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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Golden Jubilee Tomatoes

 Not everything is blighted down on the allotment.  There are still a few lovely Golden Jubilee beefsteak tomatoes ripening now.
 a late ripening variety I have grown for a few years, with a fabulous taste as well as looks.
 There is really only one thing I like to do with beefsteak tomatoes..
 sliced with buffalo mozzarella, garlic vinaigrette and basil (actually parsley here)
Bon apetite!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The National Fruit Collection

It has been a few years since I last visited the National Fruit Collection in Brogdale, Kent.
I found myself there today taking a quick detour from setting up my Blackdog DNA trade stand a few miles away at the Kent County Showground.  Acres and acres of fruit trees, thousands of different varieties.
Just the right time of year for apples, but there are also national collections of nut trees, plums, cherries, pears as well as soft fruit.
A small railway exists around the site to transport picked fruit in boxes into the warehouses and shops.  The real purpose of the site is to research and preserve old varieties from extinction, so the actual production of fruit is secondary here.
and tucked away in a few acres in the corner of the site is the National collection of Quince trees!
Such a beautiful fruit to look at, less common nowadays but lots of different varieties come in all shapes and colours.
and in a corner of the quince orchard was the medlar orchard.  Heaven on earth!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Green Tomato Chutney

 So what do you do with a big tray of green tomatoes that will turn blighty in a few days?
 Green tomato chutney of course.  Chop and sweat 1lb of green tomatoes, 1lb of onions, 1lb of cooking apples with some salt for about 20 minutes.
 Then add 1 pint of malt vinegar, 2lbs brown sugar, 100grams dried fruit, and a selection of whichever spices you like.  I put in cloves, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, 1 whole chilli, ginger powder.. any of those really.
 Gently simmer with the lid off and stir to stop the bottom from burning or sticking.
 I never pay attention to cooking times because you have to wait till it is thick and most of the excess water has evaporated.
 cool slightly and pour into warmed sterilized jars.
 It says to keep for a month to mature.... hell no!
Ready straight away!  Yum!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Dreaded Blight

 Just a few days ago I was eagerly awaiting the ripening of these lovely Golden Jubilee Tomatoes and they looked great.
 I turn my back for just a few days and the signs of tomato blight are obvious.
 The growing season has been so warm recently, that the combination of warmth and moisture for a short period of time can be ideal conditions for blight.  Further details about blight can be found on this useful Blightwatch website.
 The only thing to do is to quickly harvest all the tomatoes whether ripe or not, and carefully pull up and destroy all infected plants.  Home compost is not suitable, this will just spread the disease.  Council green waste is OK because they have hot heaps which will destroy pathogens. 
So now I have a big tray of green tomatoes.  Some will ripen, but most will become blighted soon.  Time to make some green tomato chutney methinks!

Sunday, September 07, 2014


 I cut down my giant Swiss Chard plants this week.  They were about 10 foot tall and had gone to seed.  Just look what happened when I left a few inches of stem in the ground.  I will have fresh leaves all through  Winter now!
 and after picking one of my Queensland Blue squash, a new one has formed at the end of the vine.
 cutting back one half of my mint has forced them into forming new, fresh mint leaves. I left the other half fot the time being because the bees just love the purple mint flowers.
 Again, I picked my Delicata squash a few days ago, and as soon as I did a couple of lovely new squashes appear.  Different hormones and chemicals are produced in a plant when it doesn't have mature fruit to feed. Just think of picking sweet peas.. keep picking and more will be produced. Stop - and they will all go to seed and stop flowering.
This was the courgette plant that had its growing tip eaten off by a slug in April.  4 or 5 different growing points developed in its place!  I've kept this well fed and watered and I now have a giant Black Forest Climbing Courgette! This is just one plant!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Winter Squash

This little squash Delicata is another of my all time favourites.  I have Paula to thank at Petunia's Garden blog to thank for introducing me to this little gem.
Also known as the 'Sweet Potato Squash' this has a wonderful dry, sweet texture and comes in a handy meal size.  It is a good keeper too, I have picked these squash to cure out in the sun for a couple of weeks.  Exposure to the sun and to the elements after picking will harden the skin and allow it to store for longer in the  Winter months.
Elsewhere on the plot my Queensland Blue squash have very different appearances on three different plants from the same seed packet.  The photo above shows these typical square shoulders that are a feature of this variety.
The shape is slightly different on another plant.  Squash are notorious for cross-pollinating with other varieties, I tend to buy packets of seed if I can.. This next one is different as well.
The third plant has produced a silvery squash that looks more like a Crown Prince.  I'm sure they will all be delicious.
Meanwhile back at the garlic chives, the honey bees are just loving these flowers.  I'm definitely going to make an effort to plant more bee-friendly flowers in my veggie garden.
I wonder if this honey is going to taste of garlic?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Matron's Tomato Heaven

 Tomatoes are finally ripening down on the allotment. These Roman beefsteak tomatoes 'Pantano' look wonderful. I think I will pick and taste tomorrow.
 My clear favourite tomato of all time is Sungold. The taste is head and shoulders above anything else. Well worth the extra expense to buy F1 seeds each year.
 A really good do-er for a late beefsteak tomato is Golden Jubilee. These ripen to a glorious yellow and taste wonderful. They look spectacular when sliced on a plate with red beefsteak tomatoes.
 Meanwhile... I am still waiting for these Indigo Rose tomatoes to ripen.  I contacted Suttons Seeds recently when they were taking their time to ripen.  Their reply was to make sure the tomatoes had full sun... Well, I stripped the lower leaves of the plant, they get South facing, full sun all day..
weeks of full sun and they still won't ripen! Apart from growing the vines upside down.. I guess I'll have to wait. I think the skins might get a bit hard by then. Disappointing so far.