FROM THE MILL
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The latest wildlife update is now in! The Mill Gardens are now bursting with birds and insects, as the weather warms up this month, even more will start to appear. Most migrant birds have returned by now so the hedges are full of singing Warblers, although very small & shy they spend hours singing from deep in the bushes.
Sedge and Reed Warblers can be found next to the river, Whitethroats are often singing in the hedgerows by the car park. The Grey and Pied Wagtails have both nested by the Mill and are now feeding their very noisy recently fledged chicks.
Damselfies are flying in the warm and sunny weather, a few larger Dragonflies have appeared and there are good numbers of butterflies all over the gardens and meadow. Now the nights are warmer, the moth trap is starting to catch more variety including some large Hawk Moths.
Foxes are regular visitors to the gardens, one can usually be seen very early in the mornings, a badger was also recently caught on film in the woodland using a trail camera!
We would love to hear about what types of wildlife you have spotted in your gardens this month - do share with us on our social media pages!
Bedfordshire has always been an important county for vegetable production, during the 1800’s the area was producing a wide range of crops on small plots, links to London and other markets first by canal and then rail created a large increase in the number of market gardens.
The Mill Gardens keep this heritage alive, using small plots with different rotations and demonstrate how crops like cereals were grown alongside vegetables. One of our rotations is the “Norfolk Four Course” originating from the county, it was developed by “Turnip Townshend” in the 17th Century as a way of protecting the ground from erosion and returning nutrients to the soil.
Charles Townshend spent most of his life working in politics, he retired to an estate in Norfolk to concentrate on his interest in farming, rotating crops and ploughing in Clover allowed him grow more crops with better yields.
We use Barley, Wheat, Clover and root crops in the area nearest the shop. On large scale farms roots such as Turnips were grown to feed livestock, they produced manure to improve the soil and Clover is used instead of a traditional fallow year, this adds nutrients and helps to smother weeds.
By the middle of May most of the beds in our gardens have been sown and planted. Wheat, Barley, Rye and Spelt are growing with all sorts of vegetables plus lots of different ornamentals, the range varies throughout the year so there is always something interesting to see.
National Vegetarian Week is here! 11th - 17th May is all about enjoying delicious plant based food and your chance to try something different. The UK Weather forecast claims a 9 day heatwave, so we thought we would share a tasty recipe which can be cooked on the BBQ!
½ tsp chilli powder
small handful mint, chopped
zest and juice 1 lemon
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 courgettes, cut into 1cm rounds
225g pack halloumi cheese, cubed
1. Mix the chilli, half the mint, lemon zest and juice, oil, courgettes and halloumi. Leave to marinate for 30 mins. Soak 8 wooden skewers for 20 mins.
2. Thread the courgettes and halloumi onto the skewers. Cook on the BBQ, or under a grill, for 7-8 mins, turning halfway through and basting with the remaining marinade. Scatter over remaining mint.
This recipe has been sourced from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/courgette-halloumi-skewers. To find out more about National Vegetarian Week and for recipe ideas, visit https://www.nationalvegetarianweek.org/.
The much loved desert that many shy away from home making ... the meringue! This simple no-fuss recipe will have you tucking into your delicious melt in the mouth desert in no time. The great thing about the meringue is that it can be combined with whatever you have in your cupboards/fridge - we hope you enjoy!
4 large organic egg whites, at room temperature
115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar
1. Heat the oven to 110C/ 100C fan/gas ¼.
2. Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick liner or parchment paper (meringue can stick on greaseproof paper and foil).
3. Tip 4 large egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl (not plastic). Beat them on medium speed with an electric hand whisk until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks when the blades are lifted.
4. Now turn the speed up and start to add 115g caster sugar, a dessertspoonful at a time. Continue beating for 3-4 seconds between each addition. It’s important to add the sugar slowly at this stage as it helps prevent the meringue from weeping later. However, don’t over-beat. When ready, the mixture should be thick and glossy.
5. Sift one third of the 115g icing sugar over the mixture, then gently fold it in with a big metal spoon or rubber spatula. Continue to sift and fold in the remaining icing sugar a third at a time. Again, don’t over-mix. The mixture should now look smooth and billowy.
6. Scoop up a heaped dessertspoonful of the mixture. Using another dessertspoon, ease it on to the baking sheet to make an oval shape. Or just drop them in rough rounds, if you prefer.
7. Bake for 1 ½-1 ¾ hours in a fan oven, 1 ¼ hours in a conventional or gas oven, until the meringues sound crisp when tapped underneath and are a pale coffee colour.
8. Leave to cool on the trays or a cooling rack. (The meringues will now keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for a month.) Serve two meringues sandwiched together with a generous dollop of softly whipped double cream
This recipe has been sourced from:https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/ultimate-meringue
Originally a working mill and factory site; the gardens opened in 2013, designed as an ornamental food garden with small plots of cereals grown with vegetables plus ornamentals planted to give a constant display of colour which attract bees & butterflies. A small orchard includes Apples and Pears, the fruit cage produces Currants and various berries.
Bedfordshire has a long history of Market Gardening and much of we do is linked to this heritage. Cereals are sown in autumn and spring, we don’t grow enough here to use them but the small plots are a great way to see how they all grow, this year we have sourced Barley seed from Italy and other organic varieties from the UK.
A wide range of vegetables are all produced on site from seed. Sowing starts in late January to have the beds planted by mid May, different rotations and successional sowing mean as something is harvested we have a new crop waiting to go in so there is always plenty to see.
No chemicals are used on our plants and much of what we grow is lifted fresh and available for sale next to the shop.
Watching the gardens change over the seasons is very rewarding, in just a few months beds that were dug over in winter are starting to fill with plants and seedlings, empty beds we cut back last year are bursting into colour. As the days get longer and warmer all this work attracts an amazing variety of wildlife.
The RHS website has some great ideas to get involved, the smallest garden can be a colourful place to grow your own tasty vegetables, and bring nature closer to home.