Saturday, 23 October 2021

A Forest

So that's the last of this year's squash tunnel photos - I hope I didn’t hear a little cheer - the area is cleared and waiting for the trenches to be re-dug in time for the manure delivery so that I can prepare the bed for next year.

The watering funnels for the squashes do help ensure the water aims for the roots once the foliage makes it hard to tell where the plant starts, but the snails do rather take advantage!
This was last weekend. We found lots of ladybirds enjoying the last heat of the year and a lot of wasps were about too.
Harlequin ladybird
It was nice to have another warm weekend, but the weeds will love it if the weather doesn't cool down. We planted the Mersey White garlic bulbs and the Jermor shallots into the raised bed and they got well rained in during the past week.
I removed the remainder of the runner beans, Gigantes and Borlotti from the polytunnel roof drying area and took them home in their pods to dry out a bit more. I podded them today and was interested to find a few pods contained these plain black runner beans. They look lovely; so smooth and shiny. It seems they’re just an aberration of the parent plants, which were Scarlet Empire so I didn’t bother keeping for sowing next year - the pods didn’t look any different.
I’m keeping the beans in a paper bag in the warm for a while to completely dry out. I’ve decided not to bother drying the Gaia soya beans; they’re just too tiny to bother with.
A couple of the Festival squash seemed too small to bother with too, but today I’ve made soup using them. I roasted them first with a bit of oil and cayenne pepper.
There was more flesh than I expected when I scraped them out.
And it’s made a lovely creamy soup. I’ve added some cardamom seed which I hope will give an interesting flavour.
I’m making a pumpkin pie for the first time for Halloween next weekend. I hope it’s easy/tasty so I can use up more of our amassed New England Pie pumpkins. I definitely want the Crown Princes roasted, as they’re such a tasty variety. Not sure what I’ll do with the final green tromboncino - soup probably!
I had an afternoon off in the week. Work has been so busy and I’ve been revising for an exam on Tuesday (I know! An exam at my time of life πŸ™€) so it was nice to have a bit of time away from the screen. Our planned little walk around Savernake Forest, just down the road in Wiltshire, turned into a 10km walk! 
Our unused-to-walking legs were protesting by the time we reached the car and we never did find the ‘Giant Beech’ but we found the 700 year old ‘Cathedral Oak’ and other very impressive trees and fungi. I was surprised to see that most of the trees are still green.
It’s the time of year for sitting enjoying the last rays of sunshine, with a hot drink - although I was watching Jamie weeding and cutting the edges at the time πŸ˜„
The song title is provided by The Cure, there aren’t enough songs by The Cure featured in this blog!

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Time of the Season

The mornings have been foggy and dark this week, but this weekend has been mostly warm and sunny. I’ve been prepping for future meals. I do enjoy seeing jars of stored beans.

Storing beans

The Borlotti and Gigantes came from all these pods, which have mostly been drying in the polytunnel. The Gigantes are drying slower than the other beans and haven’t produced so many pods this year.

Trug of goodies
I filled the trug yesterday, with the intention of doing the podding at home. But it was so sunny that I did it on the plot and it was very relaxing. The Borlotti lingua di fuoco 2 are great; they basically just unzip and the beans pop out. The runners, Scarlet Empire were podded last week and taken home with the peppers. The slugs definitely enjoyed more peppers than us. We’ll probably grow a smaller variety (peppers, not slugs) next year so they’re ready for picking earlier.
I had some of the podded runner beans in a dish covering a couple of meals, along with the orange pepper, chard, garlic and shallots - a fully home-grown meal. Very tasty and even better eaten a couple of days later when the flavours were enhanced. It’s apparently a peculiarly British-thing to eat the pods of runner beans, with most other nationalities growing them for the beans. And, I was surprised to see that in the US they are predominantly grown as an ornamental plant (hummingbirds love them) and are not even considered for food. See this blog, The Sharing Gardens, which is an interesting read.
Peppers, chard, beans, potatoes
My chard is looking better now than it’s looked all year, so I roasted some with sesame seeds yesterday, to eat as ‘crispy seaweed’ along with roasted veg - another fully home-grown meal, which up till now have been infrequent this year.
Roast veg and crispy seaweed chard
Jamie has some sort of flu (not COVID-19) so I’ve been to the allotment on my own a couple of times recently. I always think I don’t want to go, but am so pleased when I do. It’s such a lovely spot and there’s always someone to talk to.
Wheel barrow full of pumpkins
Yesterday I moved all the ripe squash into the polytunnel, there are still a few more to pick as they may still further ripen. 
Now that the foliage has died back, it’s clear that we didn’t keep up with the Rocky cucumber production! That lot will go in our compost bins so it’s not really wasted and we did eat a LOT of cucumbers this year.
The kohl rabi are beginning to bulb up. I’m concerned for them because the purple sprouting broccoli (single plant) and Chinese cabbage are being chomped by something - it looks like caterpillar damage but I haven’t found the culprit yet…
We also didn’t see who tucked into the sunflower seeds, but they’ve nearly cleared all of them now.
Sunflower seedhead
I had a couple of hours on the sunny plot again this afternoon. I took down the runner bean and Borlotti bean plants and poles. All the foliage will go in a trench under the squash tunnel once the plants are cleared and we’re expecting a HAHA manure delivery in a week or two.
And the cycle starts again with the Aqua dulce broad beans sown under their bottle cloches.
Broad beans sown
We’re hoping the garlic and shallots will be delivered in the week so can get them planted into their prepared beds. The title song is provided by The Zombies because, well, it really is that time…

