Down on the Allotment

What's happening down on the allotment? An intimate account of a passionate veggie grower.

Monday, February 23, 2015

London Potato Day

 Last Friday and Saturday at the RHS Lindley Hall in London I was like a kid in a sweet shop at the RHS London Potato Day.  Yes there were some flowers and flowery things going on there too.. but...
 I was there for this fantastic pic n mix seed potato shop from Pennard Plants.  These seed people really know their stuff.  Oh the joy of having a nerdy conversation with another veggie fan is just so exciting.  Take a paper bag and pick your seed potato varieties for just 22p each.  This is just so great because elsewhere you have to buy a huge sack full when you just want to try a short row of each.
Pennard Plants put on this stunning display of seed potatoes which was inspired by a display on this very spot in 1910 at the wonderfully named 'Colonial Fruit Show'
 You could buy shallots or onion sets by the cupful.
 And you could buy Aquadulce broad bean seeds by the scoop full.
So what did I go for?  Some Ratte salad potatoes,  Red Duke of York, and my all time favourite first early new potato Epicure.  Beg, steal or borrow and find yourself some Epicure potatoes my friends. I remember growing this variety when I was a small child.  The taste is the best you will ever find.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The World's Longest Chilli

 Would you like to try to get in the Guinnes Book of Records?   If you plant your chilli seeds now you can see if you could grow the longest chilli!
 The lovely people at Sea Spring Seeds are holding a competition to see who can grow the longest chilli.  Apparently there is currently no record, so whoever wins this competition will be holding the new record!  You can have a look on the Sea Spring website for how to enter.
This sounds like a great thing to do this year!  I have bought two varieties of chilli which might do. Joes Long Cayenne Chilli, and a really interesting variety called Spaghetti.

I did grow some Joe's Long chilli back in 2006, the plants were about 4 feet high and the chillis were at least a foot long. They ripen to a glorious red colour.   Anyone fancy a go?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ash Wednesday

 There was a pile of old wooden fence panels at the end of the garden, so this week I took advantage of the dry weather to have a bonfire.
 So yesterday on Ash Wednesday I had a lovely pile of wood ash to collect.

 Wood ash is a great source of Potash for the soil.  Wood ash is a good tonic for the soil, especially around fruit trees and bushes.  So out I went around apple trees, loganberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants and rhubarb.
 There are signs of the rhubarb crowns breaking the surface of the soil.
 Yesterday was a bright, sunny day and I managed to get some weeding and digging done out on the allotment.
 But I was being watched!  This fox was laying on the shed roof taking advantage of the warm sunshine.
The growing season is just about to start, so I bought a few bags of seed compost to get going with a few early sowings in the heated propagator in the greenhouse.  Here we go!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Success in 2014

There have been a couple of firsts Down on the Allotment in 2014. I grew Oca this year, it is pretty easy to grow in that it just looks after itself.  Another big bonus is that the tubers seem to be quite hardy under the soil in Winter - so anything at this time of year under frost and snow is worth growing.
 But the thing I am most proud about is growing carrots!  My heavy London clay has always meant that carrots grown in the soil were always forked and mis-shapen.   This time I took the time and effort to sieve a couple of square meters of soil and add lots of sand and grit.  Didn't thin them out for fear of attracting carrot root flies - just left them where I sowed the seed.
So on Christmas Day (with the help of my furry kitchen assistant) we had home grown carrots for the first time!   Wishing all my blog readers a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cooking Oca

 I wasn't sure what to do with this unusual vegetable, so I cooked a few Oca tubers until they were soft. Just a little salt in the water.
Mashed them up with a little milk.  I think I prefer the taste like this. Hard to describe but the Oca mash tastes a little bit like pease pudding, or perhaps mashed swede or chic peas.  Would be quite nice as a veggie with a roast dinner.  I might try adding butter and pepper next to see if it improves.

