Monday, 26 August 2013

We're Pickled!

That's the shallots all done. Three big jars and four smaller ones.
Two have got fresh chillies in - hot! hot! hot!

All in storage for Christmas along with the pickled beets Jamie did last week.

Plans for Pickles and Meals

It's pickling weekend so the flat smells of onions. We peeled all the shallots yesterday and they've been soaking in salt water overnight. We'll start the pickling after I've written this. We went to the allotment earlier, it's been a lovely hot day but we didn't spend as much time on the plot as we intended. Here's a photo of the asparagus pea; I felt it deserved a photo after I was recommending it yesterday. There should be enough on there to have them with a meal later in the week - they need to be eaten when smaller than 2.5cm or they are tough.
The squash are going crazy. A couple of the Uchiki Kuri really look like they're ready, but surely it's too soon..? I read somewhere that it's better to leave them to mature for longer but am a bit concerned that they'll go over if I leave them on the plant too long. The climbing frame has worked, so that can stay for next year.
Our peppers have gone red on the top side where the sun touches them - a lovely shiny red. We've had a couple in salads and they are tasty but the skins are a bit tough. I may add them to the roasting tin of veggies tomorrow. There are lots of green ones on the plants still and they're getting very big, so hopefully the sun will continue to shine for them to go red too.
We've pulled our silverskin onions and have them on the drying rack. We should be able to pickle them next weekend, although we really want to get some bean chutney done then and I want to do some tomato chutney - ooh, so much to do!!
I was hoping to make chive vinegar, as shown on the Horticultural Channel but the second lot of flowers which are now coming on our chives don't look as healthy as the flowers in Spring - looks like that plan may have to carry over till next year.

Another thing which will have to wait till next year is the fennel recipes I had planned. My florence fennel plants have gone to seed (such a shame, I should have started harvesting earlier). I've left a couple of the smaller plants in the ground but I think they've probably had their day too.
We left with our trug of goodies. That's our first Kestrel potato plant of this year - one of the tubers weighs over 600g! We hope it's ok on the inside. A lot of them are very scabby but we're hoping to bake a couple of them and scab makes the skin lovely and crispy :-)
There's also a couple of garlic; they've dried out well up the plot, even though we've had quite a lot of rain over the last few days, it's dried out in between and the garlic seem to be unaffected.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Lizzano and Picasa

Our Lizzano tomatoes were bought as grafted plants from Dobies. They did well last year so we have three plants in pots on the plot this year. We tried to give them more room, as last year they toppled over. However, this year they've grown even bigger and in attempting to pick we are finding ourselves treading on fallen trusses. Having said that we're still having plenty to eat.
We've been picking small amounts over the last few weeks but now masses are turning green so now our meal plans are tomato-based, still with the occasional courgette...
Our Rocky cucumbers are still paying out well and today we finally got round to eating some of the asparagus pea. We'd tasted one raw and it was horrible - one of those plants that sucks all the moisture from your tongue :-{ But stir-fried in a bit of butter - mmmm. And they really do taste of asparagus - lovely! We'll grow them again as they're such a pretty plant too.

The wildflower patch is also now looking really pretty and providing lots of pollen for the bees and butterflies.
I was fiddling about with the image processing tools in Picasa.

I don't generally use the tools to modify photos on the blog - except for cropping and occasionally I need to up the brightness.

But the Orton-ish tool does give a pleasing result!

Now, back to pickling our onions...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Two Trugs of Goodies

Two visits to the plot over the weekend produced two trugfuls of lovely veggies. Both visits weren't very well timed and we got rained off on Saturday.
Onions attempting to dry out
We were pulling the  potatoes to make way for the leeks. Our various new potatoes have not been terribly successful. They are very tasty but we've had to resort to mashing them as they refuse to cook properly and quite a few are too big anyway. We did have a couple of the Red Duke of York ones baked in the week and which were delicious - lovely red crispy skins.
One of the potatoes we pulled was a Bonnie, a pretty red-patched potato which produced monster tubers but they are sadly very tasty to slugs. We also pulled a Casablanca and a Pentland Javelin. That trug is also packed with runner beans, french beans and mangetout. My mum got the mangetout and french beans and we had the runners.

On Sunday I finally got the leeks planted up. They're the biggest leeks we've ever planted - previous years they've looked rather spindly. They always say leeks should be 'pencil thickness'; ours were more like wax crayon width. They've been growing in their modules since 22nd April!
As usual, I chopped the roots and the top of the leaves back, made holes with a post and then dropped the leeks in. After puddling in they look a bit higgledy-piggledy but should end up the right position. We've got 26 plants and have put the shallot cage over the top of them to help them stay clear of leek moth.
We left on Sunday with a trug covering a few lunches and dinners. Fennel and carrot soup again for me, with home-grown onions this time! Dinner included stuffed courgette - done in a different way this time; in rings like burgers. They were very tasty. We used a Granose meat-free burger mix to make life a bit easier after an afternoon of weeding.

The BIGGEST caterpillar I've EVER held!! Not found on the allotment so shouldn't really be on the wildlife blog, but had to get a mention!


