orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Sunday, 25 May 2008
Saturday, 24 May 2008
Which is why last night, after a farewell meal with Susan’s brother who returned home to Leeds today, we opted for the indoor concert that was on last night. There was the International Guitar Meeting was on in the Citadel in Sarzana, but given the unpredictable weather we went to see Andy White in the Pegaso in Arcola. We had been in Arcola earlier that day to prune a large and quite ill cherry tree back, cutting out many of the dead branches and some of the living ones too as this was the only way to get to the highest sweet cherries. Susan got quite worried about me dangling 20 feet in the air with a telescopic pruning tool, but a large yield of delicious cherries made it worth our while. Some of them we preserved in grappa and with the rest of them we have just been eating ourselves sick!
Incidentally, as I write this I sip some of our elderflower Prosecco. It’s delicious!
Thursday, 22 May 2008
most of the during late spring rainfalls. If spraying immediately before rain, dosages should be increased, however last week we may have escaped the worst of the rain.
Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
I have by the way found out in the meantime what is wrong with my peach and apricot trees. It’s peach leaf curl, which is a common fungal disease. Unfortunately I’m too late to do anything about it this year. All I can do is water and feed them well, so they survive this year’s attack. In November (remind me of this) I will then have to spray thoroughly with Bordeaux mixture, which should sort the problem. James, I know you’ve got a problem with your’s in Casola as well, so I could spray it then as well if you want.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, we’ll be off to Villa, beating back the weeds which are already knee high and spray the vines there. Did I mention the exciting wildlife on the plot in Villa? The other day I surprised two snakes in a bit of a naughty act, quite literally snaking around each other, standing up with the front third of their bodies. They were so busy they did not pay me any attention whatsoever, even though I stood barely 6 feet away from them. The trouble was they were in front of the water barrel I tried to get to, so after a few minutes I threw a stick at them so they’d disperse. I’m told there’s only one venomous snake in Italy, the viper, and their bodies are apparently not strong enough to stand up in the grass. Still, best to move carefully.
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
I love this time of year. It’s a complete sensual overload. Visually – a riot of colour with poppies in obscene red competing with the bright yellows of gorse and buttercup and a variety of blues, pinks and purples all on a background of every shade of green. The sounds – the air is full of birdsong, most I don’t recognise, except for the chattering of the swallows (the quintessential Italian bird, competing with the early news exchange of the neighbours), the cuckoo of the … what bird did that again… and the hammering of the woodpeckers; and down by the river the frogs are giving an open-air concert. The smells – Everything is bursting into flower and the fragrant smells of the elderflower and the gorse mingle with the marjoram, lemon balm, thyme and mint crushed under foot; around the corner the warm spicy waft of some curry plant (unfortunately virtually useless as a culinary herb), and all this almost drowned out by the persistent perfume of jasmine. And finally the tastes – Everything tastes so fresh and new. We have today harvested our first new season peas and broad beans. And then the much-ignored elderflower. We’ve been eating elderflower fritters for dessert the last few days and have a couple of batches of simple elderflower Champagne (or more like elderflower Prosecco) on the go.
On that I’ll share my elderflower recipes with you:
About 6 heads of elderflower
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp sugar
35 ml cold water
Olive oil for frying
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Mix the egg, flour, sugar and water into a batter. Dip the flowers into the batter, then upside down into the hot oil. While one side is cooking cut off the worst of the stalks with scissors. Turn and finish cooking the other side. Lovely, light, easy and cheap dessert.
Simple Elderflower Prosecco:
Makes about 1 gallon / 4.5 litres
About 15 heads of Elderflower
Grated zest and juice of one large lemon
4.5 litres of warm water
Use the flowers as fresh as possible mix together with all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. Drain and bottle in plastic pet bottles (glass may explode), closing them securely with srewcaps. No yeast needs to be added, as they are present on the flowers. Leave in a warm place for another 2 weeks, then drink within 3 weeks. It is light in alcohol, sparkling and very refreshing.
The other great thing about this time of year is, it’s the beginning of the festa season. Last weekend we went to the Sagra dei Muscolo Ripieno (the festival of the stuffed mussel) in Marolo, just outside La Spezia. The season for mussels is said to be only on months without an ‘r’ in it, so we are just at the start of it and Marolo is right next to the sea, so couldn’t be any fresher. From now on until September / October there is some village fest or another on virtually every weekend. We’d love to give them all a go, but we wouldn’t get around doing any real work and we probably would end up big fat blobs!
The weather as you may have gathered from my spring anthems has been glorious. Yesterday was new moon, so today it was sowing time again. I’ve sown sweet corn, courgettes, various lettuces, radishes, climbing beans and dwarf runner beans at Arcola today. Most other things are doing well.
Incidentally, anyone know what is wrong with my recently planted peaches and what I can do to save them? The leaves go all red and curl up. There is no evidence of insects. It’s not an isolated case, I’ve seen quite a few in the area suffering from the same problem. We have a couple of wild apricots, which seem to be more resistant to the problem, although they are also affected.
Thursday, 1 May 2008
During the last week we had an e-mail from our jet-setting, budding super-model daughter Julie that she had returned to London from a month of work in New York and Los Angeles and that she would be in Milan for a few days. So not having seen her for a while we decided to drive to Milan on Monday to see her. She had been doing a fashion shoot for Amica magazine and she only had a couple of hours to see us in the evening. She had only arrived early that morning and needed her beauty sleep to be rested for another day’s shooting and flying on to Paris in the evening for another job. Susan in particular was very excited about being reunited with her daughter albeit briefly.
Yesterday my cousin Karin and husband came to see us for a brief visit from Holland. They had spent a week in Southern Tuscany and stayed a night here. We had an afternoon to show them the highlights of the area briefly and went out for nice meal in the evening at our local restaurant. We had a really nice time and it was great to see them. Also our Swiss friend Irene is down here at the moment and we went to her house for a meal the other day. So as you can see we’ve been quite busy socializing and a few other people have already announced visits for later this year