaca it seemed right that our first chilli produce should be used in a recipe from Thomasina Miers' new book Mexican Food Made Simple and so chicken and tomato enchiladas it was!

The chillies go into the smoky tomato sauce and to make that you quarter an onion, peel four garlic cloves and blacken them in a dry frying pan along with two chillies and twelve tomatoes.

You want everything to get really blackened and the skins of the chillies and tomatoes to be bubbling and blistering. Once things are going nice and black remove them from the frying pan. They won't all cook at the same speed so some will need removing earlier than others. Once they're all out of the frying pan, peel the skins off the chillies and tomatoes and remove the chilli stalks and then blitz the lot in a food processor to get a lovely sauce. Add to this a good glug of red wine vinegar and then place in a saucepan and allow to reduce for half an hour or so. When it has reduced nicely, add a handful of chopped tarragon and chervil along with a teaspoonful of demerera sugar and some salt and pepper. Separate your sauce into two halves. Shred the meat off half a pre-cooked chicken and stir that into one half of the sauce.

Now it's time to make up the enchiladas. Pour enough of the sauce into the bottom of an oven-proof dish to cover it. Get your corn tortillas one by one, fill them with the chicken mixture, roll them up and place them in a line in the dish as you would with canneloni. Once you've got them all snugly fitting in the dish and have used up all your filling pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top. Then cover this with a good layer of sour cream and finally top off with grated cheese. Place in a pre-heated oven on 180 degrees for 40 minutes. Sit back and relax with a glass of wine while it cooks.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

...reddening tomatoes that used to be green...

When I was little we used to sing a song in school at harvest festival time called Paintbox. I absolutely loved it and it is such a cheerful song about all of the growing fruits and vegetables that it has stayed with me all my life. Anyway, now we have some of the song in action with our first bright red ripe tomatoes. We picked the first three the other day. As there were only three of them there wasn't enough to actually make anything from them so we just sliced them into quarters and munched on them. And they were lovely! The tomatoeiest tomatoes ever!


Sunday, 18 July 2010

the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees...

Over the weekend life out on the windowsill has been positively buzzing. Yesterday one of our tomato plants was visited by a green stink bug. A little bit of Googling enlightened me to the very interesting story of Nezara viridula, which is an invasive species that was found in the UK for the first time six years ago and apparently now has a well established population in London. The bug is an African native but arrived over here as a stowaway in shipments of fruit and veg and has now been able to establish itself as a full-time UK resident due to the warmer weather we are receiving as a result of climate change.

Meanwhile over on the chilli plants we noticed a little cluster of orange eggs on the underside of one of the leaves. Turns out that these are ladybird eggs and a little later in the day there was a ladybird wandering across the plant. I wonder if it had come back to watch over it's brood...

And last but not least earlier on today I glimpsed some pollination in action with a bumblebee visitor to our tomato plant visiting each of the yellow flowers one by one. I've been trying to identify him using the ID guides on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website but am finding it rather tricky. If anyone can help me out with the identification that would be great. All in all though I'm very encouraged that even the small number of plants on our three tiny windowsills are doing their bit to help in the fight to save our bees and that the great pest-munching ladybirds are loving our windowsill garden as well.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

And so came the winds...

...well it was a little breezy yesterday! A little too breezy for our poor tomato and chilli plants which I had just placed outside following the removal of the decidedly dead looking windowboxes of sunflowers and salads.

One of our windows is a bit sticky to open and so so far I've only placed one of the troughs that was in the fireplace outside but yesterday it took a bit of a battering. The long sprawling tomato plants that had been slowly creeping their way across our carpeted living room floor were tossed this way and that in the wind, causing the leaves to all shrivel up and several of the branches to snap completely. And the poor chilli plant in the middle of the trough was looking rather the worse for wear too when I got back home from work last night.

So this morning, deciding that such long sprawling plants were never going to survive out on the breezy windowsill I took the executive decision to massacre them. I have severely cut the two plants back. They look like they've got some good strong shoots on their way from out near the base so I thought that it would be better for them to concentrate their efforts on those rather than on the shrivelled snapped branches. However, I did no reading up on whether or not that was a good or bad thing to do before I did it so we'll have to wait and see if it works or not!

