Heirloom Varieties

The Winter Rose

IMG_3743In spite of one of the warmest Mays on record, we all know winter is on the way and with it comes some of my favourite things.  Bracing morning walks with the dogs, snuggling up with comfort food and red wine in front of the fire, clear sunny Highland days and frosty star filled nights. Electric blankets and feather quilts.  Slippers and dressing gowns.  And the loveliness of The Winter Rose.  Or more correctly Helleborus niger.  I much prefer the common name for this romantic flower. The very name adds glamour to the garden through winter into spring and this plant is indeed to me a winter rose.  Native to the mountainous regions of Europe, Greece and Asia Minor, Helleborus niger is a member of the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family.  It blooms at Christmas time in the northern hemisphere, hence its other common name, The Christmas Rose.  Niger, the species name, means black and refers to its dark coloured roots.

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IMG_9755I love this plant at all stages –  from the beautiful, elegant buds dripping with dew to the full blouseyness of the mature flowers.  I love them massed in goblet shaped bowls and singly in groupings of bud vases.  You must pick them as mature flowers or they will wilt in the vase. They also look gorgeous in a float bowl where they will last for weeks slowly fading and changing colour. We have them everywhere in our garden. Masses of them are underplanted beneath birches and elms and my favourite combination is with ajuga and euphorbia.  By September they are all in full flight with the soft green of the euphorbia  flowers perfectly complementing the creamy green of the white hellebores – while the ajuga adds a stunning blue accent.  They’re so pretty in drifts under deciduous trees and also do well in pots.

There are lots of varieties to choose from and we will soon be receiving the Winter Elegance singles ‘Burgundy’, ‘Midnight’, ‘Primrose and Cherry’, ‘Shell Pink’, Winter White’ and Yellow Picotee’.  Along with the Winter Elegance doubles:  ‘Double Burgundy’, ‘Double Pink’, ‘Double White’ and ‘Double White Spotted’.  There are also the Winter Elegance species:  Helleborous lividus; Helleborus niger, H. x sternii ‘Ashbourne silver’ and we hope also to have tube stock of H. x hybridus in singles and double varieties.

Hellebores prefer a shady, moist situation in alkaline soil but are very adaptable.  Ours do well even in the more acidic areas of the garden where they self seed everywhere providing baby plants to gift to friends.  At planting time incorporate plenty of compost into the soil and keep them well mulched to discourage weeds and encourage worms.  Keep well watered during summer and remove dead foliage and flowers to keep the plant tidy, but otherwise there’s no need to prune.   IMG_3744 IMG_6130 IMG_9413 IMG_9416 IMG_9621 IMG_9622 IMG_9627 IMG_9637

 

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Autumn planting

IMG_9963Every day someone asks me when is the best time to plant this, or that.   Autumn is a very productive planting time, while the soil is still warm, and particularly here in the Highlands, so moist.  I have planted a little kitchen garden at the shop and everything is jumping out of it’s skin with vigour after all the lovely rain. Currently we have a wide range of vegetable, herb and flower seedlings in stock – snowpeas, broccoli, various cauliflower varieties, Tuscan kale, beetroot, lettuce, leek, salad greens, rocket, silverbeet, English spinach, baby spinach along with French tarragon, thyme, curly parsley, Italian parsley, regular mint, Vietnamese mint, Moroccan mint, chocolate mint, fennel, chives, and various basil varieties.  For the flower garden we have pansies galore, sweet william, sweet peas, lobelia, lisianthus, foxgloves, larkspur, violas, stock, primulas in various colours and lots more I can’t remember at this moment! We will soon also be stocking a wide variety of heirloom vegetable seeds, most certified organic, so you can try your hand at some of the old fashioned varieties which are generally tastier, hardier and often very decorative in the garden. In the meantime here’s a handy reference list for Autumn seed planting … courtesy of Eden Seeds. Happy gardening!