Matron's Christmas Veggie Blog 2011

Welcome to Matron's Christmas Veggie blog. It is quite a challenge to grow anything at this time of year, so thank you to everyone who sent a photo. Here's what's on the menu in your neck of the Christmas woods! Well this lovely plate of citrus fruits was sent in from the Estudio Campana in sunny Almeria, Spain.
Many thanks to Stacy at Plot number 58 for this lovely Cavalo Nero. This is a wonderful Winter crop, just perfect for the Christmas Dinner plate.
Jane sent in this beautiful Swiss Chard. This is one of my favourite Winter veg, it brightens up any plot right the way through to Spring.
And what a feast from Scarecrows Garden down in the Southern hemisphere. Christmas dinner in Australia must be a very colourful event.
And here is Matron's own offering, these Jerusalem artichokes are a bit smaller this year. They are such an invasive pest if you don't keep them under control. I have been picking stems and stalks all year to try to keep them under control. That said, I just adore the flavour - and now that I work from home I don't have to worry about the antisocial consequences from eating bowls full of these... fartichokes!
Rob from Birmingham sent in these lovely brassicas, Gloire de Portugal. Really fresh green leaves are a real delicacy on the Christmas table, freshly picked and steamed. Bon appetite.
Jeffrey from the Eagle Close allotments sent this lovely selection of squashes and pumpkins. I keep meaning to try growing spaghetti squash (left) I must put it on my list for next year.
Serious congratulations to Jennifer for her first ever attempt at growing potatoes!! Once tasted you are hooked on growing your own .. forever. This variety California White.
What a wonderful trugful of veggies. Thanks to Kay at Gardening Tools.
Beautiful photos of beautiful veg on the Christmas Table at Kelli Boyles Garden.
What Christmas dinner would be complete without fantastic home grown parsnips. Bon Appetite goes to Nome at the Nome Grown blog.
A fresh crop of Oca from the Oca testbed blog. Fresh and in season right now! Thank you Ian for adding wonderful variety to my Christmas Veggie blog.
Jeffrey at the Eagle Close allotments has inspired me to attempt more green salad in Winter. These pea shoots are decorating the best plates in the best restaurants at the moment!
What a beautiful still life painting this would make! Thanks to Peggy from her Organic Growing Pains blog in Cork, Ireland for this festive fare. I just adore brussels sprouts!
Beautiful red Cabbage from Orlaith. This is an essential ingredient in Matron's Christmas Dinner, just steamed with apple, onion, vinegar, cloves and seasoning. Brilliant!
And my lovely blog-mentor Stan for starting me off on this blog-quest all those years ago. Inspired! Wishing you all a Veggie Christmas!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Winter Harvest

 Earlier this Summer I planted some Oca tubers in a black plastic dustbin full of compost.  This is the first time I've grown them.  All the advice given told me to leave them to mature as long as possible so that the underground tubers swell as much as possible.
 Well, we've had a lovely long, warm Autumn and they have had the best conditions possible. A sharp frost overnight has really knocked them back now so it is time to see what lies underneath.
 So I decided to start to dig down with a trowel to see what was there.
 One by one the tubers appeared.
 I only took two plants today but I have quite a few more.  These striking tubers resemble Jerusalem artichokes.
 I did plant different coloured tubers, so there were different varieties coming up.
 I tried eating some raw.  Not unpleasant - the texture of a crisp radish but without the heat. A faint flavour of a lemon acid.. I guess it would be oxalic acid.  Probably better chopped up in a salad to give texture.  Will have to try cooking them and see if they improve.

Friday, November 07, 2014

A Trip to Bruges

 Regular readers will know I love visiting outdoor markets when I travel round the world. There is something very vibrant and exciting about all this fresh produce on sale. Also a sense of history when the market square is and always has been the centre of society for centuries. None more so in the Market Square in Bruges, Belgium.
 So where else would you find fresh, local Brussels Sprouts than in Belgium! National pride!
 But it is more than that. This is wonderfully displayed, squeaky fresh and mouth wateringly tempting.
 Why can't we display and sell produce like this in the UK? These carrots with tops and bottoms are just fantastic! You could actually smell them!
 Even the regular produce was displayed so beautifully.
 Top quality, locally produced fruit and veggies.  Why can't we get this over here?
 The Fish Market was amazing too.  These North Sea Langoustine were freshly landed just 7 miles away in Zeebrugge (that's the sea port of Bruges) and steamed at the market and sold straight out of the pot still steaming! 
 and look how these leeks are sold.  Still with their green tops and their roots on the bottom, bunched and displayed so attractively.  British supermarkets cut off all the leaves and roots and just sell them in a boring, sterilized, sanitized, plastic bag!
 Fresh markets are just the life and soul of a community.  Most UK local markets are over-run with mobile phone covers, jewellery, plastic stuff and more plastic stuff... I live in London and there are just so few outlets for really wonderful fresh fruit and veggies - I suppost that's why I grow my own!
The market in Bruges is on every Wednesday, and the Christmas market starts at the end of November.