Sunday, 20 August 2017

You Showed Me

It was our Horticultural and Handicraft Show yesterday. The Royal British Legion do most of the work, but HAHA are joint hosts and are responsible for the horticulture and floral sections.
Our 5 veg selection - I liked the unusual colours of each item, but it seems the judge didn't :-)
Burgundy potato, white radish, purple carrot, yellow stripey courgette, purple bean
It was a good show again with 310 exhibits from the 23 contributors. Not as many entrants as last year as some familiar faces were absent, but it was great to see some of our newest plotholders came along.
Along with some of us who come back each year now we know it's such fun.
On Friday afternoon Jamie and I retrieved our (reasonably) dry onions from the greenhouse and managed to find 3 that almost looked similar - it's amazing how 50 onions can all look so different! We didn't win a prize for them (they're the little ones next to the lovely red ones in the photo below), but got 3rd prize for our largest onion which was 35cm circumference.
Early Saturday morning was when we picked the rest of our exhibits. So many beans and carrots to find a few matching ones! We had an hour to do all the cleaning up and trimming before we went to the British Legion and set up and then I had to dash off and pick up our judge from Newbury.
I sat outside in the sunshine while the judging was going on and Jamie came to join me with a cake to relieve the boredom.
We didn't enter any pickles but did bag a couple of jars in the auction afterwards
I intended to enter some flowers, but my asters have been slow to bloom
and sweetpeas have pretty much gone over

Here are some of our produce that got first place.
And we got some 3rd places too:
I think a couple of the photos got placed but we were completely out-stripped by fellow-plotholder Kerry's amazing shots.
These are the photos we selected to show - one for each category
Still we managed to win second place in the Horticultural & Floral Section, so we were pleased with that! And we left with a lovely prize-winning cottage loaf to go with the pickle plus a prize from the raffle.
Loved this insect in the needlecraft section!

Such a fun, social event, with a spurious link to The Lightning Seeds song..

Monday, 14 August 2017

Take Five....

.... seed potatoes and this is what you get! We've got potatoes coming out of our ears!
We emptied five of our potato bags - not a bad return, is it?
That beauty is Burgundy Red. We only pulled one of them. You can see in the photo below that they have red flesh as well as red skin! When steamed they kept some of their colour, so we had pink mash last night.
Next was an Orla, a white potato - we emptied two bags. It's interesting to see how different varieties grow in different parts of the bag. And some roll out of the bag while others remain attached to the roots. (well, I think it's interesting!)
And Kestrel, a coloured potato with pink eyes. This is from one bag, but we emptied two.

We've pulled all these potatoes as it's the HAHA/RBL Horticultural & Handicraft Show next Saturday. Trying to find 3 matching potatoes that aren't too scabby is hard work! The bags have helped protect against slug damage - or perhaps it was the nematodes or perhaps there are less slugs about...
The tomatoes are changing colour a bit more quickly now - a couple of days of sunshine and warmth have helped. I've cleared lots of leaves away from all the plants to let more light in. The Tigerella are still all green though...
We have onions drying on a frame in the greenhouse and the mini-munch cucumbers are growing steadily now. I'm not sure whether this Jaune de Verte squash will be included in the show. The photo doesn't show that the squash is about the size of a dinner plate! Not sure how it's going to be eaten yet!
Potatoes are well and truly on the menu now and we're having dwarf french beans with them tonight. Our first taste of purple beans - even steaming didn't protect the colour; they ended up as a darker green than the Speedies (and to be honest, not quite so tasty).
Dessert is just one strawberry and a handful of raspberries - really need to work on that :-)
Oh, and here's today's lunchbox with pink potato salad, cucumber, radish, chard and parsley.
Title track by The Dave Brubeck Quartet - I had to re-write part of this post when I finally found a title for it! This is my 60th song title post.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Food For Thought

I've been cooking! I don't cook often so whenever I do, I feel it deserves a blogpost :-)
That was a tasty quiche. I layered cooked chard on the bottom, topped with cheese and added fried courgettes and spring onions before pouring on the eggy-milky mixture. So tasty! But that only used one courgette.
Yep, it's still courgette time... I used the spiraliser to twirl up a large courgette and fried it up. Fried onions were added then boiled carrots and thinly sliced par-boiled potatoes. Topped with cheese sauce and a bit of cheese on top for browning. 30 minutes later - voila!

And when isn't it chard time? I like chard, mostly for the colours,  but Jamie doesn't eat it so I have it for lunches mainly. Beetroot and carrot salad.
I have a lovely lunchbox, but this old icecream carton is just the right size for my salads. Delicious home-made coleslaw uses up some of the excess cabbage and is so tasty with beetroot.
I love harvest time - nothing better than a dish made with home-grown veg! And there's some food for thought for you - courtesy of UB40. (Haven't heard this great song in years!)

