Down on the Allotment

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

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Five a Day

 Well, this is the time of the allotment year when everything is coming along in gluts!  There is no need to worry about getting your 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.  One very useful lesson I learned is about choosing which seedlings to plant out.  When the advice says sow 2 or 3 seeds in a pot and plant out the strongest.. THIS IS GOOD ADVICE.  Being a bit of a scrimper and a saver I planted 3 Defender courgette seeds in the Spring.  One came up strong and healthy, the other two took ages to germinate and always looked spindly.  Nevertheless, I planted all 3 out and guess what?  The other two plants continue to be a waste of space. Never really looking happy and not producing very much at all.  Note to self... Choose the healthy seedling and get rid of the time wasters!
 Lovely Sungold tomatoes in the greenhouse are ripening every day.  This really is my favourite tasting tomato.  I've tried lots and lots of others... this is the best tasting.
 This is another good variety of beefsteak tomato called Country Taste.  Beautiful round, nicely shaped tasty tomato.  This is the one to have with sliced mozzarella, olive oil and fresh basil leaves.
 Meanwhile my greenhouse chilli Joe's Long is getting longer.  I am growing this as part of a competition to get in the Guinness Book of Records for the World's longest chilli.   Being organised by Joy at Sea Spring Seeds, it is worth having a go !
 Lovely greenhouse cucumber Dalizia is cropping well, but I have another attack of the dreaded spider mite in the greenhouse.  I thought I had conquered them last year with my greenhouse hygeine measures and with some natural predatory mites.   Oh well, lesson learned!
Meanwhile these Rouge Vif D'Etamps pumpkins are plodding along.  Keeping them watered and fed with home made comfrey liquid.  Note to self... keep bucket of smelly comfrey juice out of reach of thirsty Labrador!!!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

July Harvest

 The greenhouse tomatoes are quite a few weeks ahead of those planted outside.  These Sungold tomatoes are still my favourite.  The taste is the best of any tomato I have ever grown. That is the best reason of all to grow your own fruit and veg.
 My Joe's Long Cayenne chilli are coming along nicely.  I am growing them this year to try to compete in a Guinness World Record for growing the longest chilli.  As yet there is no record, so whoever wins this year gets in the record books!  Worth a try at least!
 Elsewhere on the patch, these Rouge Vif D'Etamps pumpkins are coming along too.  They will ripen to a lovely rich, golden colour just right for making pumpkin pies!
 I have never tried growing melons until this year.  This is a small variety which matures quickly.  This is a Minnesota Midget melon.  Fingers crossed if the weather stays warm that I will be harvesting my first ever melon!
 This is a brand new variety of courgette called Shooting Star.  It is supposed to be the first, ever yellow climbing courgette.  I am not that impressed actually.  The courgettes are thin and tasteless. Not nearly as prolific as my Black Forest climbing courgettes grown in the same conditions in previous years.  Worth trying new things from time to time, but not this one.
My perennial favourite bush courgette is Defender.  Always a good do-er, extremely prolific and goes on for ages!  Just what a girl needs!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Gourmet Delights

 Everything is going crazy on Matron's allotment at the moment. These lovely long days are making the fruit and veggies just grow and grow.  These Dalizia cucumbers in the greenhouse are lovely. Short, pale green cucumbers are delightful to snack on. Thin skinned and very refreshing.
 I am growing extra long varieties of Chilli this year to enter the Guinness Book of Records 'Longest Chilli' competition which is being organised by Sea Spring Seeds.  There is currently no existing record, so whoever grows the longest chilli this year will get the record.  I am growing two varieties; This one is Joe' Long Cayenne and the other one is called Spaghetti.
 The greenhouse tomatoes are a little bit ahead of the outdoor plants.  These Sungold tomatoes are ripening well now.  Definitely my favourite tomato variety.  The taste is wonderful.
 Pumpkins have started to trail now, I have put a wooden board under one of the developing pumpkins to keep it clean.  This variety is Rouge Vif D'Etamps.  A lovely, dark golden Cinderella type shape.
 This is the first year I have a crop from my Tayberry plant.  Tayberry is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry. It fruits on the previous years' growth.  At the moment it is putting out great big shoots for next year.
I know that Matron does not do flowers... well times change and even though I still hold true to this ethos, I must do my bit to encourage pollinating insects into my veggie garden.  These Sunflowers are a variety called Giraffe.  The bees just love them, and I hope to keep them over Winter for the birds to eat the seeds too. (if those pesky Grey Squirrels don't get them first)

