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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Preparing Pumpkins

I still have a couple of pumpkins left. This one is one of the Rouge Vif D'Etamps which I hand pollinated to ensure it comes true next year.I chopped and roasted the pumpkin pieces till soft. The flesh is now draining in a sieve for a couple of days to allow most of the water to drain. I will freeze this pulp into 1 cup portions for Springtime pumpkin pie - or anytime pumpkin pie for that matter!
Now I have a plate full of seeds. Anyone want some?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tropical Treats

Last Winter I discovered a new treat! I found these fresh flowers/fruits in a West Indian shop. These are the product of a tropical hibiscus flower and they are used all over the West Indies and other parts of the world to make a wonderful syrup.These are known as roselles, or sorrell or just hibiscus. They are full of beneficial nutrients which have recently been found to have blood pressure and cholesterol lowering properties.
I have made a lovely warming drink with these dried flowers, add ginger, cinnamon, star anise and clove along with hot water and brown sugar (and a tot of rum). If you go along to Bangchik and Kakdah's blog 'My Little Vegetable Garden' (see link right) you will see them growing fresh.
Do you remember this little fellow? BILBO has been travelling the world via garden bloggers for more than a year now! He spent Christmas in Lund, Sweden, and I am thrilled to announce that he has just arrived with Bangchik and Kakdah in Putrajaya, Malaysia for a tropical trip round their garden. Pop over and see his exploits!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Matron Can't Grow Carrots!

I live in hope... that one day when I pull at that perfectly round top, that there will be a perfectly straight carrot under the soil!Here in London the soil is typically London clay. Great for some veggies, but generally not so good for root veggies. I do add extra sand to the soil when I am trying to grow carrots, but perhaps I need more?
Of course these would be rejected by a commercial supermarket, but that is their loss. I cleaned and grated these carrots within 10 minutes of picking. The scent and flavour of fresh picked carrots is amazing. Grated carrot in a plain balsamic vinegar dressing. Who could ask for more. Wonderful!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Queensland Blue Winter Squash

I still have a few of my Winter squash doing fine indoors.Yesterday I cut up one of my Queensland Blue squash. This was the one that I hand pollinated back in the Spring to help ensure that the seed comes true next year.
I have a number of nice healthy looking seeds if anyone wants a few? So after cooking and draining the pumpkin overnight I made a pumpkin pie today.
Well not exactly a pumpkin pie... you see, when some of the first settlers arrived in the New World they took recipes with them from home. Some of these settlers were from Norfolk, and an old recipe from Norfolk is the Norfolk Million Pie. Essentially it is a pumpkin pie with jam and sultanas at the base. Delicious!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

First Seeds Arrived

You know Spring cannot be far round the corner when the first parcel of seeds arrive in the post! I am trying mostly to collect my own seeds wherever possible, but some specific varieties and F1 hybrids have to be purchased.
Here are Runner Bean 'St George' a new one this year already with spectacular reviews from trials last year where it was awarded the AGM.
Pea 'Hurst Green Shaft' I've not tried before but sounds tender and prolific.
Courgette 'Black Forest' my lovely climbing courgette.
Courgette 'Soleil' a yellow one I've not tried before but is resistant to mildew.
Brussels Sprout ' Bosworth F1' never grown sprouts, will give them a go for the first time!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

January Tomatoes

As yet another covering of snow falls on London overnight I want to look forward to the wonders in store this Summer. Just dare to look at these watery, insipid, tasteless and pale January tomatoes!.. and dream...of next Summer
Home grown, sun ripened beefsteak tomatoes! Only another 7 months to go! yippeeee!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Buddy Update

Thank you all for your kind comments and wishes for Buddy.On the first day after the stroke I really didn't know if we'd have him much longer. He was unable to stand and his eyes were rolling and twitching, he would not eat or drink. We fed him through a syringe and for the next few days he took chicken stock and pureed chicken and brussels sprouts! A few days later he took small pieces of roast chicken, and I managed to hide a few pieces of veggies underneath (like getting a small child to eat their veggies!). Day by day he has gained his balance and his appetite.
Pleased to say he is now almost back to normal! A little bit unsteady when he turns a corner too quickly or when he shakes the snow off his face! He's not that keen on eating dog food any more!! I suppose he has been hand fed the best of everything for the past couple of weeks, so it's worth stringing us along a bit longer to see if I will play along! Cheeky boy!
Thank you again for all your best wishes!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Digging for Victory Part 2

This was one of the most famous pictures for the second world war 'Dig for Victory' campaign.
Here's a few of my Winter squashes still nice and firm and dry. To keep a squash or pumpkin through the Winter you must be sure that the variety is a 'Winter squash' as the skins dry and harden enough to keep. Any other varieties will probably have rotted by now. These are Queensland blue squash 'Delicata' and Rouge vif D'Etamps.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Digging for Victory!

It's time once again to play 'tourist in my own town' I work a half day once every 5 weeks so I take advantage of being in a wonderful city.Big Ben actually refers to the bell which strikes the hour up in the clock tower and not the tower itself.
The Household Cavalry stand guard at Horseguards in Whitehall.
One of my most favourite artists is Edwin Landseer who designed these four lions which guard Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square.
It has been so cold in Britain these past few weeks that the famous fountain in TSquare has frozen over!
I had always wanted to visit the Cabinet War Rooms - so I did! Churchill's wartime bunker during World War 2. From here deep under the seat of Government his War Cabinet sat and commanded the allied forces. I found out today that there was a state of the art, top secret phone line from the Prime Minister to the President of the United States. This secret telephone room was in a broom cupboard in the basement of Selfridges store in Oxford Street!
Whilst in the bookshop I couldn't help digging out a few historical books and postcards.
Dig for Victory!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

London Snow

London comes to a shuddring halt again today with only a few inches of snow! The veggie garden just looks like it is wrapped up in a cool white blanket. These broccoli plants look as healthy as ever in their lovely glaucous blue leaves.
My Isle of Wight garlic is bearing up too, it managed to put on a good root system and a spurt of growth before the Winter snow.
As a gardener I see the snow and the cold Winter temperatures as a necessary part of the dormancy period for so many fruit and veggies. As a commuter in London it is an inconvenience. I hope we have some sunshine on the snow tomorrow and I will take Buddy for a short walk. He is making progress every day now.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Bulgarian Giant Leeks Part 2

I grew some Bulgarian Giant Leeks from seed this year, having seen them in a catalogue and thought they looked like a fun thing to grow.The length was superb! up to 3 or 4 feet of blanch and a further 2 feet of green leaves. Unfortunately as I blogged previously the taste was not up to much at all. I have since discovered that they are really not that frost hardy either. Most of the crop have bent over at the first sign of frost and they appear to be softening as well. I don't think I will grow them again, but they were a fun thing to try. My chosen variety of leek next year will be 'Oarsman' this variety was recommended to me by a man from the National Vegetable Society stall at the RHS Autumn show. I will give them a go.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy Birthday Buddy!

Buddy is 14 years old today!At least we think it is about that! January 3rd is the anniversary of the date we took him home from Battersea Dogs Home, so that is his Birthday. He thanks you all for your kind words and wishes, he seems to be doing much better today, ate some chicken and went out for a very short walkies and all internal systems appear to be functioning - if you get my drift... Still not 100% but we are getting there!