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The brilliance of a self-watering polytunnel

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Alys Fowler Alys Fowler | 13:30 UK time, Tuesday, 16 August 2011

My self-watering polytunnel doesn’t self-water. It doesn’t do it’s job because we have had NO RAIN FOR AGES (all that shouting? That’s just in case the rain gods are listening). So, I have to slurp buckets of water up and down path and pretend to be rain. Thankfully, the waterproof membrane bit of the polytunnel with its many holes works very well. It slowly let’s the water trickle out so that I can go away for a four or five days and, as long as I soaked the insides, all is well.

There are ripe tomatoes, papalo, chillies, peppers and to my great joy lots of carrots. I can’t remember sowing carrots but I clearly did and now there are lots and lots of chantenay carrots fattening up. It is not quite the summer I expected harvest wise, but it has had some lovely surprise.

The self-watering polytunnel has allowed me the one thing I wanted - weekends away camping. Last weekend I headed off to Wilderness (not the wilderness, instead a hedonistic festival in a very posh field). There was lake swimming and cedar wood hot tubs where, if you wanted, you could sit naked, whilst chamber orchestra played to you as you sipped champagne. And people did.

The Wilderness Spa

The Wilderness Spa (Photo: Clare Savage)

But that wasn’t why I was there. I went to interview Sam Clark of Moro fame. I love Moro East cookbook so much that I have been known to declare it is where I want to live. I want to set up somewhere between the ramshackle shed and the Turkish woman making gozleme. It is a fantastic present for anyone with a love of growing because this is about cooking with real, home grown ingredients. There is an honesty in this book that I have yet to find elsewhere.

Moro restaurant (and thus Sam and Sam Clark) had been invited to put on a banquet so that you could feast before heading off to do the conga naked through a wood (yes there was a lot of nudity happening). I failed to get ticket to taste the banquet, but I did get to linger next to a tray of pretty pink-topped turnips and watch hundreds of aubergines roasting.

I did get to interview Sam Clark. I was a little star struck. I asked one or two really daft questions and gushed a little too much about my love of Moro East making me sound a little like a stalker. But I did learn something new, which is why, I think, it is important to drag yourself away from the garden every once in a while.

Almond Blossom

Almond Blossom (Photo: Emily Casstles)

I learnt that sliced green almonds (that is fresh still husked almonds) are a delicacy served up with fish sauce or pickled or just eaten fresh, shell and all dipped in salt and downed with Ouzo. And the best way, perhaps the only way to taste this fine delicacy (and it clearly is by the slightly far away gaze that overtook him as he spoke) is to grow your own.

Almond trees are it turns out a perfect urban tree, not too big, filled with heady blossom in early spring and followed by fruit.

However, the squirrels will battle you for the nuts, hence picking them green and eating much like you would a green walnut, but much, much better. Almonds are closely related to peaches hence why you can eat the outside husk.

I’ve come home and put my order in. I’ve gone for a peach-almond cross called Robijn that is supposed to be a little hardier than a true almond and has pretty pink blossom, which is supposed to be quite dwarf. I’ll plant it in my front garden to replace the very unhappy apple I rescued.

Alys Fowler is a writer and broadcaster. Read more of Alys's Gardening blog posts.



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