Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cooking is a Learning Curve

Have now learned that grating pastry is a very speedy way to make a fruit 'topping' taking even less time and trouble to rolling it out as a pie 'lid'. Next time it will be easier to handle if the pastry had been frozen solid than just chilled (it softened as I held it). So next time, all left-over pastry scraps will be kept together, frozen and can be used in this way.

These seeds are exactly right for cooks - called "Salad Leaves - supplied by Thompson and Morgan), with the back of the pack saying: "an exciting alternative to bags of salad from the supermarket, and delicious added to stir-fries, salads or sandwiches. The mix is a treat for gardeners who want their salad leaves as quickly as possible! The mix features a lovely range of spicy and tangy tastes, textures, colours and leaf shapes."

The pack contains seeds of Pak Choi Canton White, Greek Cress, Salad Rocket Victoria, Mustard(Pizzo and Red Frills), and Mizuna - and apart from Rocket, all new varieties to me. Quick growing in under 30 days (60 days in winter) can be grown outdoors from April to September, October to March under glass, and all year round on the windowsill.

It is difficult to sow very small seeds, and as they grow, usually need thinning out, but with salad leaves we save the most money if we can keep the sown seeds well apart. The way I do this is to cut a sheet of kitchen paper to the size of the container (if the paper is layered then peel apart to give a thin sheet) lay this on the surface of the compost and wet it before sprinkling on the seeds, then take a cocktails stick or even a sewing needles, and carefully spread the seeds well apart before covering with a thin layer of fine compost.

With hundreds of seeds in the normal packs of basic (say) lettuce, we can afford to sow more thickly and then 'thin out'. In the old days 'thinnings' used to be thrown away, but we should remember these are the same thing as the fashionable microshoots that now garnish gourmet dishes, so 'salad leaves thinnings' now need never be discarded (aka wasted). However, as thinnings as a garnish are used only once, when the seeds are planted with room to spare each shoot can be allowed to grow and grow, so we gain more leaves, and after the first few weeks after sowing, we can begin to pick a leaf here and continue picking regularly from each plant.

You could say pushing a few seeds around with a cocktail stick is being over thrifty. What is a thinning here and there. especially if these can be eaten as microsprouts? But if each seed cam provide us with more than one mouthful, a few shillings worth of leafage over the months can come to pounds saved over the year, and you know what I do with saved money! Start spending it on quality. What I call a win-win situation.
Today some (maybe all) of the salad leaf seeds will be sown, and it will be interesting to find out how far this freebie pack will go.

Still no sign of life from seeds sown previously, the conservatory is warm enough in the day (we have a clock in there that gives the phases of the moon and also the temperature), so something should soon be stirring. Some (perhaps many) gardeners sow and plant according to the moon's phases, and this allegedly gives better, stronger and more flavoursome yields. Some times the old ways are best. As said on this site so often, there is always something new to learn.