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, November 24, 2010

Bishop's Kiss!

I obtained these unusual chilli plants as tiny seedlings back in the Summer. Although they had been planted very late, I was determined to see if I could get them to grow and produce seed for next year. These are called 'Bishop's Kiss' chillis. A relative of a similar shaped variety known as 'Friar's Hat' or Bishop's Hat chilli. I didn't think they would ripen before the end of the season so a few weeks ago I brought them inside onto a sunny windowsill - and hey presto! One of these plants will be making its way into the posession of a certain Church of England Bishop who needs cheering up at the moment!
Just a month to go before Christmas so today I cut off the tops of my Brussels Sprouts 'Bosworth'. They are looking good for my Christmas Dinner, and I hope that cutting the tops off will give them a bit of a boost just in time!
Christmas new potato is surviving in a large pot sat in a heated propagator in the greenhouse. We've had a few sharp frosts so far, this seems to be keeping it alive and growing. A bit of an experiment, but we shall see.... on the 25th December!
I chopped up one of my lovely Queensland Blue pumpkins today. Just such an amazing colour, texture and taste. By far, the best Winter squash I grow. Sweet, dry and tasty. I made a pumpkin pie this afternoon... fresh home grown pumpkin, fresh home made pastry, fresh home milled pumpkin pie spices.
Turkey is defrosting as we speak. For those of you who aren't American, or don't know any Americans... it is Thanksgiving tomorrow. To those of you who are, or who do... Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Food Glorious Food!

Let's face it. Why do I grow veggies? To eat it, of course. So here is an edited version of my historical / culinary experience in Rome. Italians just love their fresh fruit and veggies. Not only that, but their fresh bread, meat, salami, fish and cheese too. In 5 days I didn't see a single large supermarket, instead there were daily fresh markets all over town. These tomatoes were sitting in the Campo di Fiori market yesterday morning!!
Emperor Claudius is here just to get you in the mood of ancient Rome!
Orchards of olive trees were laden with olives. Matron managed to purchase a couple of litres of locally produced, freshly squeezed, extra virgin olive oil from Tivoli!
These globe artichokes were everywhere! I adore artichokes. Did you know that they are supposed to have cholesterol reducing, blood pressure lowering properties?
And who could resist home cured, fresh Parma ham or prosciuto sliced off the joint right in front of your eyes? I couldn't!
Apparently fresh olives are much too bitter to eat straight from the tree so they have to be salted in brine for about 3 weeks before they are edible. Matron has purchased a couple of pounds of fresh, large black olives and will be putting this to the test!
The sights and sounds of a vibrant local market are out of this world! This market was only 5 minutes walk from my hotel. Each morning before breakfast I would purchase provisions for my daily picnic and evening meal..... beefsteak tomato, buffalo mozzarella, ciabatta bread, fresh oranges... to sit in the Roman forum at mid day and break open such a feast!!
Courgettes are sold with their flowers still attached. One of the local delilcacies is deep fried courgette flowers. The male flowers are sold fresh in bunches to eat! I must try this next year with my curcurbit flowers!
This time of year the fresh porcini mushrooms (known in France as cepes) are in season. Freshly picked each day and brought to market. This is the king of all edible mushrooms in my opinion. If not sold fresh, they are sliced and dried and sold as dried mushrooms. The scent is incredible. Eat them fresh on a pizza? Make mushroom rizotto? Chop them and grill them with garlic on some ciabatta?.. Matron was in heaven for sure!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

When in Rome...

Matron can't stop smiling here in Rome. Italians just LOVE their fresh fruit and veg markets here! Just 5 minutes from the hotel is the most amazing market ever. It is not just the olive oil that makes them live longer! They love their fresh veggies. Posted for the first time via blackberry.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Short Break!

Matron is away from the plot for a couple of days. Off to Rome to visit the sights. Perhaps I could bring back a Gladiator or two... back soon.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Hot Stuff!

Have you noticed all these little grey plastic objects dropping on your soil and on the roads and pavements? I picked these up from our road in about 10 minutes while I was taking Buddy out for a quick walkies. I think these are the little plastic containers inside a firework that hold the sparks and colours you see when a rocket explodes in the sky. It worries me therefore that I keep finding these in my soil, and all over the place. There must be billions of them, they will not compost, nor rot down. They will be there forever. Does anyone care?
More hot stuff. I have loads and loads of horseradish at the moment. Now is the time of year to dig it up, so I have been thinning out some of my patches. This goes down into the soil very deeply and it is almost impossible to get rid of if you don't like it. I love horseradish so this will be very carefully prepared to make sauce. Watch this space!
You might remember a few weeks ago I brought my Scotch Bonnet chillis into the house on a windowsill to ripen. Well, I can't eat all this number all at once. These are some of the hottest chillis you can grow, so I decided to preserve them by drying them.
One of my favourite toys is this dehydrator. It took quite a while to dry these chillis, in the end I had to snip the bottom of each chilli open with a pair of scissors to allow the warm air to penetrate and dry the insides as well.
And the finished product is completely dry and will be stored in a glass jar until needed.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Christmas Dinner!

I've been trying hard this year to fill the 'hungry gap' - that's the time in Winter and early Spring when there is precious little in the edible garden. One of the focuses of my attention is growing some veggies for my Christmas Dinner! Not sure what variety these cabbage plants are. I was in a bit of a rush so bought some seedlings at my local garden centre a few weeks ago. These were labelled.....'cabbage' .. helpfully! No idea what variety they are, but I hope they will stand through the Winter and give me some edibles in Spring!
Fortunately I do know that this Purple Sprouting Broccoli is the ultra early variety 'Rudolph'. It has done well for me over the years and crops for ages. Fingers crossed I might get some purple florets showing in time for December 25th...
I am just so excited at my first attempt growing Brussels Sprouts. I did some research back in Spring and decided on a new F1 hybrid variety 'Bosworth'. You can see the lower leaves have started dying back, dropping and leaving a beautiful stalk. They are well on course for gracing my table on Christmas Day!
I was clearing up and digging over a spot today when I found a couple of lost potato plants! I think these were my first early 'Rocket'. Still completely OK, despite the awfully dry Spring and Summer. I might try a late variety next year, I have always loved Pink Fir Apple....mmm!
You might remember a few weeks ago I bought a tiny little plant in a pot which was labelled 'Christmas Potato' - well it seems to be doing very well in the greenhouse. I think the seed potatoes have been specially prepared to fool them into thinking it is Spring. Just one stem, I have been potting it up every couple of weeks and there really are little potatoes under there! Potatoes are greedy feeders so I might make some compost tea feed for it. Fingers crossed I will be eating fresh, new potatoes on Christmas Day too!
Finally, a thrilling success! I had a bumper crop of courgettes this Summer, and one of the things I did was pickle a few jars. I found a proprietary Kosher Dill Pickle mix (which is just sugar, salt, dill and spices I think) salted and rinsed the sliced courgettes and poured over the hot spiced vinegar. They are sensational!!!! Still crunchy and completely wonderful! No more problems with gluts of courgettes in the future! I have just one more jar left (I ate a whole jar today!) I'm not sure if they will still be here at Christmas...