Monday, 19 February 2018

Harvest Monday - February - time's a-flying

I had a coldy-flu-cough thing for a few days last week so didn't think I'd have much to write about this week. I was especially annoyed to be stuck inside during some sunny days. But hooray, towards the end of the week and over the weekend the sunshine continued and I spent a happy few hours pottering around on the plot, clearing weeds and laying out homemade compost. I try to disturb the soil as little as possible, so after hoeing off annual weeds I just put the compost on top of the cleared soil, easy peasy. For any perennial weeds (like the dreaded couch grass, which I've mainly got rid of already), I just loosen the soil with a fork and pull the roots out, without turning the soil over. This means that all the fungi highways moving nutrients throughout the soil remain largely undisturbed, the soil structure isn't damaged, the soil doesn't dry out as much and all the wee microscopic organisms can live happily, making a lovely nurturing environment for my veggies to grow nice and strong. 

Talking of which, I harvested more kale, leeks and mizuna this week. I'm really impressed with how well the mizuna does over winter without any protection. One thing I wish I'd checked on though is my purple sprouting some point recently the chickenwire mesh I had them covered with had been blown off by the incredibly strong the local wood pigeons a tasty feast of PSB leaves, darn! So I covered them back over and fingers crossed they grow back again....they should do, plus I don't need that bed for ages so I'm not in a rush to remove the plants.

The last two nights we've had a surprisingly tasty saucepan-meal with the leeks, onion, garlic, kale, French beans (from the freezer), red lentils and tinned tomatoes, with mashed potato. As ever, it tasted better than it looked...

Whilst Jurrasic World was on TV the other night (I do like a dinosaur movie), I thought I'd be productive and crack open the rest of my hazels from the allotment. There's a nice big bowlful, which I'll toast in the oven next time we put it on...I love their flavour, it's so good.

And I figured it was time to use up the stored apples from the shed. Most have kept pretty well, wrapped in newspaper. I chopped these up and cooked with some mixed berries from the freezer - gooseberries, raspberries, black currants, and sweetened with a few spoonfuls of a previous year's elderberry jelly. That's breakfast toppings sorted for a while.

I haven't sown any seeds yet but today I brought in a trayful of compost to warm up....(and covered it with another tray so it doesn't dry out). I'm planning on growing some onions from seed this year, as well as from sets. I'll also start off some tomatoes and peppers in the next few days.  But most crops don't need sowing for at least a month or two so I'm not panicking just at the moment.

After a sunny few days, the weather took a damp turn today. It's off out to Eves Hill Veg Co volunteering tomorrow (community market garden) when apparently the drizzle will continue unfortunately but at least it's not the predicted minus six degrees coming later in the week! 

Thanks for reading, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Harvest Monday (erm...Wednesday) - early February

Well I've been very tardy this week...where has the time gone? So now it's Wednesday but I can just about stretch the old memory back to last week (listening to the cogs whirling).

I had a nice little harvest of kale, leeks and corn salad. Some of the kale plants have started to look like they're bolting a bit so I cut the whole top of these plants off, rather than just harvesting individual leaves. With any luck the stalks left in the ground should put out a few new leaves as spring progresses. Mind you, I still have quite a number of kale plants growing along ok, so we'll not be going short just yet. The leeks are ok too, continuing to bulk-up with the lengthening days. Harvesting alternate leeks where possible gives the ones left behind more space to grow as well. The corn salad is dotted around all over the plot as I let it self seed (it also has really lovely little flowers, so worth leaving some just for that too). 

Over winter I've stored some of the my beetroot from the allotment in the brick shed in the front yard. It's kept quite well but some of the smaller beets had started to go a bit soft. So it was time to cook them all up.

I was using-up some old seeds left over so had a few varieties, including the beautiful chioggia. However! I actually prefer the flavour of the deeper red varieties (controversial). 

Jan made a delicious potato pizza for tea on Saturday (which was a nice surprise to come home to after I'd been out all day). The base is made with potato and flour, which sounds weird but is really nice. Anyway, she used some of the beetroot for the topping, sliced thinly, and some rocket growing in the lean-to greenhouse. Jan, you can definitely make that again (hint hint, if you ever read this).


I also made a salad with roughly chopped beets, corn salad and sprouted lentils. The beets are quite sweet so I didn't bother with a dressing.

The corn salad looks nice when it's washed but beforehand was a bit grubby - all the rain we've had splashes soil up onto the leaves, and the small leaves are a bit fiddly to clean...but they're worth it for tasty fleshy goodness.

