August is a great month for gastronomic treats

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe now enjoying their twenty fifth August in Spain

Holistic gardening pays off

If you have been developing a total or holistic garden full of vegetables, fruit, herbs and edible flowers for summer harvesting as well as a continuous display of perfumed flowers for enjoyment on the plants as well as for cutting August is going to be a busy but very beneficial month in the garden.

Eco gardening will now be a real bonus

If you have been following the practical guidelines for ecological gardening in our books you will not have the fear of wondering whether your summer harvests contain residual chemical insecticide or fungicide contaminants.

So what gastronomic treats await you?

If raspberries and strawberries have been well mulched and kept moist and given a monthly comfrey liquid feed rich in potassium the plants will start to crop well as the temperatures drop down a little after the peaks of July. Gluts beyond what can be eaten in a day can be dried or frozen for stimulating winter deserts or energy foods for walking.

Figs are ripening fast and even with one tree it’s normal to have days of gluts. Again they can be frozen or dried but some creative tapas and deserts when you have guests can soon use up the surpluses fresh. Try the following. They are two of our favourites when dining alone as well as with guests.

An unusual tasty tapas can be prepared by halving figs and then laying a thin slice of chorizo or Serrano ham topped with a slice of cheese on top. Place under the grill until the cheese has melted and serve hot.

A very tasty desert for non drivers is prepared by filling an earthenware dish with whole figs, half covering them with 50/50 sweet white wine and anise liqueur mix and then cooking on a slow heat on a metal heat disperser until soft. Serve hot or cold with cream or carob and mint ice cream.

Yesterday evening we collected a kilo of blackberries. Blackberry fool is now prepared for immediate consumption and the rest are frozen for autumn apple and blackberry tarts when our apples have ripened.

It’s amazing how shaded Valencia Late oranges can be harvested. We have just harvested the last five kilos of sweet juicy fruit. Pests have been avoided by eco sprays so they can be eaten fresh, juiced, used in tomato and orange salads and dried. Of course there is a crop of fat ripe lemons on the perpetual fruiting lunar lemon tree.

We have eaten an early variety of grapes but the main crop is still ripening but is likely to be eaten in the next two weeks. Not enough for making home made wine yet but the cellar is stocked with wine made by an English friend who within five years of starting is challenging commercial growers in terms of fruitiness and body in young wines.

Towards the end of the month almonds will start to fall indicating that it is the time for harvesting. The latter best accomplished by picking low nuts by hand from a step ladder and knocking down the high ones with a long cane. Our cane is left alongside our sole almond tree from year to year to ensure that it is handy. Remove the drying fleshy skins and dry the nuts well in the sun before storing in a box or sack in a cool dark cellar, under build or garage.

Carob beans are starting to ripen. Many readers will be starting harvest them this month for sale into the gloss paint and health industries . Ground at home they also make an interesting chocolate flavoured cream or carob and mint ice cream. They are also used as an animal feed but beware they can make pets frisky. Picked just as they ripen and before they are rock hard they are a useful vitamin filled chocolate flavoured snack when out for a walk .

Although possibly not yet ready for harvesting ensure that you continue to keep kiwis, kiwinis, mangoes, custard apples and bananas well watered. The first two grow well inland but frost free pockets are necessary for the latter two.

On the vegetable plot there will be potential gluts of tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, squashes melons onions and beans. The latter can be frozen or dried , the others frozen, processed into chutneys or dried for winter use. Watch out for when the stalks of pumpkins, squash and melons dry and separate easily from the main plant. This is the time to harvest for storage. Unfortunately 90% of our onions have just been stolen – there are obviously hungry out of work passers by.

August is a good month to harvest herbs to hang up to dry or to dry on an electric drier. For starters try rosemary, sage, rue, basil, oregano, lemon verbena, parsley and mint. They can be kept in the bunches in a cool dry place until used or placed in airtight containers when totally dried. If you grow the herb stevia now is a good time to harvest the top half of the herb plants to dry. They will soon sprout again and grow again for an autumn harvest.

If you use dried flowers in the kitchen, for infusions or to flavour Kombucha now is a good time to harvest and dry passion hibiscus and jasmine flowers.

Other August tasks

For other August tasks refer to the monthly calendars in our books Your Garden in Spain, Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain and Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain.

Special questions

By the way if you have any special questions related to establishing gardens in Spain do send them to us via the contact page and we will try to answer them in later articles.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe August 2009.