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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Snapapple Night!

Whilst visiting the RHS Autumn show recently I found out about some of the ancient traditions surrounding the festivities on 31st October. Most people know about the tradition of 'bobbing for apples' but have you heard of 'Snapapple Night'? read on...
Of course in Scotland the tradition is slightly different.
People get up to the strangest things when they don't get sufficient daylight... How about this one?
Anyway, from apples to pumpkins. I was running a bit low on my favourite pumpkin pie spice mix. I usually buy this in the USA but supplies were running out. I decided to make my own spice mix.
Lightly toast cinnamon sticks, nutmeg pieces, cloves, allspice berries in an oven for about 5 mins. Add some powdered ginger and grind in a coffee grinder until blended. The best home made Christmas spice mix - ever!

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Shoots!

We've had some very bright, sunny days in the last couple of weeks. Although it has been below freezing quite a few times the temperature in the greenhouse during the sunny days must have been quite warm. My lovely Isle of Wight garlic 'Early Purple' has really started to shoot up. I will accustom it to being outside for a couple of days now and plant it outside for the Winter. It will be fine outside now having established a good root system.
A few hardy Winter lettuce have made good progress too. I will buy a growbag and keep these planted in the greenhouse over Winter for a few more salad nibbles!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I love that word! It represents the feeling that I get this time of year when I see all this wonderful produce dripping from our trees and on our soil. I woke this morning to discover the first frost of the year. Beautiful patterns of ice crystals here on my broccoli. When the sun came up over the horizon I was off for an exciting day.
Today and up till Sunday is the Autumn produce show at the RHS Gardens at Wisley. Part of their 'Grow Your Own' campaign.
Wonderful displays of pumpkins and squash. This is my favourite Winter squash 'Delicata' .
Apples, pears and quinces were sold, and there were generous free tastings too!
What a beautiful array of Autumn colour.
So Matron visited the tropical greenhouse, hiked up past the Piet Oudolf border towards the orchard. Here is a rare glimpse of Matron herself!
To my favourite place in the whole wide world. The orchard.
Acres and acres, hundreds of apple trees laden with fruit.
Every conceivable shape, colour and size. There were thousands of trees, and some of the ancient varieties have incredible names. Easter Orange, Winter Banana, Kings Acre Pippin, Nanny, King Coffee, Beauty of Hants, Pomeroy of Somerset and The Bloody Ploughman were just a few...but Matron had to have a favourite..
Ooooh Matron!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Last of the Summer Vine!

Frost was forecast in parts of South England last night so I went around picking every last possible tomato, just in case. These are the ones to savour. When they are gone they are gone. Just tasteless supermarket obscenities from now on. These will be loved and appreciated.
I've been making an effort to have some produce over the Winter so many of my pots and containers have been planted with Winter salad leaves.
Of different shapes and colours. Attractive and edible!
Now, as regular blog readers will know - Matron does not do flowers! - but just every now and then some floral interlopers creep on to my patch. These lovely cheerful chappies are my Jerusalem Artichokes. Just getting ready to be dug up. Actually they are an awful pest - almost impossible to eradicate. I happen to love eating them so I struggle to keep them under control, but take heed of my wise words. If you do want to plant Jerusalem artichokes, think carefully where you will plant them. Just remember - like a rescue dog.. Jerusalem artichokes are not just for Christmas! they will be with you for a lifetime!
I pulled my small crop of Cylindra beetroot this afternoon. I love this shape of beetroot, they are so easy to handle, pick and slice.
I steamed them in the pressure cooker then peeled and sliced. Beautiful taste, and lovely tender texture. I was not alone in my appreciation of this gourmet treat....
Buddy loves beetroot!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Beauty of the Beast..

What a glorious weekend to be out on the allotment having a good clear up! Damp soil, warm temperatures and bright blue sky. Matron now has a satisfying back ache! I have brought my Scotch Bonnet chillis indoors onto a warm, bright windowsill. All they needed was a bit of sunlight and look at these vibrant colours.
I will probably dry these in a string and use as Christmas decorations! edible decorations!
My new F1 Oarsman leeks are amazing! I didn't earth up too much stem here, but they have a lovely colour. I wait to see how well they stand over Winter. A wise person pointed out to me this week that if you look at the arrangement of the leaves each side, it reminds you of a rowing boat...think Oxford / Cambridge boat race? .. then wouldn't this variety be called Oarsmen instead?
I dried off the last of my new F1 St George runner beans, and shelled them today. I was expecting pink beans, but these are white! I am going to grow them next year and see what the 2nd generation are like. I really don't like paying such prices for F1 hybrids.
I have started off my Isle of Wight garlic 'Early Purple' in pots in the greenhouse. Hopefully they should put on some roots and a shoot in the next few weeks. I like to give them a good head start in case they get nibbled!
The mild weather in the past couple of weeks has kept my courgettes going! this is one of my climbing courgettes Black Forest.
These are the last two Courgette Defender. This spot has been tidied up now and a few Winter lettuce have been planted in their place.
During my clear up efforts today, I disturbed several frogs, was harrassed by an excited robin, and I found this beast lurking around my cabbages! A quick look on google image (whatever happened to going to the library!) confirmed its identification as a Leopard Slug. What a beautiful beast! I couldn't bear to squish it, so I threw it into a neighbours garden!! I bet it will find its way back, they do say they have a good homing instinct!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Show Must go On!

