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!
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!
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!