• Broad Beans
• Beetroot
• Broccoli
• Brussels Sprouts
• Cabbage
• Carrot
• Cauliflower
• Celery
• Celeriac
• Collards
• Kale
• Kohl Rabi
• Leek
• Lettuce
• Mustard Greens
• Onions
• Parsnip
• Peas
• Radish
• Salad Greens
* Mesclun Mix
* Corn Salad
* Edible Chrysanthemum
* Endive
* Mizuna
* Rocket
* Tatsoi
* Purslane
* Mountain Spinach
• Salsify
• Shallots
• Silverbeet
• Spinach
• Swede
• Turnip
• Asian Vegetables
• Herbs

For growers in the tropics and frost free sub-tropics, you can also benefit from planting:

• Broad Bean
• Bush Beans
• Climbing Beans
• Beetroot
• Broccoli
• Brussels Sprouts
• Cabbage
• Capsicum
• Carrot
• Cauliflower
• Celery
• Collards
• Maize/Sweet Corn
• Cucumber
• Eggplant
• Gourd
• Kale
• Kohl Rabi
• Leek
• Lettuce
• Okra
• Mustard Greens
• Pumpkin
• Radish
• Rockmelon
• Salad Greens
* Mesclun Mix
* Corn Salad
* Edible Chrysanthemum
* Endive
* Mizuna
* Rocket
* Tatsoi
* Purslane
* Kang Kong
* Shallots
• Silverbeet
• Spinach
• Squash
• Sunflower
• Tomato
• Watermelon
• Zucchini
• Asian Vegetables
• Herbs

 

Golden toffee apples.

IMG_9980Yesterday morning, the sun came out and sparkled on the soaked landscape.  So I took our little dog Harry and sheepdog Sam on the quad bike for a big run around the pinoak paddock.  (Jack doesn’t come, he’s scared of the bike!)  And on the way, we passed the Medlar tree.  Now in its fourth year it is laden with fruit and in the watery light of the morning sun it looked incredibly beautiful.  The medlars are like golden toffee apples and are set off by the Manchurian Pear as it changes colour, and you can just see in the background (pics below) our neighbours pinoaks turning colour in the same amber tones.  Very soon their Pinot Noir vines will also turn to match and the russet tones gather together in an almost perfect autumn painting.  People ask me what we do with the medlars.  And the answer at this stage is nothing.  I just pick them and admire them in a bowl.  In times of old they were valued as a fruit that was available in winter, but you can’t eat them off the tree.  You have to wait till they spoil, either by frost or becoming ‘bletted’ (basically rotten) in storage, then they are considered a delicacy and can be served as a dessert, or as an accompaniment to cheese and port.  An acquired taste, I believe. I’ve never tried them but a friend makes them into Medlar Jelly which I’m told is delicious.   So why grow fruit that you can’t eat?  Because I saw a lovely specimen years ago in the garden of the late Christopher Lloyd, at Great Dixter and it was so beautiful I had to have one.  It has massive blossoms in the spring – almost like magnolia flowers, then this golden fruit in autumn.  When it is bigger I’m imagining great branches of it in a massive floral arrangement and will pass some on to the very talented Margaret Young Whitford to turn into some incredible installation. Which is what she does so brilliantly. And that’s another story for another day. IMG_9979 IMG_9982 bletted_medlar medlar_blossomIMG_1907 IMG_7481 IMG_7493Medlar notes (thank you Wikipedia):

Mespilus germanica, known as the medlar or common medlar, is a large shrub or small tree, and the name of the fruit of this tree. The fruit has been cultivated since Roman times, and is unusual in being available in winter, and in being eaten when ‘bletted’ (browned by rot). It is eaten raw and in a range of dishes.

