Monday, 27 August 2012

More pickling and picking

Jamie pickled the silverskin onions this morning in 25g of Demerara sugar dissolved in 350ml of Aspall Classic white wine vinegar.
Later we visited the plot. We were the only ones there, it's a bit of a dull day with rain threatening.
We picked salad for lunches and today had those lovely tomatoes and silverskin onions for lunch on bruschetta - such a tasty snack. We got 3 cucumbers - I think one of them will be given away at work, along with one of the courgettes.
The cabbage should serve us for at least two meals. The beets are from the raised bed and were pickled in sweetened red wine vinegar when we got home. Luckily there are a few cut-offs which can be added to my salad tomorrow!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Planes, plans and potatoes

We spent a few hours working on the plot this afternoon, it actually got pretty warm. There were lots of fellow plot-holders on site today too so there were plenty of reasons for breaks :-)
We had our own air show while we were on the site. Didn't get any photos but it was great to see the red arrows, 2 spitfires and a hercules. It seems they were flying back from an airshow near Cambridge.

Jamie finished digging out the grass on Plot8. We've decided that we'll put our strawberry bed in there, near the rhubarb - straight across where we were going to move the seating. So the bench can (probably) stay where it is - unless we definitely get another (at least) 4 years on the site in which case I want a pond and then the bench will need to be near that - but that can be decided on next year...
Anyway, where was I? So, the strawberries... we only want 8 plants as we know Geoff's did brilliantly this year and grew big bushy plants which will fill the space we've planned for them. I potted 8 of Geoff's runners - they're still attached to his plants and secured with wire until they've rooted.
We're going to plant them like Geoff's done - on that weed suppressant that you can see in the picture above.

I cut off the tops of the original broad bean plants which have succombed badly to chocolate spot - we leave the roots in the ground to add nutrients to the soil - mainly nitrogen. There's also a chance that we may get a further crop from them, but it's a bit late now really.
We got a whole bagful of dead-heads from the calendula! And riddled a bagful of lovely compost from our green bin which is now half-full of all the broad bean tops - we'll add some cardboard to that tomorrow.
Jamie found these two snails mating. Didn't have the heart to split them up but sent them to do their love-making elsewhere!
We pulled some potatoes, one of each plant:
  • Orla - top left. This was one of the few Orla plants which actually survived this year. Disappointing though as there were only 3 reasonable tubers.
  • Kestrel - top right. This had quite a few tubers, including a giant but one of the tubers had either slug damage or blight on it. A couple have deep ridges where they've grown against stones, but the potato should be alright for cooking.
  • Chopin - bottom. Produced 7 even-sized tubers. The chopins have definitely been my favourites this year. There are a few small holes in some of them but generally they come out of the ground looking lovely and smooth with few blemishes.
We also got some more french beans and the last few broad beans from the original plants - not sure if they'll be edible.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Just finished cooking

The runner bean chutney is now cooling down in the two jars - it took 1 hour 45 mins to boil down to the right consistency.
I guess this makes it pretty expensive chutney, but we think it's worth it.
Looks good and can be eaten in 3 months - well, ours will wait till Christmas :-)

Picking and Pickling

A quick visit to the plot today to pick some bits and see what's happened over the last few days. We only visited the plot to pick runner beans during the week.
I was pleased to see there actually is evidence of a butternut or two on the bushes - they're minute but it gives me some hope...
Tiny tiny butternut
There are also about 4 little squashes on the Cornells Bush Delicata. I really hope that we get some more sunshine in September so that we get some winter squashes. A couple of the days last week felt very autumnal and days really seem to be shortening rapidly :-(

Cornells Bush Delicata
We picked over 1kg of runner beans (no shortage of those at the moment - even though they're selling for nearly £4 per kg in the shops!) and another onion. The santeror F1 which have really proved to be worth growing - a number of fellow allotment holders are trying to get a local garden centre to buy some stock for us next year. Also picked another bunch sweetpeas.

