August is a time of abundance in the garden, with much of the green-fingered gardeners hard work coming to (no pun intended) fruition, and none more so than here on the ‘Garden Isle’. Enjoying an average of over 37 hours of sunshine a week compared to the national average of 29.7 hours, the Island has always been a great place for growing. You can literally taste the sunshine too, as nothing beats the flavour of homegrown fruit and vegetables. The reduced food miles – often just mere metres from the garden or allotment to the kitchen – means that none of the sweetness or nutrients are lost in transit.
What should I be growing now?
Although we’re in the midst of the harvest season at the moment with tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies, carrots and beetroots all at their best, there is still plenty of preparation to be done for next year. Why not pop along to The Garlic Farm, where you can not only have a taste of some of the fantastic products they create from this humble allium, but also pick up some bulbs of your own to plant. Separate the bulb into cloves, and simply pop in the ground by November and you’ll have bulbs of your own ready to dig by July next year.
New to gardening?
If this all sounds a bit daunting, growing a few simple plants from seed can be a great way of dipping your toe in the water. Radish, lettuce and spring onions are all quick to germinate and should see you having tasty treats to harvest within a few short weeks. Many garden centres also sell seedling plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers – a great shortcut which only need a spot of careful nurturing and a warm sunny spot on a window sill or in a greenhouse to show results.
Only got a small garden, or no garden at all?
Well fear not, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that not only grow in confined conditions, but thrive in them. Carrots in particular lend themselves to being grown in pots, raising them by just 18 inches helps to put them out of the reach of pesky pests such as carrot fly, and many beans (such as broad beans and runner beans) are available in container specific varieties. You can even grow potatoes in bags and strawberries in hanging baskets – the perfect solution for balconies!
Got a glut?
One unavoidable part of growing your own is the inevitable glut when all your produce matures at around the same time. It can only take a couple of days for a tiny bean to grow to a foot long monster. The simple answer is to share your harvest with friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues… anyone who has once expressed an interest in your homegrown wares deserves to have the obligatory courgette-as-big-as-a-baby foisted upon them. Why not invite fellow foodies to a feast, each bringing a dish to the table in the ultimate harvest supper?
Not feeling so generous?
The next best thing is squirrel your goodies away for the future. For hundreds of years, we’ve been preserving foods to store for the leaner months, whether that’s pickling everything from onions and beetroot to cucumbers and cabbage, transforming them into jams, ketchups and chutneys or by preparing fruit and vegetables for the freezer. Why not embrace the Good Life made famous by Tom and Barbara in the television series and try your hand at homebrewing? Although their peapod burgundy might be a step too far, think cider and perry or try infusing fruit in alcohol for a warming homemade cassis or rhubarb gin.
Not got green fingers?
The Island has a plethora of vendors prepared to share their wares with you. From garden gate honesty box stalls where you can pick up not only homegrown fruit and vegetables, but often produce made from them, to farm shops such as Farmer Jack’s, Briddlesford Lodge Farm and Brownrigg’s which showcase the best the Island’s farmers have to offer. There are even a few eateries such as the Quarr Abbey Tea and Farm Shop and the Edulis restaurant at Ventnor Botanic Garden where you can follow the food from field to fork. You can find our full guide in the latest printed edition of Taste of the Wight – or read online here.