Autumn has now definitely arrived in Amsterdam, the days are getting shorter, the sky is grey and the rain has been pouring down. I must say I haven’t been very active on my balcony, since I’ve been busy with my new job, visitors staying over and general life-rushing-by. I’ve been celebrating autumn eating pumpkin, one of my all time favorite vegetables. Unfortunately I can’t grow them on the limited space of my balcony.
Luckily I planted some seeds at the end of the summer and can still enjoy a few small crops from my balcony. Greens have been doing best on my north-east oriented balcony: rucola, lettuce and some struggling pea pods are my last survivors, though they’re growing much slower these days.
My faithful Swiss chard is going strong, it has been supplying me delicious leaves all summer. It has now turned a gorgeous deep purple colour. I’ve actually seen Swiss chard leaves for sale in bulk at the organic supermarket but they don’t look a fraction as appetising as the ones I cut fresh off the balcony.
Not many people know that nasturtiums are edible. Actually mine grew like crazy all summer on the balcony without me realising that they were more than just decorative. They are very easy to grow and actually the whole plant is edible:
- the leaves have a strong peppery taste can be used to make wraps, in salads or in sandwiches
- the flowers are mild can be eaten as they are
- the seeds can be eaten either green and raw, or pickled as a substitute to capers
At the last Cityplot course made improvised snacks. They are super simple to make and look beautiful which also makes them great fresh finger food if you’re having guests over. Just take the nasturtium leaves, wash them and snip off the stem, turn the leaf upside down and fill with whatever takes your fancy (we filled them with fresh goats cheese, some honey, and herbs). Then roll the leaf like a wrap and tie it with a chive. The final touch is to tuck the flower into the chive as decoration. Enjoy!
Natural snack from the garden
Radish seed pods
I believe saving seeds is really important and empowering in these times when companies such as Monsanto want to take control of seeds and create genetically modified species that are not sustainable. But also I find extremely fascinating that such small seeds can contain the necessary basis and information to create a whole new plant!
The great thing about saving seeds from my own balcony is that these seeds carry exactly the right DNA to grow in the conditions on my balcony:-) It does mean sacrificing a plant, as it needs to dry out completely before the seeds are ready, but it’s definitely worth it.
Breaking open those little pods in the bowl on the photo, I found tiny little radish seeds. Radishes grew really easily so I look forward to planting them again next spring. I also collected fenugreek seeds. You can see the seeds through the membrane of the dried pod. The amazing thing is they already have a very strong spicy smell as you open them.
The easiest to gather were the Nasturtium seeds (Indian Cress). They just fell onto the balcony waiting to be picked up and I put them to dry. They turned from green to light grey (they look like tiny brains which makes them easy to recognise). I love this plant which grows really easily and both the leaves and flowers are edible, so those will definitely be planted again next year too.
I put each type of seeds into small handmade origami envelopes and wrote the plant name, date I collected them and where. It’s empowering to feel just a little bit self-sufficient:-)
I really love being able to go onto my balcony and just pick something fresh to eat with my dinner. I don’t really have enough yet to make a whole salad, but it does complement what I buy at the supermarket and I like the thought that they don’t come pre-washed in a bag. This summer I am figuring out what grows well and next year I will be able to focus on the more successful crops.
Last Wednesday I picked some Swiss chard, peas, rocket, a mini-carrot (called Paris Market Carrot) and some small fava beans. I added all of these ingredients to my salad, with a punchy vinaigrette.
Tonight to accompany my left-over pizza, I picked this swiss chard, baby carrots and Paris Market Carrots. These little carrots just need a good wash, no peeling. They are really crunchy and have a much sweeter taste than the ones you buy.
My next challenge is how to use carrot tops. I feel like its such a waste to throw out all the leaves (my compost worms can’t quite handle that much yet!). I’m going to search the internet to find out if and how I can use them… Ideally I’d like to waste as little as possible of what I grow.
Plants growing on my balcony
It’s a bit hard to see in one snapshot all that is growing on my balcony. It’s getting greener and fuller everyday. I also have more flowers and colour and I love the fact that I can watch bees bumbling around the flowers. They fly from one flower to another and just dive in, I find it fascinating and I could watch them for hours, it’s very meditative.
Bee enjoying bean flower
My peas are growing fast these days. Here is a tiny pod emerging from the flower. It’s still all shiny.
Tiny shiny pod
This one is a little bigger already. You can’t see it on the picture but it is nearly see-through when you look against the light. Can’t wait to taste these:-)
Tonight I cycled home from my Pilates class feeling very hungry after all that effort. The organic supermarket near my house is closed at that time, so I couldn’t pop in to buy some fresh veggies. I had a look in my fridge and didn’t have much apart from 2 tomatoes… As I went to water my plants on the balcony, I decided to pick some Swiss chard and a radish to cook myself some greens.
Lovely colours: Swiss chard
It’s really empowering to be able to pick fresh food off my balcony for dinner. Right now I do not have much growing that is ready to eat, but just this small improvised harvest made me really happy. I cooked up all the greens like spinach with some olive oil, a small chopped onion and the tomatoes. I added whole wheat pasta and it was really simple and delicious:) I’m realising I should have planted more salads and greens as they are really easy to grow, even with a lot of shade. Having access to food without going to the supermarket is an amazing feeling.
For my dinner: Swiss chard and a radish