The Kitchen Garden . . . get your hose out
PUBLISHED: 10:01 02 August 2016 | UPDATED: 10:18 02 August 2016
It might not seem like it this year, but Suffolk is one of the driest parts of the county. So watering the kitchen garden should be part of your daily summer routine
My holiday checklist goes something like this. Book flights, book hotel, book hire car, pack (remembering passports this time), arrange for cat and hen sitter and persuade someone to water the kitchen garden in exchange for all the fruit and veg they can pick and eat. It’s a wonder we go away at all, and a greater wonder that any of our friends agree to help out.
I’m sorry to sound like a stuck record when it comes to watering, but we do live in one of the driest counties in the country. If you’ve got children you can always try giving them a hose on sunny days and letting them loose in the veg patch. Just be prepared for them to eat all your strawberries while squishing the squash.
My late father-in-law used child labour (in the nicest possible way) by paying his offspring to pick the Cabbage White caterpillars off his brassicas. I think the going rate – I’m going back a good many years – was sixpence for 50.
Talking of brassicas, there’s still time to plant spring cabbage and oriental vegetables, as well as another batch of fast-growing salad crops. You might also like to plant some peas for autumn picking, using early varieties. If you’re tight on space my advice is to grow (obviously) what you like most, but also whatever is most expensive to buy, such as bulb fennel, or harder to find, like sorrel.
This is also the time to plant out any rooted strawberry runners and, once you’ve finished harvesting them, to prune summer raspberries and other soft and stone fruits.
On the bug and blight front, keep an eye open for aphids and carrot root fly and for tomato and potato blight. This is most common in wet weather. If it really takes a hold you can usually salvage your potatoes by cutting off the foliage near ground level and burning it. You need to eat the spuds quite quickly though as they won’t store well.
Tomatoes are also prone to blossom end rot, a calcium deficiency usually caused by insufficient watering, which brings me full circle. Get that hose out.
Piri Piri Prawns
Once you’ve done the watering you can pick some of your cherry tomatoes and use them in this spicy summer dish, perfect for the barbecue.
12 raw king prawns
6 large, fat red chillies, roughly chopped
4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tspn fresh oregano or marjoram
1 tbsp hot smoked paprika
1 tspn sea salt flakes
50ml red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
A punnet of cherry tomatoes
To serve: wedges of lime or lemon
Blitz the chillies, seeds and all, with the garlic, oregano, paprika, salt and oil until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Whisk in the red wine vinegar.
Peel the prawns, leaving the tails on, and de-vein them by removing the black thread of the intestinal tract. Just slit them along the line and flip it out with your knife.
Put the prepared prawns in a shallow dish and massage in two or three tablespoons of the sauce, then cover and set aside in the fridge for 1-3 hours. Any leftover piri piri will keep in the fridge for a few days and works equally well as a marinade for roasted chicken joints.
If you’re using wooden skewers put them to soak in cold water for 20 minutes so they won’t burn.
Just before you want to eat, heat a griddle pan or barbecue to high and brush with oil (or use your grill). Thread three prawns onto each skewer, alternating them with cherry tomatoes. Grill for about two minutes per side or until the prawns are cooked and golden. They’re perfect with a garden salad. [ends]