The Return of Twig & Fig

Our regular readers may remember we have been taking some time off the last few months to put our feet up (and give birth!)  You'll be pleased to learn I had a little boy, who we named Bertie, and he will be my new assistant at some of the future markets this year! 

As you know Spring has been delayed this year, so we will have lots of new season jams once the first English strawberries appear (imminently), along with and elderflowers, rhubarb, currants and more... I have got hold of some English strawberries which have been grown under cover and are hence ripe a bit earlier than those in the fields - jars are limited so please make contact if you would like some of this heavenly jam.  

We grow our own rhubarb here on our organic plot and have also therefore started harvesting for the favourite strawberry and rhubarb jam too... we should have this ready in time for the next Maidenhead Farmer's Market.

Over the winter I also acquired some of the world's hottest chilli powder!  As chilli-heads will know this little beauty is the Carolina Reaper which is extraordinarily powerful at 2,200,000 scovilles and must not be given to children (as if you would).  Not for the faint hearted we have therefore launched a new product - Reaper's Revenge Chilli Jam and one of our regular customers had this to say about it: 

Had a taste of your Reaper Chilli Jam- Delish - my mouth is still tingling with warmth and fire and its taken a good 15 minutes to calm down.  For me the balance is just perfect!
— Graham Y

First Frosts & Other News!

You may have experienced the first frost yesterday and started putting your garden to bed for another year!  This means no more dahlias and scented roses … but it has been a bountiful year for both as you will have seen if you caught us at Maidenhead Farmers’ Market:

See you at Maidenhead Farmer's Market on Sunday 12th November 2017 10am-1pm for a chance to nab some of our Cracking Christmas Mincemeat and other seasonal delights!

We also have some other happy news that in early December our baby is due to be born so November’s Farmer’s Market will be our last appearance for the winter.  We will be back at Maidenhead in April 2018 with lots of lovely new recipes and fresh ideas for the Spring season – so please do catch up with us again then!

In the mean time we will still be taking small and individual orders for cakes, and sugar-free preserves for Christmas gifts so email or call 07709346051 to enquire if this is of interest.

Our products will also be on sale at the wonderful pop up Artisan Christmas Gift & Craft Shop, @ WI Hall, Broomhall Recreation Ground, Sunningdale, SL5 0QS on 8th (1.30-7.30pm) and 9th December (10am-4.30pm) – so please come down and check it out if you are in the area!

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We also hope to return to Beaconsfield Farmer's Markets in 2018 - so please do get in touch to see when we are appearing!

If we don't see you before then, have a wonderful Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

!Award Winning Marmalade!

Twig & Fig discovered that we had won a prestigious accolade in March this year - a Bronze Award for our Bitter Gin Marmalade at the International Dalemain Marmalade Festival!

With over 2,000 entries from all over the world Marmalade is definitely the name of their game so we were extremely chuffed to find out we had scored in the Judge's Alcoholic Marmalade category!

So we know what you are thinking! : How can I get my hands on some of this boozy breakfast-time treasure - and the answer is - this Sunday 9th April @ Maidenhead Farmer's Market new the old town hall car park - 10am until 1pm.

We will have all sorts of lovely flavours for you - including our award winning Gin offering, and Bergamot Lemon Marmalade, Lime, Seville Orange and Ruby Grapefruit, or if you can't make up your mind, good old Mixed Citrus!  We also have our famous sugar-free versions of all the above which is suitable for Diabetics, sugar intolerant and dieters, being much lower on the glycaemic index.  If in doubt please do email to reserve as we only have small quantities of some flavours left!

That's where I'll be...

It's that time of year again; where we sit with icicles forming on our noses watching for any possible sign of green shoots outside.  Then, if you are anything like me, you dash outside in a wildly enthusiastic manner to smile when you see them coming up after all these months of planning.  I'm talking, of course, about tulips!  

These are last year's beauties - combinations of Exotic Emperor which is a divine scented tulip, with bluebells; a purple variety called Paul Scherer; and narcissi which also have their own wonderful perfume.  The house smelt great for the nearly three weeks these lasted!

I planned three new colour combinations for 2017 with an attempt to try and keep the flowering season as long as possible - ideally from March to May!  These are the catalogue's images:

And a purple / yellow mix which was inspired by the parrot tulip variety called Rai (below right), which I absolutely adore:

Visiting some wonderful gardens last spring gave me lots of inspiration.  This is a National Trust property:

Twig and Fig helps Flowers From The Farm at RHS Hampton Court

Twig and Fig is a member of an association of flower growers in the South East of England called Flowers from the Farm.  You can visit their website to access local, seasonal, scented flowers grown locally to wherever you live in the UK.  FFTF had a stand at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show this month where I was proud to be able to support the endeavours of lots of other English growers like me.

A Working Winter

Winter is a great time to get things done, as you don't have the bustle of active plant growth, and constant feeding, watering and weeding to keep up with.  So I took the opportunity to lift the black membrane we laid last March 2015 and prepare the ground for planting about 50 bare root roses which we invested in this Autumn.  Top left you can see the bagged manure arriving, and top right are the roses happily seated in their spots with a thick mulch of chippings to aid me in not having to constantly weed the area.  Below are some of the bundled roses on arrival.

The graft of last Summer meant we had Purple Sprouting Broccoli in the Spring 2016 (below left), and I'm also hopeful we shall have some Cauliflowers to pluck later on this year too (from the same patch).  I've not grown Brassicas before, but they seem to be very easy, tough and forgiving plants!  All they need is constant protection in the form of netting - last year from the caterpillars and Cabbage Whites - and all Winter from the Pigeons - which otherwise peck them over and leave them completely denuded of leaves.  Middle below is what was probably our snowiest day at the house.  It was really a mild winter with stormy weather and heavy rain more problem than anything else.  Come early March 2016 the Peach tree in our greenhouse is in bloom; such a great sight, with hope of fruit to come!