Just a few more pictures from the RHS London Autumn Harvest Show this week. Many classes in the competition, such as a basket of fruit! Here is the winner!

Of course it was the Autumn show, so would not be complete without a display of pumpkin and squash. Here at the front is my favourite Cornell's Bush Delicata squash. Also known as the sweet potato squash. Amazing sweet, dry texture. A wonderful Winter keeper.

A plate of Harlequin tomatoes. I grew this variety a couple of years ago, did very well for me. So named as the upturned green calix reminds you of a jester's hat, or collar...or something..I can't remember!

Another class of entry was the trug! You might remember that on June 29th 2008 Matron published a special Trugblog. (I just can't figure out how to put a link into a previous post - what a luddite!) This is an impressive entry and would not have looked out of place among the others!
Just look at these runner beans! - amazing. Who wants to eat straight beans anyway?
Now for a quick snigger to finish the post. This less common fruit is a Medlar, these are probably not ripe yet, they must be 'bletted' first before eating. That is to leave them to ripen, ripen some more, then almost over ripen till they are soft. I've never eaten them, but have located a secret supply 'somewhere in England' so may get to taste soon. The French call these medlars 'un bout de chien' - the sanitised version translated means - dog's bottom! - Oh Yummy!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


I've had such an exciting day today, I think I am going to have to lie down for a nap before I leave again for dog training class tonight! Why? - I've been to the RHS London Autumn Harvest Show. On today and tomorrow at Horticultural Halls, Westminster. In the spectacular surroundings of the Art Deco exhibition halls, I was invited to a preview. Of course there were flowers there, so after taking a polite viewing, I made of to where my heart led me. To the veggie show!
Fantastic array of stands to view, including the hottest chilli in the world, the Dorset Naga.
Now, I have never entered a horticultural show, it is quite a cut-throat, competitive bun fight by all accounts.
And they take it very seriously indeed! Largely a male domain..
Is it stiffer, cleaner, thicker or longer than all the rest?
So the judges went round seriously with their clip boards and pencils at the ready.
An amazing display of fondled, tweezered, manicured and polished produce!
Size isn't everything you know boys!... I wonder what Dr Freud would have made of it?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Autumn Harvest

Where has the Summer gone? I find it hard to believe that it is October already! There is still plenty of excitement on my patch. A few years ago I planted a potfull of Garlic Chives that came free with a magazine. They come up with a spectacular display of white flowers and seed head this time of year, and do not disappoint with a tasty salad ingredient either!
Just last week I found these Hops growing in a hedgerow, so I picked some and dried them. Apparently dried hops are known for making you feel sleepy, so I am going to mix them with some dried lavender and make a 'hop pillow'. Supposed to aid restful sleep! - I'll let you know.
I found this little novelty in a garden centre today. Sold as 'Christmas Potatoes' it appears to be a shoot in a pot!! If the seed potato has been prepared properly (and it looks like just one eye shoot rather than a whole potato) there is a slight possibility that I might be digging my own potatoes on Christmas Day. I'll pot it up in the greenhouse and keep my fingers crossed, but I won't hold my breath!
Speaking of Christmas Dinners - they say a watched pot never boils, but my brussels sprouts Bosworth are coming along a treat. Getting bigger each day.
These Sungold tomatoes are slow to ripen now, there has been a distinct lack of sunlight over the past couple of weeks, so I might feel the need to make some green tomato chutney before long!
Ditto with these Chocolate Cherry tomatoes. I just love this variety, such a great taste!
I'm just about ready to harvest these Delicata squash. One of my favourite squashes, this is also known as a sweet potato squash because of its sweet taste and dense texture. Doesn't do terribly well here in the UK, I was kindly sent the seed from Petunia's Gardener in Seattle. I just think it needs a longer, brighter Summer than we get here. Nevertheless, I wouldn't give this one a miss, it is well worth it.
Still just a few courgettes growing at the moment. This is my brilliant climbing courgette Black Forest. Definitely slowing down now, but perhaps we might have a couple of warm, sunny days soon....perhaps?
And these strawberries are a mystery! I thought that getting a few flowers a few weeks ago was just a response to a warm, sunny day. But look here! I'm pretty sure that I don't have any Autumn varieties planted... but on the other hand... Again, we need just a couple of late, warm sunny days to see if they will ripen. I'll label this plant for next year and see what happens in Spring.
And while I'm on the subject of Autumn Harvest, I've been invited by the RHS to attend the RHS London Autumn Harvest Show on 5th October. I'll report back to you on the highlight of the veggie gardener's year!
And finally.. I've never been good at finding both gardening gloves in the same place at once (or so I thought) one would mysteriously disappear, or I would find it half buried in the garden somewhere. Until today. I most definitely put both of them in the greenhouse last night, and came back home today at 5pm to find this one half way down the garden, in the rain... with a finger nibbled off!! I blame foxes! any other suggestions?