Bits and pieces : kitchen and garden


This is the noonday sun on the last day in August.  Today is the first of September, the beginning of the new year in my head.


In my kitchen there is a box of meringue fingers studded with toasted hazelnuts from Normandy – a gift to Brian from my sister, Brian likes them crumbled up on top of fresh fruit with yoghurt as a dessert.


And there were also some very useful indeed sachets of yoghurt starter enzymes (another thoughtful gift from my sister)  for when your old home made yoghurt has gone a bit beyond being used to seed a new batch. Still wondering why no one in the UK stocks these. Lakeland stock EasiYo, all the way from the Antipodes but not these made in Europe. Funny old world….

asier gurk pickle

Pickled Danish cucumber, the asie gurk, from seed sent me by the lovely Misky,  grown by me outdoors here at home in pots with local manure to help them along, peeled and brined and made according to this recipe  and then lovingly waterbath processed by Brian. I don’t think I would make them without his help as I don’t like handling hot jars, damp with boiling steam from the oven.

I use the pickle juice to thin down our current salad dressing, which is a tsp of dijon mustard mixed in a little home made yoghurt and does a very good impression of a mayonnaise with no oil worked into it. The cucumbers are a joy and a delight and much nicer (variety name : the Langelands Giant) than many of the other varieties I have sampled this year. So many cucumbers are full of seeds and surprisingly bitter, these ones have always been sweet and crisp.

I left a tray of my own home saved angelica seed at the Community Garden at Blaise, where I do a bit of volunteering,  hoping it would germinate and the magic of the place has made it happen already. It is supposed to need a period of cold before coming up and this has taught me that books are not always right.

IMG_6992 I was delighted! I suspect not many people have the patience to grow it, it can take up to three years to get stems large enough to candy, or even that much interest in candying and eating it I got there this year having waited patiently for several years and felt great personal satisfaction and one of these days will make some buns or some icecream and use the angelica I candied at home.


Angelica archangelica coming into flower earlier this year.


Candied stems drying, they will keep for ages now.

If you want to know how to do it, you could pop over to my acquaintance Dan at the Apothecary’s Garden as I learnt the basics from him.


Here is my little old mushrooming basket, given to me by my dear friend Hazel, who passed away many years ago now, I remember her when I pick it up and carry it with me, as I carry her in my heart always. Here it is filled with tomatoes and herbs and some wild blackberries, calendula flowers and cucumbers, and a fairy lights chilli plant coming home from Blaise Community Garden.


Apples are falling off the tree before ripening for some reason and the pear tree has long spindly branches and too many pears so I took a whole lot off the other day and bottled them and hope the pear tree won’t break too many more of its branches. I need to get a lesson from someone in pruning.


A squirrel has had most of the nuts off the red hazel but has left me a symbolic handful


and here is the eternal game being played out by my hairy friends and companions, another good prompt to get out of the house and breathe fresh air.


20 thoughts on “Bits and pieces : kitchen and garden

  1. Misky

    Aha! There’s the comment box. I must be going lalala. I just wanted to say that Peder thinks your asier are splendid looking, and we also love yogurt and fruit for afters, and best wishes to you both for autumn. xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      No it’s me who is lala ;) Yoghurt and fruit, stewed fruit, fresh fruit, we are eating very little concentrated sugar forms these days and feeling much better for it. I love the asier with a passion, they make me so happy to grow them. Crazy me!

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s warming up again here this week, golden days full of sunshine, so lovely and relaxing to have a warm autumn to play in outside for a while :)

  2. MC

    OMG, this post hits all my buttons. The doigts meringués, the home-made yogurt (used to make one litre every day when we lived in France), the angélique, the fruit on the trees, the hazelnuts (big favorites), the old basket (I treasure and still use the one my grandpa made for me when I was 4 or 5), the tug of war between the doggies and the blessed asier… So many sweet memories. Just lovely!

    1. Joanna Post author

      How lovely to have a working basket your grandpa made for you – am delighted you enjoyed this little post !

  3. Karin Anderson

    How nice to read about your garden harvest, Joanna. We had a lot of raspberries this year, a handful of sour cherries, gooseberries and blueberries.. My precious hazelnuts (from nuts I gathered in Germany, the are not common here) are growing, no nuts, yet, but the squirrels are most likely watching them closely.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Maybe the squirrels won’t notice them if they are not used to them where you live now, it’s like the birds don’t seem to notice my fig tree, though they strip the rowan berries which appear as early as June. I would love to have cherries and think about squeezing a couple of trees in somewhere but really I don’t have space. Enjoy your fruits!

      1. Karin Anderson

        I made a wonderful raspberry ice cream (from David Lebovitz: “The Scoop”), and a Raspberry White Chocolate Tart. The fruit trees are dwarf varieties, because we have a lot of large trees and not too many all-day sunny spots on our property.
        We’ll see about the squirrels, in principle there are hazelnuts growing in Northern Maine, but people here are more used to pecans or walnuts, and hazelnuts are quite expensive.

        1. Joanna Post author

          Sadly we don’t have many hairy berry desserts here as Brian is allergic to them. I have a small stash of freezer raspberry jam and of course my beloved bramble jelly so am not completely bereft. Yours sound delicious I would love a tree orchard ! Pecans are expensive here and considered exotic. Every so often I come across a walnut tree on my walks but never managed to collect good sized nuts.