Although we did prepare the Hyacinths for Christmas forcing the mild weather meant it was hard to mimic the drop in temperature they need to trick them into thinking it is Spring in December.  So we had tons of scented blooms in the house, and at market, from January onwards.  The centre picture below shows the fabulous forced Amaryllis we had for New Year.  Next year I plan to grow a lot of different colours because although they have no scent, they are so attractive.

The First Year of Selling What We Grew

I had been thinking of ways to justify the many hours and days I'm joyously compelled to spend outside, and decided to give Market stall-holding a try, after visiting Beaconsfield Old Town Market last year.  Little did I know what a wonderful opportunity this would turn out to be!

Massive thanks are due to Joseph, aka Mr Bath Soft Cheese who has graciously allowed me to share his stall, which means I can continue to attend the Markets without having the outlay of buying a canopy and tables, weights and awnings.  One day I will hopefully have the capital (and vehicle) l to transport my own.

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By December we nearly sold out of a lot of our small batches of home made jams, and had great success with the savoury jellies to serve with meats and cold cuts, like Crab Apple infused with clove; Plum jelly; and Vintage Quince jelly.  I also sold out of our Christmas special Spiced Cranberry Sauce.  We also took several orders for hand made Christmas wreathes and table centres as festive decorations.

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Mists & Mellow Fruitfulness

Not only have we had a wonderful harvest from the plot this year, culminating with the wonderful tomatoes and courgettes / marrows which I am about to turn into gorgeous chutney, but we have been given lots of beautiful produce from friends and neighbours:

(Below: Crab apples and blackberries)

There is also much wonderful fruit to be foraged in the hedgerows and, if taken from a wild countryside spot away from the roads, is a great way to enjoy fresh organic produce

(Below: Elderberries make a wonderful syrup, jam, and flavouring)

On The Map!

As our regular readers will know we have had rather a good year for Sweet Peas and consequently our crop has been abundant and lush.  

We set about trying to find another Florist outlet looking for wholesale supply - and we found one in London!  This means we have the opportunity to work with an admirable and prestigious organisation and hopefully also pick up some tricks of the trade, contacts and ideas / feedback on the quality of our flowers... Here's our first delivery:

Gooseberries Galore !

The purple Gooseberries have started to fruit! They look so beautiful in the rain, with their prickles all collecting the droplets on them.   Likewise they look like a rich summer pudding when the sunlight shines through the berries and you see their claret red colour.  

If you are interested snap up our aromatic Elderflower and Gooseberry Jam at the next Farmers' Market because we only have a few jars as there is a limited amount of fruit.

My great aunt Rose had a patch of Raspberry canes in her garden which she decided to ditch.  I said I'd take them as I hate to see a plant thrown away (! one of my faults) and put them in with my Raspberry patch.  Maybe it is their gratitude at this salvation or just the good weather and steady odd downpours, but the fruit just keeps on coming.  I am about to be excitedly stirring up some new Raspberry-themed jams... 

You don't always get what you want... (and sometimes that is a good thing!)

All the palaver of autumn-digging; winter-storing; season-long feeding with oodles of manure, sea weed and getting the position -just right- ALL becomes worth it when the Dahlias come into bloom!

In the darkening days of early Winter, way back when I placed my tuber order with my supplier, I spent several days choosing some new varieties and colours to blend well with my existing plants.  Of course, some of them were incorrectly labelled at the suppliers and have come up The Wrong Colour!  But it turns out I don't mind because who could fail to love the striking colours and shapes of almost any dahlia!

I have been preparing the flowers and arranging them into bundles for sale.  Dahlia blooms do not have a fragrance (as Crysanthemums do) but when you cut them their sap smells wonderful and aromatic... Here are a few of the different types we have been growing - cactus, pom poms, and dinner-plates -

Heaven Scent

We are averaging 80-100 stems of these beautiful scented flowers every two days now.  Luckily they are selling really well at our local greengrocer's - so the fun can continue!  

TIP: The more you pick the flowers on sweet pea vines the more they flower.  If you stop picking and watering them they will set seed and come to the end of their lives.

Be sure to feed your peas with tomato feed, sea-weed or comfrey leaf-feed along with watering every couple of days to keep them happy and perky!  We also use a spray feed which is absorbed through the leaves.  All this attention keeps the flowers' perfume really high - though of course there is nothing like a hot sunny day to ramp up the scent.

Summer Spoils!

The weather has been mild and we have been blessed with beautiful sunshine of late, balanced with the occasional downpour - perfect combination for the plot, which is happily blooming away.

We have also had the biggest Strawberry crop yet with about 3 kilos produced - all going to make small batches of our lovely hand made jams.  We have been selling the Rhubarb and Strawberry; a Sugar-free Red Summer Berry Mix; and a scented Pelargonium-leaf infused Strawberry Jam at the Farmer's Market, Beaconsfield... Watch this space for July's bounty when the Raspberries start to get going!

Spring Fling

The plot is waking up!  We've been busy getting the vegetables in while we wait for the weather to warm up so we can sow flower seeds... although this April has been unseasonably warm :)

Potager

We have now prepared all the sweet pea beds and frames and the Spencer varieties are in the ground (see below).  This weekend the old fashioned mix went in - here's to a fragrant summer!

(Above) - the dahlias are getting their heads up, enjoying the sunshine.  There are more pots of them in the greenhouse ...  as we are short on space, it will be time for them to go in the ground soon.  But knowing the good old English climate, they'll be swaddled with a fleece coat until the threat of frosts is past.

Bishop of Llandaff

The Bishop of Llandaff is raring to go... it has beautiful dark foliage which is why the shoots are pink.