Against habitual preference, I am rather enjoying this time of year, probably because any kind of summery weather is so belated and so unaccustomed that it seems precious. It's hard not to feel a bit cheated of the late spring and early summer that I love, but to rail against the weather is futile; better late than never, and being high and dry as we are up here, usually struggling against drought, it's been good not to have to water the garden too much.
But it's a dry, flat season all the same; lots of work to do, family visitors to feed and entertain - the two functions in these parts being very largely synonymous - which is all great of course, but not a great deal of creative inspiration, the perceptions dulled and sated by summer's fullness of wealth. It was ever so. The light offers little of interest except at each end of the day. I stay up and sleep in too late, but vowed this morning to get up and catch the sunflowers in the morning light.
I edited a version of this where I cropped out the heap of plastic over the disused raised bed in mid-shot, which didn't really look so evident at the time, and the old fence post in what used to be the hens' living space. But it's really all part of the landscape. I don't miss the hens too much, except that while they lived, no food was ever wasted.
The sunflowers were a mixed packet which were supposed to be shorter, multi-headed and mixed colours.
They are multi-headed, and come in pretty bronze shades as well as yellow, but some of them are very tall nevertheless,
They appear more richly coloured in the morning and evening light, it's true, but it's in the heat of the day that the bees enjoy them most.
The white clump of stuff in the photo before last is coriander. Conveniently, here in Europe (as I understand it) we give the same name to the green leaf as to the seed, so no fussing about cilantro etc, pretty word though it is, know how to pronounce it though I don't.
Convenient because the plants that I have are somewhere between the two states now; they have long since bolted, but still yield plenty of leaf for my needs (I've frozen plenty too), but the seeds are still soft and green, and their flavour too is interestingly betwixt and between, and boost the rather mild flavour of the leaf, which I put down to a lot of rain and not much sun. All kinds of bees and hoverflies are loving the flowers (see how I give way to the use of the verb 'love' in a continuous tense, is this capitulation, sinisterly influenced my fast food advertising?), so I'll leave them to finish flowering and harvest as much seed as I can for replanting and as spice. Interested to know if others have done this and any recommended techniques.
I'm aware I've not answered Catalyst's question on the last post about the difference between male and female flowers of pumpkins, which gives me a ready excuse to post a load more pumpkin pictures; you know you want to see more of my pumpkins, really you do. Of course the main and most evident sign of a female flower is that it will have a fruit forming at the base of it, like so:
and the male doesn't:
It's all to do with whether it's a stamen (the male's single pointy thing, above),
or a pistil (the female's collection of vase-shaped bobbly bits, above).
(Yet speaking of such matters, I cannot fail to observe how typically women are drawn to vessels and containers - boxes, cups, vases, saucepans; I myself am a sucker for bowls and have to stop myself collecting far too many, especially those with beautiful insides like Mason Cash mixing bowls with the blue linings, and wee cider bols with glossy red interiors. Men, it must be observed tend more to tools, implements, remote controls for the TV even... It amuses, delights and slightly appals me that we are so transparently driven by our biology, even down to our aesthetics.)
And while we're on pumpkins, and sex, it must be time for an update on the fruit. The largest of them are the size of a fair-sized melon, but their breeding and the matter of the male/female flowers puzzles me. You may not remember (and why on earth would you, since I cannot expect you to share my preoccupation with these vegetables, Tom's eyes glaze over when I start to talk about them), I planted two kinds: the classic big orange rouge vif d'Etampes, one of the few widely available here, from a packet, and some saved seed from an unnamed lumpy greenish-skinned variety of surpassingly good flavour I got from a local box scheme.
I have heard that pumpkins and squashes are very promiscuous things, that all kinds of cross-pollination takes place and you can never be entirely sure what you'll get - unless I suppose you only plant one variety of selected seed. Many of the fruits which are developing would seem to prove that some such wanton miscegenation has indeed been going on.
(The two above are some odd ones I planted in pots on the terrace, an experiment to see whether, with liberal amounts of pelleted manure and water, pumpkins can successfully be grown in pots.)
However, what I don't understand is, the fruits begin to develop, and show signs of their final markings, shape and colouring, before the female flowers open and can possibly be pollinated by the male flowers (of which their seem to be many more coming now). So surely cross-fertilisation this season can't affect the fruits of the same year? So why worry about pollinating them at all? Perhaps the fruits would wither without it, as some have done, or perhaps it is the seeds inside which would be barren, which means perhaps that this year's motley of shapes, colours and patterns is down to last year's fruiting elsewhere. Clearly I must do some research on this matter.
More veg talk. This seems very largely to have become a gardening and cooking blog, and a sporadic one at that - where are the deep, solemn, frequent and would-be lyrical posts of yesteryear? Anyway, this is the final harvest of the Roscoff pink onions, curing in the sun in the same old wine box I bletted the medlars in . The largest is about 10 cm across, but they've been somewhat affected by the damp, and may not keep long. Not to worry, using them up won't be a problem.
Molly enjoyed having visitors. She got to walk out on the beach with Benj, and it was quite nice for me to let someone else on the end of her lead having to run round in circles and get her untangled from the rocks and out of the rockpools.
She was much livelier as she always is with other people about, though they got up a bit late for her liking, no matter how much she snuffed at their bedroom door and barked in the hall.
Emily's dad shows her the seashells he's collected. However, the only kind she's really interested are the mussels she gets to eat with chips. It's worth having them here to watch and wonder at the enormous quantities of these succulent bivalves she can put away, and the speed with which she does it. I procure huge quantities of them which I cook in the largest stock pot we own, put out a large paper tablecloth, supply her with a bowl and a ladle, then wind her up and watch her go, her little thin elbows stuck out sideways, and a look of rapture on her face, occasionally murmuring 'They're so nice!' between mouthfuls. Then we take her to Le Vivier in Erquy and she orders another bucketload, this time with Roquefort sauce, and starts all over again. I'm not sure I even know what the inside of a mussel looked like at fourteen. Show her a green pea and you'll get short shrift, mind.
Just save me some chips, says Mol.
Breaking news - or nearly. The Olympic women's mountain bike gold medal winner, Julie Bresset, hails from Ploeuc-sur-Lié, a small inland town just down the road from us, hitherto noteworthy only for being the origin of a variety of potato, the BF 15 (a fact not negligible among potato cognoscenti...). Apparently big screens were set up in the centre of town for the populace to watch her progress. I was almost tempted to go along but the thought of sweating out the midday sun among the citizenry of Ploeuc (pronounced something like Plurk) didn't quite hold enough appeal. Now there is doubtless revelry in the streets and I almost regret my decision.
I'll try to do more little-and-often kind of posting from now on, which is really what I prefer to see on blogs that I read, rather than such long but infrequent offerings.