The last few photos are of future-food....Autumn-sown broad beans doing ok on the allotment (the sticks were to stop cats using the area as a toilet)

Borlotti bean seeds I saved last year. I actually froze these in a jar for a couple of weeks recently because the previous year when I'd also saved some seed, they got ruined by bean weevils, which emerge from the seed, munching holes everywhere. So popping them in the freezer kills off any beasties that may be lurking inside. It's important to freeze them in a jar because it keeps moisture away from the bean (plus make sure you thaw them out whilst still in the jar too).

And catkins on one of my hazel trees on the allotment, fortunately still hanging in there despite the strong winds of late. I've seen lots of catkins on the floor in other places so am lucky to have these on mine. If you look really really closely you may be able to see the tiny red female flowers on the tips of some branches - I tried to get a close up but they were so small the camera wouldn't focus. Well, hopefully I'll get some hazel nuts later in the autumn anyway, as catkins + flowers = nuts. I've got some still left from last autumn in a tray, they're so nice lightly toasted...mmm a real treat.

It's lucky I hadn't planned to go to the plot today - we woke up to snow on the ground, followed by some chilly rain. Though yesterday at Eves Hill Veg Co (where I volunteer) the snow didn't put us feet got a bit cold though, I need to get better insulated wellies!

Thanks for reading and sorry for the lateness. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted again by Dave from Our Happy Acres. (Thanks go to Michelle at From Seed to Table for hosting last month). 

Monday, 29 January 2018

Harvest Monday

Last night (Monday) I went to a Norfolk Organic Group talk about butterflies (really interesting), but by the time I got home it was getting on a bit for finishing off the blog post, so I'm coming in late again for a Harvest Monday....

This week has been pretty busy with various foody bits n bobs, but not much allotment time. 

We had friends round on Friday night, so Jan made roasted butternut squash pasties again, incorporating some of the last green butternut plus caramelised red onions. We had the pasties with mashed potatoes - the stored potatoes have started to produce shoots due to the intermittent mild weather, so I'll try and use the rest up soon. There were enough pasties for leftovers at the weekend, and we shared one for lunch, with truly delicious salad, freshly harvested from Eves Hill Veg Co (not-for-profit market garden where I volunteer), grown in the polytunnel overwinter.

Earlier in the week we'd been continuing to eat-up my own winter salads....a load of corn salad from the allotment - 

And mizuna, also from the allotment. It seems to do well despite frosts. I'm glad I sowed it back in late summer - I wasn't going to bother as the seed was quite old!

Here's the kale and the 'random brassica' leaves that I harvested last week - the random brassica leaves (unidentified self-sown brassica) are massive compared with the kale. Mind you, I've been harvesting from the kale for months, so they've done pretty well.

Another from last week - a tasty quinoa meal with the green butternut squash and dwarf French beans from the freezer.

Another freezer-inspired meal tonight, using up diced sweet dumpling squash and courgette, with blauhilde beans  (the bean itself rather than the pod) and those mega 'random brassica' leaves. It turned into a bit of a gloop but tasted good, with noodles, onion, garlic, ginger, cumin and turmeric. It's great just grabbing bits from the freezer, already prepped for cooking / heating - quick n easy. I've still got some onions in storage (variety Sturon, grown from sets), so hopefully a few more weeks before we need to buy any.

We've had lots of other home-grown meals too, though they were even less photogenic than the ones above! 

I was back out at Eves Hill today (prepping new salad beds) with other volunteers, so that's the third time in eight days - an extra visit on Saturday for the monthly community day, which despite being soggy had a great turn out. This was followed by a showing of In Our Hands, a film by The Landworkers Alliance about regenerative small farms - well worth a watch if you get the opportunity.

I'm cutting it short again tonight, feeling sleepy, so will say good bye for now, and hopefully have some better photos next week, maybe some of the plot and Eves Hill (which was lovely and sunny today...I need a good session like that for the allotment).

Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted this month by Michelle at From Seed To Table.
PS sorry if any email subscribers received a fairly empty post last night, I'm using a new app and accidentally published it live...oopsie.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Harvest Monday - rainy days

Well, after a couple of days trying to get photos to upload (even buying another blogging app), we've not managed to work out why it's not working, so here is Monday's blog post, sadly lacking any pics.....
It always seems to be rainy on the days I have free so I haven't made it to the allotment much, and I haven't got many photos this week either. I did pop down today briefly to check for wind damage, after the bad weather last Thursday morning (Norwich and Norfolk lost lots of trees, with loads of roads blocked too. We were watching the huge tree in the alley behind our house swaying around at 5.45am - it was a bit worrying but fortunately the tree stayed put, phew). Luckily as I don't have a greenhouse on the allotment, there's not too much that can be damaged, so just a few bits and pieces had blown around. And the shed was still upright so I'll count that all as a win.
I harvested some kale, leaves from the random brassica, corn salad, mizuna and rosemary. I wish all my brassicas did as well as the random. It grew from homemade compost I used as a mulch, so the compost must've had some good nutrients etc in it. In fact, that's on my list of jobs to do - weed the rest of the beds and mulch with compost or leaf mould.