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

How to Make Felafel

 I should have picked these Broad Beans while they were small and tender.  Quite a few have grown fairly large, and if steamed and eaten the skins are tough and leathery and the beans have a bitter taste.
 But I have always wanted to make Felafel, a Middle Eastern or Southern Mediterranean dish usually made with chick peas, but in some places like Egypt, they also add Broad Beans.
 So after steaming them, they can be skinned easily. The green inside just pops out.  Try to get them as dry and firm as possible and the recipe recommends leaving them in a refrigerator overnight to harden.  These can be mashed or blended with finely chopped onions, garlic, a tin of drained chick peas.
 The spices I used were salt, cumin, coriander and chilli.  These are blended together with some self raising flour until the consistency holds together in a firm paste.
 The paste is moulded into shapes and a little more flour used to stop them sticking.  Some Felafel are shaped into golf ball sized  lumps and deep fried.
 I thought I would shape mine into little patties.  So again I am leaving them in the fridge to dry and firm up overnight.
They smell divine already!  I will let you know how they taste tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

I had a brilliant day yesterday at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show - actually it's not JUST flowers I am glad to say. There is much more to see.
 It is just enormous!  Highly recommended for a brilliant day out, even if like me, you are not that in to flowers or gardening, there is plenty for the allotment grower, outdoor living, garden design or for the history buff.
 I rekon you could design a beautiful show garden using vegetables and fruit alone!  Someone should make an edible show garden.  Any volunteers?
 Certainly more attention to edible gardening at the show this year. Growing your own fruit and veg is a serious business and lots of people are seeing and tasting the benefits of traceable, healthy and very fresh food.
One of the most beautiful gardens was from the Turkish Tourist Board.  This garden was lined with pomegranate trees!  I have seen these growing quite well in the UK, If you can get a plant established they might do well in a sheltered spot.
Pomegranate trees have wonderful orange flowers that look a bit like a carnation - they die back and develop into a fruit.
And Monty was there as well! The weather is set to be really hot this week, up into the 90s so keep watering!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Second Early New Potatoes

I have not grown Ratte potatoes before this year.  What a little star!  A second early new potato which is a long shape with a wonderful, waxy texture and full of flavour.  Not quite up to the standard of my all time favourite variety Epicure, but it is getting there.  Just simmered gently with some fresh picked Aquadulce Claudia broad beans and they didn't even need a knob of butter - they were that good! Bon Apetite!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Perfect for Pollinators

 It is not just decorative flowers that the bees and pollinating insects adore.  I have noticed that the simple nature of fruit and vegetable flowers are actually preferred.  I saw lots of different types of bees and wasps on my blackberry flowers yesterday.
 We must all encourage pollinators into our allotments and gardeners, perhaps you could leave a vegetable to go to seed for a few more weeks and it will flower.  Have a look at the RHS scheme Perfect for Pollinators to see other ways you can encourage beneficial insects to your patch.
 Meanwhile elsewhere on the patch these Tayberries are just ripening nicely.  This is the first year for this new plant,  A Tayberry is a hybrid between a raspberry and a blackberry.  The taste is exactly that! Quite nice.
And I'm not the only person who thinks they are quite nice....

Monday, June 22, 2015

Shooting Star Courgette

 I like to try something different every growing year.  This time I have found a new varitey of Yellow climbing courgette called Shooting Star.  I find that climbing courgettes can really save space in a small patch.  My old, reliable favourite is a climbing courgette called Black Forest.  Let's see if this new one from Thompson & Morgan lives up to expectations.,
 Meanwhile in the greenhouse my Dalizia cucumbers are enjoying life.  This is a small, light green cucumber with a lovely taste.  If I can keep the red spider mites at bay - these should be good.
 These lovely Grandpa's Butterhead lettuce have a beautiful red colour on the leaves.  If I can keep the slugs (and the neighbourhood cats) away - these are hearting up nicely.
and finally, not everything that grows is something that I planted.  This potato is growing out of an opening in my kitchen compost bin.  I will give it a few more weeks to see what develops.  It should have some lovely, fertile compost in there so I am making sure it is watered well.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer Solstice Allotment

 Everything is coming up roses down on the allotment!  My broad beans Aquadulce Claudia are coming along nicely.  Still quite a few blackfly troubling them, I have tried just leaving them for the ladybirds to deal with, but to be honest the ladybirds waited until all the plants were completely ruined before doing their job.  Pinching out the tops can help, successional planting is quite a good way of getting a crop.  I plant a second crop a few weeks behind this one.  Blackfly crowd on to this crop and don't really bother the later crop.  This seems to be working.
 I planted melons this year for the first time.  This is a midget melon, about the size of a tennis ball and can be grown in a pot or in a planter.  Minnesota Midget melon was given to me by Sue at Wyatt's Garden blog when we met last year at RHS Wisley.
Cucumbers and tomatoes are also doing well in the greenhouse.  The lovely, long days are helping them to grow inches each day.  Happy Summer Solstice everyone!  except if you are in the Southern hemisphere, then it's Happy Winter Solstice!

Friday, June 19, 2015

More New Potatoes

I dug one of my potato plants today.  This variety is Red Duke of York.  Stunning to look at, but not quite as good in the flavour department.  Very floury potatoes that fell apart with even the gentlest of simmering.  Probably better as mash.  Let's see if the other plants are the same.  I prefer the Epicure new potatoes you see in the background here.

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