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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about some of the plants new to the garden this year.  One of them was phacelia, usually grown as a green manure, but planted here in the cut flower patch.  It was growing strongly, and I was already loving the small, pale purple flowers that were just starting to open from tightly curled flower heads.  To keep its place in the garden though, phacelia needed to be a hit with the bees and a good cut flower.

Well I can now report that it’s more than fulfilling expectations on the bee front.  The bumblebees are just crazy about it – from early in the morning until late evening there are always at least two or three, busy on the flowers.  Along with knautia and borage, phacelia makes up the top three bee plants in the garden at the moment.  So if you’re thinking about having more nectar-rich, easy to grow plants in the garden, put these on your list…

Bumblebee on phacelia

As far as cut flowers go, you couldn’t ask much more of phacelia.  It has long, straight, sturdy stems.  I’ve only had to stake one plant that was growing on its own – grown as a group the plants seem to prop each other up.  Vase life is pretty good too, with a long drink before arranging and regular water changes, the stems are lasting over a week.  Phacelia also has a very delicate perfume, and has been attracting interest in the bouquets I’ve put out for sale because it’s just that bit different.

Phacelia

There are only two downsides to phacelia as far as I can see – the first is its tendency to self seed.  I’m going to have to be careful and dead head any flowers that aren’t cut for bouquets… the last thing I need in this garden is another rampant self-seeder to join the parsley, poppies, feverfew and knautia.  The second is that the plant doesn’t seem to be edible… although if anyone wants to correct me on this, please do.

Phacelia 2

If it was edible, I may well have added a sprinkling to my summer pizza, topped with some of summer’s best vegetables.  Inspired by this month’s Cheese Please! challenge over at Fromage Homage, it also involves plenty of creamy soft goat’s cheese.

Fromage Homage

So far this summer, although it felt like we should be eating outside (because that’s what you do in the summer after all), the cool weather had made tea at the outdoor table a test of endurance involving big jerseys and lots of whinging from less hardy members of the family (that would be me…).  A week or so of hot, sunny weather has changed all that, and we’ve been outside as much as possible.  And as long as the good weather lasts, there will be more summer pizzas  to enjoy.

Pizza

Goat’s cheese & roasted vegetable pizza

1 pizza base made using the recipe here

for the tomato sauce –

2 tbsp olive oil

250g ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ tbsp light brown soft sugar

Sea salt

for the topping –

1 small red onion, peeled and chopped

½ (or 1 small) aubergine, chopped into smallish chunks

1 small courgette, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

3 sprigs fresh thyme

100g soft goat’s cheese

freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over top

Make the pizza dough first, and while it’s rising get the tomato sauce on.  Put all the sauce ingredients apart from the salt into a pan and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until you have a nice thick, rich sauce – giving it all a stir from time to time so that the flavours mix and it doesn’t burn at the bottom.  When the sauce has thickened, taste to check for seasoning and add a little salt if needed.

Once the sauce is cooking, preheat the oven to 190oC, 375F, gas 5.  Mix the red onion, aubergine and courgette together on a baking sheet, pour the olive oil over them and throw on the thyme sprigs.  Then toss everything together to get as much of the veg coated with oil as possible.  Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes – until tender.  Take the tray out of the oven about half way through the cooking time and give the mixture a stir around before returning to the oven to continue cooking.

When the pizza dough is ready and the vegetables are roasted, oil a large pizza stone or baking sheet.  Roll the dough out on a floured board to get a circle about 12″ (30cm) in diameter. Put this pizza base on the oiled sheet.  Spread the tomato sauce over the base, top with the roasted veg and then dot the whole lot with small pieces of goat’s cheese.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the base is nice and golden around the edges.  A good few grindings of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil over the top finish the pizza off nicely.

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