Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Chinese cucumber pickle recipe

Chinese cucumber pickle

CHINESE cucumber pickle...
When I lived in Hong Kong and travelled to China on business trips, I was introduced to a kind of cucumber pickle salad that was always served cold during meals.  In this dish, the cucumber slices were dressed in a delicious combination of garlic, vinegar and sesame oil that was so addictive I couldn't stop eating them. Now, every time I think of those crisp, juicy pieces of cucumber sitting in that garlic-ky vinegar, it sends my salivary glands into overdrive.

A few years later and now several thousands of miles away in the Chiltern foothills, I wander down to our kitchen garden, gleeful in anticipation of the young green cucumbers that I know are hanging from the vine. A quick flick of a sharp pen knife releases them and the slender, long fruits are soon laid out on a wooden chopping board ready to be cut up. With my chopsticks, I toss the crisp cucumber half rounds with sesame oil, garlic and rice vinegar - a perfect balance of cool and warmth. Light soy sauce brings saltiness to the dish and a smattering of finely diced chilli is added for a touch of heat.

Chinese cucumber pickle

Serves 4 as a side


cucumbers (small), chopped into half rounds
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
chilli, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon caster sugar (optional)


Combine the sesame oil, light soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and chilli.

Place the cucumber into a bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine.

This pickle can be served with roast mackerel, grilled salmon or pork.

Growing cucumbers

If you are growing your own cucumbers, pick them small while they are young and crisp.

The more mature and larger cucumbers work better if you scoop out the watery seed content before using.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a greenhouse to grow cucumbers and they can be successfully grown outdoors. Try 'Burpless Tasty Green' which is reliable and productive - I prefer to support the plants with canes to allow them to climb upwards keeping the cucumbers off the ground.

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Friday, 26 June 2015

Harvesting and podding delicious broad beans

The last few weeks, I have been happily twisting large pods off the broad bean plants. Some pods have decided to go wonky but most are surprisingly straight. Despite what everyone says about picking them teeny tiny, I do leave some of the pods until they are medium sized as I like a mix of the 'meatier' beans and the smaller sweeter ones.  

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Looking for Alliums to buy for your flower garden?

(L-R) Allium 'His Excellency', Allium 'Pinball wizard', Allium 'Purple sensation' and Allium 'multibolbosum'

Trying to decide which alliums to buy for your garden?
Alliums look magnificent in the garden and are stunning as a cut flower. Looking through the catalogues, I always find it difficult to visualise the height and size of the blooms and especially which varieties work together.

At the BBC Gardeners' World Live event this year, Warmenhoven, a specialist in alliums and bulbs put on this incredible display at their outdoor stand. 

Here are some of the incredible Alliums that were on display.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Grow London Fair 2015

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend the press evening and Garden Party Charity Preview at GROW London.  GROW London is a contemporary and urban gardening show, running from 19 -21 June 2015 on Hampstead Heath.

The event will also offer a programme of talks, workshops, tours and free consultations to inspire visitors in all things needed to transform any outdoor space into a horticultural heaven. GROW London offers all gardeners, from the experienced to the novice, the chance to learn tips of the trade and garner advice from some of the UK’s gardening experts like the Wild Flowers Company, Sarah Raven, Otter Farm’s Mark Diacono and Laetitia Maklouf.

Visitors to GROW London can also take advantage of free garden design consultations, run by the Society of Garden Designers. If you’re looking for advice on how to transform your garden or dull patch of outdoor space then a 20 minute brainstorm with a professional member of the SGD could provide the inspiration you’re looking for. Visitors can bring along photographs of their garden and rough dimensions, and book in for a session.

This was one of the stunning garden displays created by Petersham Nurseries with Achillea, Zinnia, Sarah Bernhardt peonies and Centranthus rubra.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Grow your own oriental leaf salad

In the summer, I like to grow Oriental vegetables for their young leaves.
Here, I have simply sown a mix of Mizuna and two varieties of Pak Choi into a seed tray. I like to sow my own mix of seeds rather than buy pre-mixed packets of salad seeds because I like to know what crops I am going to harvest. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

I'm featured in Kitchen Garden Magazine

I'm really pleased to be featured in this month's Kitchen Garden Magazine (KG) - July edition.

Every month, KG features a grow guide and I was approached to write this article on growing oriental vegetables for their July edition.

It is titled 'Oriental Vegetables at a glance' and covers sowing, planting through to harvesting.

There are also a few recipe ideas for Chinese green vegetables like Kai Lan, Choy Sum and Pak Choi.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Win tickets to BBC Good Food Show Summer 2015


There was such a lot of enthusiasm from our last giveaway to win a pair of tickets to BBC Gardeners' World, that we are running another competition.

We are offering one lucky reader a chance to win a pair of tickets for entry into the BBC Good Food Show Summer 2015.

The show will take place in Birmingham at the NEC, from Thursday the 11th to Sunday the 14th of June 2015 and will feature Mary Berry, James Martin, Michel Roux and John Torode.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Win Tickets to BBC Gardeners' World Live 2015



The BBC Gardeners' World Live show will take place in Birmingham at the NEC, from Thursday the 11th to Sunday the 14th of June 2015 and will feature top gardening experts Monty Don, Carol Klein, Toby Buckland and Joe Swift.

We are offering one lucky reader a chance to win a pair of tickets for entry into the BBC Gardener's World Live 2015 show. Your tickets will also give you free entrance into the BBC Good Food Summer Show.
** Update: We are now also running a second giveaway for readers to win tickets to the event.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Gardeners' World Live 2015 Discount code


Exclusive 15% discount for Fusian Living readers ...

We have an exclusive promotional code for readers of Fusian Living.

You can save 15% on tickets to BBC Gardeners' World Live at NEC Birmingham, held 11 - 14 June 2015 with top gardening experts Monty Don, Carol Klein, Toby Buckland and Joe Swift.

Simply enter the following Promotional Code when you buy your tickets online...

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Asparagus 'Pacific Purple' emerges

It's always a joy to catch the first asparagus spears emerging from the ground. We have two 'Pacific Purple' crowns which we put in three years ago.

Admittedly, we have not paid enough attention to them as we should have. We have simply let them be.

Ideally, we should have mulched with straw and added some organic fertiliser early spring. At least, we did cut back the foliage last year!

Nevertheless, there are a few nice, juicy spears that can now be picked which we will enjoy immensely. One day, I hope to have a huge bed of asparagus with ten or so crowns, to harvest enough spears for an asparagus dinner. Wouldn't that be lovely?

Sadly, our 'Connover's Colossal' asparagus which produced green spears has died. When we moved house, we dug it up and brought it with us but it never quite thrived.