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, July 28, 2017

More Pickings

 One of my favourite courgettes is Romanesco from Seeds of Italy.  It is a really healthy and prolific plant and goes on right till the end of the Season.  I'm picking them daily at the moment.

This Romanesco courgette plant is a good 5 feet across and very healthy.  Early Spring I dug in a good bag of well rotted manure into this small area of soil.  All the veggies growing in this bed and up the South facing brick wall have done well.
 Flower set from my Runner beans has been pretty bad during the dry weather, but these climbing French Beans Blauhilde are always a hit.  Climbing up the wall, between the tomatoes, squash and cucumbers finding their own way on this South Facing jungle wall.  Pretty too!
 Another climbing veg is this climbing Courgette Black Forest.  When you have little space in a courtyard garden, you can fit more in by growing upwards!
 Not such good news on my climbing Cucumber Femspot.  Poor little baby cucumber is covered in green aphids.  Actually this whole plant never looked happy and predators more often get a hold on plants that are not happy in the first place.   I might just cut my losses and get rid of the plant and use the precious space for something else.
 I love these Joe's Long Cayenne Chillis.  Large crops of large red chillis, just from a couple of plants I can grow enough for a year's supply of dried chilli flakes!  Matron is pleased that this one is nearly 12 inches long!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

July Pickings

 I love these Uchiki Kuri squash!  They are small enough to be able to harvest and eat without too much waste.  They are a lovely Winter keeper if you ripen the skins well in Autumn. They taste great!... and they are small enough to climb up a trellis or up a wall.  Here I have my small South facing wall where I climb lots of different veggies together.
 I love trying new varieties, this one is a Delizia cucumber.  Really lovely thin skin and a beautiful texture and flavour.  Quite prolific too!  Growing up against my South facing wall jungle!
 Sungold is my favourite tomato!  The best flavour of all and a really good, strong plant.  Worth the extra money to pay for F1 seeds, but these plants grow up to 10 feet tall if you let them!
 The only down side to Sungold is that they do tend to split if you don't pick them when ripe.  A sudden shower of rain when they are ripe is enough to swell and split the skins.  I do pick them straight away after this because the fruit flies tend to gather around them.
 The Alicante tomatoes are just starting to ripen too.  Growing in planting bags with metal supports for the canes, you can grow tomatoes like this almost anywhere.
The best news of all is that Daisy doesn't seem to like eating tomatoes! So I get them all to myself! Yaay!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

How to Pickle Walnuts - part 3

 The brined walnuts have been drying for a few days now and they have turned dark brown or black.
 The recipe says 4 pints of malt vinegar, but I find the finished product is much too acid for my taste so I would recomment 3 pints of vinegar and 1 pint of water.    Theres 1lb of brown sugar, grated fresh ginger, teaspoon of ground allspice, teaspoon of ground clove, teaspoon cinnamon and I added a tablespoon of molasses just to make it tasty!
 To be honest, the finished article relies almost completely on the spices, vinegar and sugar for flavour so if you want to experiment with other spices then have a go.
 Simmer the walnuts in the vinegar for about 15 minutes.  They will be soft, then you lift them out and pack them into wide mouthed jars.
 Strain the spices out of the vinegar if you like, or leave them in - it is just a matter of taste.  Pour the spiced vinegar over the walnuts and seal the jars. 
I'm going to leave these for a couple of weeks before tasting them, I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show - Part 2

 One of the highlights at Hampton Court was the display from Seeds of Italy.  Here you can see the most wonderful 'Kitchen Garden' - literally a garden in a kitchen!  RHS Awarded Paolo and the team a well deserved Silver Gilt medal for this display.
 Have you ever grown chick peas?  Not so common here in the UK, but I wouldn't mind giving them a go now that I have seen them growing.   Actually you can buy fresh chick peas like this in Asian Supermarkets here in West London, I wonder if I might try growing some from those? hmmmm
 Everything on display was beautifully presented, look at this Chicory on the counter top.
 Here is a great example of companion planting, the nasturtiums are grown with the Cavalo Nero, black kale.  Some pests may be diverted on to the nasturtium leaves and not eat the kale!  In any event, it makes for a wonderful choice of colours here in the kitchen garden.
 Plants on display here in the Seeds of Italy kitchen garden were grown by young adults with autism and other learning disabilities working at a social enterprise in North Yorkshire. 
I just love the selection of seeds from Seeds of Italy.  Really generous packets of seeds, with a mouthwatering range of varieties to try.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Hampton Court Flower Show - Part 1

 I was so thrilled to get a ticket for this years Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.  Particularly this year as edible plants and veggies had such a high profile!  One of the best displays in my mind was from Pennard Plants.  A really lovely variety of different and unusual veggies wonderfully displayed.
 I've tried growing Wasabi in my garden, it is still soldiering on, but this specimen really gives me something to aim for.  Grown for its root which has a really strong horseradish flavour, you can also eat the leaves in a salad.   Wasabi grows in wet, gravel beds in shady conditions in Japan.  I have grown mine in a pot underneath a dripping tap against a North facing wall.  It seems to do OK there.  This is really inspiring, I can't wait for the next Pennard Plants catalogue next year!
 It is always good when you can put on an attractive display in your garden or on your allotment.  These Purple Podded Peas do just that!  Really easy to grow, with attractive purple flowers that the bees just love! 
 Now... the highlight of most people's experience at the Hampton Court Palace Flower show may have been one of the show gardens. NOT ME! - my highlight was to see that Pennard Plants have been bulking up their supply of purple sweet potato slips so that they will be on sale for the first time next year in their Spring 2018 season.   I have fallen in love with this unusual veggie!   If you do a word search at the top of my blog you will see the previous posts I have written about them.  They are amazing!  Go on - give them a try next year! 
And just look at these miniature patio tomatoes!  Inspiring for someone who has very little space to grow a tomato plant on a sunny windowsill, a balcony just in a pot.  This display by Pennard Plants was inspiring for so many reasons!... More to follow!