We broke into the last of the green butternut squashes. It's much smaller than the two mega squashes that grew but even so, a meals worth used about a quarter of the squash, so we've still more to go. Jan roasted this with some homemade chilli flakes
We mixed the roasted squash with onion, carrot, mushrooms (not homegrown), and green beans from the freezer. It was nice! And there was enough to last two days so we had leftovers tonight

From storage, I'm also eating up the last of the dessert apples. There's a couple of trays of cookers left as well. And that reminds me, there's a tray of beetroot which needs using up too, the beets are starting to go a bit soft. Apart from that, we've got plenty of fruit and other goodies in the freezer including sweetcorn and courgette.


A couple of interesting items arrived in the mail this week - the diary from My Harvest (for recording allotment visits) and the Organic Gardening Catalogue. So hooray I can now sort out my seed order (that's a job for Weds as I'm volunteering at Eves Hill Veg Co tomorrow), and I must fill in the allotment diary with today's visit.


And excitingly, the little wren has been flitting around again in the lean-to greenhouse at home, picking off tiny insects from plants. I got a really good view of it yesterday, I was standing right at the window with it just a couple of feet away. It's helping with the aphid problem too, so is welcome any time.


That's me for now, thanks for reading. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted this month by Michelle at From Seed to Table.


Monday, 15 January 2018

Harvest Monday - mid January already

In last week's post I mentioned that some of my sweet dumpling squashes had started looking a bit oozy, so I'd roasted them up. Well, not long after, a couple of the blue kuri were going a bit mouldy on the outside - I didn't have time to cook them up, so instead I cubed them for the freezer, ready to use another time.
Whilst I'm on squashes, we used up the final chunk of the mega green squash in some yummy pasties made by Jan, which also included caramalised red onion (grown on the allotment from sets last year). I have one medium sized green squash left, which I'll probably crack into next, and which will then leave just two acorn squashes and three sweet dumplings (that I'll keep a close eye on for any mould developing - well that's my intention anyway, whether that actually happens is another matter!).
I had a couple of hours on the allotment on Friday, before it got too cold. We'd got some cardboard boxes that a nearby supermarket kindly let us take, so I flattened them out and laid them over a couple of my grassy paths (weighed down with bits of wood from my old raised beds), to cut out the light and help kill off the couch grass - I have quite a lot of paths, which take time to manage and also the couch grass creeps in to the beds from them, so I'm gradually getting rid of the smaller ones but keeping a main network through the plot. Mind you, it takes a surprising amount of cardboard, so I'll be making several visits to the supermarket.
I also made some harvests whilst I was at the plot - kale, chard, corn salad and this unidentified brassica. It grew out of some compost I'd used as mulch around a fruit tree, and is a big plant now, and as I'm not sure what it'll develop in to I thought we may as well eat some of the massive leaves.
They've got quite a full flavour, we had some tonight along with the kale as a side dish to home made falafels. It was a bit of a mish-mash meal - literally - mashed potatoes (grown on the allotment), some leftover red cabbage with chestnuts (foraged in autumn), and some gherkins I grew / preserved a few years ago. There are several jars that I'd forgotten about in a kitchen cupboard - they were a bit of an experiment as usually I ferment gherkins, but this time just used cold cider vinegar and spices. They're actually surprisingly good, a bit soft but lovely flavour, sweet and sour despite not adding any sugar.
The corn salad was nice too, a welcome addition to lunchtime sarnies. I tend to pick a few plants at a time and then prep them altogether, keeping the washed leaves in a covered bowl in the fridge - it saves faff each time you want to use them. I'd planned on getting some more from the plot today but it's been too rainy, bah.

I've been hoping to order my seeds for this year but apparently the main catalogue doesn't come out until the end of January - usually I order my seeds in Autumn (from the Organic Gardening Catalogue) so I've been very tardy this season. Still, it's a bit early for me to be sowing anything, so I'm not too worried, apart from whether the seed potatoes I want will be in stock by then. Some people like to start their chilli and onion seeds off around now but that's mainly if they have a heat source and 'grow lights' to support the early seedlings, which otherwise would get leggy in the weak winter light. I usually sow my tomatoes and peppers around mid-February and will try and do the same this year too.


Thanks for reading this week - apologies about the poor photos, the light in the house is not good for evening pics! I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted this month by Michelle at From Seed to Table.


Monday, 8 January 2018

Harvest Monday - a new year

....but first a quick look at the end of 2017, as I had an unplanned gap in blog posts (not for any particular reason, they just didn't happen, and time flies).
So of my friends had a lovely candlelit wedding on the winter solstice. She asked me to bring along a dish for the reception and I thought it would be nice to make it completely from homegrown goodies. I made a winter salad with roasted butternut squash, red onion and garlic plus home-sprouted lentils and boiled beetroot. I'd made loads so there was enough for us to keep some, and it was quite good heated up too.
We were here in Norwich on Christmas Day and whilst needing to use up some bought veggies before heading off to visit family the next day, it was nice to include homegrown goodies too. So in the morning we nipped to the allotment to lift a few leeks for the chestnut pie filling. Funnily enough there was no-one else on the allotments, huh. The chestnuts were ones I'd foraged for in October and previously roasted and frozen, which made things easier. And of course we had roastie potatoes. Jan made the pie pastry top, a lovely buttery flavour, mmm.
Last week I noticed that a few of the sweet dumpling squashes had started to ooze a bit from their skin, so it was a good excuse to cook them up.
The first batch I roasted straight, with just a little oil. I'd ummed and ah'd about how large to cut the pieces, and in the end decided to just cut them along the indentations, which meant they didn't take too long to roast.
For the second batch I added some small onions which I'd brought back from the allotment shed, and also sprinkled a few homemade/grown chilli flakes.
The squashes have a very sweet flavour, so a little chilli kick adds a bit of diversity.
It's been handy having some pre-roasted squash in the fridge, which can just be added to various dishes like this risotto Jan made. We've also had a curried rice dish, one with pasta and one with bulgar wheat.
On Friday I went to the allotment briefly to stock up on a few veggies - the leeks are growing slowly but surely, and by harvesting alternate leeks it means the ones inbetween have more space to grow-on.
I have a couple of dwarf curly kale plants and picked these leaves from one of them (Jan used them in the yummy risotto).
And I have quite a few Nero kale plants, so whilst the leaves aren't huge, if I pick enough of them it makes a reasonable harvest. I try and pick from different plants each time to allow the others to grow-on inbetween. I was also going to pick some mizuna but thought we probably wouldn't use it up quickly so decided to save that for another day. I'm hedging my bets a bit and leaving the mizuna and one kale bed uncovered - the strong winds keeps blowing the covers off, despite weighing them down, and the kale plants are actually getting squashed by the supports, so fingers crossed the pigeons don't decide to have a meal of them.
Back at home I still have winter salad leaves growing in the lean-to greenhouse. Including some lovely sweet rocket -
And juicy winter purslane - it's pretty amazing how well this stuff grows back after each harvest. I have a few pots (using the old tomato compost, complete with tomato plant roots still in situ, probably breaking down and feeding the purslane), so again I can harvest from different plants each time. Hmm I have a quandary though - usually I sow some peas around now to harvest Spring shoots, but all my pots have salad in. Ooh, what to do?

Back down at the allotment, I had a good few hours yesterday in the sun (yes....sun!), mainly pruning a big old buddliea (to encourage new growth) and moving a stack of timber that had been near a couple of my rotational beds, and had been a source of hidey places for slugs, snails and woodlice. I don't use much timber on the plot anymore but it's still handy every now and then, so the stack is now further away from any annual plants. I also want to get on with clearing more of the weedy beds (which actually includes a lot of self-sown rainbow chard) and around the fruit bushes, then spreading compost or leafmould on top. I aim to disturb the soil as little as possible, so in some cases the clearance will just involve snipping the plants off at ground level and leaving the roots to decompose in place. I also want to lay cardboard to kill off some of the grass paths (too much hassle to keep cutting them all, plus the couch grass encroaches from them). So that's my plans for the next couple of months, plus no doubt getting side-tracked by many other things along the way. How about you?


Ooh, one other thing, I've just signed up to My Harvest - a study by Sheffield University into different aspects of allotmenting throughout the year, including how many hours spent there, physical inputs, harvests etc, recorded in a diary. I thought it would help improve my record keeping as at the moment I only really record quantity / timing of seeds sown. They're still looking for participants if anyone else is interested.


Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday, this month kindly hosted by Michelle at From Seed to Table.


