March at Ravenscraig
Our Sessional Worker Jackie talks about what goes on in March at Ravenscraig Walled Garden in her latest blog.
At last, we can see real signs of spring! At the back of the orchard in the sheltered area in front of the wall, the daffodils and crocuses are blooming. Herbs are starting to grow, and the wild garlic is coming through. While it’s still cold and often windy in March when the sun shines you can feel the warmth on your back, and it feels like there is hope for the growing season to come.
Things start to get a bit busier in March at Ravenscraig. We prepare the beds for growing to ensure our seedlings get a good start. This year Carol and Ross have been replacing the edging around some beds on our older plot and reclaiming an overgrown area so that we can have additional growing space.
After last month’s snow melted, the garlic and broad beans that we planted in the autumn suddenly put on a burst of growth. Planting these in November means that they remain dormant initially and then as soon as the days get longer and there is some warmth in the spring sunshine, they start to sprout. By taking this approach, we should get an earlier crop of both.
Seed sowing also starts in earnest in March. Swiss chard, spring onions, beetroot and spinach can be sown. If you have a polytunnel or a greenhouse (or a windowsill) it’s advisable to start them off inside as there is still the risk of frost at the moment. Towards the end of the month, you can sow carrots and beetroots directly into the earth. There is still time to sow peppers and tomatoes indoors before the end of the month.
I noticed signs of the rhubarb starting to grow this week and am looking forward to the first rhubarb crumble of the year. While I’m waiting for this though I will be harvesting my favourite spring vegetable – purple sprouting broccoli. This is an annual treat that patiently waits in the vegetable bed through the autumn and winter, bursting into life in March with the tender purple sprouts.
Another seasonal treat is wild garlic, found in shady or wooded areas. You can’t miss the smell if you’re out walking. To harvest it you should take the smaller leaves (the bigger ones can get a bit stringy and bitter) but leave the roots behind so there will be more next year.
It makes a great pesto which is very versatile – use it on pasta, as a salad dressing, swirled in soup or in a toasted sandwich with soft cheese or tofu. It will keep in the fridge for a week or so if sealed tightly.
Wild garlic pesto
100g wild garlic leaves (about 2 large handfuls, use smaller ones)
50g Parmesan (or similar hard cheese) grated
50g pine nuts (or walnuts or hazelnuts) toasted in a dry frying pan for about 5 minutes until golden
olive oil (sunflower or rapeseed are alternatives)
lemon juice, to taste
salt & pepper (add chilli flakes if you like a bit of heat)
Rinse the wild garlic and place in a food processor with the parmesan and a pinch of salt. Blitz until it turns into a paste. Add the nuts and blitz more, then add the oil until you get the consistency you want. Season and add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Spoon into a jar and cover with a layer of oil to keep it fresh then seal tightly and keep in the fridge.|