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

In the End

 Like other plotholders, I decided to pick the ripest squashes before the rain came.

Squashes in a trug
The two blue Crown Prince aren’t very big and I was disappointed that the plants only produced one fruit each, but there will be enough for at least two meals from each squash, so I shouldn’t complain. The green stripeys are Honey Boat. I picked three and there should be more to harvest probably in a couple of weeks. They’re my second favourite tasting squash. The fancy multi-coloured Festival are my favourite for looks and taste pretty good too, there are a few more of them to come. The two round yellow squash have been confirmed as Spaghetti squash by Kate, our plot neighbour who gave us the plants. We’ve never seen fruits like that before, but they’ll be fine, just for me as Jamie doesn’t like them. 
Spaghetti squash with cheese and Borlotti beans
In fact, I like them so much that I took one from our site’s ‘Freebies shelf’ the other week and had these two lovely meals. I’ve used fresh Borlotti beans in both these dishes. They are so tasty. They're boiled on the hob for 40minutes, which is the same amount of time I cook the spaghetti squash in the oven (open-side down). Then bits and bobs are added before returning to the oven for 15minutes. 
Borlotti beans, tomatoes, shallot, potatoes, garlic
That second meal has the tiniest Nicola potatoes. I couldn’t bear to throw them away and they cooked up nicely in the oven with the tomatoes, garlic and shallots before I added the beans.
Nicola potatoes from a bag
We got a good haul of Nicola potatoes from that bag.
Trugful of spuds
There’s my handful of Borlotti beans, I only used 6 pods for each meal. And look how pretty the fresh beans are, though they are rather dull-looking when cooked.
Fresh Borlotti beans
Most of the beans I’m going to dry and, because of the forecast rain, I picked the semi-dried ones and have put them in the netting attached to the top of the polytunnel. There are still loads more Borlotti to pick and the Gigantes have hardly started drying on the plants yet.
Drying beans
The edamame are the same, they were slow to start but have podded up now and are just beginning to go over.
Edamame beans
As well as plants dying back, there are signs of things to come.
The raised bed has been prepared for the garlic and shallots which should be delivered next week (if such deliveries aren’t affected by the HGV crisis we’re now in the middle of πŸ™„)
The bed is prepared and holes prepped for popping the broad beans in next month. And at the weekend we potted on some strawberry runners. The strawberry bed is a mess but we'll sort that out sometime...
Overgrown strawberry bed

So the polytunnel is looking like a storage area now for a few things and we're hoping to get a few more ripened peppers before the plants get removed.

The song is provided by Linkin Park - great song!

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

In the Meantime

These weekends are flying by; the weeks are too, but I don't mind that so much! The previous weekend was warm and dull, but last weekend was mostly sunny and very warm. That’s when we saw this interesting cloud formation (cirrus uncinus?)

Cirrus Fibratus

We had some rain in the week but have still needed to water, but as crops are dying back we have less watering to do (thank goodness!)

New England Pie variety

All those pumpkins, plus at least two more which have crept into the tunnel, are all on one plant! They're New England Pie variety so I'll have to try making a pumpkin pie this year. 

