Monday, 18 September 2017

Harvest Monday - blimey big butternut

It's been so rainy here recently that trips to the plot have generally been short and infrequent. But I did decide to bring back my monster green butternut squash (ideally winter squashes are left a bit longer outside in the autumn sun to help them harden-up and store better over winter but the amount of autumn sun is virtually zilch at the moment, and I don't want them to rot with all the damp). So I took my trusty trolley (sadly on its last legs/wheels after more than 10 years...and I rescued it from a skip to begin with anyway, but I digress) and wheeled the squash home, with it poking out the top of the trolley. Here's the beast, over a stone in weight (14lbs 8oz) according to the bathroom scales. It took us a while to find somewhere in the house with a clear background so this is me standing on the this time the squash was getting rather heavy to keep holding, urgh.
And then yesterday I nipped down again after some rainy showers to bring back the second largest one...except I just took it upstairs to weigh and it's actually 16lb, so even bigger (it's shorter but one end is thicker). Here's minxie to give it some scale (some might say she was just pestering me for food but I like to think she was trying to help). The heavier one is the top one. The indentation around the right end is from when a tendril had wrapped around it when the fruit was small, aw. The pale bit on the left end is where it was sat on a bit of hard plastic to keep it off the ground. I'm really curious to cut into these squashes but think the flavour might develop more if I leave them a while longer. In the meantime they're completely in the way of course.
I harvested a few peppers from the lean-to at home this week. The nice ripe red 'lipstick' ones in the middle and some still-green 'quadrato' which started to show signs of damage (not sure from what though...slug?). Oh I've had another bowl of tomatoes too but didn't get a photo. I cleared a lot of the tomato plants yesterday to make room for planting out winter salad seedlings.
Also at home I picked the last of the courgettes (I've now pulled out the plant, which was in the way and the fruits were growing so slowly by now that slugs were damaging them before they got to a decent size). And I was surprised to find a couple of cucumbers hiding in the garden too, I thought the plants had finished. The left hand one is marketmore and the right hand one I forget the name of (burpless something).
In the lean-to I trimmed the top off the basils to promote some fresh growth. If I get round to it I'll make a little pesto with the trimmings. I also have some little basil seedlings that I should bring inside the house as the nights (and sometimes the days) are quite cold for them.
Back down on the plot I noticed a final sweetcorn that I'd missed before - it was on a plant that had blown over in the wind a while back, and was actually quite tasty. Next to it is my last (I think) blue kuri squash to bring home. I have three of these. There are still some other winter squashes to bring back (two more much smaller green butternuts and some gem types) but their stems aren't hard yet (an indication that they're not ripe).
And a real treat - some quinces from a garden I work in. They haven't got a quincy aroma yet, so will sit on the side for a while. I'm not sure if we should have left them on the tree longer but one had already fallen on the ground and rotted, so I picked most of them from the tree, and my friend and I shared them between us (it's her elderly mum's house - just turned 91!). Previously I've made quince cheese and quince jelly but this year I'd like to just use them in a crumble or something (maybe mixed with apple or pear) - anyone cooked with them before?
But that's 'nut' all the harvests this week (Ho Ho). Yes, I picked a few more hazels from the allotment.
They're looking really good so far. I've been through, selecting out the ones which seem to be empty (I.e. Nut is a bit small, doesn't come out of the husk easily, or is a pale colour), and cracked them open to make composting quicker. The rest are ripening in a shallow cardboard box lid, sitting on top of the two big butternut squashes in the kitchen. Yes, the kitchen is feeling rather cramped and messy, nevermind, just think of all the tasty food to come.
Talking of tasty food, yesterday we made a vegetable toad-in-the-hole. You make up the batter mix (in this instance the recipe includes mustard, which is the dark dots in the batter you can see) and partly cook your veggies of choice (everything here home grown except the carrot). Whilst that's happening, heat up the oil in a tray in the oven for ten minutes, then add the batter to the tray (careful of hot oil splashes), add the veggies to the middle of the pan and bake for about 35 mins.
On a completely different subject, a while ago I mentioned that I'd germinated a couple of mango seeds (prise open the seed case with a blunt knife, pop the seeds in compost in a pot, moisten the compost and seal in a plastic bag or similar until you see growth). These two germinated in the lean-to greenhouse over the summer. Well they were looking really healthy but the bigger one started to get spots on it (possibly related to colder temperatures during the day and night?) so I've brought them inside. We'll have to see if I can keep them alive - anyone got any tips?
Thanks for reading this week. I really need to get to the plot and do some weeding if the rain holds off for a little while, it's looking a bit of a state. Anyway, tonight I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Harvest Monday - nuts! And a visit to Henry Moore's House