Our best cropping chilli plant also lost two of its chillies to the wind unfortunately. I found one of them lying in the pot but think that the other one must have blown away. So now we only have three chillies growing on the plant. Although amazingly this morning I have noticed that despite all odds and still being in the tiniest pot ever one of the chilli plants that we haven't even transplanted has got a chilli on the way! Incredible!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Some like it hot! (and some not so much)

Well as London has been basking for days 30 degree heat our south-facing sunny windowsill has been taking a battering! So long as they get their water twice a day the chillies and the tomatoes are loving the heat and we've now got five growing chillies and I've counted six tomatoes although it's tricky to see them so there may be more. In exciting news on the chilli front I was surfing around the other day and discovered that the kind people at Wahaca had linked through to my blog update on the chillies from their Facebook page. Rather a shock to see my blog in amongst all their other news but a pleasant suprise none-the-less!

Unfortunately the salad leaves are not enjoying the full sunshine so much and are completley frazzled, with just a couple of the rocket plants still fighting on. I guess full sunlight for the whole day is just too much for salad leaves and equally the nasturtiums seem to be shrivelling up a bit as well. As for the sunflowers, they died a good few weeks back now and I still haven't got around to doing anything with them so parts of the windowsill are looking a little sorry for themselves at the moment.

Back inside the flat, our two troughs with tomato plants, sweet peppers and chillies that we've had in the fireplace are starting to take over the floor. Unlike the ones on the windowsill the plants have gone much more straggly in a bid to grow towards the light, the tomato plants in particular just aren't producing any flowers and despite my best efforts at cross-pollination on the sweet pepper and chilli I don't seem to be having any luck. So because of this, and because the salad isn't working and the sunflowers are now long gone I think we're going to have a switch around and get the troughs in the fireplace outside. A job for tomorrow!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Blackfly invading!

I noticed a week or so ago that one of our nasturtium plants had started to get some little black flies on it. They have slowly been getting more numerous and I have been wondering what to do about it and thinking it a little odd that they were only on one plant but I have just this morning noticed them also on one of the oregano plants and so think that it is time to act before they take over the windowboxes! A quick Google suggests that nasturtiums attract these black fly and when plants get infested people just pull them out but now that they have spread to the oregano as well will that work or not?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Windowsill grown produce on the table!

So at the start of July we have had our first windowsill grown produce on the table! The oregano that is out on the windowsill has been growing like crazy and so it was with great excitement that I scoured the cookbooks on our shelf for a tasty looking recipe that I could throw a whole load of home grown oregano into and Sarah Raven came up trumps! It is quite fitting that it is a recipe from this book that is the first one the windowsill produce is used in as it was Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook that first inspired me to attempt to grow something edible on the windowsills. To any edible growers out there who do not already own a copy I would highly recommend getting yourself down to a bookshop and picking one up.

So we cooked a wonderful oregano, olive and lemon chicken which is apparently a classic Greek dish. It was a lovely easy recipe too - just stick it in the oven and let it get on with it. I altered from the book slightly by using chicken legs and thighs rather than quartering my own chicken but here's what I did for the two of us:

Chicken legs and thighs (3-4 pieces per person)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 heaped tablespoon coarsely chopped oregano plus two whole sprigs
Salt and black pepper
500g Charlotte potatoes
15 kalamata olives
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Lay the chicken in a roasting tin and pour half the lemon juice over it, then sprinkle with some of the oregano, salt and pepper. Cut the potatoes into wedges and place in around the chicken. Add the olives, pour over the rest of the lemon juice and sprinkle over the remaining oregano. Using your hands make sure the potatoes are well coated in lemon juice and herbs. Pour over the olive oil, add the sprigs of oregano plus a cup of water and cook in the pre-heated oven for one and a half hours. When the chicken is cooked, remove it and allow it to rest while you turn up the heat to crisp up the potatoes in a very hot (220 degree C) oven for 15 minutes.

We accompanied this with the lemon bean salad which can be found on page 210 of the garden cookbook and a nice cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect!

I have entered this post on a website featuring "grow your own food". You can check it out and enter yourself here.

Monday, 5 July 2010


Well the flowers did indeed lead to fruits and one of our Wahaca chilli plants is now the bearer of one huge serrano chilli and a further four smaller ones that are growing bigger and bigger by the day. I'm so chuffed that all my worries about the coldness of the flat back in February and the fact that they hadn't been under heaters hasn't stopped them from being able to produce fruits.

Only two of the six plants that we've got left (I gave two of them away to other homes) are currently out on the windowsill but both of those are reaping the rewards of the gorgeous long sunny days that we've been having over the past couple of weeks. Three of them are still in the tiny little pots that we transplanted them into from the seed trays and they really need some more root space but it's finding the space in the flat to put them that's the problem!

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