Despite its Latin name, which means German or Germanic medlar, it is indigenous to southwest Asia and also southeastern Europe, especially the Black Sea coasts of Bulgaria and of modern Turkey. The medlar was already being cultivated about three thousand years ago in the Caspian Sea region of northern Iran and Azerbaijan. It was introduced to Greece around 700 BC, and to Rome about 200 BC. It was an important fruit plant during Roman and medieval times. By the 17th and 18th century, however, it had been superseded by other fruits, and is little cultivated today. M. germanica pomes are one of the few fruits that become edible in winter, making it an important tree for gardeners who wish to have fruit available all year round. Mespilus germanica fruits are hard, acidic, and high in bitter tannins. They become edible after being softened, ‘bletted’, by frost, or naturally in storage given sufficient time. Once softening begins the skin rapidly takes a wrinkled texture and turns dark brown, and the inside reduces to the consistency and flavour reminiscent of apple sauce. This process can confuse those new to medlars, as a softened fruit looks as if it has spoiled.

Once bletted, the fruit can be eaten raw, and are often eaten as a dessert, for example with cheese or tarts, or used to make medlar jelly and wine. Another dish is “medlar cheese”, which is similar to lemon curd, being made with the fruit pulp, eggs, and butter. In Iran, the fruits, leaves, bark and wood of the tree have been used as medicines for ailments including diarrhoea, bloating of the stomach, throat abscesses and fever.

Mespilus germanica requires warm summers and mild winters and prefers sunny, dry locations and slightly acidic soil. Under ideal circumstances, the deciduous plant grows up to 8 metres (26 ft) tall. Generally, it is shorter and more shrub-like than tree-like. With a lifespan of 30–50 years, the medlar tree is rather short-lived. The leaves are densely hairy and turn red in autumn before falling. It is found across Southern Europe where it is generally rare. It is reported to be naturalized in some woods in Southeast England, but is found in few gardens.
The flowers have five broadly ovate white petals and appear in late spring. They are hermaphrodite, pollinated by bees, and self-fertile. The flower is about 6 centimetres wide and the reddish-brown fruit is a pome, 2–3 centimetres diameter, with wide-spreading persistent sepals around a central pit, giving a ‘hollow’ appearance to the fruit.

 

Plant lots of strawberries!

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This will make my friend Guy laugh.  He once estimated that I would harvest 1 million strawberries per summer based on the number of plants I had throughout the garden.  Seven years ago when we started the garden from scratch, I was searching for a suitable plant to edge the many beds and borders I had created. Budget-wise it was a bit overwhelming. Then I had a bright idea.  I had purchased 6 strawberry plants from the local nursery almost the minute we moved in and that first autumn they sent out runners everywhere so I snipped them all off and replanted them along the edges. Soon the new plants sent out runners which were transplanted and so on, and  before I knew it there were (literally) thousands of strawberries woven through the garden.  Inexperienced then in the ‘really large garden’ metier, I soon discovered this pretty and productive edging wasn’t as co-operative as I had thought. The strawberries invaded everywhere and one really wet summer they took off … it was like The Day of the Triffids! They threaded themselves through the roses, into the shrubberies, all over the vegetable garden, spilled over banks and out onto pathways.  It was a disaster.  There was so much fruit the birds even stopped eating them!   So out they came.  Weekend after weekend I hauled plants out. But not before we’d enjoyed a series of summers of buckets and bowls of fresh, delicious fruit which was turned into jams and sauces … but mainly daiquiris!   The variety I had started with was an old favourite,  Red Gauntlet.  Not popular with commercial growers these days as they are prone to little bumps and imperfections, but to me they are still one of the most delicious.  I’ve tried over twelve other varieties and none are as hardy and fulsome in flavour, especially for jam.

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It’s really easy to increase your crop by pinning down the runners in the position you want them and a new plant quickly forms.  Strawberries are only really good for two years, so plant the runners in the alternate rows and let them grow up and remove the old row every second or third year.  They are hungry feeders so add a good organic fertiliser and mulch well, laying clean straw under the plants so the strawberries don’t get muddy and rot in the wet.

