From The Editor's Post Bag...

It's been a while since we've had a Question Time here on Veg Plotting, mainly due to the majority of the search hits I've had the past few months being from people obsessed with making preserves. My jam recipes are so popular, I've been wondering whether I've chosen the right subjects to blog about. However, now the darker evenings are here, a much wider range of queries are finding their way into the editor's postbag my site statistics.

Unfortunately for everyone seeking the Orange advert, they've had to make do with a view of Bristol's public planting instead. Whilst that fair city is host to said telephone company's HQ, I'm sure I haven't provided what they're seeking. I'm also sure that the query Everyone has these on their faces isn't looking for my Red Nose Day jokes either, but hopefully they left here in a better mood than when they arrived.

Unlike these examples, most of the searches hitting my blog seem to have had an appropriate page returned for them - hurrah! However, there are a few more which are highlighting gaps in the advice on offer within these pages, which need addressing without any further delay :)

Q. Cosmos overwinter

A. I'm assuming we're talking Cosmos atrosanguineus (like 'Chocamocha', or the chocolate Cosmos), as the other kinds grown in this country are annuals. They're a tender perennial and should be treated like Dahlias i.e. in more sheltered areas such as here in southern England they can be given a Dahlia duvet. In colder areas or wet, clayey soils they should be lifted and stored in a cool place, such as a shed. As mine are in pots, I'll be cutting them back after the first frosts have got to them and storing them in my shed until the spring.

Q. Use for parsnip tops/ Are parsnip tops edible?

A. I have used young, blanched tops like those pictured above when making parsnip soup without affecting the result. However, I've not served them as a vegetable in their own right, nor have I used the more usual green tops. I think the latter would be too tough to eat. Parsnips are in the same family as carrots, whose young green tops I've used in salads, so perhaps they are edible. Has anyone tried them? What's your favourite way of serving them if you have? In the absence of any other answers, I'd either compost the older tops like I do at the moment, or I'd feed them to pets such as rabbits or guinea pigs if I had one.

Q. Bramley or Granny Smith for apple pie?

A. It's got to be Bramleys every time as Granny Smiths are an eating apple. However, Bramley apples cook down to a mush, so if you prefer your pie with more of a bite to it, you might want to try another type of cooking apple - this website will give you plenty of ideas.

Q. When do you pick Nasturtium seeds for pickling?

A. After flowering! Thanks to Plant Mad Nige, I now know this has to be when the seeds are quite small, otherwise they'll taste like cardboard.

Q. Steps to take to draw a Nasturtium flower picture

A. Sorry, this topic is worth a blog to itself and I'm not up to it, even though I'm quite pleased with the Callistemon picture I drew a while back. Whilst she might not have a guide to drawing Nasturtiums per se, Val at the inspirational Pencil and Leaf blog provides a great insight into the art of botanical painting and drawing.

That's it for now - but until next time you may like to have a look at all entries under the Question Time label, or for something a little different, do try my sister publication, the You Ask, We Answer Dictionary ;)


  1. Every time someone mentions Question Time I hear that stoopid music in my head. ;-) BTW do you think me too frivilous for words when I reveal that I use Granny Smiths for apple crumble?

    BTW my WV is appeld which sans d is the Dutch word for apple. How very appled err apt!

  2. Has to be Bramleys. Has to be. Unless you happen to live somewhere where Granny Smiths taste of something. I'm told Golden Delicious really are delicious in France. Meanwhile . . . Bramleys rule ok.

    Parsnips and compost . . . definitely a connection there.

    Nasturtium seeds and pickling . . . it may be worth it to prove a point. Probably not otherwise.

    Question. How do I overwinter my heuchera wot you gave me? I think it needs a bigger pot. What kind of earth shall I put it in? etc. . . . ?

    For the person who wants to draw a nasturtium . . . there's one on the Martian flag . . . which can be seen in the sidebar of

    Hurray, it's autumn.


  3. Great post and interesting Q and A

  4. In the book 'Salad Leaves For All Seasons' Charles Dowding writes about the young leaves of baby root vegetables.

    ~ ''Parsnip White Gem' - pungent baby leaves, unmistakeable flavour of parsnip and a rather bitter aftertaste". I would imagine that they probably do not improve with age :)

  5. What a delightful idea for a post. I check my site statistics to see what people are searching for, too, and sometimes scratch my head over how the questions they've asked could ever lead them to my blog...

    Anyway. Thanks again for making me smile.

  6. Yolanda - I did wonder about saying Granny Smiths are fine if you want sliced apple, but then I thought no, let's have some British apples in there which will do the same thing! Besides, if my my Dutch friend's mum's (from Limburg) apple pie is anything to go by, it's totally different to British apple pie anyway ;)

    Esther - Granny Smiths aren't really the right apple for growing in this country and they're picked when unripe in the countries where they do well to help keep them unbruised during transportation over here. BUT Bramleys are perfect for our climate :)

    I take it you're not too fond of parsnips? I love 'em, especially roasted ones. Yum.

    There's a week left to go before I can try my Nasturtium seeds - I have an omlette awaiting them...

    You can keep your Heuchera outside over the winter, they're pretty tough. I'm glad it's doing so well that it needs a bigger pot. I'm pretty cruel with mine, so you can probably get away with not potting it on until the spring, when you might want to plant it out. However, Heucheras do also look nice in pots on their own. I just use 2 parts peat-free multipurpose potting compost to 1 part John Innes number 3. If you need any more info just give me a shout.

    Val's also been in touch (from Pencil and Leaf), offering to show the person how to draw a Nasturtium, but your Martian Flag one wil l give him or her a good start. Unfortunately I can't get in touch with who it is, as it was just a search shown on my site's statistics.

    Joanne - glad you enjoyed them :)

    Anna - looks like eating them other than young's a no-no then. Thanks for looking it up and letting me know. I do sometimes use the young leaves like the one in the picture as a parsnip soup garnish and I can confirm they do taste strongly of parsnip and are bitter, but no worse than chicory or endive can be.

    Susan - I'm constantly amazed what Veg Plotting gets suggested for! But it's good to get some ideas of the kind of things people want to know about :)

  7. May I commit an act of heresy on your blog?

    I don't like Bramleys. They're sour, big, awkward to peel and lack the complex flavouring of, say, Blenheim Orange. But they do make pretty trees, and the blossom is gorgeous.

    My better half, the PG, tends to slip half a quince into her apple pies - it brings what the Bramley's lack - challenging flavour.

    I've never eaten a tasty Granny Smith - haven't eaten many, anyway - but when I lived in Upstate New York, in the 1960s, big, ripe Golden Delicious were fragrant, crunchy and totally delicioius.

    Oh, and just to add to my heresy. I absolutely LOATHE Cox's Orange Pippin. Give me Spartans or Egremont Russets any day.

    OK, now all say you hate me!!!

  8. Oh, you too! I get lots of hits from where I wrote about Pear Preserves, which in our case is just hard Pears cooked with about a quarter of the sugar old-time preserves used, and frozen instead of canned.

  9. Nige - I'm not keen on Bramleys either, which is why I (more diplomatically!) said they turn to mush and pointed people in the direction of more infor so they could choose something like Blenheim Orange instead!

    I have both Egremont Russet and Spartan on my allotment. I've just cooked some of the Spartan windfalls ready for my breakfast porage tomorrow and their scent in the kitchen is heavenly :)

    Nell Jean - that sounds scrummy I must hop on over for the recipe :)


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