Despite completely neglecting our allotment for most of this year, we have managed a small but pleasurable harvest. I have never grown squash before but will definitely be doing so again! The variety that I grew didn’t spread too much – I thought I was growing a summer squash variety but nothing appeared until later in the year. There was only one plant but that produced 5 or 6 good sized squash. When we harvested the squash, we pulled them off from the plant but I have now learnt that you should cut them off, leaving a ‘stub’ of the stalk. This apparently prevents rotting of the squash. I tried a couple of recipes from my ‘Riverford Farm’ cook book (a soup and risotto) – both were a hit!
We dug up a decent amount of Jerusalem Artichoke – something I’ve never even tried, let alone grown before. We were given some plants last year from the land owner and thought we may as well give them a go! We tried not to leave any tubers in the ground as they spread and grow easily apparently. I have now learned that the tubers are best stored in the ground until needed, however we wanted the bed cleared anyway. The Riverford cook book has an interesting recipe for Jerusalem artichoke which I’d love to try soon. However, I am a little hesitant as apparently this humble little vegetable has “legendary flatulence-inducing properties”! The Riverford Farm cook book describes it as a vegetable that “threatens marriages” but reassures us that “the effect is more thunderous than malodorous”! (Quotes all from the Riverford Farm cook book).
Our onions, although neglected after harvesting, are looking good. I’m not sure they will store for very long as I didn’t dry them well enough but we will keep an eye on them and hope for the best. I use a lot of onions anyway so hopefully will get through them before too many rot!
I’m desperately trying to make more vegetable based meals as our diet has been very meat heavy recently. I’m finding the Riverford cook book very handy in this respect and have added their other recipe books to my Christmas list!
After some lovely weather this week, this weekend is predictably dreary! So today was an ideal day for some baking and jam making.
As you can see, the cake isn’t lasting long! My excuse is that it’ll be much better fresh!
During the week, I pulled some fairly sizeable stalks of rhubarb and have been wanting to try some rhubarb and ginger jam from a preserves book I got for my birthday last year. It seems to have set, but I think I may have burnt it a little. We haven’t tried it yet, so I’m just hoping it doesn’t taste too bad!
I’m so pleased that I managed to get to the allotment during the week when the sun was shining. I managed to weed most of the beds – the ‘crop’ of fat hen that self seeds all across our plot have sprung up in the warmer weather.
As you can see, there was a fair covering of weeds before I started. I planted some runner beans and sweet peas, cleared the kale and cabbage that hadn’t done very well and had gone to seed, and removed the netting that was protecting the kale etc from the pigeons and used it to cover the frame over the raspberries. I also sowed some carrot, beetroot, pak choi and fennel seeds. Ashley and I tried bulb fennel for the first time last year and really liked it so I’m pretty keen to try and grow it myself. I was enormously happy to see the potatoes, onions and garlic finally showing.
There’s still plenty of weeding, clearing, planting and covering to do. At home, the cauliflower seedlings are doing well and some of the sunflowers are really coming on. Unfortunately, most of my tomato seedlings have died off (I have no idea why!) and a lot of other things seem to really be struggling. It’s quite depressing seeing all my seedlings suffer and die when I’ve spent so many weeks tending to them daily. I’m really hoping to start seeing some good progress soon! And I mustn’t give up – I’m terrible for giving up when I’m not seeing the results that I want.
Thanks for reading, see you soon!
Earlier in the year, we enjoyed our best yet blackcurrant crop and so of course I made jam! I love blackcurrant jam made into a hot drink or simply spread on toast. As the blackberries were ripening at different rates, I picked them as they were ready and froze them until I had enough. Freezing them in a single layer on a baking tray before bagging or boxing them prevents them from all sticking together – not sure it’s really needed for jam making, but that’s the way I like to do it! I found a simple recipe on the BBC food website which was easy to follow for a newbie jam maker such as myself. I made the jam in 2 batches, just in case I made a mistake – I didn’t want to ruin it all! As it happened, I overcooked the first batch. It’s still perfectly useable and doesn’t taste burnt, but is rather solid in the jar! The second batch seems just about perfect. The smaller jars quickly found their way into my Mum and Grandma’s cupboards! I’m now looking forward to the blackberry jams and jellies and other hedgerow delights available at this time of year!
Whilst reading though posts on the wonderful Lavender and Leeks blog, I saw this recipe and couldn’t wait to give it a go! Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough home grown strawberries so had to use shopbought. I was excited to have another use for my home made Elderflower cordial! As the recipe calls for half an apple, and there was no mention of removing the apple at any point, I thought the texture would be better if I peeled it – a mistake as those of you that are experienced jam makers will know! Apparently the most of the pectin found in apples (pectin helps the jam to set – the whole reason for adding the apple) is in the core and skin. My first attempt at the jam resulted in a very runny (but tasty!) jam that wouldn’t set. Good job I only made a small batch! So after a chat with my Uncle who has starting making jams in the last couple of years, I tried his suggestion of putting the chopped apple in a muslin cloth (tied up) to make for easy removal at the end of the process. The second batch set perfectly and is destined for Grandparents and the lovely couple who allow us to use their field as our allotment. I can see several more batches of this being made over the summer!