We made runner bean chutney, using our usual recipe. After topping, tailing and taking the edges off the runners we had just over the 450g (1lb) that we needed and 3 of our onions trimmed back just about reached that weight too.
It's still boiling down as I type this and it smells so delicious!

The additional ingredients
We also dealt with the silverskin onions which we've been drying out at home for over a week. They're being pickled in sweet white wine vinegar but first need soaking in brine overnight. They do look lovely - so white and shiny. We may use these for our main supply of pickled onions next year.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

So very hot!

Extremely hot again - 28° according to the thermometer but it felt hotter. We spent a couple of hours on the plot. Watering and watering and dead-heading the bloomin' calendula!
Our sweetcorn seems to have enjoyed the weather for the last 2 weeks and now has some cobs forming - really hope they make it, they're so delicious!
Also the Cornells squash has a couple of tiny fruits growing. We've not been picking the beets as we should have and they've grown enormous, so I'm on beetroot salad most of next week I think. The Santero onions are still looking good; we've left them in the ground under their netting and just pick them a couple of days before we're going to cook with them.

We've seen blackfly on our radish which have gone to seed - we've hardly seen any aphids this year. I walked around the site trying to find ladybirds and only found one! That doesn't seem good - it seems the ladybird season is out of sync with the aphids this year :-(

We picked a huge trug load of goodies (including Kestrels and a load of runner beans for work colleagues) and escaped the heat.
By the way....
We haven't found any more of our potatoes with hollow hearts so far, but we're still not risking a baked spud

A new record!

We've beaten last year's record of 7 items of home-grown veg in one meal :-)

We reached 9 last night:
  1. Potato
  2. Onion
  3. Cabbage
  4. Carrot
  5. Lettuce
  6. Tomatoes
  7. Cucumber
  8. Pepper
  9. Spring Onions
The cabbage and carrot were made into coleslaw with salad cream - soooo tasty. I could eat buckets of it.
The cabbage had quite a lot of damage to the outside leaves, but plenty inside to cover a couple of meals.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Plans for salad and sweet onions

We had a few hot hours on the plot this morning. Weeding, grass-cutting and dead-heading the calendula - every time you turn round another seed head appears. We really don't want them self-seeding everywhere again next year! They're beautiful but you can have too much of a good thing :-)

These are our roundest silverskin onions, have left loads in the ground in the hope that they will also grow more spherical. These ones are going into a little jar of sweet white pickling vinegar for Christmas martinis - haven't quite decided on the recipe yet.

The strawberries are having a second flush of fruits. Hopefully we'll get to eat some - we missed out on the first lot because the birds got them, well there were only about 5 that grew, and they weren't very good :-( Next year we plan to have a proper strawberry bed on Plot 8
We picked a great trugful of goodies today - the kestrel spuds look good (and no slug damage or hollow hearts in this crop so far), salad consists of lettuce, tomatoes, red spring onions, cucumber and even a little pepper. And we're going to have coleslaw made with our first cabbage - which is a bit nibbled but we can eat round that!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Red Tomatoes!

A very quick visit to the plot after work. The really bad rain in the week hadn't done any damage. The Lizzano F1 tomatoes needed watering and are leaning over - but they are trailers so I guess that's as intended! And we've finally got some red tomatoes to go with our amazing Rocky cucumbers - that's a salad for tomorrow then :-)
It's meant to be an extremely hot weekend so we should be able to spend a good few hours on the plot - lovely!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bad potato news

We discovered something else about our potatoes yesterday - the kestrels. They appeared to have avoided internal slug damage but had fallen foul of the WET weather and succumbed to hollow heart which is most likely due to the wet weather we had this year. It is most likely caused by second growth in potatoes - this site gives a bit more info. We managed to cut round the dodgy bits and made mash which tasted lovely with broad beans. (Actually, to be honest, the broad beans had gone past their best too but they were still nice - even if I haven't sold the meal!) The Kestrel potatoes are a concern though as we've got another 8 plants - seems like we have a lot of meals coming up involving mash...
At least the tomatoes are beginning to change colour, gradually - there are masses of toms arriving if they can just beat the blight!
And here's evidence of squash flowers, but they're all male so far - they are not going to produce any Cornell's bush delicata winter squash so they'd better get a move on!!
At least the runner beans are paying out - these arrived within a day of us picking all the big ones - only 5 plants so we'll see how long they provide us for.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Potato (and slug) time

