Ants, mint & cucumbers

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Turns out dirty windows are a relatively minor problem with the new greenhouse.  A closer look inside found beds overrun with couch grass, and a whole coachload of ants living there… which explains all the tubs of ant killer left in the shed by the previous owners.  Not being a big fan of chemicals in the garden, I took to the internet looking for ideas on how to move the ants on – I should probably apologise to the new neighbours here, in case they find hoards of ants suddenly appearing in their gardens.  Although so far, my natural control measures are being laughed at by the ants.  According to the websites I read, ants don’t like mint.  I’d brought some pots of mint with me, so these were quickly put in the greenhouse to keep the tomato, cucumber and chilli plants safe from ants.

Ants

Yes, that’s a photo of the ants investigating the crushed mint leaves put across their favoured route into the greenhouse.  I think they were deciding whether to take the leaves back to their nest, or just move them out of the way and carry on as usual…  it may be time for a rethink on the ant control front.

On the plus side, the mint plants have grown really well in the greenhouse.  I’d thought it would be too hot for them.  But, with regular watering (twice a day in the hot weather at the moment), they’ve come on a treat and there are fresh leaves ready to use in the kitchen.

Applemint

And there are cucumbers too.  In a break from the usual ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ (I know – just the name makes you want to eat it, doesn’t it?), this year I’ve grown ‘Paris Pickling’.  It’s a cucumber with a story, and I do like a plant with a bit of history attached.  Early and reliable, this variety was bred for gardens in the cooler climate of Paris where it was grown to produce fruit for pickling.  But the cucumbers are also really good for in salads… as long as you don’t let it get too big.

Cucumbers

So, mint and cucumber… it’s beginning to sound like a kind of home grown tzatziki in the making.

Mint

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than about a week, you may have heard me mention that my daughter is a bit of a picky eater.  But not just fussy about which foods she will eat… fussy and contrary.  While she would only drink milk if it was the last available liquid on the planet, and the thought of eating even the smallest piece of Cheddar cheese makes her feel sick – her favourite meal of all time is macaroni cheese.  That’s right, pasta in a sauce made from milk and Cheddar.  Lentils are another forbidden food… unless they come in the form or tarka dal, in which case they become a perfectly acceptable.

Tzatziki

Greek yoghurt is another food that’s best avoided – apparently “it’s just wrong”.  But add some cucumber, garlic and mint and it’s a whole other story.  After tasting tzatziki at a restaurant (in Yorkshire not Greece, so maybe not completely authentic), Greek yoghurt was added to the list of foods she will eat.  Now we make something approximating to authentic tzatziki using home grown ingredients.  Served with flatbread fresh from the oven (I used the recipe in Scandilicious Baking – it’s very good and works brilliantly in the Aga) and some salads, it was all I could do to stop the children eating the entire bowl of tzatziki between them.

Dip

Fussy eater sorted, now I just need to figure out how to move those ants on…

Cool as a cucumber dip

2 small home grown cucumbers or about 4” length of a larger cucumber

1 tsp fine sea salt

1 clove garlic, crushed

4 spring onions, finely chopped

1 mild chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 heaped tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves

200g Greek yoghurt

a squeeze of lemon juice

Chop the cucumber up into small dice.  Put the pieces into a colander or sieve, sprinkle with the salt and leave for about 10 minutes over a bowl to drip out some of the water in them.

Meantime mix all the other ingredients except the lemon juice in a serving bowl.  Give the cucumber pieces a squeeze to get rid of a bit more moisture, then stir them through the yoghurt mixture.  Add lemon juice to taste.

Serve chilled.

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