About an hour after I made last week's blog post live, I went down with a nasty stomach bug, which knocked me out for a few days. Yuk. So I've only made it down to the plot a couple of times this week but that doesn't seem to have impacted the harvests too much, hurray.
In the lean-to at home the tomatoes are still plodding along. I like the subtle stripes on the tigerella variety.
I cooked up a couple of dishes worth of slow-roast tomatoes, with red onion, garlic, and sprinkled with mixed herbs, and at the same time slow-roasted a big courgette sliced lengthways. I cooked at about gas mark 1.5.
The flavour of them both was incredible...I'll be repeating it this week, yum yum.
My first trip to the plot... With the cool weather now set in, I decided to start bringing back any ripe winter squashes. The four pretty white and green striped ones are sweet dumpling, and the greeny-blue one is blue kuri. I lifted some more potatoes as about four nights in a row we'd had homemade potato wedges for tea (using hardly any oil) - nice and easy on the delicate tummy.
I cleared the two winter squash plants in the back garden as well because they were looking rather spent. I'd been hoping for more fruit (one of them didn't have any that set) but got one amazing 'cream of the crop' which weighed about 4lbs, from the healthier plant. It was a bit of squeeze for the plants in the semi-shadey back garden so I'm quite pleased to even get this one fruit.
And I fitted in a couple of hours at the plot this morning - the potatoes are really good, this is just from one plant. The tops of the potatoes are still hanging in there so I'm only harvesting what we need at the moment, and will do a big harvest for storage later. The scale is hard to tell on this photo, those apples are actually really big (and quite sweet). I've just been picking a few, there are more on the dwarf tree, yummy. The courgette is about a foot long. I wasn't expecting more crystal lemon cucumbers but the sad-looking plants produced a few more. The two 'cream of the crop' squashes came from one plant, with one fruit over 2lb and the other about 1.5lb, so actually my back garden plant produced a larger yield overall.
The runner beans in the back garden are still cropping. After a few days of not getting picked, there were some big 'uns. One was really long and straight!
Today on the plot I took a look at the two hazel trees right down the far end, and saw a few clusters of nuts had fallen on the ground, then realised they were falling off when I just knocked the trees too, which I took as an indication they were ready (and I also didn't want to risk them being nabbed by squirrels first....we don't normally get squirrels on the allotment but I think I heard some in the trees of a nearby plot recently... they make a funny sqawky noise a bit like a duck). There are definitely jays around anyway, though I'm not sure if they eat hazels. As well as picking up the fallen ones, I collected any that came off the tree easily with a little twist - a bit like testing when apples are ripe. Some were obviously browner / more ripe than others too, and interestingly these were on the older branches.
I was surprised at the amount but once you start picking them from the tree it's hard to stop (though I was also thinking about having to carry them home along with the squashes and potatoes etc). Well, my back and shoulders just about managed nickname is 'pack-horse Lou' after all. These will need to dry a bit so that I can remove the husks, and then the nuts will need to dry further...that is if there's anything inside the shells (I did quickly crack one open and yay there was a nut but I'll check some more too),
Oh yeah, Here's a pic of one of my green butternut squashes I mentioned in previous posts.
It's rather large and heavy. The stalk is completely rock hard on this one so should be OK to remove from the plant and bring home at some point. I'll have to take the trolley though, there no way I can carry this monster home. There's another three on different plants but this is the biggest I think.
Here's a quick shot down the middle of the plot. The two dwarf apple trees and shed are behind me. Luckily I mowed the grass last weekend before I got ill otherwise it would be a tad long by now. I need to sort out the strawberry beds (bottom left) which have loads of old plants in and self-seeded chard.
To the right just off camera are the two blauhilde wigwams, with more growing up the short bit of fence beyond. I can't be bothered to pick any more of these at the moment so will hopefully get some nice flageolet / haricot style beans instead.
We've had Jan's folks visiting this weekend which has been nice. Yesterday we headed down to see the sculptor Henry Moore's old house / estate in Hertfordshire. It was much further away than our normal excursions but there were four of us in the car so I don't feel too bad about the petrol. It was a lovely place, set in 70 acres, with really interesting exhibits, background to his work, and many of his large pieces set out in the landscape.
The weather was a bit gloomy but it added to the atmosphere...and the sheep were happy
And there happened to be a kitchen garden, a nice surprise.
The leeks were a good size, much bigger than mine.
A bit jealous of the fruit cage too...and there were loads of heavily laden apple trees around the estate.

So back to my veggies, I think this week I'll once again hope to plant out some of the Autumn / winter salady things I sowed recently - they're getting a bit congested in their trays. Maybe I'll sow some more seeds too. And I need to work out a rough planting plan for next year. Ooh and maybe even think about which seeds to buy (I have a list already of replacements that I need). The sweetcorn plants need clearing though at the moment I'll leave them as they're protecting some later growing winter squash plants from the worst of the elements. And I'm sure there's a zillion other things I should be doing but we'll see what the week brings.


Thanks for reading the waffle, 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.


