Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Big Sprout?

No, it's a cabbage! The first of this year's.
There are masses of white fly so we had to remove lots of outer leaves, but there's plenty to have with fresh carrots (carrot fly damaged unfortunately) for our Quorn roast dinner. We're a bit concerned that the parsnips may have succumbed to carrot fly too, but we'll wait till Christmas to find out...
And as we've just finished decorating our Christmas tree I'm feeling Christmassy so here's the annual shot of the lovely Hungerford a Christmas lights - always stunning!
Oh, here's my latest Chainmail article - Hungerford's quarterly publication. I think I wrote it in a hurry :-/

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Soup, but no garlic, yet

A rainy and grey weekend means we still haven't planted our garlic - I think there's still plenty of time (even though I hear Gardeners Question Time are saying it's too late). I understood garlic cloves are planted by the shortest day and harvested on the longest day. I'm just worried that our bulb will start sprouting in the cupboard.
I've had three festival squash waiting to form part of a meal but one went off so I decided to deal with the other two a bit more promptly than intended. So, of course, they're now soup! That's next weeks lunches sorted.
I roasted the squashes before adding the flesh (and a shallot) to the stock, with plenty of pepper. I love my hand blender - my favourite kitchen utensil :-) I may spice it up a bit, but it tasted nice as it is. I tasted a bit of the squash before making the soup - okay, but not as tasty as the Cornells Bush Delicata.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

More Carrots, More Soup

We only visited the wet plot this afternoon to put some kitchen scraps in the compost bin and pull the carrots. We can't remember what variety they were - possibly sugar snap - they should gave been picked small for salads but it just didn't work out that way. Some had grown so large that they split, so they went straight into the compost.
That's the last of the 'summer' carrots - soup for next week, made with smoked rape seed oil. The soup is a bit more runny than my normal gloopy soup, so I hope it will be tasty, it smells good at the moment.
We left in the pouring rain - felt very similar to last Sunday, but no sunshine through the rain - so, a bit of a cheat - here's a photo of last Sunday's sunset as we walked home from the plot in the rain then too!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Colourful Days

The last two weekends have been good allotment weather - weirdly warm for the time of year, even at night. On the last weekend of October we made up the new bed for another row of strawberries. We piled up a mixture of home-made compost and the well-rotted manure. Then covered the row in weed suppressant.
Jamie cleared the Desiree potato rows and disposed of any which looked slightly dodgy, but we got a fair few gigantic ones which make delicious mash and one potato makes plenty for both of us!
We did a lot of weed clearing - there's so much grass which is where all the slugs are hiding. The plot looks much prettier again now! And look at the asparagus peas! They just won't stop growing. 
Our Tundra cabbages are looking good, considering their sad start and are just starting to form heads. We had to remove quite a few caterpillars from under the netting.
So, we left with some pretty veggies including a couple of Hooligan(!) squashes from fellow-plotholder, Jonathan. Thanks!
November arrived and still the temperatures aren't falling but it rained hard overnight on Saturday. Sunday afternoon was ok so we got our eight strawberry plants into their new bed.
The rhubarb plants have died back completely and the area looks good with no weeds and two (Jamie-neat) circles of manure & compost mix.
I picked a lovely bunch of carrots for tea and some lunch soups. I also picked some par-cel which Jamie added to our mash - our flat smells of celery, mmmm, yum!
Some of the carrots have a bit of carrot fly damage.
We left as the sun started to go - too early now the clocks have fallen back. Aah look how pretty and berry-laden the hedge is.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Holidays are Over :-(

We've been away in lovely Tenerife for a couple of weeks. Puerto de la Cruz is in the North of the island and is very beautiful. It doesn't get quite as scorchio as the South of the island, but night-time temperatures were 23°, so not bad for October!
Banana plantation
We had a few hours of rain over a couple of daya; the trees and shrubs really appreciated it but everything dries off so quickly as soon as the sun emerges.
Rainy morning
Here are a few of our flora and fauna pictures - more photos can be viewed here if you're interested.

We visited the plot the day after we got home - just for a quick look. The temperature remains high for the time of year, but there's been a LOT of rain. Mostly last Monday I've been told.
I don't know when the temperature dipped to zero but the plot looks pretty much as we left it - though there's more grass, in the wrong places!
I picked a couple of squashes. The patty pan was okay but the zephyr was going brown on the inside so I didn't eat that and I'll be chopping the plants down for compost fairly soon. The boltardy beetroot was still delicious even though it had grown big.
Oh, and I still got a good harvest of asparagus peas. Most pods have grown a bit too big but there are loads of flowers and new pods coming.
Talking of aspargus; I had some delicious lunches on holiday; asparagus & brie tostado, asparagus and tofu sandwich - mmm, so tasty. It was at the vegetarian restaurant, El Limon in Puerto de la Cruz - if you're ever there, I recommend it - particularly anything with asparagus in it!
Que aproveche!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Composting & Harvesting

