Down on the Allotment

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Matron's 2010 Review

What a wonderful year it has been! So many great memories and successes Down on the Allotment. Hard pressed to pick just a few of the highlights, but thank you all for staying with me. The first seeds of 2011 have been sown now, and the days are finally getting longer. It was at the end of September that so many of you sent pictures for Matron's Dogblog. I really enjoyed sharing all your doggy garden helpers.
And in August I had the privilege of meeting Peggy from Organic Growing Pains when I visited Cobh in Ireland for a short trip. Peggy showed me round her neck of the woods, here we are digging spuds on her amazing allotment. Thank you Peggy for a wonderful day!
I particularly enjoyed seed swapping with bloggers out there. I like to grow some unusual vegetables, and this hairy cucumber was an old heirloom variety passed down from family to family in Bari, Italy.
And of course, the Salmon flowered peas.
And this memorable photo of the Trombocino or Tromba D'Albegna squash. Matron is particularly proud of this one!
May I wish you all a fruitful and fertile New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First Sowings

There are many traditional planting dates for seeds and tubers throughout the growing year on the allotment. One such tradition is that of sowing your onion seeds on Christmas Day. Well, I was busy cooking Christmas dinner on the 25th, so the sowing of my Bedfordshire Champion onion seeds has had to wait till now.
I always try to do something new each year, try a new variety or grow something unusual. I have never managed to get around to planting onion seeds till now so I thought I'd give it a go. Most often I grow onions from sets, but I thought I'd give this a go.
This is supposed to be a show variety, and a good old fashioned English favourite, so I'll see if they come to anything.
Must let you all know that my Brussels Sprout 'Bosworth' had the most wonderful flavour! Really fresh and sweet. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Matron's Christmas Dinner

I have never grown Brussels Sprouts until this year. These are an F1 hybrid called 'Bosworth' I really didn't give them any special treatment at all. I just planted them, and firmed them in with a boot and left them to themselves.
Not bad at all!
I had loosened the soil a couple of weeks ago so that when I came to dig up my leeks it was just fine, even covered in snow I had no trouble at all. These are an F1 hybrid called 'Oarsman'
The size of the shaft is really very good, the taste is wonderful, but the tops are not completely hardy. They just feel a little soft to me. I might go back to Musselburgh next year, as I only got about 40 seeds in the packet. F1 hybrids are just too darn expensive!
And finally, my Christmas potato was bought in a little flowerpot a few months ago, I thought I'd give it a go. Well, light levels have been very poor in the last few months, and I kept them in the greenhouse, then latterly in the living room next to the patio door to protect from frost. They died back just a couple of weeks ago... but.......
Ta - daaaaa! Matron is very pleased! Fresh New Potatoes on Christmas Day!
Wishing all you bloggers out there, a tasty Christmas! from Matron & Buddy! xxxx

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another Book Review

Well, there are only so many photos a girl can post of her brussels sprouts covered in snow. Not a lot happening on the allotment at the moment. I thought I would share this gem with you. If you want a complete, comprehensive, informative guide to every fruit you have ever heard of (and some you haven't) then I recommend this most highly. If you want to tell the difference between a Kumquat and a Loquat, a Sorb or a Medlar. This is the book for you. Jane Grigson includes recipes and traditional dishes for these fruit. I am definitely going to try making some Qunice Gin.....

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review - Soil Mates

From time to time I get emails from various organisations asking if I want to advertise their product on my blog. Until now I have turned them all down... until now. I was asked to review a copy of this new book, 'Soil Mates' - Companion Planting for Your Vegetable Garden by Sara Alway. A beautifully produced little book telling a romantic story of why 'Miss Carrot' finds Mr 'Well Built Onion' exceedingly attractive! I loved the idea of companion planting. Which plants love the close proximity of others, and finding out why they can benefit each other and how. I've known that planting chives and onions next to a row of carrots deters the carrot root fly, but I had no idea that romance was involved!
This wonderfully illustrated book is written like a 'dating agency' for veggies listing turn-ons and turn-offs and describing each pairing as a 'love match'. In the current state of the world it is useful to know how to protect your edibles from pests and diseases without resorting to sprays. I was fascinated to read through this book enjoying the illustrations, but one question kept cropping up time after time. Why?
Perhaps it is my scientific mind, but I was just itching for some scientific or chemical details of why these particular plants benefit each other. The idea of a romantic pairing is fun to read, but I really could have done with a couple of sentences on 'the science bit'. Having said all that, If you know someone who is starting out in the veggie growing world, after pointing out Matron's blog to them, you could do worse than point them in the direction of Quirk Books where they will be able to buy a copy for £10.99.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Santa's Little Helper

Oh! the indignity of it! Poor Buddy was forced to pose for Christmas pictures yet again! But patiently he sat there waiting till the ordeal was over. (Well, at least he didn't have to wear a false beard this year)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Frost Hardy?

I went outside today to dig up one of my 'Oarsman' leeks for lunch. I was disappointed to see that they do not appear to be as frost hardy as I would like. Here in West London we've only had half an inch of snow and it has been a few degrees below freezing for about a week. I'm sure that my old favourite 'Musselburgh' would have fared better. It was also my intention to loosen the soil around any veggies that I intend to dig up for Christmas. It looks as if this freezing weather from Siberia is set to stay for quite a few weeks. I took the opportunity to dig down under the leeks and just leave them loose in the soil. I suggest if you are intending to dig parsnips, carrots or anything else for Christmas.. you do the same.
Having said all that, these 'Oarsman' leeks have a lovely thick shaft which has not been damaged by the frost too much. The taste was superb. Just one of these leeks was enough for 3 people! - that's hungry, veggie-eating people to boot!
I can clearly see the benefits here of buying expensive F1 hybrid seed for this variety, but all things considered - I'll stick to Musselburgh next year. One of the main reasons I grow leeks is that they are a fantastic standby all Winter long. When everything else has deserted the patch - leeks are there for you!
These hardy Winter cos lettuce are ready to be planted out into growbags in the greenhouse. They will grow slowly, but next February or March they will be romping away.
No such problems with my Brussels sprouts 'Bosworth'. I cut the tops of last week, and the leaves are drooping a bit in this frost, but they are protecting the sprouts which look right on schedule for the 25th!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Making Medlar Jelly

I found a medlar tree a while back in the Summer, I have been looking forward to the opportunity of making medlar jelly for the first time. History has recorded that the medlar has been given the nickname of 'dogs bottom' because of the appearance of the flower end of the fruit!Medlars are an unusual fruit, the tree is related to a rose, and I suppose these might be described as looking rather like giant rosehips. The medlars have to be 'bletted' before they are ready to use. This means to over ripen, and even to soften with frost until the insides are soft and brown.
I just cut each one in half and covered a panful with some water and the juice and rind of a lemon. Acid is needed to help the pectin set. Bring to the boil until soft. I think I would describe the taste as sort of apple like, some vanilla, but some acid. Rather like tamarind taste. They are rich in pectin, so make an easy jelly.
Strained the cooked medlars through a jelly bag and left overnight to drain. One pound of sugar was added to one pint of medlar juice (just the same as crabapple jelly). It doesn't take much cooking at all. Matron has a strange sense of humour, so the jars were labelled as below!
What a glorious colour!

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