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We have some lovely pink flowering strawberries in stock at The Potting Shed (sorry, can’t remember the variety) and they are sending out runners all over the place, so for $4 you actually get about 6 or 8 plants! And the pink flowers are really lovely for a change.  We also have in stock really substantial plants of Alchemilla mollis which is now my main edging plant, thanks to advice from my friend and expert gardener, Wendy Butcher from the amazingly beautiful ‘Orchard Garden’ in Central Otago, New Zealand.  Who couldn’t believe I was using strawberries.  “Haven’t you heard of Lady’s Mantle?” she asked, in disbelief.  “It’s the perfect edging plant”

It is a beautiful plant and surprisingly hardy, even through this fierce summer she has held up wonderfully but definitely prefers a little bit of dappled shade.  Alchemilla mollis, Lady’s Mantle, is an herbaceous perennial plant native to southern Europe and grown throughout the world as an ornamental garden plant.  More on her another day.  IMG_9848 IMG_9849

More is more …

I know the phrase ‘less is more’ is the catch cry of the fashionistas and stylists … and in fashion that generally is true.  But in the home and garden I say ‘more is more’!  More roses, more peonies, more trees, more hedges, more art and books, more gorgeous things to beautify our lives.IMG_5747_3On our farm we have, amongst lots of other things,  32 geese and some of my friends say I should reduce the numbers to lessen the workload … but I can’t agree.  To see them all take flight and land on the pond in a flourish of shimmering beauty is a sight to behold … their silhouette in the late afternoon as they come through the pines, and the river of white as they wind their way through the orchard gate each night to be fed is so very lovely. Much more spectacular than say 5 or 6 geese.  They add movement and interest to the garden. Plus,  they keep our sheepdog Sam amused!  Every day he wakes me at dawn to let his geese out.  He loves them and swoops excitedly about as they exit the yard into the orchard.  He rounds them up all day long splitting them into various groups, regrouping them, dividing them, herding them.  It’s funny and uplifting to watch.    It’s the same with gardening … one or two of anything looks lonely.  If you can, go for mass plantings.  Even if you have a courtyard garden, be bold.  Better to have lots of one thing than a little, meagre smattering  of lots of different things. And repeat the same plant or plantings throughout to bring continuity and settle the eye. Just as lots of one style of plants looks better, so too does a story of similar pots, or matching barrels. So if in doubt, choose a style of plant you like and say to yourself “more is more”!IMG_1448_2

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We all need more thyme!

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I grew up in Central Otago, New Zealand where the rugged hills around Alexandra are covered in wild thyme.  I remember as a child picking rosehips in the summer with my mother, and we would trample over the rocky slopes where the thyme grew and the aroma of the crushed herb would follow us as we walked.  So the smell of thyme always takes me back there. When my mother died, one of her close friends, completely unaware of that childhood memory,  sent me in the mail a little gift – a simple sprig of thyme mounted and framed, handwritten below was Thymus vulgaris and on the card a note saying “I thought your mother would like you to have this”.  How extraoardinary. It hangs in my kitchen and makes me feel my mother is always close by.  It is one of my most valued possessions. Years later, on another trip back to NZ, my wonderful cousin Marie booked a lovely surprise – an afternoon horse-riding through the hills overlooking Clyde. All along the way, the horses hooves crushed the herbs underfoot filling the air with that beautiful aroma. It was sublime –  the smell of horses, the creak of the saddles, the spectacular view … and the thyme. That’s what could be called aroma therapy on an intense level!   Thyme is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe from the western Mediterranean to southern Italy. If you don’t already have it, plant some today in your garden. Or give some in a pot to a friend or daughter, or sister or mother.   It’s the loveliest thing to share. Thyme.

