What to Plant Now
Last month I said there was just time to get a final sowing of hardy lettuce in the ground, but you’d need to be quick before the temperature dropped too low for them to establish.
I should know better than to make any predictions about the British climate. It’s the first rule of growing veg, really: you just never know what the weather will do. And I consider myself duly reminded. Because, in fact, there was no rush at all. It’s been so unseasonably warm that the robust greenery (spinach, frisée lettuce, mizuna etc), including those only recently sown, have established brilliantly.
I’d even venture to suggest you could still plant them out now. Though if you do sow seeds direct, it’s worth giving them a little protection with a strip of fleece to encourage germination. Better still, many of the online nurseries are selling off plug plants of frisée, chard and the like at reduced prices so snaffle up some baby plants and get them in the ground this weekend.
What to Harvest Now
The autumn harvest is in full swing now. And that means brassicas. Brassicas are the family name for all cabbages and mustards; often referred to as cruciferous vegetables. Think cauliflower, broccoli, kale, sprouts and all their various hybrids, but also radish, rocket, kohlrabi and mizuna. They are a bit of a faff to grow (more of which next month), but they do taste delicious and some look quite pretty too.
However, when it comes to good looks, every harvest in the autumn veg patch is eclipsed by the main event of the month – pumpkins. Winter squashes are so varied and so beautiful, that I would grow them even if I didn’t like to eat them. They can be orange, red, green, azure blue. Some are smooth, other ribbed, even warty. I have teardrop-shaped yellow and green speckled ones (called Harlequin), fat little round ones (Little Gem) and bulbous orange striped ones that look like a turban (predictably named, Turks Turban) this year.
What to Cook with the Harvest
Once you’ve admired their beauty, ferry your winter squash to the kitchen, because they are delicious. Cut into wedges and roast in salt and olive oil for a simple side; finely slice, cook down in butter and whizz into a puree or soup; or, try one of these recipes to make the most of your harvest. One quick word of caution: don’t bother eating the big bloated monsters you find in the shops for carving. They offer only watery, insipid disappointment. Pick something small and beautiful for any of these dishes below and you’ll have a sweeter, more flavourful result.
This curry freezes beautifully so it’s a great way to use up any damaged squash that won’t store over winter. In fact, like so many curries, freezing actually improves the flavour.
I know this sounds a bit odd, but really, it’s just a carrot cake that took a wrong turn in life and ended up somewhere more interesting. The herbs add a floral, garden air to things, and the citrus twang of feta makes the cream cheese frosting pleasingly eccentric.
Serving whole squash is always a show stopper, and if you can get hold of mini, single-serve squash then this dish is a simple but stunning centre piece for a bonfire night veggie feast.
From the book
From the book
From the Veg Patch
The ultimate guide to getting the most out of your veg patch
With 100 simple recipes to celebrate seasonal produce
From vibrant summer tomatoes to earthy winter beetroot