Around My Edible Garden

July 2014

Triffid (noun), a fictitious plant, characterised as tall, prolific, venomous, intelligent, and mobile. The triffid was the brainchild of John Wyndham in his 1951 science fiction book, The Day of the Triffids where alien triffids run rampant and attempt to take over the Earth after a devastating meteor shower. Triffid is now British colloquial-speak (slang) for any large, menacing looking plant. I have two triffids. The most obvious one is the kiwi vine with its whip-like, furry, rat-tail tendrils that are in constant need of taming. Although grown as an ornamental, it sometimes produces small hard fruit that never seem to completely ripen. Kiwis are dioecious – meaning there are separate male and female plants. Obviously mine is a female, illicitly consorting with a male kiwi somewhere in the vicinity.

kiwi_vine_july

The other triffid is the grape vine. Without regular pruning, it is a constant threat to the patio dining area, wanting to engulf anything in its path.

grape_vine_july

There are numerous benefits to trimming other than keeping the area tidy. For one thing, it lets the light in to the few grape clusters that have formed. If I am lucky, I can expect a harvest of small sour grapes. I usually make a petmezi, a grape must syrup or “molasses” used in Greek and Turkish cooking. However, due to the nature of British climate, the grapes never achieve a true sweetness to produce an authentic syrup. I really must look into alternative uses, such as verjuice.

grapevine_trimmed_grapes_july

Another benefit from pruning is the harvest of vine shoot tips and tender leaves. According to Greek custom, I generally pickle the grapevine shoots (see my post Pickles from Pruning) and preserve the leaves for making dolmades – stuffed grape leaves. I use one particular old Greek method of preserving grapevine leaves. First, tender, unblemished grapevine leaves need to be selected. They are trimmed right at the base and wiped clean with a dry cloth. About 10 at a time are stacked and then tightly rolled cigar-fashion. The rolls are then tightly packed in a wide-mouthed jar and the lid placed on. The jar is stored in a cool dry place for up to a year during which time the leaves will dry slightly and lose their bright green colour. Once opened, the whole lot has to be used – hydrated in boiling water and used for making dolmades. It is an unusual way of preserving the leaves and I’m not entirely sure how it works. I’m speculating here, but I think it may have something to do with the high amount of tannin in the leaves combined with a near anaerobic environment (that is, without oxygen) allowing the grapevine leaves to self-preserve. All I know for certain is that it works!

grape_vine_leaves_preserved

The cherries have all been harvested. It was a lean year with only a handful of sour Morello cherries, which I used to make a chutney (see my post A Handful of Sour Cherries). The berry harvest has also begun. The strawberries are done, although the alpine strawberries will continue to produce for quite a bit longer. With some of the strawberry crop I produced a strawberry shrub syrup, an old-fashioned additive to cool summer drinks and cocktails. The rest were used to make jam.

strawberry_shrub_drink2

The loganberries are also producing along with the early raspberries. The blueberries are just beginning to turn. Blackberries have a way to go yet, but are just beginning to take on a little colour.

berry_selection_july

Both the black and red currants have been harvested.

red_currants_july

I have two different varieties of red gooseberries, one smaller slightly oval shape and another larger and rounder, both of which are also producing.

gooseberries_july_garden

The smaller gooseberry has been completely harvested. Looks like gooseberry jam is on the cards soon.

gooseberries_harvested_july

Tasks to be done:

  1. Cut back the older raspberry canes that have finished producing, leaving more space for the younger canes which will produce more raspberries later in August and September.
  2. Prune the gooseberries and currants now that they have been harvested.
  3. Investigate how is verjuice made to see if it is a viable option for my grapes.
  4. Jam and jelly making.
Around My Edible Garden is my monthly diary entry detailing what is happening in my garden this past month, part of the Garden Share Collective (GSC), maintained by Lizzie@strayedtable. A chronological listing of my garden blog posts is listed Diaries in the Menu bar.
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24 comments

  1. I have not heard the word “Triffids” for years, since “Day of the Triffids”. This is such a delightful musing about “rogue” plants and how we approach them. Great reading!

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    • When we moved here, the kiwi was really out of control. It definitely qualified as triffid material – the first thing I thought of. So, I looked it up and was amazed to learn that the word had become part normal British vocabulary as a slang word.