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Ornamental Kale will add glamour to your winter garden

 On a trip to France a few years ago, we visited the remarkable Villandry gardens in the Loire Valley.  What stood out for me, amongst the many other wonders in this, the world’s largest jardin potager, was the spectacular ornamental kale.  Row upon manicured row of this beautiful vegetable, curated into an art form amongst a sea of other vegetables elevated from the vege patch to the catwalk!  So I have ordered lots of it for The Potting Shed – knowing that whatever doesn’t sell will go straight into the garden at home.   One fellow enthusiast came in today and snaffled a tray full, so if you’d like some seedlings to add panache to your garden this winter, be quick.  I have a feeling they won’t last long!  I’m also looking for ornamental cabbage which I saw in many villages in France in Autumn (see picture at bottom)  which is another lovely accent plant for the cooler months. I’ll let you know when I have it in stock. IMG_4719 IMG_4723 IMG_4718

Culture Ornamental Kale is easily grown in organically rich, consistently moist, well-drained loams in full sun. It’s a  frost hardy plant that needs cool temperatures to produce best leaf colors. Here in the Highlands they are best grown in the cool temperatures of autumn, but may also be grown in early spring. If grown in summer (and they will), plants will need some afternoon shade to survive, but the foliage will not be as spectacular.  Plants also look fantastic grown in containers as is often seen in France.

Noteworthy Characteristics   Brassica oleracea (Capitata Group), commonly known as cabbage, and Brassica oleracea(Acephala Group), commonly known as kale, are cool weather vegetables that are grown for harvest of their edible leaves. Cabbage forms heads and kale forms upright leaves. By contrast, ornamental cabbages and kales are grown primarily as foliage plants for their intensely coloured leaves rather than as vegetables. Ornamental plants were developed for ornamental use without regard to taste. Ornamental cabbage typically develops large rosettes of broad flat leaves and ornamental kale typically develops curly, ruffled leaves in a tight rosette. Leaf colors are usually quite showy, including white/cream, pink, rose, red and purple. Plants will grow to 12-18” tall and need the cool weather of spring or autumn to develop their best foliage color. As night temperatures drop during the autumn, the leaf color typically darkens and intensifies. Cabbage and kale are in the same species as a number of other cool season vegetables including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi.

Garden Uses  Mass plantings. Border fronts. Edging. Containers. The colorful leaves make an attractive food garnish and if you pleach their trunks, they make great cut flowers_MG_7612IMG_4373.

Today in my garden

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The apples are bursting into life and I’m wishing I’d been more organised and ordered the heritage apples I plan to espalier around the fences enclosing the vegetable garden.  Now it will have to be next winter.  Inspired by the extraordinary orchard at RHS Wisley, I am planning an exciting display of old English and French cultivars.  First on my list was the famous Cox’s Orange Pippin which will fruit for the first season this year. It is widely regarded as the finest of all dessert apples.  Cox’s Orange Pippin  ‘Pippin’ is an old English word derived from the French word for ‘seedling’. The same word can be seen in the modern French for a plant nursery or garden centre – ‘pepiniere’. Like many old apple varieties Cox’s Orange Pippin was discovered as a chance seedling.  If you would like to research this further, here’s a link to the Heritage Fruits Society www.heritagefruitssociety.org.au/

About the Heritage Fruits Society

The Heritage Fruits Society is based in Melbourne, Australia. Their aim is to conserve heritage fruit varieties (also known as ‘heirloom fruits’) on private and public land.  They enable and encourage society members to research this wide range of varieties and to inform the public on the benefits of heritage fruits for health, sustainability and biodiversity.
You can read about their history here and you can find their list of heritage apples here.

A list of some of the Heritage/Heirloom apples you might like to consider from Petty’s Orchard in Templestowe, Victoria, Australia.  It is one of Melbourne’s oldest commercial orchards, and it holds the largest collection of heritage/heirloom apple varieties on mainland Australia, with more than two hundred varieties of old and rare apples. The maintenance of the apple tree collection is done by Heritage Fruits Society volunteers. Anyone can come and help. Find out more!

