Snow, Garlic and Leeks

I think planting the early beans and broad bean seeds a few weeks ago have been to blame for the ridiculous weather we’ve had ever since. I can’t remember a March this cold before. My poor seeds! I’m hoping they didn’t germinate during the few warm days we had as I think if they’d started to emerge the heavy frost and snow will have finished them off. Once the snow has gone, I might unearth a few seeds to see what’s happening and make sure they’re not rotting. This time of year while I wait for peas and beans to germinate, the old saying “one for the mouse, one for the crow, one to rot, and one to grow” often runs round my head.

The garlic I planted back in October is looking remarkably perky, despite the weather. Here are The Provence Wight shoots just peeking over the top of the snow, they’re looking healthy so I’m expecting a bumper garlic crop. The onions are under snow, but I’m hoping they are doing as well as the garlic.

Last year the damp spring and summer lead to garlic rust, I’m hoping to avoid that this year, but the garlic was actually fine and we’re still using last year’s heads in the kitchen.

The rust did spread to my leeks though, but I sprayed them with gin and that kept it in check. I know that sounds like a waste of gin, but it worked a treat and is organic. The empty gin bottles did raise a few eyebrows at the allotment though! If anyone has any other organic treatments for rust that I can try, do let me know!

I’m down to my last few leeks now, they’ve stood well all winter and still look happy even in all this snow.

This variety is Tornado, which has good cold tolerance and produces good strong plants. I’ve grown Tornado for several years and it’s my firm favourite. I planted these ones out as tiny seedlings back in June last year and have been using them all winter. I had planned to sow some more this week, but the weather has put paid to that!

Leek Tart

Serves 2/3
50g butter
250g shalllots, peeled and halved
3 leeks, trimmed and slices into thick rounds
2 cloves of garlic
Handful of fresh thyme, leaves only
75 ml white wine
50 ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon caster sugar
500g pack puff pastry (life is too short to make puff pastry! You only need half of this, so cut the block in half and freeze the other half)
100g cream cheese
1 beaten egg to glaze

  • Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and onions and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the leeks, garlic and thyme and cook for another ten minutes until soft. Add the wine and bring to the boil.
  • Add the stock and the sugar and simmer for fifteen minutes until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has evaporated (important, otherwise you’ll have a soggy tart) Season the vegetables with salt and black pepper and leave to cool.
  • Put the cream cheese in a bowl, season with a little salt and pepper and mix until smooth.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7.
  • Cut the pastry block in half, and put 250g in the freezer for another day.
  • Roll out the remaining 250g on a lightly floured surface into at thin rectangle or square to fit a 12 inch square baking tray. Transfer to the baking tray and spread the pastry with the seasoned cream cheese, but leave a 5cm border all around the edge with no cheese. Lightly score the border with a sharp knife, but don’t cut all the way through the pastry.
  • Add the vegetables on top, avoiding the border.
  • Brush the border with beaten egg, Bake for 20-25 minutes.
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