We invited Alexandra on our popular Year Round Veg Course with Sarah earlier this month at Perch Hill, here she discusses the highlights...
I look at my veg beds standing bare and empty for almost 6 months of the year. It seems such a waste.
And I love using the garden as a fridge – for the freshness and taste of home-grown vegetables. So when the team at Sarah Raven invited me on the Year Round Veg course I jumped at the opportunity.
Sarah has an excellent way of sifting through which vegetables work best in your garden. She shows you how to create a grid, based on finding which vegetables yield the most, for the longest time, and are the cheapest to grow.
And she puts a list on her fridge, writing down which vegetables she uses every day. Within about ten days she has a comprehensive list of the vegetables they actually like to eat as a family (it really is no good growing vegetables that you don’t like!).
But what I hadn’t realised is how many veg actually like the winter months better. We eat a huge amount of coriander but it’s always bolted for me in the summer. Sarah explained that it would crop for longer in the winter.
Similarly, there are enough ‘year round’ lettuces and salad leaves to make it worth making the effort to plant seed throughout the seasons.
For those that don’t feel like eating salad in the winter, Sarah has an easy salad soup:
Fry two onions in olive oil, add any mix of salad or green leaves and cook in a vegetable stock. Add a tin of coconut milk and liquidise. It sounds easy, healthy and delicious and will definitely go into my repertoire.
In the afternoon, we went out into the veg beds and Sarah demonstrated how to support your home-grown veg with silver birch twigs (bought from companies who supply equestrian three-day-events, where they’re used to create jumps).
Stick a long, fairly bendy branch into the ground and bend it over to about ninety degrees. Then stick another one in and plait the branches together, using the frondy bits (Sarah explains this much better than I do).
We retired to the polytunnels where we got good advice on buying horticultural heated blankets to get our seedlings going and demonstrations on planting seed.
I was interested to hear that Sarah doesn’t believe that seed growing needs specialist compost – any compost will do, although it must be fine and not lumpy.
I always enjoy the Sarah Raven courses because I love the floral decorations and pots. I particularly like the combination of salad leaves and tulips, or chard and tulips – very pretty and extremely practical.
I also enjoy seeing the flower arrangements – it’s been quite a cold, late spring, so there aren’t that many flowers out. But I really loved an arrangement on the table that used lots of different vases filled very simple decorations – just simple twigs and non-flowering greenery (saxifrage?).
Sarah is good at pacing the courses, with breaks for coffee, lunch and tea. The food is largely based on what’s grown at Perch Hill – I particularly liked the spanakopita made with kale. I’ve often looked at the recipe in one of the Sarah Raven cookery books but have rather swerved away from using filo pastry – but I think it’s really worth a try.
As well as being informative, the Year Round Veg is a lovely day out, so I can highly recommend it, whether you’re a complete beginner or someone wanting to sharpen up their vegetable-growing skills.
Thanks for reading!
The next Year Round Veg course with Sarah will be in October, click here for more info or to book your place...