Petty’s Orchard Complete Heritage Apple Collection

Abas

Akane

Albany Beauty

Alexander

Alfriston Mother (=American Mother)

Andre Sauvage Antonovka Kameniohka

Atlanta

Autumn Tart

Baldwin

Ball’s Seedling

Barry

Bashfort

Batman’s Tree

Batt’s Seedling

Baumann’s Reinette

Beauty of Bath

Beauty of Stoke

Bec D’Oie

Bedford Pippin Cross

Bedfordshire Foundling

Belle de Boskoop

Belle de Magny

Berner Rosen

Bismarck

Blenheim Orange

Blue Pearmain

Bonza Boy’s Delight

Bramley’s Seedling

Breakwell’s Seedling

Brittle Sweet

Brown’s Apple

Browns Pippin

Bulmer’s Norman

Buncum

Butters Early Red

Carolina Red June

Cataignier

Cayuga

Cayuga Redstreak

Chandler

Cimetiere du Pays

Cleopatra

Climax

Coldstream Guard

Cornish Aromatic

Cornish Gilliflower

Cox’s Orange Pippin

Cox’s Orange Pippin Red

Cox’s Pomona

Cranberry Pippin

Crofton

Crofton Red

Dabinett

Delicious

Caldicott

Delicious Glen Vimey

Delicious Hi Early

Delicious Richared

Delicious Starkrimson

Democrat

Democrat (Black)

Devonshire Quarrenden

Dewdney’s Seedling

Discovery Doctor Hogg

Dunn’s Seedling (Monroe’s Seedling)

Duquesne

Early Victoria

Edward VII

Edwards Coronation

Eggleton Styre

Egremont Russett

Eldon Pippin

Ellison’s Orange

Emneth Early (=Early Victoria)

Esopus Spitzenburg

Esopus Sptizenburg

Fameuse (=Snow Apple)

Fenouillet Gris

Forfar Pippin

Forge

French Crab (=Winter Greening)

Freyberg

Frost

Fuji

Gala

Geante D’Exposition

Geeveston Fanny

Geoff’s Tree

George Carpenter

George Neilson

Gildering Sage D’espagne

Gladstone

Golden Delicious

Golden Harvey (=Brandy Apple)

Grandmere

Granny Smith

Gravenstein

Gravenstein Early

Grosseille

Hollow Crown

Holly

Hubbardton Nonsuch

Hyslop Crab

Ida Red

Improved Foxwhelp

Irish Peach

Isaac Newton’s Tree

James Grieve

Jaunet

Jerseymac

Jonagold

Jonared

Jonathan

Jonathan Red

Jongrimes

July Red

Keswick Codlin

Kidds Orange Red

King Cole

King David

King of the Pippins

King of Tompkins County

Kingston Black

Kirk’s Seedling

Lady Finger

Lady William

Lalla

Laxton’s Fortune

Laxton’s Superb

Legana

Lodi

London Pippin (Five Crown)

Lord Derby

Lord Lambourne

Lord Nelson

Lord Suffield

MacIntosh Early

Magnolia

Maigold

McIntosh Early

Melba

Melrose

Merton Worcester

Michelin

Minjon

Monarch Cross

Monroe

Murray Gem

Mutsu

Newtown Green Pippin

Nickajack

Norfolk

Northern Spy

Opalescent

Orange de per

Orleans Reinette

Ortley (=Cleopatra)

Peasgood’s Nonsuch

Pine Golden Pippin

Pittmaston Pineapple Fameuse (=Pomme de Neige)

Poor House

Potts’ Seedling

Prima

Prince Alfred

Prince Edward

Queen Cox

Quinte

Ranger

Red Astrachan

Red Delicious

Red Granny Smith

Red Winesap

Red Winter Pearmain (=Buncombe)

