Tuesday, February 5, 2013


When I was at the market this week I asked where the bean and alfalfa sprouts were. They told me they no longer carry them because they don't have a reliable source. This jogged my memory about having read something about contamination in sprouts. What does this have to do with the new book The Speedy Vegetable Gardener, by Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz, you may ask.

The first section of their book entitled, Sprouts and Soaks, introduces the reader to the technique of sprouting their own seeds. The author goes on to explain that when the seed begins to sprout their proteins and vitamins become more digestible and therefore have greater nutritional value. No fancy equipment is needed to start the process but there are examples of products which would help. A selection of recipes for using the sprouts is provided. I covered a handful of almonds with water, soaked for 12 hours and drained. They truly were delicious even without the yoghurt and honey!
If you are missing those mung beans and sprouts in the supermarket maybe you would like to try your hand. Please make sure you buy from a reputable seed dealer. Several suppliers are listed at the back of the book.

Anyone who does vegetable gardening will be familiar with the next speedy vegetables: the micro greens. Here's a great idea. Because the seedling grow and are harvested in a short space of time the authors suggest growing them in guttering! In less than 10 days you will have nutritious micro greens with which to garnish that special dinner.

Nasturtium flowers
Years ago, on a garden visit,  I was offered a nasturtium flower to eat. It had a delicious peppery taste. This is one, but not the only flower suggestion for your salad bowl. Violas, chive, borage, pot marigold  and lavender are also flowers that will add flavor and pizazz to your salads. Just make sure that no chemicals have been used on the flowers. My favorite flower of all is the squash blossom. No need to wait for the squash themselves. Pick the flowers, add a savory filling, tempura batter and fry for a delicious snack.

Long before those zucchini are ready for the table you can enjoy the flowers. The authors offer their recipe for this favorite Italian dish.

Stuffed tempura courgette flowers

Stuffed and deep-fried in batter, courgette flowers are delicious. You can use cream cheese mixed with herbs for the stuffing, or, as here, cold risotto.

Serves 4
12 courgette flowers
2 cups cold risotto
sunflower oil for deep-frying
85g (⅔ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
. teaspoon salt
200ml (⅞ cup) ice-cold water
Coarse sea salt, to serve

1 Remove the centres from the flowers and use a teaspoon to stuff each about two-thirds full with risotto.

2 When they are all prepared, start warming the oil in a deep-sided pan.

3 Meanwhile, make the batter, which should never be left to stand. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and briefly whisk in the ice-cold water. Drop in a few ice cubes to keep it cool. Don’t worry if there are lumps of flour left in the mix as this adds to the crispiness.

4 Once the oil is hot (a piece of potato dropped in during heating will rise to the top when the temperature is right for frying), twist the tips of the flowers together and dip into the batter before lowering carefully into the oil. Fry for a few minutes, turning the flowers so that they are evenly brown on all sides. Lift out, drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately, sprinkled with coarse sea salt.

If you have a little more space then you can venture into growing some of the vegetables that require a little longer to harvest but still fit the bill of a quick crop. These include beets, carrots, cherry tomatoes and early potatoes. All can be grown in pots or in the ground.
The book is packed with ideas for plants can be grown in small spaces which gives the opportunity to the balcony or patio gardener to grow his own fresh produce. Then, more than 20 recipes to use your produce.

If you would like the opportunity to own this book I shall be giving a copy away to the lucky winner of my drawing which will take place on February 11. Just leave me a comment then check back on the 11th to see if you have won.


  1. I would love to check out this book, I'm starting a raised bed vegetable garden and would love to know more.

  2. I would love to win this book!

  3. Looks like an interesting book. Please enter my name.

  4. Well, this post has ignited a severe case of spring planting fever in me!The book sound great and the growing tips you described are ones that can easily fit into almost any want-to-be gardener's life.
    Please enter my name in your drawing.

    1. Judith, you are the winner. email me at jennyrockroseatgmaildotcom.

  5. I'd love to grow sprouts!! Need the How-to's first....give me a crack at that book! Thanks!

  6. Always looking for new info. Sounds like a great read. I would love to add it to the library.

  7. Fried zucchini flowers?! Count me in, please.