A warm reasonably sunny afternoon gave us time to deal with our compost.
Purple-podded mangetout with such pretty flowers
We're moving their position back to where they were year 1 - they hopefully won't mind the hedge/tree roots as much as some of the vegetables do.
The black Dalek bin has been warmly composting all the old cuttings, cardboard and kitchen waste (and a bit of manure) for over a year - close to 18 months.
Straight from the compost bin
Lots of lovely clean, pink little worms, wood lice, millipedes and beetles (mostly devil's coach horses) have been doing a good job breaking down all that organic matter. We roughly riddled it all - through an old fire guard topped with chicken wire - and bagged up the resultant compost.
The end result after riddling
Mmm, so good to feel with your fingertips! We're storing it in the empty bin to keep it nice and warm before we make our new (additional) strawberry bed with these potted-on runners.
Runners still attached to the mother plants
The remaining woody bits, cardboard and eggshells (which we're amazed remained un-rotted) were returned to the other compost bin as brown waste.
Before going home I picked a load of Zephyr squashes and some other veggies for a few meals, plus a few for work colleagues. There's parcel in there too - lovely celery tasting parsley-type herb to add to some potato salad lunches this week.
The mangetout and asparagus peas are so delicious fried in butter!
Patty pans a-plenty!
Festival Squashes
As you can see, the patty pan are going a bit crazy and some Festival squash seem like they may actually come to something - especially if the weather warms up, as forecast. I hate to say it, but we could really do with a few drops of rain! We keep having to water our toms. I've ordered some jar lids so I'll soon be making tomato chutney - hooray!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

British Legion Horticultural Show and Chain Mail Article

It was show time again yesterday. It's a shame so many of our fellow plotholders don't fancy the idea of 'showing' or were away. The event sounds so much grander than it is, with sadly only 2 or 3 entries for each of the vegetable categories.
Our Hungerford show is a very local-type show with 'nice', 'normal' looking veg rather than monstrous exhibition vegetables! That's not to say I don't like seeing the monster veg, but I know we'll never go to the efforts of growing it!
So, we entered a few photos and produce for the following vegetable categories:
  •  4 White spuds - we got a winner! Jamie's potato-polishing did the trick :-)
  •  5 Bush tomatoes - we didn't win. Our tiny toms looked a bit sad wobbling around on a white paper plate!
  •  5 Dwarf French beans - a winner. Our first French beans of the year too!
  •  Longest runner bean - mine was over 30cm, but the winner was substantially longer!
  •  5 Carrots - I think we won this because we left the full leafy tops on
  •  Any other vegetable - I had a big yellow Patty Pan squash. Looked pretty and won!
  •  Selection of any four veg - Got a 'highly commended' (loser) sticker for my beetroot, colourful chard leaf, purple mangetout and Rondo-carrot. It looked colourful, but Neal's display looked much better.
  •  Funny shaped fruit/veg - our mutant Desiree potato won that one for us!
Some of my photos won, but I can't remember which - will post later if I find out.
I was going to put an entry in for chutney but didn't get my act together, so I'll save that for the Hungerford Food Festival next month. There were plenty of jars of pickles and jams though and the flowers were lovely.

We unfortunately couldn't attend the prize-giving and auction so I'm not sure who won best in show. I hope it was a plotholder!
This was our haul of Chopin potatoes from about 5 plants - many more had slug damage
(they're not the winning carrots by the way!)
Oh, and my latest Chain Mail article is here, if you want a little read. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

There goes August!

What an odd month! We've had rain, wind and temperatures down to 1.5° but today was warm and sunny. We've had plenty of summer squash, tomatoes and beetroot to eat. The Zephyr squash are particularly tasty, but have grown as bush plants rather than climbing up the trellis. The patty pans have been brilliant this year.
Our Lizzano tomatoes are still supplying an abundance of toms and they're so sweet, perfect for eating straight from the plant :-)
The Festival squash have only just started producing fruits so not sure I'll get any to taste this year. They've been rather late to start trailing, so I chopped the extra runners off today in the hope that will encourage some fruits (one will do!) to mature... 
I've had some delicious meals of roasted vegetables and made a meal with seven home-grown ingredients - I love that!
Look at the centre of that pretty sunflower
The dwarf sunflowers have provided a lovely display and kept the bees happy. And the Russian Giant sunflowers have grown impressively tall and on the last day of August the flowers have finally opened.

The runner beans didn't appreciate the cold spell, so not sure whether they'll still be edible. Lots have brown patches which seems to be bruising from wind damage. There are some good long ones which may be suitable for the British Legion Horticultural Show next weekend - longest runner bean entry here I come :-) And I think we'll have something suitable for the funny shaped veg entry....
Look at the red berries in the hedgerow!
The wildflower mix is putting on a lovely display, with plenty of buds to come, if the weather stays good.
The mangetout are only providing enough pods for plot-snacks and, although covered in lovely scarlet flowers, the asparagus pea pods are very sparse so far. I hope I get enough to fry up a plateful, they really are a delight!