Reinette d’Angleterre

Reinette du Canada

Reinette Musque Rheinette de Macon

Rhode Island Greening

Ribston Pippin

Rokewood

Rome Beauty

Roundway Magnum Bonum

Rous La Tour

Royal Jubilee

Saint Edmunds Pippin

Saint Edmunds Russet

Scarlet Nonpariel

Scarlet Staymared

Scotia

Spartan

Splendour

Starkes Earliest

Starking Hi Early

Statesman

Stayman’s Winesap

Stewart’s Seedling

Summer Strawberry

Sunbury Late

Sundowner

Sweet Coppin

Symond’s Winter

Twenty Ounce

Tydeman’s Early Worcester

Upton Pyne

Vista Bella

Winter transparent Early

Woolbrook Russet

Worcester Pearmain

Yarlington Mill

Yates

Asparagus love

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In May this year, following a memorable visit to London’s Chelsea Flower Show,  RHS Wisley, Hidcote, Daylesford and various theatre and gallery outings, we had lunch at Petersham Nurseries .  It was impressive – simple, seasonal, perfectly prepared and presented.  Paul and I ordered the asparagus starter – served simply with boiled eggs, a capsicum and chilli coulis and sprinkled with edibles.  So fresh and full of flavour … truly delicious.  Inspired, I came home and planted more asparagus in the garden.  You have to wait for a few years to get a good crop, but once established your crowns will deliver daily  delights each Spring for 20 years or more.  There is nothing like the taste of those spears cut early in the morning and poached quickly for the breakfast plate.  Just add butter.  Don’t mess around with asparagus … it’s paradise just on its own if picked fresh.  And then overnight, as if by magic, up they come again, little lovely fat spears waiting to be cut again the following day.  I’ll never forget one year at Country Trader‘s very swanky Christmas party there were giant bowls of asparagus in the most extravagant display I’d ever seen … voluminous bunches accompanied by Hollandaise sauce. Dip, sip, dip, sip.  Bollinger Champagne and fresh, warm asparagus … heaven!

So whether you’re growing your own or buying from the local Farmers Markets here’s what goes well with asparagus, as advised in Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion:

artichokes
bacon
breadcrumbs
butter
capers
chervil
chives
cream
eggs
gruyere cheese
ham
light soy sauce
mushrooms
mustard
olive oil
oranges
parmesan cheese
parsley
potatoes
raclette cheese
sesame oil
smoked salmon
spinach
tarragon
walnuts

The wonders of La Chassagnette in Camargue

La Chassagnette 10

La ChassagnetteI found this article in France Today which I thought you might enjoy.

The Camargue—that wide strip of land between sky and sea that stretches across arms of the Rhône—is not just a paradise for birds and white horses. Its marshes are put to work producing crystalline salt, its broad flatlands produce some of the world’s finest rice, and its grassy fields are home to black cattle whose lean, delicious meat is recognized for its healthful properties.

If you have time for only one restaurant in the Camargue, it should be Armand Arnal’s La Chassagnette. Seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, the tall, quiet chef presides over a restaurant both simple and sophisticated. Simple, because he uses only fruits and vegetables from his own organic garden, no matter the season. His immense potager, which inspires rapt admiration in most visitors, produces treasures he transforms into the most elegant of dishes. For Arnal, vegetables are not an accompaniment but a noble product, worthy of all his attention, and ours. It’s sophisticated, because he knows how to take a fish, caught that morning or the night before, and use it to compose a dish that seems quite unpretentious but is the result of some fairly profound thought. Take the marinated lisette, a small mackerel that he serves with a broccoli purée, black sesame and preserved lemon; or the duck raised in the rice fields, served with ribbons of root vegetables in a sweet-and-sour sauce and a sprinkling of caramelized pine nuts; or the dessert of fennel sorbet, vanilla granité and fennel confit. Born in Montpellier, Arnal formerly worked with Alain Ducasse, notably in his New York restaurant for several years. Arriving at La Chassagnette in 2006, he won a Michelin star in 2009. Although he’s proud of it, he says a star was not his primary motivation— what he likes is creating cuisine tied to its locality, and in the Camargue he has found his niche. Route de Sambuc (betwee Arles and Le Sambuc)04.90.97.26.96 www.chassagnette.fr