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  2. I love growing plants, but unfortunately I live in a flat and do not have place to grow any. You are lucky to have such a lovely garden. Thanks for the great post!

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    • Pots of plants count as a garden! I, too, have lived in apartments and student lets where the only yard was paved over. I consider myself very lucky to have a garden now and love growing edible things – very satisfying.

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  3. Good to see you harvesting and making with the fruits of your labours, it must be super satisfying. Gooseberries are rarely seen in Australia any more, I remember them from my childhood, mouth puckering!

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  4. Your Triffids reference reminds me of the weird ‘tickaticka’ sound the Triffids made in the Day of the Triffids 1980’s BBC series. It scared the kiwi out of me!! Your garden is far, far prettier and yummier methinks. 🙂

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  5. What an interesting way to preserve grape leaves. I look forward to your grape recipes. I also hope to get some verjuice going, and still plan to ferment some tips according to your recipe.

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    • Any tips on verjuice making? The method of preserving grape leaves is still a mystery to me – that is, how it works. Another traditional method involves stringing up the leaves and letting them dry in the sun. A more modern method is blanching, drying, stacking and freezing. This rolling and sealing method works for me and does not take up precious freezer space. Hope you enjoy the pickled grape vine shoots!

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  6. We also use the word triffid to denote any ridiculously large plant, or weed. Thanks for the tip re the preservation of grape vine leaves. I never knew this and will give it a go ( although our vines never really become triffids). I am surprised that the strawberries are already finished. Pruning is a therapeutic activity.

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    • The vine leaf thing is odd and I still can’t fully explain it. It really works, though. I only have one variety of strawberry that is an early cropper, so, yes, they are all finished. The plants are getting old, however, and it might be time to change them. Might look into different varieties. Yes, pruning is therapeutic, but the clean-up afterwards is not! Still piles of brush to contend with. Slowly getting done.

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  7. I’d never heard of preserving grape leaves like this and was surprised to learn that they’d last a full year like that. How nice that you get such a varied harvest from your garden — even if you have to dodge a triffid or two to get to them. 🙂

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    • The grape leaf thing is odd, I will grant you that. I still have not been able to explain it scientifically. The garden mainly produces fruit. This was a decision we took that would make the garden productive and slightly lower maintenance that growing vegetables. It works for us with the double advantage of not having to buy the more expensive items in the market. What’s more expensive, a handful of zucchini or a basket of red currants? So, taming a triffid or two is worth it!

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  8. It’s all looking very productive in your garden, and you sound to be making the most of the harvest. I’d be interested to hear how you get on with making verjuice… I keep reading about it as an ingredient, but haven’t experimented with any yet.

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    • Have been reading up on verjuice – different variations on an ancient technique. Will keep looking into it as I have a bit of time. The grapes need to be picked just before they turn colour. Will keep you posted!

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  9. I always love to “see” your edible garden! I bought a plant of red gooseberry but i’ll have to wait next year for fruit! Can’t wait 😉

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    • A friend of mine grows her gooseberry in a pot, so this may very well do well on your terrace. The red gooseberry is a bit sweeter (but still sour!) than the green ones. Am in the process of making a red gooseberry clafoutis – from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess.

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  10. I have a few triffids taking hold of the garden myself. The rest are still babies. Love the grape pickling idea…I feel like your conjecture about it being anerobic and therefore pickled must be correct, but I wish there was a way to know. Such a mystery.

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    • The tips of the grapevine are blanched and then put into a warm vinegar solution to be (conventionally) pickled. The leaves, on the other hand, are simply rolled, stuffed into a jar and sealed. I don’t know how or why the leaves preserve themselves, but just know that they do. I’ve presented the problem to my son who is working on a Ph.D. in chemistry, but the pesky dissertation gets higher priority at the moment than Mum’s odd queries. Until then, it will remain a mystery!

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    • I planted the vine in order to have a fresh supply of leaves and was quite surprised when fruit actual formed. Even the garden centre that sold me the vine said that it was touch and go in northern Britain. Well, no wine making, but I have sour grapes to play with AND a steady supply of grape leaves!

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