Posts by Mark


No, I didn’t just sneeze in that title. These are the Japanese variety of onions that I planted over the winter. First one came up, and it was a belter. What I didn’t do in this photo (and it’s far too late since I’ve now eaten said onion), is give a sense of scale. These are pretty chunky onions all over. Right up along the whole plant, it’s a stout beast. It has a really strong aroma and taste, as one might expect from any non-supermarket onion; but the flavour really is very pleasant. Another thing I’ve noticed is that it really does like the wet weather. Which is a bit of a boon, given the year we’ve had…

Gooseberry Tart

There are quite a few things one can do with a gooseberry. Loads of people suggest gooseberry fool, probably because they like the name more than the uninspiring dish itself. But a rather nifty thing my better half did was to make gooseberry tarts. Pretty simple: stew the gooseberries, add sugar and a little ground almond to thicken it up, then place in pastry and bake. Tastes absolutely delicious – the gooseberries don’t have that sharp tang to them, so the tart is left with a lovely mild flavour. Serve with cream (and tea).

Tayberry Flower

This is the first one of the year – and it’s a fascinating little specimen. Quite unusual – like a strawberry, but not. Not quite a raspberry either. At first I thought it was a bit of a dud, but there seem to be many identical ones coming up…

Ashdale Nursery

I thought it would be a good idea to give a plug a local nursery that I’ve been going to for the past couple of years, Ashdale Nursery, on the outskirts of Nottingham. I’ve grown rather fond of it. Whereas a lot of garden centres tend to import their seedlings from the continent, everything here is grown and raised on site at Ashdale. That means the plants are likely to do well once they move to your garden.

Ashdale is an independent nursery. There’s a genuinely rustic, rough-and-ready charm to the whole place. No corporate perfectly manicured structures, none of that horrid chintzy patio furniture and garish pots. It’s solely about the plants. I took a few photos so you can get a feel for how it looks. By and large, its operation is about Perennial, cottage garden plants, which is why we first went there (in all honesty, we got lost looking for another garden centre nearby). But there’s a decent selection of veg there, from artichokes to sprouts, to several varieties of tomatoes and squash. There are also plenty of unusual fruit bushes and trees, from loganberries to granny smith apples. The important thing, though, is that everything seems a little different – and it’s much more reasonably priced than a larger garden centre. They’ve taken the care to find something interesting, and put that in front of customers.

I like that the whole place properly informal and laid-back. The very friendly staff can occasionally be seen having their picnic-style lunch on a table to one side (with a cheeky chilled bottle of wine opened). There’s even a dog that spends its hours roaming the place, looking for the best spot in the sun. You wouldn’t get that at Homebase.

Speaking of onions…

The onion patch is looking good at the moment. This is the Japanese ‘Senshyu’ variety, which is an over-wintering sort. And they love a bit of rain – each time we have a downpour, they look just a little taller and prouder. Ideally suited to our climate, I’d say.

You can see from this picture that they’re growing through a bit of garden netting, which I used to keep off cats – it worked a treat. This is a guaranteed* method of dealing with cat poo effectively. They really, really hate getting the net caught up in their claws, so they’ve steered away completely.

*Not guaranteed.

The Life History of The Onion (1943)

Part of the British Council’s ‘Cultural Propaganda’ film collection, this is part of the Junior Biology Series. According to the British Council website:

Over 120 films were produced as ‘cultural propaganda’ to counteract anything the Nazis might throw out and to refute the idea that ours was a country stuck in the past. These films were designed to showcase Britain to the rest of the world, at a time when Britain itself was under attack.

Crabapple blossom

It’s been raining, solidly, for the past two weeks, and I’ve not been able to spend as much time outside. It’s a shame, because being outside at this time of year, you’re confronted with some wonderful tones and textures – as the photo shows. Anyway, we’ve a bit of sunlight today, so I headed outside to take a photo of the crabapple blossom in full swing. Rather impressive, I think. Also I’m glad that the strong winds and incessant rain didn’t damage it at all.

Newton’s Apple (Wine)

Homemade Apple Wine (Blenheim Orange Variety). Picked Autumn 2010, bottled Spring 2012. (You can see an earlier stage of production here.) It’s a very long process, but I genuinely can’t believe how good the results are. I mean, we were fully prepared for this to taste terrible, but after two years being racked into various demijohns, it’s matured amazingly well.

The taste? At first, on the nose, you get the impression it’s going to taste like cider, but actually when you drink it, it’s a lot cleaner and smoother, with a rich, honeyed taste. Touch of grapefruit and tropical notes. A nice malty tang in the distance (no idea where that’s come from). I reckon served chilled in the middle of summer, that’ll go down very nicely. In fact, it goes down a little too nicely – I’ve no idea how strong it is, but it packs a punch!

We’ve got another three wine experiments on the go – Cherry, Crabapple, Blackberry and Apple – in addition to Blackberry Port…

Darren Turpin

Gardener at Backyard Kitchen Garden
A passionate gardener with a speciality in growing fruit and vegetables on a budget!

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