For the barbarians

Plants to keep you eating even when a barbarian horde drops in: I always bung in a lot of silver beet (so-called ‘perpetual beet’ if you can get it; it’s much more tender than the others). Silver beet is desperately delicious and a great standby for spinach pancakes if a barbarian horde suddenly drops in for lunch.

Other excellent standby plants include leeks (you can do lovely things with leeks) parsnips, masses of carrots, beetroot, garlic chives, collards, and spring onions. These are all vegetables that you plant in large quantities in spring that survive either till you eat them or till next spring.

The great thing about a living larder is that it’s there when you need it. Twenty teenagers arrive unexpectedly with yours at dinner time? No worries spag and what’s in the garden sauce. Ghenghis Kahn and his horse drop in for lunch? Feed them leek and carrot quiche. (I fry the carrots and leeks before adding them to the quiche and it tastes very meaty, even for a barbarian horde.)

Don’t forget spuds too: a homegrown spud is even more startlingly good to the uninitiated than homegrown tomatoes. Make sure they’re always mulched right up to the top leaves to maximise the number of spuds you get. Don’t forget to do the same to beans too, so you don’t get bean fly and DO get a heck of a lot more beans for longer and ditto tomatoes.

I’m bunging in even more artichokes this year. They’re a wonderful gift to a boring spring diet and quite spectacular if you don’t get round to picking and eating the ‘chokes’ and let them flower.

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