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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Apples for Free!

 RHS Garden Wisley has had a bumper harvest of apples this year and is inviting visitors to come and ‘forage for free’ in the Orchard and share in the glut of autumn fruit. All members and visitors need to do is bring a bag, turn up between Wednesday 30th October and Sunday 3rd November (10am-4pm) and help themselves for free.  You will have to pay the entrance fee to the garden but RHS Members can enter for free.

The event is a one off chance to take home some of the 600 different cultivars of apples that are grown at Wisley. These include cultivars like Flower of Kent, which grew in Sir Isaac Newton’s garden; Old Pearmain which has been grown in Britain since 1200ad and the Codling, which is mentioned in Shakespeare.
If you happen to be around Surrey from tomorrow till Sunday, then turn up with a bag and fill up!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sunday Lunch

These lovely Delica squashes from Seeds of Italy are wonderful Winter keepers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
 But this one didn't keep, I just had to have it for Sunday lunch yesterday.  This was a trailing squash that I trained to climb up the outside of a shed on a trellis.
Beautiful firm, sweet flesh which went down a treat. I have lots more to enjoy throughout the Winter.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Autumn Colours

 My beautiful Apricot chillis are ripening perfectly in the greenhouse.  These are a very mild chilli with a clean fruity flavour, just like a salad pepper.  A wonderful pale, apricot colour.
 Just a hint of heat at the back of your mouth while eating it, but really, a lovely, lovely salad ingredient.  I will be saving some seed for next year.
 Meanwhile, last week I bought some Quinces from the RHS Wisley Autumn harvest show.
 So yesterday I made some Quince jelly.  Quinces are very high in pectin, so can be used to make a wonderfully fragrant jelly with relatively little cooking.
 Meanwhile back on the patch, I dug up a few roots of Horseradish.  Our heavy clay soil means that lots of these roots are forked and mis-shapen, but I managed to clean a few decent pieces.
 Peel and tidy them up indoors.
and thank heavens for modern technology!  This stuff is lethal if you lean over and inhale.  It is pretty darn painful just being in the vicinity to take a photograph.  So a nice jar full of fresh, home made horseradish sauce is now sitting in the fridge.   So guess what is on the Sunday lunch menu at Matron's house?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Taste of Autumn

 I love this time of year.  I went to the Taste of Autumn festival this week which is on at RHS Wisley from 16th-20th October, so it is still on this weekend if you want to go.
 All sorts of edibles on display.  This Winter Squash caught my eye. Autumn Crown is a F1 hybrid and its parents are Crown Prince and Butternut Squash. With such a pedigree this will be a star.
 I found some Quince on sale too.  I bought a bag of Quince so I think a few will be making their way into an apple pie, and the rest into jelly.
 A local brewery was selling one of their Real Ales called 'Posh Pooch'
 and no trip to Wisley would be complete at this time of year without a stroll through the fruit field.  I love this orchard, it is one of my favourite places in the world.
Free food!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Late Harvest Courgettes

 I am still picking courgettes! in October!  It is still quite mild and although the plants are now getting quite a bit of powdery mildew I am still picking a few.
So here's an idea passed to me from my USA 'cultural Ambassador'
 Slice the courgettes (she calls them Zucchini - but she's American - but that's OK too)
 Coat them with egg and breadcrumbs. At this stage I try to add some flavour with salt, pepper, herbs (she calls them 'erbs' !!)
And fry them. A dipping sauce comes in handy, like sour cream or sweet chilli. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Giant Pumpkin Competition

 Yesterday I went up to the RHS London to visit the Autumn Show.  You might remember this time last year I entered my own giant pumpkin and came a creditable 4th place!
 There were some more serious competitors this year, the 1st and 2nd place went to the Hampshire twins Ian and Stuart Paton.  The winning pumpkin was well over a ton!
 Elsewhere, the RHS fruit specialists were identifying apple varieties.  Next week at the Wisley Taste of Autumn show you can take apples along to be identified.
 These were just a few of the wonderful British apple varieties on show. It has been such a great year for apples!
 Congratulations to the Duke of Devonshire who grew these amazing fruit at his greenhouse at Chatsworth.  These are described as Citrus Imperialis 'Lipo'  known as the Imperial Lemon. Thought to be a cross between a Lemon and a Grapefruit. 
 A wonderful display of chillis too, I'm a bit of a wimp really when it comes to hot chillis and I don't think I will ever have the nerve (stupidity!) to try one of these Dorset Naga chillis!
Here's my entry to the show. Display of assorted Winter Squash with Labrador!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sweet Pickings

