Did I mention that the waiting list for an allotment in Greenwich is 120 years? I have 100 years to go before getting one, so to pass the time I tried a few options. The last one went pear-shape but undeterred I have found another scheme, this time, volunteering in Greenwich park newly opened Queens Orchard. Follow me, through the gate:
Situated near the park's north-east entrance, what is today the Queens Orchard is believed to have been once the siege of a large house. The first thing one notices is a dry well, recently covered by beautifully sculpted iron work.
Curious about it's appearance, a well usually shows signs of humidity, I asked. I am being told that "It's an old fridge", where ice was kept in Victorian days. Look up from that point on there is a magnificient mixture of vegetables, flowers and heritage fruit trees dating back to the 1500's. The orchard garden is open to the public for a couple of hours a week on Sundays from 13-15.
Once the work is done, mostly weeding so far, volunteers are encouraged to take home some of the surplus. This week, was rhubarb, chives and radishes.
Rhubarb plants grow very large, every couple of years they should be divided. Leaves are poisonous if consummed in large quantity but the revelation was the fact that there are a myriad of rhubarb types and they all taste slightly different. My favorite is a variety called Champagne.
There is a short period of time when rhubarb and strawberries co-exist, mixing them gives fabulous results as in this
Rhubarb-Strawberry Meringue Pot
450g rhubarb cut into 4cm/1½in chunks
Golden caster sugar
About 10 strawberries halved & tailed
2 eggs separated
- Put the rhubarb in a saucepan sprinkle over 50g/2oz of the sugar and stir together. Cook for 20 minutes until tender.
- Allow to cool slightly. Stir in the strawberries then the egg yolks. Divide the rhubarb mixture between four 175ml/6fl oz ramekins. Put on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10 minutes until lightly thickened.
- While the rhubarb is cooking, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Sprinkle over half of the remaining sugar and whisk again. Gently fold in the rest of the sugar. Pile the meringue on top of the rhubarb to cover it completely and swirl the top. Return to the oven for 10 minutes until the meringue is puffy and golden. Serve immediately.