I have been updating my adventures in small holding in short bursts lately as the spring/early summer planting period has been typically busy but the hard work is at present paying off! This is a fourth growing season for our Great Hungarian Adventure and it finally feels as though all that we have learned in the last few years has begun to sink in and we are now planting, harvesting and growing with a sense of confidence that we never had in the past.
For those of you that have not caught up with my blog before, myself and my wife moved to Rural Hungary in 2008 after quitting good office jobs with no experience in growing food or property renovation. We purchased an old Hungarian “mud” house in a village in the middle of nowhere and embarked on a journey of adventure and discovery powered by nothing more than wild enthusiasm and a lot of help from my mate “Google”. Our first year in Hungary was all geared about renovating our house and we had nothing but a small vegetable garden in the first year that really got away from us, however the following years have been a really exciting and sometimes frustrating learning experience.
After a shockingly cold February this year (as you can see from the picture of our polytunnel above), planting for us started in March out in the polytunnel and a very dry month enabled me to get our plot of land rotovated and prepared for planting at the end of March. But by the time we reached the 20th March an exciting and somewhat surprising discovery in the garden set the tone for a very optimistic start to 2012. Asparagus is definitely a long term investment and we planted out seeds in 2009 and this year we had our first spear appear from the ground, they were rather small but nevertheless tasty and given that Asparagus will then go on to “bare fruit” for another 12 years, it was very much a feather in our cap! The Asparagus season also ties in really well with a sharp rise in the numbers of eggs laid by our chickens and ducks, freshly picked asparagus spears dipped into a freshly laid boiled duck egg may seem like an indulgent breakfast for some, when they are collected from the garden when you get up it is an indulgence that feels well deserved.
April and May have continued in the same positive manner and the garden is now flourishing with fruits and vegetables of a host of varieties, some of which neither of us have eaten before, namely kohlrabi so if you are reading this and now a good recipe please let me know Despite rotovating over one of our strawberry plots it would seem that we have another bumper crop this year but it will short of the 70KG we harvested last year, but we should have plenty left over to make some strawberry wine, or maybe even strawberry champagne which was a very happy accident from 2011! We bottled up our wine before the fermentation process was complete which meant that the wine continued to produce Carbon Dioxide, winter was definitely made more tolerable with the consumption of zingy strawberry wine that continued to get stronger after you opened the bottle Something else that we are getting used to is how much of what sort of crop we need, back in 2010 we went a bit carrot crazy and ended up with over 100kg but still to this date we have never managed to grow enough onions, so we have almost doubled our plot size this year.
We make most of our own condiments, sauces, soups and most importantly wine at home so many of our crops are designed to keep us stocked and fed over the long and occasionally brutal winters. Many people are shocked when we say that we harvest about 250kg of tomatoes every year and they assume that we have a market to sell them, nothing could be further from the truth, tomatoes are a stock ingredient that we turn into passatta and freeze. The flavour is superb and it gets used in pretty much everything from homemade tomato ketchup through to pasta sauces and soups, having said that harvest time can be a little fraught. We use a traditional Hungarian cooking pot called a bogrács for preparing many of our soups and sauces over an open fire in the garden.
As we enter June there are only a few short weeks left before we enter the period of the year that Hungarians call, Uborka Season, a time of the year where there is nothing to do but watch you cucumbers grow. We have found it to be not quite so accurate with plenty of watering to be done and a considerable amount of weeding, however the workload definitely drops a little prior to the mayhem of september and harvest season! For us it is a time to spend time in one of the many little known thermal spas that litter the Hungarian countryside and try and take shade from the blistering 40° heat that we regularly see over summer, whilst simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the arrival of the harvest time, but for now, courtesy of todays strawberry harvest(which has amounted to a little over 10kg) I am going to sit down and enjoy a Strawberry Daiquiri! You can keep up with our adventures in smallholding on my daily Project 365 photoblog!