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Madam Butterfly

On the last possible day I managed to do this year's Big Butterfly Count - it wasn't so big, but the sun shone enough to encourage a few species to join me in this pretty corner of the site.
This is what I saw during my 15 minute slot:
  • 2 Peacocks
  • 1 Small Tortoiseshell
  • 3 Small Whites
  • 1 Meadow Brown
OK, so not a huge count, but at least they were quite interesting butterflies. That buddleia bush helped as the peacocks in particular were still enjoying the nectar when I left. I tried to get the evidence but only had my little Canon camera on me and it wouldn't behave much of the time.
You may be thinking 'that's not a great photo' but a lot of the photos looked like this...
Some bad ones were the butterfly's fault and not just the camera focusing on the wrong area...
Tut! Just open your wings, stay still and pose for me!
That's better!
And the last one is the Meadow Brown, which was a struggle to but still a little easier than the whites - but we've all seen plenty of whites haven't we?!
I also did a bit of seed collecting: mostly poppy, Californian poppy and nigella.
I'll probably sow them in a communal part of the allotment site next year - I'm sure our plot has self-seeded plenty of these without any help from me.
Here's today's harvest. Salads are on the menu for at least part of this week - home-made coleslaw, yum!

Of the various butterfly songs I could have chosen I opted for Malcolm McLaren's Madam Butterfly as I like it.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Summers End

It's been decidedly autumnal all week and the grey skies and chill wind were getting quite depressing, but after a little rain the sun came out for long periods today and everything was better again!
Aah, blue skies and runner beans - look at those lovely contrasting colours, perfect! And we've got runner beans and Kestrel spuds for dinner - no courgettes today!
Courgettes have still been the basis of most meals though but we have noticed some have started going a bit brown down the core, even though there doesn't seem to be any damage on the outside. I'm blaming the weather, of course. But the taste, without the brown bits, was still good in my spanish omelette with chard and spring onion last night.
The giant beetroot is joining cheese in sandwiches. Boltardy are good as they don't seem to go woody even when huge - they just take longer to cook. We do ours in the oven wrapped in foil but this one needed more than an hour and a half (better to use big ones chopped up and roasted)!
The Aviditas tomato trusses are really long this year and we're sure the tomatoes are bigger than last year. 
Only a couple of tomatoes have started turning red so far. Not sure if any will be ready for our Horticultural Show in a couple weeks. I've cut back a lot of leaves to attempt to get more light to help ripen the fruits.
The Lark sweetcorn has developed its male seedheads but no female tassles yet. The Glass Gem are just growing taller with no sign of any flowers as yet.
So, Summer's End by the Foo Fighters is the song title but I know there's more summer to come so it's not really that depressing!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Tighten Up

It was a drenching day yesterday and today has been showery and windy. We only visited the plot to pick some veg and water in the greenhouse. I'm pleased to see that the sunflowers are managing to stay upright now they're attached to the frame I grew them under.
The four at the front are meant to be shorter than that though. They're Big Smile and are nearly as tall as the Russian Giant at the back - they're rather swamping the Asters and Eschscholzia which are in that bed too. It's a shame as they're very pretty - I need to sow them closer to the edge of the bed if I grow them next year.
Sadly four of the purple dwarf bean plants have now snapped off completely while in full flower due to the windy weather, such a shame! The beans are just appearing now so we've added extra ties in an attempt to keep them from moving too far from their sticks. The plants are taller than we thought they'd be and probably could have been grown up canes.
More security has also been added to the cucumbers and squashes on Plot46a. We've got various supports for the plants to grow upwards...
And then the idea is that they'll spread across the wires and partially mesh-covered roof to provide us with a ceiling of hanging squashes - won't that be fun, if it works!
A couple of tiny Tromboncini are on their way but these are close to the earth so they won't be hanging far... I could (should) remove them to encourage the plant to grow fruits higher up, but I can't bear to do it!
And talking of tiny, here's our first redcurrant tomato - full size. Sweet and tasty, but you really need more than one at a time :-)
The excellent title song is provided by the Black Keys.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Two Way

This post is mostly about courgettes. Because I'm on leave at the moment I don't have work-mates to pass the surplus on to. Not surprisingly we haven't found a plotholder to take them off our hands either so here's a post to show how at least 3 of the rather larger specimens have avoided the compost bin.
The first is basically a stuffed courgette - a delicious one.
Cut a wedge out of the courgette and add spring onions, pepper and olive oil. Cook for 30mins on 180, covered in foil.
Then add extra mature cheddar cheese and chopped mixed nuts (plus a few tomatoes) - cover for a further 15mins, then remove the cover for a final 20mins.
Voila! Delicious (I never claimed it was a healthy option!)
The next method is soup and, as you can see, has a few additional ingredients - all freshly picked from the plot. I'm not sure you can actually taste the courgette, but at least it's used!
Fry the florence fennel and chopped (peeled & de-seeded) courgette in a frying pan on a high heat. The onion and fennel stalks are gently fried in the saucepan with the lid on.
Add chopped carrot to the onion pan along with the browned fennel and courgette. Add 800ml of vegetable stock and some curry powder.
Boil, then simmer for 20mins and then blitz.
Mmm, so delicious. The fennel is a subtle flavour behind the curry.
KT Tunstall with James Bay provide the song.