Tuesday, June 27, 2017
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Na Horta (In The Veg Garden) July-August

Things to do in the Veg. garden in July and August.
 
These months are more about harvesting than sowing. I’ve tried a few times to start things over the summer months in Portugal, and have always been beaten by the heat, the flea beetles or the birds. The calabrese I put in last month are struggling but I’m hoping they’re now big enough to cope.
  • Here come the tomatoes! Not only fantastic straight from the bush, still warm, and into your salad but don’t forget it’s easy to do sun-dried toms here, especially with the cherry ones. Simply cut them in half, sprinkle with lots of salt, pepper and chopped herbs and leave them for a couple of days or so in a hot, sunny spot. They can be frozen too, skins and all, so no need to worry if they’re coming thick and fast.
     
  • Top tip: if you want more tomatoes for the months ahead it’s easy – and no sowing involved. Simply keep the side shoots instead of throwing them away. Put them in good compost and water well, you’ll be rewarded with smaller, stockier plants but they’ll have fruit. The ones I did a few weeks ago already have flowers on.
     
  • And the plums keep on coming! Plum cordial is a must, plum and courgette chutney take on two gluts in one go, and also sun-dried plums are worth a try too. 
     
  • Keep an eye on the squashes, you may want to put some straw under them to lift them up off up the soil. They may well need extra water too, just try not to splash too much on the leaves. Cut back courgette leaves if they’re getting crowded so that plenty of air can circulate to keep mildew at bay.
     
  • If your beans are beginning to wilt, or they’re not as tasty as the first crops, then simply stop watering them and let them dry out. At the end of the season collect the dried beans from their pods for winter stews. If your red runner bean flowers are not turning into beans it’s because it’s too hot at night. Try white ones next year, they’re more tolerant of the high temperatures.
     
  • Don’t pull up your beans or peas once they’re finished. Cut them down but leave the roots in the ground so that the next crop benefits from the nitrogen.
     
  • August will see the peppers and aubergines coming through. I love making ratatouille as everything is home produced, including the olive oil. I make loads and put it in the freezer.
     
  • Sun dry or freeze your chillies, or make you own tobasco sauce.
So most, if not all, of the food on your plate should have come from your veg patch – well done! Enjoy the harvest, make a note of what worked and what didn’t and get out and enjoy those river beaches – you deserve it!
 
 
by Jackie McAvoy (read her blog The Story of Casa Azul)
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