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, August 28, 2013

Help! I'm Drowning!

 It is all coming at once down on Matron's allotment at the moment.  No problem at all getting my 5-a-day right now, but what to do with all this lovely produce?  I've been eating as much as I can, and running out of ideas.
 I just have to take a step back and enjoy the moment.  Just having a think about those long, dark, cold Winter months when supermarket veggies are tasteless and horrid. Longing for the day when I can look on a trug-full like this.
 or this.... these Beefmaster tomatoes have been amazing this year. So plentiful that many of the bamboo canes holding up the plants have just snapped and fallen over.
 Fortunately my veggie-loving gardening companion eats his fair share.
 The rules of the garden are that the tomato plants on the patio are his.. (he picks his own)... and the rest are mine. But even this furry stomach-on-legs can't get through this many.
 I go away for a lovely Bank Holiday weekend, and look what happens while I'm gone! all these courgettes were running riot in just two days.  All I can say is....
Bon Apetite!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Good Gadgets

 It's the time of year when Runner Beans come thick and fast. Just when you think you've picked all the beans you can see...
 then another bunch jumps out in front of you from nowhere!  Many years ago we had a brilliant metal bean slicer that was just the ticket to slice beans (and the occasional stray finger).. well I've found one just like it on Amazon.  This Metal Bean Slicer is the bees knees.
 Screw the slicer to a work surface by means of the G clamp at the bottom then insert beans into a hole in the top and turn the handle.
 Beans are sliced on the diagonal by a rotating blade.
 Simple and effective, an excellent gadget!
Does anyone else think it looks like the Starship Enterprise?? Beam me up Scotty!

Winter and Summer Squashes

 I'm having an amazing crop of Queensland Blue pumpkins this year.  The funny thing though is that none of these are seeds that I nurtured and carefully sowed in pots in the cozy greenhouse propagator. All these Queensland Blue pumpkins are volunteers which sprouted from piles of kitchen compost! They are doing great all over the place. These are brilliant Winter keepers and survive storage for months.
 In fact, I have noticed that at this time in the season the ratio of female flowers ( the ones with pumpkins attached) has increased tenfold. There is a baby pumpkin now at almost every third leaf joint.
 At the beginning of the year it was about fifteen male flowers to every female flower. I still have to make sure the whole plant can support the growth of the fruits, but the season has been amazing and the plants are healthy and sprawling everywhere.
 The male flowers are still being produced so that they pollinate the female flowers, and the bees simply love them!
 Meanwhile these Lebanese squash are going great guns too. These are a Summer squash, they are softer and have a higher water content. They do not store for any time at all, and are best eaten young.
The same applies for these lovely Tondo di Nizza squash from Seeds of Italy. Lovely round squash that can be stuffed or just eaten whole. This time of year it is hard to keep up with all this produce!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Full Steam Ahead!

 Everything is ripening all at once on Matron's allotment at the moment. Daily picking is required to keep the plants producing, but what to do with all these lovely vegetables. These Beefmaster tomatoes are amazing. Many of these large beefsteak tomatoes on each plant and many more to come.
 A big surprise were these Tumbler tomatoes. I had expected them to be small grape sized tomatoes which are intended to grow in containers or hanging baskets. I have had pounds and pounds of these golf ball sized tomatoes and they just keep coming.
 Just to get rid of a few I sliced these in half and sprinkled with a tiny bit of salt and an even tinier bit of sugar and slowly dried them in the oven for a couple of hours.  These will make an addition to some tomato sauce I will make with the fresh ones.
 Defender courgettes are coming thick and strong, and so are the lovely pale green Lebanese squash.  I have been picking them quite small like this, but now that the courgettes are coming I have left a couple on the plant to grow to full size just to see what they are like.
 Handfuls of Red Rum runner beans at the moment too.  Best picked and eaten when they are still on the smallish size, but if you miss a picking for just one day they run riot!
So I sent off to Mr Amazon for this lovely, metal bean slicer.  Just the ticket!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Healthy Treats

 My beautiful blackberries are just starting to ripen. I have been making a tasty treat in this hot weather.
 Pick a handful and wash thoroughly.
 Put them in a blender with some vanilla ice cream, skimmed milk... and then turn the blender on.
 Blend for just a little while to remove lumps.
Just look at that stunning colour! A healthy-ish milkshake or smoothie brimming with lovely flavour and goodness! cheers!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Week in the Life of a Tomato

 Once upon a time there was a Beefmaster tomato living in Matron's Greenhouse.
 All of a sudden one day the colour changed a little as the tomato was feeling the sunshine on its back and decided to start ripening.
 So each day as the sun shone the tomato gradually started to change colour, a bit more each day.
  The sun continued to shine and the Beefmaster tomato continued to get redder and redder.
 The big tomato in Matron's greenhouse was beautiful and ripe and had started to smell of tomato.
 But hey! what happened overnight? Something had taken a great big nibble from one side of the lovely, ripe tomato. Was it a giant slug?
 Or was it a giant, yellow, four-legged, furry pest?  I wonder....
 So the beautiful, ripe Beefmaster tomato was turned into the most wonderful lunch a person could have. Fresh buffalo mozzarella, home grown basil, salt, black pepper, olive oil and garlic.
There wasn't much left on the plate after it was finished.
In fact there was absolutely nothing left after it was finished. And Matron and the giant, yellow, four-legged, furry pest lived happily ever after.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Red Spider Mite Problems

 I started the season with some lovely, healthy cucumber plants, as the season progressed it was clear that they were not thriving.  This is now obvious that I have a heavy infestation of Red Spider Mites.
 Red Spider mites are tiny tiny sandy coloured mites that live on the underside of leaves and suck the goodness out of it.  Laying eggs and tiny little webs on the underside of the leaves until their numbers just overcome the plant which gradually withers and dies.
 The mites find it difficult to lay their eggs in moist conditions and yet I have misted, sprayed and tried everything this year but to no avail.   This has been a problem for a few years now and I think that these mites overwinter in the greenhouse. Without a really thorough clean of the inside of my greenhouse during the Winter months I think this will continue.
 There is a biological control which can be used if the infestation is caught early in the season.  Using the Red Spider mites natural predators can be a useful way to control numbers but this late in the season there must be millions of the critters.
You can just about see the tiny webs and the even tinier little sandy coloured critters here at the growing point.  I guess there will be no more cucumbers for me this year.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Highs and Lows

 It's nearly all good news on the allotment at the moment.  These little Patty Pan squash are showing their true shape and colour.  I think I will cut them when they are about 2" diameter.
 These lovely Delica squash are just about the size for harvesting.  I think I will pick this one and let it ripen on a sunny rooftop. This will allow other squash developing to put on some size.
 Lots and lots of Beefmaster tomatoes developing outside.  I have cut off some of the lower leaves so that they get some sunlight to ripen properly.
 Lots of these volunteer squash are starting to grow as well. These Queensland Blue squash plants just grew up where I put home made kitchen compost. 
 I might not be medically trained, but I have a feeling that this special variety of chilli are not quite the same as advertised.  I thought I would have a laugh with these seeds labelled Chilli Willy... perhaps any readers with professional qualifications might advise how closely they resemble the said object..
I am thrilled however, with the first of many Apricot Chilli that are starting to ripen.  A lovely mild, fruity chilli to be eaten raw. Awaits the taste test.