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There are signs that winter is starting to loosen its hold on the garden.  The birds are singing louder, and the snowdrops are opening in the sunshine

Snowdrops

The garlic I planted last autumn has survived sitting in soggy soil for months on end and has healthy looking green shoots.  And the rhubarb is just about visible above ground again

Rhubarb

And, best of all, the herbs are starting to grow.  I hadn’t noticed the chives, but they’ve put on a few inches of growth already

Chives

The parsley too is starting to produce fresh leaves

Parsley

I usually make a spring sowing (of two) of parsley for leaves through the summer, and then a later sowing for a few pickings over the winter and fresh leaves in next spring.  I think maybe I left this later sowing a bit too late last year.  The plants didn’t really get established in the (very wet) ground, and they aren’t looking too happy now.  I’m hoping a bit of dry, sunny weather will be just what they need to kick back into growth.

Parsley seeds can be slow to germinate, but they’re worth waiting for.  Some people say that pouring boiling water over the compost just before you sow the seed speeds up germination – I do this sometimes, but I’ve never tested if it really works in hurrying things along.  Parsley is reputed to be the devil’s herb, and the seed is said to travel down to hell to pay its respects before it will grow.  Heating the compost with a dousing of boiling water, is apparently enough to trick the seed into thinking it is already in hell so it will start to grow more quickly.

Bruschetta

The handful of parsley leaves that I did manage to pick from the garden this evening, I added to cannellini beans to make a topping for some bruschetta.  The idea for the recipe came from a book I’ve just borrowed from the library – Purple citrus & sweet perfume by Silvena Rowe.  It’s full of recipes inspired by the cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean, loads of fabulous flavours to work with.  The original recipe paired creamy cannellini beans with mushrooms fried in olive oil with za’atar.  This would work really well, but mushrooms are a forbidden ingredient in this house (unless the picky eater is out at a friend’s for tea…).  To try to make up for the lack of gutsy mushroom flavour, I added garlic, parsley and plenty of salt and pepper to the beans.  It was really good, but I’m still waiting for an evening when I can test out the recipe in its original form!

Bruschetta 2

With parsley being a star ingredient in this recipe, I’m linking it to this month’s Herbs on Saturday over at Lavender and Lovage.

Herbs on Saturday

Cannellini bean & parsley bruschetta

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp single cream

1 tbsp tahini

juice of 1 lemon

a good handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat.  When the oil is warm, add the garlic and turn down the heat.  Cook for a minute or two, but don’t let the garlic brown.  Add the cannellini beans, stir into the oil and cook over a medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Stir from time to time, and gently crush the beans slightly with the back of a wooden spoon.

When the beans are almost dry, remove from the heat and add the cream, tahini, lemon juice, the rest of the olive oil and the parsley.  Stir everything together and season to taste.  Warm the bean mixture gently and serve spooned onto pieces of toasted crusty bread.

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