 These Beauregard Sweet Potatoes have been growing in a black plastic dustbin all Summer and they have been loving it!
 Beauregard is one of the varieties which grow well in the UK climate, but they still do best when it is really warm and fairly well drained. Well this Summer has been brilliant, and now the top is dying back a bit it is time to dig them up and see what is down there...
 I was amazed at the size of the main tubers near the surface.  No disease or scab at all, beautifully healthy plants with pounds of lovely Sweet Potatoes.
 There were quite a few smaller tubers further down in the soil, about a foot down where the roots had begun to swell into tubers.
 So back in the kitchen I cleaned and weighed them.  Just over 7lbs 7 oz all together!
 So I peeled and steamed a couple of the smaller ones for lunch! Fantastic!
I thought I'd try to grow a few cuttings for next year. They arrive as rooted slips when you buy them from the catalogue in Spring. I wonder if I can keep these on a windowsill during Winter...let's see.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Spice Market, Istanbul

 Visiting markets has to be one of my passions! This was one of the main reasons I chose a trip to Istanbul, to visit the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Market (above).  Istanbul is on the ancient Spice Trail, ships would dock here on the Golden Horn and trade in exotic spices.
 Quite a spectacle here, every kind of spice, nuts, teas, perfumes, fruits and sweets are here.
 Feast your eyes on this Turkish delight.. known here as Lokum. Filled with pistachio nuts, hazelnuts, decorated with rose petals or made with honey and pomegranate. Every delight is here!
 Be careful you know what you are getting though. What they call Turkish saffron is actually bits of marigold flowers, turmeric and maybe a few strands of the real saffron.  It will probably colour your dishes or spice up your rice.. but it ain't the real thing!
 My culinary highlight was outside the spice market on the waters' edge. Balik Ekmek is basically a freshly caught mackerel fillet, chargrilled served in a big hunk of bread with fresh salad! If you are ever in Istanbul, head for the Galata Bridge and get yourself one of these! Yum!
 Outside the spice market is the seed market. Lots and lots of veggie seeds  and sets for sale here. It seems the Turkish are keen on growing their own veggies.
 One curious thing I spotted were these bunches of onions.  It seems as if they start the seeds or sets off then pick them to sell in bunches.. to plant out on your own plot. Rather like buying Wallflowers this time of year.  I suppose they must survive this check in growth, you just buy a small spring onion and plant it to grow in your own patch. Interesting.
Also found lurking in a corner of the pet store next to the fish tank were these leeches! Lovely ;-)

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Grand Bazaar

 Just a little taster from my trip to Istanbul last weekend.  Such a beautiful city, a trip to the Blue Mosque was on the agenda, but the real reason I wanted to go was to haggle in the famous Grand Bazaar.
 This indoor market has over 4000 shops and you can easily get lost in there. Not really a foodie market, but lots of hip and cool stuff from the 1970s such as a silk scarf, a leather pouffe, a water pipe...
 or perhaps treat yourself to a new belly dancing outfit?
 All this shopping really took it out of me so I stopped in the Bazaar for a lovely cup of Turkish coffee and a plate of baklava.  Feeling refreshed I carried on..
 The shopkeepers are tiresome as they try to approach you in conversation, the best thing I found was not to make eye contact and walk straight past.  Not always what you want to do when you enjoy window shopping, but I guess that's what happens here.
 Some of the other locals were very friendly. Stray dogs are everywhere. The authorities give them a health check once a year, they have injections for disease and fleas, then they are given a numbered plastic ear tag and let loose.  They don't bother anyone and they look fit and healthy (leftover kebabs perhaps?)
They say, don't drink the water when you are in Istanbul... but a cooling glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice is just the ticket after a hard days' shopping.  More to follow when I visited the Egyptian Spice Bazaar.