Green tomatoes and that perfect chutney
Perhaps, like me, you have a lot of them now. I'm referring to green tomatoes.
Of course, there are some still ripening but the green ones are just as valuable because they make an excellent chutney. It's time to get my dear old grandmother's recipe out!
But there is another recipe I would love to make but Margaret will not give me it. "It's a years old family secret," she tells me when refusing to divulge all. But I will work on her!
I called in to see Graham and Margaret the other day. They live in a centuries-old cottage.
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When you enter you go back in time. An old grandfather clock fills the rooms with its steady plod, and there is not another sound.
Their garden is just as old. It seems to go on forever and this and that mixes with others. Graham and Margaret are getting on in years but it is the garden which keeps them fit.
"I'm getting some new tulip bulbs this autumn!" said Margaret as she and I, and Muff their old black dog, strolled through the garden. "Must get the geraniums in before the first frost," she added.
It's all too tempting isn't it! Garden centres, market stalls and catalogues galore are full of bulbs of all descriptions with pretty chocolate box photographs. You feel you must rush out into the garden and plant bulbs, bulbs, bulbs ready for a spectacular spring display.
Margaret doesn't. She only chooses the exact bulbs she wants.
In most cases this is the time to plant bulbs, except for tulips that is. I find they are always best planted in early November. But this is the month to buy their bulbs and the ones I want to introduce are the species tulips. Many are quite small and because of this they, or their hybrids, are especially suitable for rock gardens or containers.
They are as tough as old boots shrugging off the worst weather and bringing such joy when they flower in spring, foiled by their pretty leaves and, in the case of using them in containers where summer bedding plants will be put, they can be easily dug up after their display, popped into a trench elsewhere in the garden until the foliage dies away, lifted, dried and stored ready for planting out again next November. Try them with winter-flowering pansies or sneak a few between the winter flowering heathers, the erica carneas.
Out in the rock garden give them full sun, a well-drained soil with a dressing of lime and a planting depth of six inches and they will perform for you year after year and increase their number. My favourite are the greigiis.
They originate from Central Asia and grow to only nine-inches high. Their leaves are beautifully veined or marked with purple-brown and bronze
I also want to order, and introduce, the larger cottage tulip called 'Queen of The Night' (actually, a deep velvety maroon which looks black) and a new 'lily' tulip called 'Lasting Love' a deep, deep, velvet-red with lighter petal edging, and underplant the traditional 'head gardeners of old' way with white arabis to highlight their darkness. I also want to try a group planted amongst comfrey.
"Come and have some bread I've just made with cheddar cheese and some of my latest green tomato chutney - to try it. I know you love my chutney Michael."
I do! Let me describe it. Not chopped up as most of the chutneys but the tomato rough cut, large sultanas, pieces of shallots and apple. I think there is rum in it too. One day Margaret will tell me.
She just enjoys teasing me. Nice chatting to you!