Grow Your Own Vegetables
At Lucy Bee, we’re great fans of all things organic and love to grow our own vegetables to use in recipes. This is the first of our gardening blogs where, each month, we’ll be looking at what to plant when and see how our vegetable patch is progressing, plus some of our favourite recipe ideas using the fruits of our labour.
We’re starting with those vegetables that are now ready to use and would love to hear from you with your favourite recipes for any of these.
If you’ve grown your own then you’ll already have enjoyed a first early crop and a second early crop. These are ideal for use as salad potatoes because they are a little waxy.
The main crop is due to harvest in about 2-3 weeks and is the one that you want to try to leave out in the sun for a few hours so that the skin can dry out, then you can keep them in a breathable bag in your pantry for storing over the autumn and winter month until your next batch is ready to harvest next year. These potatoes will be fantastic for mashing, roasting and frying.
You’ll currently be getting mostly Désirée potatoes and King Edwards.
Onions are another vegetable that are currently perfect for harvesting and they are also ideal for keeping in the pantry.
When you can see the onions have reached a desired size, pull from the ground with their tops still attached and leave in the sun for an hour or two, to dry out slightly. Then plait the tops together so that you have the onions dangling at staggered points down the plait. You can then hang these in your kitchen or pantry, ready to pick off and use when you need them.
Onions are very easy to grow, especially if you’re growing them from the bulb rather than the seeds and the growth rate is relatively quick from when you plant them. Given our current climate, protect from any frost – after all, this is the UK!
When planting your onions, make sure to spread them quite far apart. The more room that they have, the more space they have to grow, which they like and this will also help to prevent misshapen onions.
It is best to follow the instructions from the type of onions that you have as they all tend to have different preferences and may need more spacing between than some others.
Tomatoes will also have been coming in thick and fast now, so much so that you may well find yourself overrun by these delicious fruits. Check daily on your fruit and pick ripe tomatoes to allow room for more fruits to grow and to prevent your plant from falling and breaking, plus it helps to keep the birds off if you’re eating them before they do!
Tomatoes are great to pop onto salads or cook into fresh pasta sauces and if you are eating them raw, I’d recommend bringing them to room temperature to serve for that maximum fresh, vine flavour.
If you’ve grown too many to consume, a great tip is to freeze the excess, which also means you can enjoy them year round.
It might also be worth planting different varieties - cherry and plum tomatoes all grow at different rates, so as the plant provides you with a steady growth of fruits, having different varieties will allow you to have an even steadier growth that should also last a bit longer.
To encourage a fuller crop, where the stalks split in two, anything sprouting right in the middle of that ‘V’, should be pulled off so keep an eye out for these. By pulling them off, it allows the plant to put all of its energy into growing a thick, full plant with lots of fruit rather than a limp, skinny plant with few fruits.
Runner beans are also available currently. However, if you are finding your crop quite sparse, it may not just be the weather that has held the growth back.
Growing your own food contains an element of trial and error and this is one of the best examples. Your crop could be low if you haven’t attended to the ground properly before planting - for runner beans, you’ll need to dig a trench and fill with manure or homemade compost if manure is not accessible (manure is preferred). You’ll then need to rake in a good quality organic soil. Let the ground settle before raking it again and planting your seeds. It seems tedious to begin with but it’s worthwhile as your crops will certainly reward you.
As the plants begin to grow, you’ll need to build a structure for the vines to grow up and, as it grows, tie the plant to the frame to support it. If you fail to do this, the plant with get too heavy and snap and you’ll get no fruit at all. Allowing them to grow tall gives them enough space to grow healthy fruit with the right level of sun exposure. though this may seem quite high maintenance to begin with, it is definitely worthwhile and rewarding.
August will have provided you with so many courgettes that the next time you see a courgette, may well be too soon! There’s no doubt that you will have tried every courgette recipe under the sun and probably made enough ratatouilles to become a baked vegetable connoisseur and even tried to hide them in smoothies, soups and sauces.
However, as you don’t want to waste them, after all, you did nurture and grow them, make sauces, soups and ratatouilles to put in the freezer to pull out for a quick and easy dinner when you need one over the autumn and winter months. If you have the time, I’d recommend making the dish and freezing it, rather than just chopping up and freezing the uncooked courgettes as it’s always good to have meals ready to hand in the freezer for those days when you’re short of time.
For using fresh courgettes; spiralize them and have them as a carbohydrate free spaghetti with some tomato sauce (you could even sneak a few courgettes into the tomato sauce too.)
Rich in colour, antioxidants, iron and folate, these root veggies are definitely ones not to forget about. Roast them in some Lucy Bee Coconut Oil and use as a salad topper for a filling, flavoursome way to bulk out your salads, also making them more colourful.
They’re also great juiced or blended into smoothies, which is a low sugar way of increasing the size of your smoothie.
You can pickle beetroot by part-cooking them, peel and add to a jar, then cover them in vinegar, close the lid and leave them to pickle over a period of time, ready for next year’s summer salads perhaps, or even Christmas nibbles?
Beetroot are very low maintenance to grow. You can germinate them from seed or use them from plugs, either way, once they’re in the ground, weather usually just takes its course and keeps them growing happy. If it does happen to get too dry, be sure to give them a little water yourself, and as with onions, keep them spread out because they can get quite big.
Parsley should be in its element right now, especially with this year’s weather. If it looks like it’s wilted or sagged a little, it’s likely to be due to too much rain. Allow the sun to dry up the soil a little and they should stand firmly again in a few days.
If it looks dried out and saggy and are turning light brown, chances are they haven’t had enough water, so give them a good watering and attend to them every 2-3 days with some water until their colour comes back and they perk up again.
Chop a large bunch off, wash it, drain/shake, pop it in a plastic bag and put in the freezer. When frozen, crush it up a little with your hands whilst it’s still in the bag, this gives you freshly chopped parsley without any hassle. An easy go-to herb to use in most dishes, no need to defrost, just use from frozen. Freeze the stalks too, as these are great to use when making your own stock - click on the image below for the recipe.
If you want to keep it in the ground, you will need to protect it with a cloche. This is to protect it from animals but mostly the weather. Parsley is very low maintenance to grow. It can take a while to germinate from seed and likes a lot of water whilst germinating and likes a little shade. Similar to the beetroot, let weather take its course to look after the herbs, just keep an eye on it.
Look out for next month’s article on ‘Growing Your Own’ and let us know if you have any questions regarding and we’ll do our best to answer them.
About Lucy Bee
Lucy Bee is a lifestyle brand selling food, skincare and soap products all completely free from palm oil and with minimal use of plastic. Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, organic, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and empowering people to make informed choices and select quality, natural products for their food and their skin.