What a month we’ve had. Hottest day ever, and the driest summer in what certainly feels like forever. We’ve had the builders in for the last four weeks, so this hot spell has coincided with us having no shower, no bath and only limited access to a loo – I’ve been begging access to friends’ bathrooms at every opportunity. We’ve both eased down now that the Commonwealth Games have happened (both of us benefited from A LOT of work rooted in the B2022 cultural programme) and there’s been actual days out, actual holiday feelings. My friend moved to Vietnam (which I consider to be most rude) and one-by-one the kids are ending their time at nursery ahead of starting school in September. And then, of course, Birmingham turned into a party town for two weeks whilst the Games were on. This city has been hungry for so long – for recognition, for investment, for fun, for coming together – and we grabbed our opportunity with two hands. What a brilliant time to be in Birmingham.
All of this means that the plants have been somewhat abandoned lately. I’ve done the odd bit of weeding, mainly to remove three foot tall fat hen plants – but am only watering the allotment once a week. And of course everything does perfectly well with a little neglect: the nasturtiums run rampant, the cerinthe and ammi are miraculously still going, the squash are fattening. The switch to late summer colour is coming in now, so alongside the pale, delicate cornflowers, achillea and wild carrot comes the dinner-plate dahlias and blood-red amaranth. Sunflowers are waiting in the wings. The wild brambles, which I long ago gave up on, are now repaying me with punnet upon punnet of sweet black fruit.
If there were more time I would take out the three slug-eaten dahlias and pot them up in hope of a second coming, and all the flowers (and veg for that matter) on the allotment would be getting a weekly feed and daily water. But there isn’t more time, so I live with what’s possible. Incidentally I’m purposefully not cutting the dahlias too much this year, as most of them are new plants and I don’t want to put them under undue pressure, so it’s just the odd bloom, here and there.
Today’s recipe is shamelessly stolen from Instagram, from the wonderful Prue Leith. It’s a granita, perfect for these hot sticky days, but instead of using a stock syrup it’s made using whole, over-ripe fruit that’s simply blitzed in the food processor then frozen. You give it a stir with a fork every hour or so to break up the ice crystals. I love the idea of whole fruit being hidden into ices, and Harry and I make banana-chocolate-milk lollies often; this is simply a more sophisticated version of that. Add a splash of booze if you want to up the flavour.
Melon and strawberry granita
In a blender or food processor, blitz up one over-ripe melon (I use cantaloupe) with a handful of strawberries until smooth. Add a splash of booze if liked – I think damson gin or blackberry vodka would be good here. Then move the whole lot to a tupperware container and pop in the freezer. Set your timer to go off every hour and when it does, stir the mixture with a fork to rough up the ice crystals. When it’s all frozen, but still slushy, it’s good to go.
Also this week (month):
Harvesting: First raspberries, last blueberries (not a great year for them, the plants are tired and they need more water), blackberries, dahlias, last gladioli, amaranth, cerinthe, ammi, calendula, wild carrot, first scabious, snapdragon (coloured mix only, whites still not in flower), achillea, cornflower, phlox, a very few early cosmos, tansy, stick beans, dwarf beans, last broad beans, courgettes, chard, last potatoes. Could be picking carrots, cavolo nero and russian red kale but can’t bring myself to do it yet. Borlottis and squash doing well. Also getting beets, carrots, beans, peppers, tomatoes and blueberries from my folks.
At home: Dug up all the dahlias from the garden due to slug apocalypse and potted them up. Bought selection of slug-proof plants from Wildegoose Nursery to trial in replacement. Can’t see the garden anyway due to building waste and the fact the lawn is constantly covered by a tent or a paddling pool.
Cooking and eating: Blueberry muffins; a lot of whole fruit (cherries, nectarines, strawberries still); Purple prickle pancakes from the Gruffalo Cookbook; Blackcurrant ice cream; Sautéed courgettes with everything; Roasted beet and carrot salad with feta; A daily coffee, which is still such a novelty that I have to record it here.
Out and about: Dress rehearsal for B2022 Opening Ceremony, plus athletics, rhythmic gymnastics, a few B2022 Festival sites and numerous meetings with Perry the mascot; the kids are all obsessed with him. CBeebies Prom. Wildegoose nursery. Numerous Bearwood bathrooms.