November 2009


Blimey! I mean, what the ?*@$! Who’d have thought it?

Countless blogs on such controversial topics as the planting in the long border at Great Dixter, or the right way to make aubergine dip, and barely a murmur of disagreement from the millions of regular correspondents.

But a few simple observations on compost and…..wow! I stuck my metaphorical fork in the a big steaming pile of verbal compost, turned it over and struck, well, if not black gold, then certainly a rich seam of contention.

As Mal sensibly pointed out, my estimate of 17 years to make compost was a little on the long side. I stand corrected. Hyperbole has no place in the blogosphere.

Other correspondents, more committed and conscientious – dammit I’m man enough to say it – just better gardeners than me expressed disappointment at my stance. A gentle, almost parental disappointment, but still enough to make me feel as dirty as the compost I so frivolously buy instead of make.

But not Louise! The sole kindred spirit out there who owned up to having a spot of bother with the mysterious alchemy herself! I hear you, sister!

And despite all of the suggestions as to how I could improve the process, I’m still not sure how to solve the problem of volume: since last week’s post I have managed to conjure up another 2 bags of garden rubbish. That makes around 30 bags a year. Even if that turns into compost in under a year that’s still a compost heap roughly the size of….my allotment. Hmmm.

But never fear! I have come up with a fiendishly clever plan that keeps everyone happy!

  1. I have lots of compost-able stuff I don’t want
  2. You are dead keen to make lots of compost
  3. It’s the season of giving
  4. So….

…this week’s Special Offer! Just send in one stamped addressed envelope and I promise I will fill it up with lovely compost-able material and send it back. Before you know it – hey, probably before the letter even falls through your letterbox – you’ll have your very own pot full of Drooling-brand compost!

Yo! Ho! Ho!

On the ipod while feeling festive: Hot Chocolate / Everyone’s a winner. Yes, you too! Don’t delay! Send in today!

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This is not a controversial blog. If you come here looking for divisive views or contentious polemic then you will, by and large, be disappointed. I’m a simple man and my only aim is to bore you with harmless tales of my vegetable growing exploits.

This week, however, I tread on slightly crumblier soil. There may even be some offence caused. But first some scene setting.

I spent this afternoon tidying up in the garden. The Magnolia in the middle of the lawn has been dropping leaves for weeks and the borders are full of things that have been slowly dying for some time.

After only an hour I had 5 bin liners full of green waste sitting on the patio. Now what do to with them? And this is where I part company with some proper gardeners. I took them to the tip.

That’s right: I threw them away! I didn’t take them to the bottom of the garden, I didn’t put all that lovely organic matter, wet leaves, stalks, plants, on to my compost heap to continue the cycle of veggie life by making my own compost.

I don’t even have a compost heap!

I have come to the conclusion that making compost is a green sham. In my own experience – unscientific, I grant you – it takes approximately 17 years for garden waste to rot down into something that is remotely usable in the garden. During which time you will generate a further 1,347 bags of garden waste.

This would require a compost heap roughly the size of Belgium, along with several labourers to turn and dig over the compost to “speed” the transformation into compost.

Or you can take it to the tip, where it gets taken to a local farm and turned into compost which is them resold (I checked!) and buy some organic compost from the garden centre to use in the meantime. And that Belgium-sized corner of your garden that is now freed up can be used to grown some more vegetables!

Brilliant, n’est ce pas?!?!?

On the ipod while…um…looking after the environment: Johnny Cash / Forty shades of green. And all of them in a bin liner in the boot of the car.

What a great root!

It’s the question on everyone’s lips. I’ve been deluged with comments on the blog demanding an update. Audience members on Gardeners’ Question Time have been pestering the panel for months. I believe Toby Buckland even mentioned it on Gardener’s World just before he started clearing his desk.

Just what has been happening to the horseradish planted on The Drooling Vegetable’s plot back in April?

Well folks, you’ll be delighted to know that the wait is over. This week we have news of the great root, along with a mouth (and eye-) watering recipe.

But first, in a pathetic attempt to garner some gratuitous hits on the site courtesy of dim-witted search engines looking for keywords, let me just repeat some relevant phrases: Eye-wateringly enormous root. Spicy! Hot!

And now let me apologise to anyone who has stumbled across this blog looking for something rather different. Blame your search engine.

But I digress. So, after planting the fairly pathetic plants back in the Spring I politely ignored them throughout the summer as they went about their unremarkable business on the plot. No flowers, not particularly pretty foliage, all in all a deeply functional plant.

Last week, with Roast Beef on the menu, it was time to dig up a plant and see what was going on. And there they were: some tasty-looking roots! Not much thicker than a pencil, they looked a little parsnip-like, but with a reassuring, if faint, whiff of, well, horseradish.

So, back to the kitchen. No need to bother with a recipe for horseradish sauce. After all, you just grate it and mix it up with some crème fraiche, right? Well, it turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that. If you just do that then you end up with something that tastes really bland but makes your nose run and your eyes water. So here’s the recipe…

Horseradish sauce

Ingredients

Lemon juice

Horseradish (well, dur!)