Had a lovely couple of hours on the plot today. We'd been expecting rain but still haven't needed to use our new brolly!!
We pottered around a bit. Jamie DID finish the digging on the new plot and fed the tomatoes, runner beans and peas with Growmore.  I earthed up the celeriac, some of them are bulbing up pretty well.

I took a few photos and pulled some potatoes; one Chopin plant and one Kestrel - both giving pretty good harvests of nice looking tubers (we forgot to weigh them before we'd cooked them) but there are a few holes.
Geophilus carpophagus
We did wonder whether this centipede had made the holes but it seems that it's slugs. (The centipede eats baby earthworms though, so isn't a particularly welcome guest.)
Slug hole
We weren't too concerned by these holes - they don't look too offensive and don't seem to be too deep, but when we cut into the spud it's a different story...

The inside story
Ugh, not nice.
NOTE TO US: Do not bake potatoes with small holes in them!!
Jamie's already talking about buying nematodes next year, though the problem is most likely because of the awful rain. The slugs that do this type of damage are Keel slugs - not the giants you see when you move anything outside at the moment, but fairly small ones (<6cm) which live under the ground.

Anyway, the potatoes tasted nice, just needed a few extra bits cut off! We also had lovely runner beans and the cucumber is for lunch - also great for a little snack whilst on the plot :-)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Weeding and Digging

Another lovely hot day! It was sunny but hazy so we were able to spend several hours on the plot. Lots of chat and sitting but also got some work done.

Calendula and sweet peas
Jamie very nearly managed to finish digging the new plot! So the whole plot has nearly been properly dug now but there are so many weeds about that dug areas are seeded within a few days!
I did a lot of weeding, particularly round the celeriac and the squashes which appear to be growing pretty well - though no signs of actual squashes yet... just lots of green buds.
Sprouting Rhubarb
There were also lots of insects including butterflies still desperately trying to get at our brassicas - but not succeeding.

There was fluff from groundsel and thistles blowing all over site today :-( The grass paths on our site look good but they sure do generate a lot of extra work. We mowed our paths and someone else was mowing the communal areas. The grass seed that's escaped on to the plot has grown well (grrr) and is a real pain to keep on top of.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Hot and Blighty!

We went to the plot after work as it's been a really hot day and was a lovely sunny evening. We found this mutant calendula - interesting look for a flower!
We had to cut down all the potato haulms (foliage) due to blight sweeping across the site - not at all surprising given the amount of water we've had this year and it's been very humid over the last couple of days - hopefully our tubers are mostly ok, but blighted spuds won't store. We stuck sticks in so we don't forget where each plant is!

Cleared spud plot
We also saw some exciting wildlife! Les and his son, Nathan, came down to our plot for a photo of the slow worm they found in their compost bins. It looked like it's tail had regrown at least once. We saw two frogs hopping round our plot.
Both of these are very welcome visitors.

A less welcome guest, but still interesting to see, was a mole! He was foraging through the grass, digging small holes for worms. Unfortunately my photo was too blurry to post.

As HEAT were on site for their weekly communal allotment evening there were drinks and biscuits provided, so we didn't leave till the sun had gone. HEAT (Hungerford Environment Action Team) really want more people to join in with their allotment - anyone who doesn't think they can handle a full allotment should come along to Marsh Lane on Thursdays at 7:30pm to talk to Suz or Catherine.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A brolly for a shed and leeks

