Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Lemon

We bought a lemon tree in a pot, I think because a neighbour said that not only were they very productive but that the fragrant flowers attracted bees and bumblebees.
            Our tree, which I transported back from the garden centre on a bus (attracting comment and some awe), bore one large, fully formed lemon at the end of a branch.
            Alone, this fruit, in its bright lemon livery, looked rather out of place in our garden. But we were proud of it. After all, lemon trees are hardly native to England.
            The lemon had to be dealt with in some way in case it rotted and fell to the ground. And it had to be given the very best of usage – in a sort of celebration if you will.
            I had just sharpened all the scissors in the house, so the kitchen pair, being the nearest to the lemon tree would seem to be the ideal harvesting tool. But the lemon was so well attached to its branch that the scissors were of scant use. Bending and cutting worked in the end. I now had this lovely fruit in my hand to use as best I could.
            I knew that there were some uncooked, greeny-grey prawns ready for use in the freezer. They were unfrozen.
            I grated our lemon’s peel into a frying pan, adding two pressed garlic cloves, some salt, and a good lump of butter. The prawns went on top.
            Ready to eat them, the pan was heated gently. The butter melted. The prawns were then stirred, to coat them with the garlic/lemon peel mix.
            The tails were the first bits to become pink. Then the prawns themselves followed suit. They were turned over for a few seconds. Then we ate them, with our very own lemon peel enhancing the flavour of the dish to its huge benefit.
            Now I had to deal with the bald lemon – zestless - devoid of its outer skin.
            We like to drink whisky sours. I believed that the juice from our large lemon would do for two glasses of it.
            So the lemon was cut. There were no pips in it and it was bursting with juice.
            This juice was divided between two large wineglasses. Some dissolved sugar was added, then Bourbon whiskey, and finally, lots of ice.
            We ate handsomely, and drank a whisky sour toast to our lemon tree and its first and very enjoyable lemon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Garden Again

I hate to plague you with more aspects of my gardening. But in our very small walled garden, where I know most movements of nature in plant and bird life, I am still surprised each year.
Of course, every year is different in plant and animal life. Some items do well, others not. Even our star variety of a rose, Typhoon, was slow to get going and to flower this spring, when its cuttings in the soil below did so well that I have a new rose to give to a friend and one extra for myself. They will be dug up and find their new homes come Christmastime.
What has been astounding is our “screen” of autumn-sown broad bean plants.
            Old records of mine tell that successful crops of beans depend on the abundance, or not, of bees and bumblebees to pollinate them. This has been demonstrated once more by our October-sown crop of Aquadulce beans that grow from woven plastic “tubs” of soil.
The beans grew to some 8’in height (miraculously with no black-fly infestation), well supported by bamboos and string. When bumblebees appeared, areas of the abundant display of lovely flowers that they frequented produced beans. When there were no bumblebees – no beans. (Only one honeybee was ever seen.)
But just the display of those delightful flowers was a wonderful spring sight, and the crop of beans, when formed and harvested young - delicious.
So how will I be able to attract bumblebees early next year for better fertilisation when my neighbours, in a very restricted alleyway of gardens, do little to produce honey-providing flowers?
Well, it was not until I allowed my sage plant to flower that bees and bumblebees (in particular) discovered that our garden had something very tasty to offer them. They just loved those sage flowers.
So next year a pot of sage will hang among the broad bean flowers – in the hope that both bees and bumblebees will of benefit to us all and be happy.
The only snag will be that sage flowers come a bit later than the strong, autumn-sown broad bean flowers. So I will try and hasten the flowering of my pot of sage by setting the plant on a sunny windowsill in early spring. If Chelsea Flower Show gardeners have control over the timing of nature, why can’t I have a go as well?

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A Country Wedding

Invited well in advance, we had time to frame a gift picture from the “Ship Shapes” series and buy rail tickets to a family wedding near Christchurch in Hampshire.
            Arriving at Waterloo Station, we were surprised to have our voices drowned out by the noise from an Um-Pah band from Munich. Just why they were playing on an English station concourse was a mystery that remained unsolved. But it did make rail travel somewhat more interesting.
            A panorama of top-hatted and morning-suited men, and women in skin-tight dresses with disk hats perched on the side of their heads and shod in the highest of heels, appeared also to be on their way to a wedding. But no. We learned that they were heading for a day out at the Ascot horse races.
            After a leisurely journey picnic of foie gras and then cheese and pickle sandwiches – both downed with cold white wine and then red, we reached our harbour-side hotel. Here we were installed in a pokey room, where the window led directly, and at arm’s length, on to an unadorned, stucco-faced wall. Some action was needed.
            Moreover, The array of electric tumble-switches was so complicated that even help from a hotel receptionist failed to solve all the problems – one being scorching heat in the internal shower room cubicle and this room’s inability to extract air.
            Margreet, being Dutch, unlike the English who tend to exert stoicism and acceptance in life, arranged that we would have a far nicer room for our second night’s stay.
            We strolled around the verge of the tidal Christchurch Harbour, that was pleasantly clear of the usual kiss-me-quick seaside adornments.
            An unusual sight was to see off-shore dredgers lifting sand from the sea bed.
            A winter storm had swept a quantity of sand along the coast and away from its original and rightful position. This sand was being reclaimed, and returned to where it belonged.
            Unaware of the reasons for such an operation, it seemed, to the casual observer, to be a rather expensive way to reverse the course of nature.
            The noon wedding in our hotel was conducted by a Scotswoman who, in her address, mentioned “our country”. Presumably, now that our two countries are redefining themselves, she meant Scotland.
            There was a break before the “wedding breakfast” at three o’clock in the afternoon. And after the three course “breakfast” there was a rest gap before evening disco dancing in the hotel’s basement. This was a huge success with the children of the wedding, who had been acting and dressed for a smart occasion and could now, at last, go wild with much noise and acrobatic dancing activities.
            It was here that we wished the bride and groom well, said our farewells to family, and were able to retire and sit by our new room’s balcony/window to watch darkness fall over the harbour, and to sip wine left over from our railway picnic.
            Fading evening light, seen through the branches of an ancient cedar tree, and with gulls moving silently inland from sea water at dusk, we relaxed after a well-ordered country wedding that had a charmingly parochial Hampshire/Dorset flavour to it.