Some of the other squash foliage is dying back and un-ripe fruits are beginning to shrivel. The Festival still has the greenest foliage and started to produce later than the others. There aren't as many fruits as I expected; I don't know whether the Tromboncino hogged the water or whether making the plants climb used more energy. Anyway, they have a few more weeks to do their thing before they get composted if they haven’t ripened. On Sunday I decided to measure the longest tromboncino (drum roll please)… 134.5cm! It’s not a record breaker; it’s 42cm shorter than the European record!

1.34m long tromboncino
We’ve been harvesting the sweetcorn over the last few weeks.
A little lunchtime harvest
They are so tasty, I think I prefer the cobs grilled rather than boiled. The pollination was a bit hit and miss, with probably half of the cobs not being fully pollinated. Still enough kernels to slather in butter though πŸ˜‹ 
We’ve also been enjoying the Nicola potatoes, which were grown in bags. They’re very versatile and have been good roasted, baked, mashed or boiled.
Potato and veg salad
Cold or hot.
Roasted veg and potatoes
Finally a couple of peppers; one red, one orange, have ripened and we’re having them in a meal tonight. I hope we get more than two peppers from the plants, but the slugs have enjoyed them sooo much πŸ™„
Up till now I’ve had to make do with bought peppers for lovely dishes like this (with Naked Glory soya-based strips). There are still a few more french beans to eat, but the runners have gone over.
Veg and rice
I’ve had the last of the patty pans and I think the courgettes, which are now marrow-sized are past their best. So the year is certainly moving swiftly on. I’ve updated my allotment wildlife blog as there are so many interesting creatures about at the moment. This weekend the Ivy hedge was full of life so I made use of the macro settings on our camera, still need a bit of practice but some shots I was pleased with.
I sadly missed out on the Horticultural & Handicrafts Show this weekend because I’m still basically shielding until I get my third COVID jab. Well done to all who joined in - especially plot neighbour, Neal, who won the Banksian medal. We’ll be back next year… (hope, hope hope!) but in the meantime Neal can wear the crown πŸ˜„ Only joking, but here’s the song title by Spacehog.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

So Long

I'm so happy that September has brought the heat and sunshine with it - aah, it's so welcome!

The cosmos flowers are doing weird things, as you can see. They started out with normal petals, but now they have something like an angry frill-necked lizard! Still looking beautiful though.

Nicola potatoes

We emptied one of the potato bags yesterday - the haulms were chopped down a few weeks ago because of the blight. These are Nicola potatoes (2 plants). A quick rummage in the top showed that it could be a good haul.

Nicola Potatoes

Look at that lovely lot! Delicious small potatoes. They're very good as salad potatoes but we've enjoyed them mashed and roasted too. A couple had a bit of blight so they won't keep, but we don't intend to store them for long anyway. Talking of blight, here are the tomatoes that we saved from the blighted crop.

Lizzano tomatoes

Lizzano are such a tasty tomato, such a shame that the growth was cut short. We're pleased that all of these semi-ripe fruits reddened up under our grow-lamp at home. Unlike the peppers which just went rotten! Clearly a fruit will only ripen if it's ready to. I'm having to make do with purchased peppers while ours are being mostly eaten by slugs in the polytunnel πŸ˜”

Peppers, tomatoes, garlic

This lovely dish is roasted peppers, garlic and onions with olive oil and a bit of chilly with basil to make it look pretty. It's so delicious with a salad or in sandwiches and lasts for 2-3 days. I'm having it with a potato salad for lunch today, mmm, I'm looking forward to it already and it's only breakfast time πŸ˜‹

We have started our first sweetcorn now. We plucked two large cobs. One was rather better pollinated than the other but still plenty of tasty kernels covered in butter. These are Early Bird. I don't think they're as tasty as the Lark that we usually grow but they are still good.

Early Bird Sweetcorn

I'm back working from home after a few days off. More of my colleagues are returning to the lab but still in fairly small numbers - so many of us have found working from home to be beneficial to our work and home-life, as well as reducing our carbon footprints. I'm expecting a 3rd COVID jab to be offered in the next few weeks which could improve the immunity for immunosuppressed people. For now we're relying on other people to have the jab and take the test every now and then. Thank goodness for the allotment so I'm not desperate to travel further afield.

Massive tromboncino!

There's me with our longest tromboncino squash and it's still growing! I may have to enter it into our Horticultural Show just because it's so amazing 😏 There were 4 of us standing around talking about it the other day, it certainly draws attention! And that's the reason for this song title by Maya Hawke.