We had some time to spend on the plot this afternoon, lovely and warm and quite sunny. We've bought a fishing umbrella. Hopefully for more sun protection as well as rain (I'm saying that quietly as we can do without rain for a few more days!).
Brolly/Shed beyond the coriander
We were offered some more leeks (thanks Malcolm!) and after losing all ours last year due to leek moth I figured it would be silly to refuse! So I puddled some into a space in the legume quarter - there was only room for 12 but if they get big that's plenty on top of the others that are growing pretty well so far under their enviromesh cover.
The sprouts have grown so tall that they were touching the top of the netting so we've added the extra struts back to the cage (we took them off when the cage blew off in the windy weather in June). We have replaced the netting but it's nice to see the sprouts looking so healthy - there's not much slug damage and no caterpillar problems so the enviromesh has done the trick so far.
There are already sprouts forming and on one of the plants they're really big - well, bigger than these little tiddlers.
When I removed the netting there were masses of spiders and beetles as well as centipedes and woodlouse but this was a prettier visitor (sorry, not you Dave!)
Shhh, no dogs allowed on the allotment!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Seasonal Firsts

It's been rainy and sunny throughout the day - torrential downpours then bright blue skies. We just a quick visit to the plot this afternoon to pick some food for a couple of dinners and to make some soup for lunches.
I was going to make cream of onion soup but once I got to the allotment I opted for my old favourite carrot and coriander as it meant I didn't have to buy any extra ingredients. This will be the first I've made from this season's carrots, so I picked 3 biggish ones, a nice big onion and some coriander leaves - the coriander has well and truly gone to seed so the leaves aren't really suitable though their smell is very strong.
Coriander, carrots, onion, french beans, courgette, broad beans & runners
We picked the first of our runners; only a handful, we're going to have mixed beans with our Quorn fillets and chivey-Kestrel mash tonight - something has been getting into the dwarf french beans, nibbling through the pods but not doing much damage.

We managed to get away before the next downpour started.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Sunshine and Showers

We had a nice couple of hours on the plot this morning - pretty warm and sunny but the wind was rather strong. Everything had grown a lot over the last 3 days! The sweet peas are looking very pretty and there are some runner beans growing long!
We pulled some potatoes:
The kestrel plant looked a bit sickly and clearly wasn't happy. We got 3 reasonably sized tubers (400g) from it, but the blight had got down into one of the tubers  :-(
The Chopin plant was the one that I had pilfered from before, but still got two lovely big healthy looking tubers (500g).
The Red Duke of York plant wasn't very happy looking but produced a fine harvest of lovely red spuds (1.3kg). It's been such a wet year, the tubers were caked in hard mud. It's hard to learn much about the different varieties this year, but Chopin really do seem to have been particularly successful... (hope I haven't spoken too soon!)
There are 4 Courgettes in the plant-uh-oh it's started :-) A couple of the sweetcorn have the male flower developing - the plants are very short though.
The kohl rabi has germinated and more of the broad beans needed cloching. I also had to cloche some parsley which I planted out last week - something has been nibbling it. We saw a tiny little froglet hopping about so hopefully he'll stay near our plot - he was smaller than the one we saw previously (only about 3cm big - aw!)
Took the netting off the parsnips as they were getting rather cramped.
We did some weeding, dead-heading and turned the compost before having to dash off because the light pitter-patter of rain turned into a torrential downpour. And look at the crowd we found in the communal shed!  :-)
Tony, Gill, Geoff and Kerry, with Jane & Derek hidden

Friday, 3 August 2012

Mmmm, lunch

With the few slices of beetroot which were left over I had a lovely lunch; with homegrown chard (red and yellow veins), spring onions, radish, lettuce and GranoVita vegetarian pepperoni - lovely!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Pickled Beetroot

Jamie prepared and pickled the beetroot today. We always bake them wrapped in foil, with the stems still attached to prevent bleeding; this keeps as much flavour in the beet as possible.
After an hour and a half at 190° they're ready and need removing from their skins. It usually slides off pretty easily but can get a bit messy!
25g of sugar was dissolved into 350ml of slightly heated Aspall Classic Red Wine vinegar. After the beets have cooled we like to cut them with the ridge slicer and Jamie packed them into the sterilised jar and covered them with the vinegar.
 There! Ready for Christmas!