Down on the Allotment

Matron grows vegetables and fruit in a Hampshire garden. I've been growing veggies since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Some traditional varieties and old favourites as well as new ideas. I share my garden with my allotment assistant Daisy the Labrador. On Twitter as @MatronsVeggies

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Home Grown Mushrooms

Look what I grew in my airing cupboard!

It's just a shop bought kit, you just spread the bag of casing compost over the spawn impregnated straw

And keep moist in a warmish place - mine took just 18 days!

Like everything that you grow for yourself it tasted fantastic!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rainbow Lights!

No, Matron hasn't been hit on the head or had a 60s trip... I'm referring to the wonderful psychadelic 'Rainbow Lights' Swiss chard which are the stars of the show at the moment. This poor specimen is another of Matron's sorry carrots! One at a time dear reader.. it might be too much of a shame to bear! I love growing Rainbow Lights Swiss Chard, it is such a good do-er right the way through Winter. I will have such a stunning show of colours like this!

Meanwhile elsewhere on the plot I have a fabulous patch of fresh Parsley. I've been thinking of meals to cook whereby parsley is the main ingredient. Cod fillet with parsely sauce and mashed potato (and wonky carrots!). Gammon with parsley sauce and pease pudding. I think I am going to make a makeshift cloche to put over this patch over Winter. I know it is fairly hardy but I would love to keep using it right the way through Winter - I love it!
Almost every day I am down on the patch having a look to see if I can see any purple sprouts in the middle of my broccoli plant! This variety Rudolph is one of the extra early varieties and should be starting to crop in December or January. I can't wait!
My Isle of Wight garlic is getting away nicely. This is the Early Purple variety.
Someone told me that you can put small plastic drinks bottles over garlic at this time of year to help them through the Winter. I thought I might use some sticks and fleece protection. Does anyone have any tips? Anything welcome because my garlic usually ends up the size of conkers!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Matron's Spiced Christmas Chutney

Here's another idea to use up your apples and pumpkins. I've re-used a picture from last year, this was the most amazing sweet chutney to eat with cold meat or salad. You have to prepare the spiced vinegar in advance. 3/4 pint of malt vinegar boiled up with some of your favourite Christmas spices. I use star anise, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Bring to the boil then leave to infuse for 24hours.

4lbs cooking apples
1lb pumpkin cut into half inch cubes
1lb red onion
3oz grated ginger
10oz brown sugar
rind and juice of an orange
4oz dried cranberries
4oz dried mixed fruit
1/2 pint gluhwein (mulled wine)
3/4 pint spiced vinegar

Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan except the sugar. Simmer the chutney for at least 30 minutes or until reduced. There is enough pectin in the apples and pumpkins for a good set. I found that the pumpkin does not disolve but stays in chunks so you can cut bigger chunks if you like them in your chutney! You can add more of your favourite Christmas spices to the mixture. Add the sugar and simmer until reduced further. Bottle in sterilized jars and store till needed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ruth's Pumpkin Soup

I have been overwhelmed with the urge to make home-made soups recently. So many wonderful veggies to chose from, it is so easy to make and healthy and tasty to boot. One soup recipe not to miss is this wonderful Caribbean pumpkin soup! courtesy of my good friend Ruth (pictured with Buddy!) This will certainly warm you up! 2lbs pumpkin diced into squares
1 scotch bonnet pepper
3 spring onions chopped
2 cloves garlic
dried thyme
1tsp salt & black pepper
chicken or vegetable stock
2 chopped carrots
3 chopped sweet potatoes
1 plantain, chopped (banana will do)

You can make this soup with chopped pieces of the vegetables, but I prefer to blend it to a smooth soup. Remember to put the scotch bonnet chilli into the soup whole when you cook it, but take it out before you put it through the blender - unless you can take it really hot!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Food Security

I read an interesting article in the RHS magazine recently about food security (or lack of it) in the UK. By this, I mean the ability of the United Kingdom to grow and provide all the food it needs to sustain the population. It won't be long before we cannot rely on a plentiful food supply coming in from other countries. Only one tenth of the fruit that we eat in the UK is grown here, and just under a half of all the vegetables. There will come a time in the not too distant future when supplies of water and fuel become scarce that we will all need to grow our own food. Most people in the UK have no idea how to do that, and therefore it will be up to you and I - the food growing bloggers - to show them how, before they all starve to death!

Growing food locally using sustainable methods has been placed at the top of the Government's food security agenda following its first ever assessment on the safetly of the country's food supply. So all of us out here, the beekeepers, poultry keepers farmers and allotmenteers will be in great demand. I know I won't go hungry! will you?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Size Isn't Everything!

I dug up another two magnificent specimens of my Bulgarian Giant Leeks for Sunday lunch yesterday. Although spectacular to look at, and seemed to resist an attack of leek moth, I have to report, dear readers, that in my humble opinion the taste isn't up to much I'm afraid. I think that many giant-type vegetables - elephant garlic, giant pumpkins for instance, don't tend to compete on the taste front. The fresh Brussels Sprouts from Lincolnshire, however, were spectacular! Has anyone noticed a plague of little grey plastic items on their soil recently? It really annoys me that for months, even years after bonfire night I am picking these up out of my soil. I presume they are an integral part of a rocket, perhaps holding different colours, propellant chemicals etc. They fall to earth when a firework explodes and I suppose the manufacturers don't give a thought to the environment.
A very small plus point however... I collect up all these nice strong wooden sticks and use them as plant supports next Spring! - re-use re-cycle!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Trip to Lincolnshire

So Matron really can't do carrots? so I decided in the Spring to plant some round shaped carrots to see what happened. These are a variety called Paris Market, they seem to have fared well in a pot full of sandy compost. My soil here in London is heavy clay, so any long rooted carrots usually fork.. as you will have seen in my 'naughty vegetables' post! The warm weather in the past couple of weeks has amazingly brought about a new crop of runner beans! I had left the vines to produce some dried pods for seed next year, but a whole new crop of baby runner beans started to grow! Even after a mild frost! A lovely, if unexpected late crop.
Yesterday I made a long car journey up to Lincolnshire. I love to sample local produce and cooking wherever possible, I just couldn't resist purchasing a supply of locally baked Lincolnshire Plum Loaf. Actually it is just dried sultanas and raisins, but this is a lovely accompaniment to a cup of tea!
Speaking of sandy soil, there are some amazing farm shops along the roads in rural Lincolnshire. It is a flat area of North East England which is mostly rich, arable farmland. Here you can see I bought a stick of Brussels Sprouts. The biggest ones on the stalk are almost as big as a tennis ball! I have never grown sprouts, but I think I might give them a try next season. Can anyone recommend a good new F1 hybrid variety that I might try?
The reason for my trip to Lincolnshire, apart from the plum loaf, was to visit the grey seal colony on the East coast. They come ashore into the sand dunes to give birth to their pups. There are miles of mud flats and miles of sand dunes here.
Along this stretch of nature reserve grows Sea Buckthorn. Here you can see a plentiful crop of bright orange berries. This plant is also known as Seaberry or Siberian Pineapple. Much too astringent to eat, but research has shown that Sea Buckthorn Oil has exceptional antioxidant and anti inflamatory properties.
Anyway, back to the baby seals... if you look closely on the horizon (click on the picture to enlarge it) you can see where the RAF fighter jets practice their bombing skills. The seals seem un-bothered by the fighter jets screaming over their heads!
They just lie on the sand, scratching their tummies, feeding their pups and staring at the passing idiots pointing cameras at them! Smile!