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, March 25, 2016

Fruits of the Earth

 Just one more post from the Central Market in Florence, then I will get back to the real world in my own garden.  Just perfect tomatoes are these Costoluto beefsteak tomatoes. This was my lunchtime of choice in Florence, with some fresh buffalo mozzarella, olive ciabatta and a bottle of chianti! Cheers!
 Europeans seem to have a like of slightly under ripe tomatoes. This is something you hardly ever see in the UK.  Cuore di Bue literally refers to the shape Ox heart tomatoes. Another wonderful beefsteak.
 How could I resist Italian salami and prosciutto! I was in heaven!Salami flavoured with fennel, or truffle, paprika or anything you could imagine it was gorgeous!
 Fresh olive bread every day on the market. I never went hungry. Rustic freshly baked ciabatta was on my picnic menu every day, especially dipped in truffle flavoured olive oil.
 Another highlight of my trip was to go out in the  Tuscan countryside about 50 miles from Florence to Savini Tartufi - I went out into the forest to search for truffles!
 Luca (the human) and Bilba (the dog) took me out for a couple of hours hunting for truffles.  Bilba rushed around with her nose to the ground searching for the smell of a buried truffle.  When she found one she started to dig at the ground to alert Luca.  This buried treasure is found about 3 inches below the surface, usually near the root of a tree.
 This time of year the type of truffle is a blanchetto or a small white truffle.  There are different seasons for different types of truffles all year round. We managed to find 6 truffles in a couple of hours. Definitely the highlight of my trip!
apart from the truffle lunch on my return... truffle anti pasti, truffle pasta, truffle desert and truffle chocolate to finish! A true Truffle Experience! 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sicilian Lemons

 Whilst in the Florence fruit and vegetable market I could not help notice these wonderful Sicilian Lemons. 
 Really fresh and wonderfully fragrant I bought a few back home with me.  I am planning to use them to make something special to take advantage of the flavour. Perhaps a bottle of home made Limoncello liqueur, or a special baked lemon pudding.
 But I will also have a go at growing a few little plants from these pips.  But on doing a little research about the best way of germinating lemon pips I came across something amazing and interesting.  Lemon pips are not the same as lemon seeds.

So gently you start at the pointed end of the pip and peel back the outer layer of the pip to uncover the lemon seed.  Germination of these seeds will be much quicker and much more reliable as the outer covering would normally have to rot away and open up to help the seed germinate.  You can see these lemon seeds here.
 So I have potted some up in some seed compost in a heated propagator. Let's see what happens.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Trip to Florence

 Regular readers will know about my passion for visiting markets when travelling around the world.  I have just come back from a short trip to Florence. In Italy there is little separation between growing your own food and eating it!  In fact I was hard pressed to find any supermarket food at all. Everything was fresh and local. Such a pride in displaying their produce it was a joy to see.
The Mercato Centrale is Europe's largest covered food hall opened in 1874.  Built on 2 levels this just had to be one of my priorities. Lunch and evening meal every day was purchased here. Fresh olive bread, fresh mozzarella, beefsteak tomatoes and a bottle of Chianti!
 Many Italian courgettes (known as zucchine) are sold with their flowers still on.  In fact, you can buy the flowers on their own to deep fry in batter.  So many different varieties of each vegetable on sale here, so much choice of fresh food I could not help but salivate!
 Globe artichokes are sold in different sizes, colours and forms, whole like this or smaller and sold with the leaves peeled back, just with the inner hearts.
 This local variety of variegated lettuce was very attractive - in fact I wonder if it was a type of chicory.  I could just love to make a fresh salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Perfecto!
Oh... and there was some art too! ;-)

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Sad News

 Some sad news.  I lost my lovely Leo yesterday.  A perfect gardening companion.
 He was already 11 years old when we rehomed him from Battersea rescue. He had arthritis in his elbows but he had already stolen the hearts of the staff at Battersea. I was lucky to get him.
 His legs were quite stiff and his mobility was not good, but 16 years old is a phenomenal age for a Labrador!  Yesterday morning it was apparent he had a stroke ovenight and was unable to get up.  He went to sleep peacefully after having scoffed a big handful of meaty treats at the vet surgery! Happy Boy!
RIP Sweet Boy. Leo Morris January 2000 - March 2016