  4. michaelawah

    hi joanna,
    always nice to get a peek into your garden. i love that meringue box. And thanks for that photo of angelica. What does it actually taste like? I’ve only had it in its candied form, and frankly that one piece (they were very stingy with it, in one big piece of brioche, there was only one piece!) tasted like any other candied fruit. Now that I know how hard it is to grow, perhaps that’s why… I had it in a fouace aveyronnaise here, a sort of regional brioche. There are so many variants of brioche, but this one was particularly delicious, unforgettable.
    So you have a hazelnut and a fig tree (amongst many others surely!). We’re hesitating between a fig and apple tree to grow, and a friend suggested hazelnut as well. We can’t have too big a tree, our garden is small. I love figs but don’t want to end up with those green types that drop without ripening. I always had the notion that figs were Mediterranean trees but I guess not.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think the angelica is probably not that hard to grow once you have a few plants going and the cycle is established with plants at different stages of development, but unlike artichokes which are perennial, the angelica is a biennial, so once it has set seed it is unlikely to grow again from the same root stock. It will self sow as well, but you need the space and it can look quite untidy. I have seen a big patch of it growing in a city park here.

      If you have tried green chartreuse, it is one of the flavourings in that. It is a quite unique aroma and taste, very strong when fresh, herbal, pungent, even a little medicinal maybe, if you taste the poached young stems before candying they are sweetish on their own accord with, a little bitterness underneath, not like citron at all, which is the more common candied green peel of course. You might be able to find it more easily in France where I have a feeling it is grown more than here?

      I have a pear tree and an apple tree, but they are all crowded in here. We tried growing quince but that got an illness and had to come out. Fruit trees seem to be more prone to disease than other trees. You are quite right – the fig grows better further south. In England we only get, if we are lucky, one crop of ripe figs, the second crop, which is now on the tree and will have to be taken off and discarded unripe, would ripen in November/December in the Med -but it will be too cold. The variety I have is called Brown a Turkey and is one of the ones they suggest for the UK. Mine is quite sheltered and in a warm spot. Apparently they also grow well in pots, though I haven’t ever had a fruit tree in a pot to tell you about.

    2. Joanna Post author

      Sorry I somehow missed this completely :( Angelica tastes extraordinary when it is fresh, it has a very strong smell which is probably most of its taste if you know what I mean. It isn’t that hard to grow in fact, but it takes a couple of years or even three to get big enough to harvest for stems. If you have ever had green chartreuse it is one of the flavourings in that. It has a green, slightly medicinal, herbal wild and complex aroma. If you think of how unique herb aromas are then you will know how hard it is to describe one, something of parsley about it, or coriander, of caraway, not really any of those but very intense.

      I don’t have a huge garden. I do have a famly apple tree which is quite clever as it has only grown to maybe 9 foot in ten years, has three different grafts so you get three different sorts of apple on one tree. You can get pear trees like that too. If you buy a tree with a dwarf root stock it never gets very big. If the weather is warm enough you should get one crop of figs in summer. In the Mediterranean they get two crops a year usually. Here the second lot never ripen and I have to pick them off or they rot on the stems. It kind of all depends on your climate. Ask around and see what people grow successfully where you live.

  5. narf77

    I can’t stay grumpy when I am outdoors being towed behind a most determined dog on his daily outing. September brings spring to our side of the world. My antipodean heart begins to sink the closer we get to December and thus summer…my arch nemesis. I see you survived your summer and admirably so with yoghurt. Kudos Ms Joanna. I am starting my garden ready to plant all manner of things. I have some purple angelica seed given to me by the keeper of an amazing local garden. I would love for them to grow. Time to hit up my old mate Google to find out how which where why and when…Love that basket and that you carry your friend with you in your heart :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Our summer is making a comeback this week – glorious weather – picked all my tomatoes as late blight has finally arrived, but had a nice crop. Looking forward to seeing how Sanctuary gets on this year !

      1. narf77

        I have great plans…that’s always a good start for me but I have some lovely plants that need planting out (more motivation) and a tonne of manure and leaves to relocate inside Sanctuary (less motivated to do that ;) ) and spring is tugging at more than my heartstrings…I think I have spring fever! Just got to get these last few studies out of the way before I can leap in with both hands (maybe not in the manure… ;) )

  6. Michelle Eshkeri

    Thanks for the Angelica link – I have a lot of small plants this year grown from seed last year which will be ready for candying next year; so instructions bookmarked in anticipation! I missed the last opportunity to candy the stems as I didn’t realise it was better done when they were younger until after the moment had passed. By the time I get there I will have waited 3 years! I tasted some raw this year and thought it very similar to celery.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think this year it was really mild weather wise because my third year plants suddenly took off very early. The just coming into flower photo above was taken on 15 April which was when I decided to take down the first plant, the one you see and candy it. The stems weren’t as thick as angelica I have bought in the past but they were tender and green. I made some with another plant (I had three altogether) a few weeks later and it was a bit stringy and coarse. It kind of reminds me of those decision points when handling a dough, such a long time to get there and then you have to jump. I waited three years too if it is any consolation :) I didn’t take the syrup as hot as Dan takes it in his recipe, but I don’t feel that I have had enough experience of making it to write a proper ‘how to candy angelica’ post, I am still at the experimenting stage !

      I think it is the aroma that is unique, there is nothing quite like it. Good Luck with yours Michelle!

  7. claire

    Figs and what look like maybe Russets?! Well colour me officially jealous, for they are my absolute favourites.

    1. Joanna Post author

      There were figs earlier in the year but the ones that are on there now probably won’t ripen and yes Russets. I have a tree with three grafts, sometimes called a ‘family’ tree and the Russet graft has become the dominant one and we always have loads, though forgot to spray against codling moth and some of them are inhabited !

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