This should be our best year ever for blackcurrants! We’ve never had so many, I can’t wait for hem to ripen! I’m out in the garden every day checking on them and picking any that are ripe, popping them straight in the freezer to use later. When we moved into our little house 6 years ago, there was an overgrown bush half covering the front door and dropping these little berries all over the floor. Whilst we were moving furniture and boxes into the house, many got trampled into the carpet and I vowed that this bush was going to be dug out and disposed of as soon as I had the chance! After realising that they were actually blackcurrants, I had a change of heart and decided to keep it. Tried to cut it back and train it into a suitable shape but it still dropped berries by the front door and the berries were few and far between and very small. I decided that it needed a new home with more sunshine. My Grandma told me that moving it was as simple as cutting off the stems and pushing them into the ground so that’s exactly what I did. All but 1 stem took and turned into a little bush of its own and I learnt to prune them properly. The first year after they were moved we didn’t get much but that was to be expected. Last year we had quite a few berries but not masses. This year, however, every bush has gone mad! My grandparents used to grow all sorts of fruit and veg in their garden, including blackcurrants and homemade blackcurrant jam was a staple. My Grandma and Mum used to make hot blackcurrant drinks using a spoonful of the jam and mixing it with slightly cooled boiled water, then strained through a tea strainer. I can’t wait to make my own jam (hopefully!) this year. If we have enough blackcurrants, I’d like to try some sort of cordial or sauce too. Now to find some recipes…
One of life’s greatest pleasures (for me) is to be able to forage free plants and berries and turn them into something delicious! At this time of year, hedgerows are filled with delightfully scented Elderflower. Earlier this week, on a lovely sunny afternoon, I took a walk round what is technically ‘wasteland’ just at the end of our road – it is actually a haven for wildlife and plants. Every year, this piece of land (which was once part of an RAF base during the Second World War) provides us with as many blackberries as we can cope with, apples, Rowan berries and more. Right on the edge of this, I spotted a rather large elder tree heavy with buds and flowers. Ashley and I have made elderflower champagne in previous years, some successful batches and some not so great…and one bottle that found it’s way to our mechanic by way of thanks for some work he did, and ended up blowing the cupboard (in which it was being stored) door off!! (A box of chocolates was then needed as an apology to his wife who was left with the sticky clean up!) Something that I really wanted to try this year was elderflower cordial. I found a recipe here and it looked simple enough so I got started!
I started off by stripping the flowers from the stalks. A little bit of a tedious task but sat in the sunshine with the radio on, it wasn’t too bad! I was actually using half the amount stated in the recipe as I wanted to see what it was like before making big batches. Once that was done, it was just a matter of leaving it to steep overnight with the lemon zest. I didn’t have a lime so I just omitted it, hoping it wouldn’t affect the flavour too much!
The following day, I finished the recipe off by straining the liquid off, heating it and adding lemon juice and sugar. The mixture is then simmered and bottled – really quite simple! Whilst bottling, I tried to pass it through some muslin cloth to strain out the lemon ‘bits’ that were floating in it – only for aesthetic reasons really – but it was taking a REALLY long time to drip through so I abandoned that. After taking a few photographs, I poured myself a little and diluted it with water. Yummy! I can honestly say that making this was a pleasure and what a treat to be able to sample it immediately! Ashley enjoyed a glass as soon as he was home from work and I think he’s a fan too! Since then, I’ve been enjoying it diluted with diet lemonade and it is utterly delicious! It can be used for making other treats too, such as jellies and I’ve spotted a recipe for a jam that uses it – I can’t wait to try that one!
These 2 eggs were laid just this morning by our chickens and they seemed the perfect thing to have for lunch! I love poached eggs, but used to have terrible trouble stopping the eggs from disintegrating in the pan. I tried swirling the water, vinegar in the water, both, and anything else anyone suggested. If nothing else, it felt so wasteful having half the egg white splitting off and floating around in the pan. Then we got our chickens and I realised just how ‘not fresh’ supermarket eggs are! Even when I stopped buying supermarket eggs and bought them from a local farm through our village shop, these were still probably sitting around for quite a few days before being sold. REALLY fresh eggs hold together perfectly in the pan, as you can see! I think I’ll forever be a ‘chicken keeper’ now, as I don’t think I can go back to supermarket eggs!