It's been an abundant and busy summer here in the Castle Garden! Thanks to the warmer weather, and our increasing veg growing space, (more veg beds and our new glasshouse made from reclaimed materials, thank you to Caste’s head builder Gerry and his team!)
We've been busy harvesting more than ever! This year we have just been totally amazed at the colours of fruit and veg coming out of the garden, with yellows and oranges seeming to be a recurring colour theme this year!
We had our first big crop of apricots, carefully training up the buttress against the south facing wall, thanks to the help of our Level 3 rope access guy from the Castle who helped me get up there to prune and train it much further higher up the wall. We got a 24 kilo harvest from that tree! Our kitchen has bottled, made into cordial and put into cakes.
Also lovely yellow courgettes have been very productive this year, along with an unusual yellow summer squash called yellow crookneck, yellow french beans, yellow tomatoes, yellow plums making a first appearance and lovely productive pumpkins. Not forgetting all the lovely red and purple fruits and vegetables, strawberries, raspberries (ok we have some yellow raspberries too), purple french beans, purple podded peas, and the forever faithful and bombproof rainbow chard giving us a year round reliable nutritious leaf for the kitchen. I don't think there has been a week where the kitchen hasn't used it - including the winter! It wins top prizes for being the most productive, all year round, slow to bolt, low maintenance cut and come again vegetable leaf to cook for the kitchen - and yes there is a yellow "canary chard" variety too.
We have been so happy that the kitchen has found a way to include it so many of their dishes, from soups, to curries, tortillas, tagines, stews, lasagnas, pasta bakes you name it! I think they could come up with a celebration of chard cook book!
Urban Food Routes
The Castle were one of the enterprises to win funding from Urban Food Routes. A chance for us to make more use of urban grown produce to sell in our café! We funded the creation of a solar dryer that Jack built which would allow us more room to dry more garden herbs for tea as well as dry some fruits, vegetables.
Most of the funding went onto buy a nice big apple crusher and apple press and pasturiser so we can pick and press more local apples and pears that would go to waste. The area around the castle is filled with houses with very large back gardens, and many of them have very large apple and especially very large pear trees. They are usually too much fruit for the household to use and the very tall trees have pears dropping down from a height! By the skills of daring climbers who are able reach those fruits we are able to make use of what would normally go to waste - a great way to combine climbing skills! On one of the harvests, thanks to Gavin, the Castle's maintenance manager, he climbed up two very high pear tree and shook us down 200 kilos!– In about three outings we harvested over a 600 kilos of fruit – over half a ton of fruit and made juice (and a little cider). On sale in the café now. –With our own apple crusher and press it will be something that we will be able to do every year in the area, and next season hope to get hold of more fruit and distribute some out into the local community too.
September Harvest celebrations
We combined our harvest celebrations with Edible Open Gardens day on 20th September as part of Urban Food Fortnight, where London celebrates urban grown food. We created an off-grid café outdoors. With produced pizzas, focaccias and roast vegetables in our cob oven and boiled water for herbal teas and cooked up soup on two rocket stoves.
What was great this year - all drinks offered for sale were from the garden! We had garden grown herbal teas, garden fruit cordials and apple juice. All ingredients for the pumpkin soup also came from the garden apart from olive oil, salt and pepper. (Pumpkin, garlic, rosemary, chard, celery, tomato). The pizzas and focaccia were all topped with garden grown roast courgette, chard, french beans, tomatoes, garlic, basil, rocket, rosemary.
Herbal teas – we launched this seasons tea blends. It’s the first year we have had a full season of dedicated weekly picking and drying of many types of wild and cultivated herbs. We came out with two new blends, Herbal Hug and Calming Steppes, using more of our wild pickings, such as hawthorn blossoms, and dog rose petals, as well as lavender, yarrow, and the usual mint. This year we must have picked and dried the most mint ever! All the teas are on sale in the café and we hope to have enough to see us through the winter until next year’s blends are harvested and made!
Autumn will see us winding down for winter, raking leaves, tidying the garden and shed, planting out over wintering vegetables and winter greens and salads and looking forward to our usual big bonfire at the start of November to burn away some of the unwanted wooden debris as well as keep us warm for a night!