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Today I'm a Fennel Fan

There were a lot of plot holders on site today; the and weeds had drawn people out! Jamie's happy because we're now eating runner beans rather than saving them to grow the longest one! I picked a lot of mangetout; turn your back on them for a moment and another crop have appeared. The mangetout went into the freezer - I couldn't face another salad just yet!
As advised by Sue Garrett, we've pulled our garlic so that it doesn't stay in the ground too long and split. I've hung it over the pea support to dry out. No idea what were going to do with it all!
We have taken the cage off the shallots and lifted them slightly to get them to dry too so that we can start pickling. There are some very large shallots there, but we may find that they divide more when we skin them.
You may remember that I grew fennel and celeriac this year specifically to make soup. Things haven't gone to plan: earlier in the year my fennel was being destroyed by slugs and my celeriac was growing too slowly so I had to buy celeriac plants.
There are a couple of plants which look reasonably healthy, but no sign of a bulb (I haven't kept them wet enough). This is what most of the plants look like....rubbish..
And the Florence fennel is ready to pick. So, I decided to try fennel pan fried today. Oh My God! It was sooo tasty! Not so aniseedy as it smells raw. I added the remaining fennel to carrot and onion and made a really delicious Carrot and Fennel soup (albeit a bit thick at the moment). That will cover a few lunches at work, I can hardly wait!

Royal British Legion Show 2013

Yesterday was the Royal British Legion Show. We had tried to encourage more entrants from the allotment sites and there was a small group of us from Marsh Lane so it made for a fun evening. Between us we managed to get some good placings.
Our veg cleaned up and ready to go to the show
We tried to put entries in for as many categories as possible, but our onions, shallots and french beans weren't ready. And can't believe I couldn't find four suitable courgettes to make a grouping!

Fellow plot holder, Chris, won the overall category prize for his veg - he pipped me (AGAIN!) in the Longest Runner Bean category - just a few millimetres in it..
We also missed out on funniest veg. Ours is the tomato with a nose; beaten by John's many-legged carrot.
Funny Shaped Veg

We did win a couple of Firsts though: Five pickling onions (our little Silverskins) and Pair of matching cucumbers (our little Rockies). We also got a few Second and Third placings.
Our 'four veg' highlighted came 2nd

I was pleased to win the overall prize for the photography competition. We got first placings with these two pictures - and Jamie took one of them, so it was definitely a joint win!
Domestic Pet
 And, to end a good evening, while we were walking home we saw two Hedgehogs. The first living ones I've seen for years!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Mostly Tassles and Squashes

There are so many insects around at the moment that I've been neglecting my duties on the plot and mostly photographing the visitors. There are so many interesting flying things around! Anyway, back to the veg...

We're not too convinced we're going to get much (or any) sweetcorn this year :-( We've got plenty of male flowers but we're only just seeing any female tassles and there are no cobs appearing yet. We're pretty sure there should be cobs under the tassles...
Male flower
Female tassles

Well, it's early days, maybe we're just being impatient...

Something we won't go short of is squashes! The Uchiki Kuri is looking good. In fact, this one looks like it's almost ready to harvest, but I'm going to give it a couple more weeks so the skin gets a bit harder.

The courgettes continue to pay out but unfortunately the Floridor Yellow on the HAHA plot appears to have a disease. The courgettes form but the skin is lumpy and on cutting into one we found that it has brown patches in the flesh. Jamie thinks it may be Mosaic Virus. We'll probably pull the plant to stop the virus spreading to the other squashes. As well as being lumpy we have found that that plant isn't producing as many fruits as the plant on our plot - so, luckily we haven't given many away to people.

Our Lizzano plants are covered in tomatoes and we get a couple of red ones every now and then, which are delicious. We're expecting some more hot and sunny weather so hopefully that will get them reddening up...

Monday, 5 August 2013

Salad, Garlic and Compost

We've had a few visits to the plots since my last blog post; mostly for picking and chatting but we also got a bit of tidying and weeding done. The weeds have gone crazy since we've had a lot of rain over the last week and it's remained warm with sunny breaks. One day during the week we emptied 22mm of rain from the raingauge and that was just over 24hours worth - no wonder there are toads around during the day making the most of the slugs which appeared with the weather breaking!
This photo shows my lettuce which have gone to seed. The Red Fire seem immune to bolting so I'm still eating them but the green ones (Tom Thumb and Cos) have mostly gone into the compost bin. I've sowed a couple of rows of lettuce in an empty patch of earth - will need some to go with the tomatoes which are gradually redding up..
It's really hot in the compost bin - perfect for producing good compost and killing off any nasties. However, there's so much green (wet) waste going in there at the moment - I had to chop back some of the Uchiki Kuri squash runners and there's so much kitchen waste - so I added a couple of bucketfuls of torn corrugated cardboard as brown - otherwise it will likely get soggy and stinky.
The last few visits we have taken cucumbers away with us. We love our little Rocky cucumbers. They have been brilliant each year so far. One even obliged by growing through the old fireguard this year so it will be unblemished - but I think we may be able to produce an 'Odd-Shaped Vegetable' for the Royal British Legion Show on Saturday with one of the ones that has got caught up in the mesh!
When we got home I split the garlic up into cloves and froze some of them; a couple I left to dry out. They are really strongly flavoured! The leaves are browning and have a lot of rust, but the cloves are fine. Still time for them to die back further before they all need to come out of the ground though, I think.