Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Its been so long since I wrote but I have some real excuses...

1. It's been raining non-stop for six months 
2. The soil sticks like glue to my rubber boots and 'grelinette' 
3. Conditions range from cold to damp and then leap to a tropical 35° in one short week
5. I've used my spare time to repair lamps, paint my bathroom and varnish the kitchen counter (all of little interest to gardeners)
6. I was just 'almost' nearly depressed

In previous years, I've never planted out the garden later than the 1st June but in 2013 I just might get the job finished before the Autumn arrives and in the worst of conditions. The young plants have been shifted from the greenhouse to the house to the sechoir and back again according to temperature changes.

The tomatoes have shivered of cold one day and next day their young, fragile leaves have frizzled in baking temperatures.
On Saturday - that one and only perfect day -  they were planted out in ideal conditions but by sunday we had to install a makeshift  curtain to protect their young leaves from a another unseasonably hot sun.

On  Monday our whole pyrenean department was on Alerte Orange as hailstones fell as big as ping pong balls and the sky was alight with electrical storms. Its Tuesday today and the courtyard is a lake and the local village is afloat as enough rain water has fallen in a few hours than we normally see in a month…. By evening I'll need a boat to reach my greenhouse!

Anyway all is out of kilter but I luckily have a fine crop of gooseberries ripening a few weeks late and better than I've ever tasted in years. At least something around here adores these northern conditions.  Some are a soft pale green but most, a juicy, rich berry-red. No need to wash them (the rain has already done the work) so its just a matter of gobbling them down, quicker than the birds.

They are sugar-sweet but sherbety and they love the elderflower which bloomed on time weeks ago.  Luckily there are a few trees facing north where flowers remain so my sorbet could be transformed by their musky perfume...

Gooseberry and Elderflower Sorbet
(makes around half a litre or one pint of sorbet) 

200ml water
125g sugar 
500g ripe gooseberries
3 heads of elderflower

Heat the sugar and water together until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring to the boil and add the gooseberries. Cook gently for 4 minutes and remove from the heat.
Dip the elderflowers in cold water and shake well to remove any tiny insects. Add to the gooseberry mix and leave to infuse for two hours.  Pour into a blender and whizz to a puree then pass through a fine sieve.  Churn the mixture in an ice-cream-maker or alternatively place in a shallow plastic container, cover and place in the freezer stirring every 30 mintues until the mixture has set. Leave to firm up in the freezer for another hour but remember to remove it 10 minutes before serving to soften up.