Mary; How Does the Garden Grow? 15th August 2014

Its Friday once more, the end of a busy week in Rothe House & Garden, this week being a particularly busy one as it is the Kilkenny Arts Festival!  So, not only has there been the crunch of the pebbles under visitors feet as they browse around the garden, or the crunch of an apple from the orchard but also the sound of sweet music coming from musicians whom have played in the garden during the week for short, impromptu ‘Secret Garden Music’ sessions.  These small gigs lasted only 20 minutes tops but attracted many visitors to the garden, all of whom were in no rush to leave after the event was over, obviously enjoying the little haven in the midst of the city and no doubt taking advantage of the free admission to the garden for the particular musical sessions.

American folk singer Sam Amidon playing to a happy audience in the garden.

American folk singer Sam Amidon playing to a happy audience in the garden.

 

 

But alas, as delightful as this music was the work in the garden must go on, nature doesn’t pause, although, one has to wonder if the music proved beneficial? Well, we’ll see.  But for now we figured we might take a look at some more of the vegetables and herbs on offer in the garden.  The first one we looked at, and, our attention was easily drawn too was the winter savory.  This plant seemed to be alive with the hum and buzz of bee’s, obviously enjoying what it had to offer.

Bee's hard at work in the Winter Savory

Bee’s hard at work in the Winter Savory

 

Mary explained that this herb is similar to thyme, but stronger and slightly more spicy!  Breaking off a few leaves and rubbing them between my fingers I discovered that the smell was quite strong indeed!  This particular herb would have been popular for use in soups and stews, but, in small amounts for reasons already noted.  Its strength of taste meant that it could be dried and used throughout the winter.  It is propagated by seeds and pruned back hard in winter Mary explained.

Mary next showed me the beans which have really taken off upon the structure she built for them.  The plant has very distinctive deep orange flowers and, on closer inspection the bean pods! This variety, Scarlet Runner, is a 17th century plant.  The beans are best picked when young and quite tender, other wise if left to grow larger (and apparently they can grow very large according to Mary!) they become tougher and very stringy with a  woody taste; not good!

Scarlet Runner beans

Scarlet Runner beans

 

Runner bean pods.  Young and ready to be picked.

Runner bean pods. Young and ready to be picked.

 

 

Next to the beans, on a structures of their own can be found two variety of peas; the first being Robinson Peas and the latter, Irish Green.  The Robinson Peas are very much in season now and upon trying some, as is necessary, they are quite sweet!  Mary jokes that these peas never make it to the pot! They are simply too delicious and are usually being ate as their being picked!!

The second variety of pea, Irish Green, is just about out of season, a few meager pods remain that weren’t snapped up in time, gone brown and woody now, they, like the rest of the plant will be chopped down and dug back into the soil.  A form of natural recycling to support next years growth.

While we’re talking about peas, how about a little Tudor recipe for Thick Pea Pottage for those whom the idea of pea soup appeals to!

The Tudor’s Thick Pea Pottage, 1591

Irish Greens finished for another year.

Irish Greens finished for another year.

 

 

Just to cap things off Mary drew my attention to the clay pots that sit atop of the cane structures on which the peas are growing.  I was informed that this was known as a ‘cornet’ and serves to hold the canes in place while also appearing decorative!  So, with that, it was time to prepare for more music in the garden, music that might make the grass even greener and the peas even….sweeter? Like I said, we’ll see! 😉

Clay cornett pot.

Clay cornett pot.

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