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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 21 July, 2018
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Autumn's here. Cosy up with a steaming apple and blackberry crumble

Late September means baking crumbles and pruning your blackcurrants, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Gardener

CLAYTONIA (ALSO CALLED winter pursulane or miner’s lettuce) is a really useful, hardy, heart-shaped winter salad green that can be used to bulk up winter salads and stir fries, and can still be sown even at this late time of the year.

It was called miner’s lettuce after the Goldrush miners who valued its high vitamin C content to ward off scurvy. 100 grammes of claytonia contains a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, 22% of the Vitamin A, and 10% of the iron. So this little leaf packs a nutritional punch.

Claytonia is succulent and almost meaty to eat. It will also withstand cooking (so is excellent as an alternative to spinach) and is very easy to grow. Though claytonia will grow in the spring/summer, it’s real value is in providing us with winter greens from October or November right up until April of the following year.

Sowing claytonia

shutterstock_612898073 Source: Sundry Photography via Shutterstock

We sow claytonia in module trays in August and September (with 4-5 seeds per module), though you can keep sowing until the end of October if you have a greenhouse or polytunnel. After sowing, keep it well watered. The seeds will germinate rapidly. After 2-3 weeks, carefully plant out each little clump of seedlings into soil either in the polytunnel or outside, allowing 7-10cm between plants.

Claytonia prefers cooler temperatures which is why it is ideal for autumn sowing, and it will tolerate cold winter temperatures (although it might need to be covered with a fleece or cloche during very frosty weather if grown outside). Make sure to keep it well watered if you are growing it under cover, or if you get a very dry spell outside (unlikely in the winter).

To harvest, cut using a scissors, leaving a few centimeters of the base of the plant in place – you will get at least 4-5 cuts off each plant over the winter. Claytonia deteriorates quickly once picked, which is why you will almost never see it available to buy commercially – it will however keep in the fridge for a few days.

The leaves are at their tastiest when young and tender. The smaller leaves are great in salads, while larger ones can be cooked (throw in to a stir fry at the last minute or boil briefly like spinach).

Food Matters @ GROW HQ – Friday 29th and Saturday 30th September

To celebrate our first birthday at GROW HQ, we are hosting a weekend of talks, panel discussions and demos called Food Matters.

On Friday night, we’ve a very special, intimate Demo and Dine evening with Rory O’Connell in our award winning restaurant. On Saturday Alys Fowler, Kitty Scully, Paul Flynn and Fiona Kelly will join our own Head Grower Richard Mee and Head Chef JB Dubois for a range of completely free demos and talks. We also have panel discussions on everything from community food markets to Food as Medicine.

On Saturday night we are hosting a long table Harvest Dinner to celebrate the best of our garden produce with a 4-course dinner. For more information visit www.growhq.org.

The Basics – Blackcurrants

shutterstock_432609559 Source: Shutterstock

Blackcurrants will benefit from a pruning each year, and October/November are good months to do so. Start pruning 2 years after planting. There are two types of branches that need attention:

  1. Weak or diseased branches – cut them out or back (to ground level)
  2. Old wood – cut out about a third of branches that bore fruit this year to make room for new shoots.

If you wish to plant a new blackcurrant bush, do so in November (bare-rooted. Container grown plants can be grown at any time of the year). Allow up to 5ft between plants.

Recipe of the Week – Blackberry and Apple Crumble

shutterstock_399827077 Source: Maria Kovaleva via Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • 900g apples – peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 350g blackberries
  • 160g demerara sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 225g plain flour
  • 175g butter
  • 125g muesli or a mixture of porridge oats, seeds and chopped nuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200C. Pour the lemon juice over the apples – this will add flavour and stops the apples from going brown. Layer the apples, blackberries, and sugar in a lasagne dish.

Place the flour in a large bowl and then rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the muesli and another 50g sugar and mix through. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit. Bake for 45 minutes.

Cool for a few minutes and then serve with custard or cream.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Gardener

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