Tuesday 8 January 2008

Today in the garden ... fungus rules

There's something very magical about the way mushrooms just emerge from fragile skeletons of wood.

There's not much interesting stuff growing in the garden at the moment, though the snowdrops are preparing themselves for action and I'm still bringing in some Jerusalem artichokes to mix in with the roast potatoes on a Sunday.

The garden looks a diabolical mess at this time of year, and I freely admit that's partly because I can't be bothered to go out there and clear it up. But I've never been the kind of gardener who strives for all-year-round colour and interest, I've more of an instinct for letting everything have its time and season. Winter is the time when everything dissolves into a squelchy quagmire with mouldering twigs and brown saggy stuff all over it.

Guests who come round at this time of year say "I can't wait to see your garden!" and then take one look though the window and go "aaaaargh!"

But however unsightly it looks to the human eye, nature makes good use of it. Birds are supplied with a diet of seeds, insects have hollow stalks to nest in, and the worms are active converting last year's spent leaves into instant fertiliser.

And in a pile of soggy twigs down the bottom of the garden, we have fungus activity. Lots of it. I don't know what any of them are called.

Something else that grows nicely in winter is garlic. Usually at this time of year I find one or two dense tufts of garlic tops emerging where I forgot to harvest some of last year's bulbs. I dig them up and replant them, but very often I get a lot of cloves which are too small to be worth planting.

Here's what to do with them. Carefully wash all the soil off them (the clove skins will probably come off as well, and that's fine) and dunk them roots an' all into a mug of water on the kitchen windowsill. They'll keep for at least a week like that if you keep the roots submerged and change the water every day. Use them as fresh garlic greens in any dish that wants garlic. All you need to do is chop off the roots ... you can use all of the rest of it, green (and pink) bits included. They taste wonderful.

Garlic greens from some unharvested Music bulbs

No comments: