Here's what we learned last from last year's successes and failures.
Long, green spears of wild asparagus pushed up after the April rains in 2012: they are delicious fried quickly in a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt. See this post.
We didn't really grow the apricots; they grew themselves on the little tree in front of our house. We got enough in early June to make several jars of not-too-sweet golden jam.
There are a couple of trees nearby from which we scrumped nisperos (also called loquats). You peel back the vibrant orange skin to find a juicy sweet fruit, sometimes with a touch of sharpness. In the centre is a large, glossy brown stone. They probably would have made a good, spicy chutney but I didn't get round to it.
A tree on the corner of our land was covered in cherry blossom in the spring and I watched and waited for the fruit to grow and ripen. Then, all of a sudden, it disappeared - the birds had got it before we had a chance. So we bought bagfuls of cherries from market stalls in the village.
Pimientos de padrón
These are delicious picked while green, fried fiercely in olive oil until they blister and blacken, then served immediately, sprinkled with coarse, crunchy sea salt. Most taste green and fruity, but the occasional one is fiery hot. Well, that's the theory. Ours are all - every single one of them - super spicy.
So we've given up eating them in the traditional way - it's just too painful. We've roasted some in the oven and stored them in a jar covered in olive oil. These will be good on pizzas. The rest we're using as fresh chillis in curries and Mexican dishes.
We're still using up the free packs of seeds we picked up in Wahaca in London a couple of years ago. They were slow to germinate in 2012's late spring which had some cool nights, but in late summer they started to fruit and then turned red in the autumn sun.
While it's true that we can buy delicious and cheap tomatoes in the village, we couldn't resist growing some of our own, so we decided to go for cherry tomatoes, which are expensive to buy. We had a bit of a slow start - May was chilly and the seeds didn't germinate until well into the month. However, the summer sun really got the plants going and the fruits were ripening by early August. A sun-warmed, sweet tomato straight off the vine is a lovely thing and we thoroughly enjoyed our harvest.
Of course, there was a glut so I dried some in the sunshine with some stalks of rosemary spread out on a baking tray (it took a couple of days) and then put them into a jar covered in olive oil. The rest I roasted in the oven and made into soup. But cherry toms aren't as good as big tomatoes for this - you get too many seeds. This year, we've got some seeds for some more unusual varieties to experiment with.
The tree on our driveway produced a steady crop of small green figs over about six weeks from mid-August. I'd been warned that some figs have a little white worm inside, so we cut each one in half and examined carefully before eating. Figs are very rich and some people prefer them cooked or dried. I dried a good batch in the sun over a couple of days, keeping them safe from flies under one of those Women's Institute-style muslin umbrellas. And I included some more in a compote with some peaches, apples, cinnamon and sugar. This worked well with yogurt for summer breakfasts.
|Fig chutney in progress|
There's a small grapevine that grows up a west-facing wall of our house. It produced lots of black grapes in August with no attention other than a bit of pruning and pinning up earlier in the year.
We grew several plants from seed, but only got a couple of fruits before they succumbed to powdery mildew.
I'd saved some seeds from a variety of small melon we'd grown successfully in London. The plants grew and began to fruit, but the mildew got these too.
Basil thrived in the Mediterranean sun. Parsley too. Oregano is doing so well that it's gradually taking over my little herb garden, although the species I've got (I don't know which) doesn't have a very pronounced taste. A few different types of mint seem pretty failsafe and new stalks have been popping up happily over the past couple of months. Coriander (very frustratingly as it's a herb that we can't buy easily here - I miss our Cypriot delis of north London which sell enormous fragrant bunches for 75p) rushes to seed every time I try.
And so the new growing season has started -we're looking forward to seeing what comes up.