Vinegar

Sugar

Salt

Crème fraiche / whipped cream / mascarpone etc

Grate your horseradish and stir it into the crème fraiche. About 3-4 tablespoons of root and about 100g of crème fraiche. Add 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp vinegar. Add a bit of sugar and salt. Adjust all of the above quantities depending on your taste.

Serve alongside rare roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and a nice glass of Claret. Feel ineffably proud to be British / deeply envious that you are not British and cannot therefore experience such emotions.

On the ipod while eating: Dryyour eyes / The Streets. Told you it was spciy.

Revolting, isn't it?

 

One of the joys of growing your own organic vegetables, it is often said, is that they look more natural, less uniform; not like something that came off a factory production line but a bit more like nature intended.

Like so many things in life this is all fine and dandy in theory, but it often falls down in practice. If you need proof then look at the picture above: have you seen anything more ugly?

I mean, really. It’s quite the most revolting looking vegetable it has ever been my displeasure to grow. It is, believe it or not, a heritage parsnip, normally a vegetable fit for the Gods. Something clearly went wrong under the soil at the allotment, and what I finally dug out of the ground (after much heaving and puffing) looks like something from the Devil’s own organic veggie box.

Yes, of course it tasted delicious, and you won’t be surprised to know that it fed five family members. Several times. And there’s more in the freezer. And yet.

I don’t want to seem shallow but you can’t deny it’s not exactly easy on the eye. It looks more like something from the props table of that neglected classic Alien vs Predator rather than a gourmet vegetable. And I’m afraid that I’m not man enough to be able to put that to one side.

I set myself high standards when it comes to matters vegetable. And I have failed.

 

On the ipod while averting my eyes: Good year for the rose / Elvis Costello. Yes, but you can’t eat roses, can you Elvis?

You've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

Ah ha ha ha ha! Who’s laughing now, eh? Eat my bulbs, would you? Dig up my seedlings? Crap in my flowerbeds? I don’t think so. Not any more, pal.

Ha ha! Success! After several nights of frustration and empty traps, victory! In the fight between a small, hairy, ugly mammal and a larger, dashingly handsome mammal there was only ever going to be one winner. And it’s not the one with buck teeth and a mangy tail.

That’s right, folks. My state-of-the-art squirrel trap has proved stunningly effective. There, bouncing round inside its metal cage this morning was a large vicious-looking squirrel. Lured inside by the popcorn bait, his greed overcame his natural suspicion and BANG! the trap snapped shut. The squirrel is mine!

So far, so good: evil rat-like fiend trapped. Job done.  But to be honest, I hadn’t really given the next stage much though. Namely, what do you do with the squirrel once caught?

As several correspondents have kindly pointed out, it turns out it is illegal to release a grey squirrel into the wild – they’re a non-native species, so doing so is apparently akin to releasing lions or tigers in your local park. Although quite frankly I’ve never heard of a lion digging up daffodil bulbs.

In fact now that I have caught my squirrel I am legally obliged to kill it.

As I say, I hadn’t thought through this stage in great detail.

How do you kill a squirrel? Several options spring to mind. As Amy helpfully mentioned last week, Hugh Fearnley W. releases them into a sack, bashes the sack with a big stick and swiftly dispatches the vermin. Now I reckon I could get the squirrel into the sack without too much trouble, but I’m not so sure I could locate the right bit of the squirrel to hit as it scrabbled around inside the bag. Not sure it would be a humane way to go – more akin to a gangland beating that leaves you fatally wounded.

I saw another TV programme in which the caged squirrel was finished off with a bullet between the eyes. Unfortunately Mrs Drooling has for some reason banned firearms from the Drooling residence so this option, manly and exciting as it would be, is a non-starter.

Anyway, as I say, it is illegal to release the squirrel into the wild, so obviously I didn’t do that. And as I am law-abiding and was required to kill it, I did. I won’t bore you with the details. Instead I will speculate as to how one might dispose of a squirrel should they be too squeamish to kill it.

You might decide to set it free in a park some way away from your house. First you’d have to get it into the car. Now, your neighbours might think you a bit odd if they saw you carrying a metal box with a squirrel in it, so you’d probably put the cage into a bin liner.

You’d have to walk briskly to your car otherwise you might bump into a neighbour who strikes up a conversation. They might wonder why the bin liner you are holding is rattling and making strange noises. You would have to feign ignorance and pretend nothing unusual is happening.

Once in the car you would need to find a discreet spot in which to free the squirrel – you would not want witnesses to your crime, after all. You might end up driving quite a distance – say, 10.4 miles – before finding a suitable field.

On taking the cage out of the boot you might make the discovery that squirrels look quite nasty and can also growl when angry. Taking care to open the cage, it is possible that the squirrel may decide not to leave. Should this happen you may consider banging the cage against a tree until the squirrel finally releases its grip and runs off.

The squirrel may or may not pause, look over its shoulder and shoot you a murderous look before disappearing into the bushes.

As I say, I killed it, But if I hadn’t then the above is my guess as to what might have happened.

 

On the ipod while not commiting a crime: Macy Gray / I’ve committed murder. I have officer, honest.