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, April 27, 2013

Potting up

 Just a couple of warm days this week and my little tomato plants almost doubled in size.  I potted some of them up into large pots in the greenhouse.  I have found that tomatoes in pots in a greenhouse or on the sunny patio sometimes do better than those  planted direct in the soil.
 A frost is forecast in London tonight so these are under a layer of fleece in the greenhouse but being hardened off outside during the day.
 These precious little Chilli Willy seedlings are doing nicely.  I'm looking forward to seeing how these grow....
This little cucumber plant caught my attention in the garden centre.  It is a grafted plant - that means that the top plant is the F1 hybrid Iznik (a plentiful small cucumber) and the rootstock will have been chosen for more vigour.  At present there is a baby cucumber on every single leaf joint and the plant is growing inches each day. Looks great!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Foraging in Spring

 This time last year I was visiting the Rialto Market in Venice.  I took a picture of something on sale in the market called 'Bruscandoli'  it wasn't until I came home and did some research that I found out that this is a Venetian speciality.   It is in fact,  hop shoots.  The tip of the growing hop vines in Spring are cut off, steamed and served either in butter, or perhaps in a rizotto.
So this is the time of year when I will be putting it to the test.  It has been such a hard, cold Spring here, but at the first opportunity I think I'll give it a go.

Friday, April 19, 2013


 Another warm, sunny day and the soil is just perfect for digging.  My Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants are extremely small, having suffered in the long, cold Winter.  The purple florets are just perfect right now, and very, very tender.
 Digging and weeding is hard work.  Bind weed, dock roots and dandelion roots are everywhere.  The benefit of a freezing Winter however, is that the soil is fantastically friable.  By that I mean that the heavy clods of London clay have been broken up by the act of the ice crystals while frozen.  The soil breaks up beautifully.
So, in preparation for a Sunday lunch of roast rib of beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes.. and of course fresh Horseradish sauce.  Be prepared for Horseradish to become a thug and spread everywhere.  You must also be prepared to dig down at least 2 foot to get it up!  Having done all this, the ferocity and strength of fresh horseradish sauce is one of the great pleasures (and pains... if you sniff at the wrong time) of gourmet gardening.  Bon Appetit!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring has Sprung!

 At last Spring has sprung down on the allotment!  This past Winter has been the longest I can remember.  Just in the last couple of days we have had some sunny and warm-ish days and the plants have responded quickly.  I pulled my first few stalks of Rhubarb this afternoon.
 The length of the stalks or the height of this Rhubarb has almost doubled in a week.  Everything is springing up with a vengeance.
 The first pickings of Rhubarb in the Spring are absolutely fantastic.  Not a hint of stringyness, very tender, much less acidic than later pickings, and a bit sweeter.  Just cleaned and chopped up then a sprinkling of sugar and into the microwave for about 5 minutes.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Race is On!

 This Spring has been the longest, coldest and wettest I can remember.  Just one week ago it was snowing in London and planting any seeds is out of the question.  So yesterday I broke the habit of a lifetime and I went out and BOUGHT some tomato plants at a garden centre.  I'm way too far behind to plant seeds now.
 I found a grafted F1 mini cucumber of a variety called Iznik.  I decided to give it a chance and see how it does in the greenhouse.
 My soil is just so wet and frozen still that I haven't planted broad beans either.  At the garden centre I bought a couple of trays of Broad Bean Masterpiece.  Let's see how they do.
 So everyone out there.... take your marks...
 Get set .....Grow!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Hot Stuff

The Hispanic supermarkets in Texas sell an amazing variety of chillis.  To a palate which is used to the taste of chilli each of these varieties has a subtly different taste.   I suppose if you have been used to say Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, then a cup of instant would taste different.  

 Each different chilli variety has a unique flavour and a different heat.  These New Mexico chillis are some of the hottest.
Yet there are so many varieties to the trained palate.  The heat of a chilli is measured on the Scoville Scale.
Dried Ancho chillis look like chocolate, yet they have a distinctive smokey flavour all of their own.

 Many recipes for authentic Texan or TexMex chilli specify which variety of chilli you use in the recipe. 
So next time Jamie Oliver asks you to put 'one chilli' into a recipe, you are entitled to ask whether that would be a Guajillo chilli? New Mexico Chilli? Poblano Chilli?  Ancho, Chipotle, Morita, Jalapeno, Cascavel, Pasilla or Pequin Chilli!