Monday, 11 December 2017

Harvest Monday - wintery

I've seen so many photos of lovely snowy scenes over the last couple of days but here in Norwich it's been cold, heavy rain (with a tiny bit of sleet). We're not jealous at all, nuh uh. But it's definitely the weather for warming stews and one morning last week I set up a slow-cooker meal, including a couple of small squashes (cubed), chard and rosemary from the allotment, plus carrots, lentils and a tin of tomatoes. We had it with mashed potato (potatoes stored in the shed). It's nice coming home to a ready-cooked meal, I seem to lose enthusiasm in the evenings at this time of year. And there were enough leftovers for the next day too.
Today I made something similar, using one end of my remaining mega green butternut squash but added curry powder for a bit of spice instead of the rosemary.
The flesh colour isn't as deeply orange as the previous squash but it tasted alright. These squashes do seem to be quite watery though, as you can see with it seeping out after cutting.
And throughout the week we've been continuing to have salad leaves from the lean-to in our sandwiches, like this sweet rocket and winter purslane, plus green lentils which I sprout in a jar on the kitchen windowsill. I sometimes feel like this is a bit samey each week but then remind myself that we're still eating homegrown salad in December, which isn't bad going.
There's a small wood not too far away from us, which we walked down to last week to snip off some bits of holly and ivy - these grow prolifically in the wood so worry not, we're not depriving the local wildlife at all (and we saw a song thrush in a tree on the edge of the wood, which was lovely). So I made us a Christmas wreath for the front door - I have a solid metal ring (which was actually a plant support) that I re-use every year and twist the holly and ivy stems around it...tah dah....

Actually the photo isn't very good, it was at an angle so the wreath doesn't look properly round, but I was rushing to take it during a brief dry moment. Well, it looks a tad uneven too, so I might stick a bit more foliage in if I get round to it. I'll try and get a better photo next time. Maybe with a bit of snow ha.


Oh and some good news is that Norwich Farmshare (who I mentioned the other week) have been successful in their crowdfunding campaign, so can get cracking on developing their new CSA (community supported agriculture) site in the city, hooray.


That's me for the week, I hope you're all getting on okay where you are. I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.


Monday, 4 December 2017

Harvest Monday - surviving the frost

It's been very frosty here in Norwich recently, and we even had sleet and snow the other day. So I haven't been to the allotment much, it's too damp to get on with things like weeding. But I did nip down there this morning to harvest some goodies....first up is the mizuna, which doesn't seem to have minded the frost at all. I have a few plants (sown at home in plugs and planted out in the area I had some maincrop potatoes), so I just harvested the larger outer leaves, leaving the rest to grow on.
The chard doesn't mind frost much either. The stems on these are quite vibrant, nice to brighten up winter dishes.
The Nero kale is also ignoring the frost, with its dark leaves. There seems to be less whitefly around since the temperatures have dropped so that's a bonus too.
I picked a bit of rosemary to make a cleansing tea .....although it's early in the Christmas season I already feel like I'm overdoing the sugary foods (and not being as active because of the weather), so a refreshing tea is very welcome (and very easy - just snip off a couple of inches, pop it in a mug and pour in boiling water, then leave to infuse for a couple of minutes (I find if its left too long the tea has a bitter flavour).
We were going round a friend's to eat the other day, so I decided to take roasted beetroot. I have some beets stored in the front shed but thought it probably best to use up the ones still outside in the backgarden. They roasted up nicely with a few cloves of garlic, yum. I also mixed in a handful of winter purslane leaves from the lean-to (not pictured).
On the puddings side, I already had a tub of stewed fruit in the fridge (blackberry, raspberry, gooseberry and apple mix), which we have on our muesli in the mornings, so I made a cake batter and mixed in a good dollop of the fruit. It created a sort of raspberry ripple effect and was pretty tasty, though the cakes did sink after I took them out the oven. I'm sure there's a scientific reason for that...anyone know? Here they are before baking (I didn't get an after shot).
On a completely different tack, we needed a quick dinner the other day, so had some curried rice and additional veggies from the freezer, including some red pepper for a bit of colour. It ended up being a bit like a risotto, not bad.
Talking of peppers, I used up last week's fresh pepper in sandwiches, along with sweet rocket from the lean-to and homemade chutney.
After eating loads of almonds last week I felt bad for ignoring my hazel nuts, so cracked a load open and toasted them in the oven (when it was on for some other baking too).
The skin flakes off after they've been toasted, which makes them even tastier....mmmm.

Today we made a non-edible harvest...holly and ivy trimmings from a nearby wood, which I'll make into a Christmas wreath - photos to follow. And I have another 'harvest' this week too, if the weather holds out - bagging up a load of lovely well-rotted horse poo to take to the allotment. Not sure which one I'm most excited about (yes let's face it, it's the horse poo).


Thanks for reading, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres. Head over there to see what other people have been harvesting too.