Cultivating a borage obsession

This month’s been quite full, both on the allotment and in the strange and scary world outside it. I’ve been really busy with work, which is a good thing – my main worry when I decided to become self-employed was that I wouldn’t have enough work coming in, but like a lot of my worries, that’s proven to be unfounded. I feel like I’ve been neglecting the allotment a bit, though, and it’s not a good time to slack off. The bits I’ve decided not to cultivate – probably a sensible decision when your allotment’s the size of a county – have weeds that are taller than me already. But there are a lot of bees about, which is good, because one of my modest aims was creating a bee-friendly allotment. And look, peas!

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Plus one lettuce, the only one to survive out of ten or so. I might replenish them. The peas are the Lord Leicester ones I got from the Real Seed Catalogue.They’re apparently an old variety that’s become extremely rare, and they can grow up to 6ft. They’re already threatening to outgrow the chickenwire structure I built. I’m planing on adding another layer on my next visit. And then after that – because that’s 4ft – I might give in and ask someone to help me build a taller support system. I’m only 5 foot 2. I have limitations. Height limitations.

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I love looking at the rows of potatoes. They’re all so neat-looking, a stark contrast from the rest of the allotment. They’ve all started to appear except for the ones I bought fairly late on, the Carolus. I didn’t chit them, just because I ran out of time once I admitted to myself that potatoes had to take a back seat for a while, at least while I was changing jobs and moving house, so I’m not sure how they’ll do.

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I’ve become absolutely obsessed with borage. Put it in pasta a couple of weeks ago, a today I made a borage and potato salad. I think it’s because it’s such a novelty and it looks very pretty (if a little poncey, admittedly) in food. Plus, the bees love it.

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I keep meaning to write something about the new balcony garden. Well, balcony, terrace – it’s neither really, but I don’t know the word for ‘small area outside the front door of my flat’. It looks a bit messy at the moment, but things are growing – peas, as this picture charmingly illustrates, cucumbers, marigolds kindly donated by Good Former Colleague Chris, and a range of herbs. Plus sea holly, which is supposed to be really easy to grow but is proving to be difficult, at least for me. I think it’s pretty, even if not in the conventional way.

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Here are my two culinary adventures with borage. The left-hand one is Greek salad pasta, with spinach, feta, olives and cherry tomatoes). The right-hand one’s the abovementioned potato salad, featuring goat’s cheese, less visible borage, garlic chives, shallots and sorrel from the balcony garden (which I’d never had before and I know you’re meant to only have it in moderation. I couldn’t really taste it among everything else). Note also my small glass of wildflowers. I’m not enough of a proper person to own a vase, and I’m normally not a fan of fresh flowers, but these are FREE from the allotment, and I’d only be chucking them on the massive weed pile anyway.

It’s nice to be able to eat a BIT of my allotment, even if only the borage, garlic chives, mustard and sorrel were home-grown. I’m hoping for entire meals by autumn!

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