Monday, 4 September 2017

Harvest Monday - early autumn

Well the weather is chillier, and the nights are drawing in, but the harvests continue. Although this week I decided to not pick too much, if I could avoid it. Like the purple French beans...I still had masses left from last week, so only picked a bagful, which I was going to ferment, but in the end gave to some friends who called by - there are plenty more at the plot! I've also decided to leave quite a lot of them to pod-up to use as flageolet beans. In the back garden I picked a load of runner beans to ferment, and didn't get round to that either, so tonight I sliced them up and froze them. This week coming I must do some more fermenting!
I had an exciting harvest, the first (and possibly last) aubergine, from the lean-to at home. The plant was looking rather poorly so I thought it was best to pick it sooner rather than later, even though the fruit was a bit small. Here it is, with a Lipstick sweet pepper. We added them both to a mix of summer veggies.
The tomatoes have slowed a little but there are still lots on the turn. I've carried on snipping off the lowest leaves, to let in light and for air to circulate, and to pinch out any new growth up top. The plants look a bit odd now, as most have got a bare lower half. Also, I hadn't noticed that the tops of a couple of particularly tall plants had flopped over with the weight of fruit and they're now growing at right angles....the stems are a bit thick to try and straighten up, so they'll have to stay like it...they seem fairly happy anyway.
I've had a couple of bowlfuls of lovely sweet eating apples from my friend's plot, which are on trees he grew from pips. He's had enough for himself so I've picked the rest (a lot of windfalls are also being enjoyed by the local wildlife). The majority have a grub in, so I've been processing those into stewed fruit, mixed with berries I'd previously frozen. This makes better use of space in the freezer too, as there are no air gaps in the stewed fruit, which I freeze in tubs. I've used the peel and non-maggoty cores to make cider vinegar - I did this last year too but his time decided not to add honey, so the recipe is literally just the apple scraps plus water. The honey speeds up the ferment, so it will be interesting to see what happens without it (there are already fermenty bubbles).
I've been harvesting kale and chard...I was going to make more chard pesto but that's another thing I haven't gotten round to.
And unsurprisingly the curcurbits have featured regularly, here's a few of them. I won't be getting many more crystal lemon cucumbers, the plants are looking pretty finished.
My sweetcorn is an early variety, and we've had our fill. So I picked all the cobs, to cook and then freeze the kernels. I picked three first, which I processed one evening.
And then picked the rest all at once, which I regretted a bit as there were so many.
But after a session cooking, cooling and then picking off kernels, it didn't seem too bad as the results were several bags ready for the freezer (which is very very full! I need a sort out). Now, I know that it's quicker to cut the kernels off but I'm not very good at that.
I'd boiled up a load of beetroot last week, which we'd been eating sliced in sandwiches. But we just weren't eating through them quick enough, so I made some more beetroot hummus, and froze some in a couple of small jars, as well as leaving enough in the fridge for us to enjoy this week in sarnies.
We were heading to a 1st birthday party this weekend, and with plenty of courgettes still coming out of the plot and back garden, I thought I'd use some up in these lovely crunchy muffins (recipe courtesy of Steff Hafferty - 'no dig' expert). They include carrot and apple, plus plenty of cinnamon (my fave spice), sultanas and pumpkin seeds.
Mmm, they're really yummy, kind of like a breakfast muffin. My only grumble is the amount of washing-up I managed to create.

There's plenty of scope for varying the recipe a bit (e.g different seeds), so worth experimenting.


I'm trying hard to resist harvesting my winter squashes too soon, they need to ripen and cure a bit more. But I'm really curious to see what the massive green variety of butternut squash tastes like. I was given the seeds, so if they don't have a nice flavour I won't bother again. I'll take a photo - I can't believe how huge the fruit is.


Ok that's me for the week, thanks for reading, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.


Monday, 28 August 2017

Harvest Monday - when will it eeeend?

Ha ha, well not that I'm complaining about having lots of veggies, but...we have lots of veggies! Because it's hard to know what the year will bring (weather / pests etc) it's handy to grow spares / just in cases. Also, if you can preserve goodies in some way for enjoying throughout the whole year, the extras come into their own too. Plus it's nice to give extras away to friends and family.
On the harvest front this week, I've had plenty of cucumbers, courgettes and beans. These were from one picking in the back garden earlier in the week. Most of the garden is quite shaded, so the plants tend to be a bit more slow-growing / smaller than at the allotment. It's still amazing to see what can be grown in a small space. The two veggie beds are 'no dig', I just add last year's used tomato compost from the lean-to on top of the beds. There's hardly any weeds and the soil structure doesn't get disturbed, easy. Every year I say to myself not to bother growing courgette there because it's too shady but always stick one in anyway...and this year it had a very slow start but has actually been growing towards the lighter area (and is now blocking the little path through the bed) and I can't avoid treading on it when I pick the beans growing up the fence, but still, I'll leave it in a bit longer as it seems fairly happy and the fruits are not bad. (eeep, a big house spider just ran across the floor..I don't mind spiders too much but those ones are really fast and I don't want it running onto me when I do my stretches on the floor....must get the spider-catcher implement at the ready)
In the lean-to at home, the first sweet peppers have ripened this week. This one is 'lipstick'.
And tonight I've picked a couple of small 'quadrato'. I meant to top-up the pots with fresh compost but didn't get round to it. What with that and the spider-mite issue I don't think the fruits will get too big but there are quite a lot of them, so should get a reasonable crop. I've removed the worst affected mite plant and have started spraying the others with a water / chilli oil concoction (not sure if this is the best thing to use but I had some chilli oil as a gift so thought I may as well try it...if you Internet search spider mites there are lots of different suggestions for natural sprays).
At the allotment, I hadn't been for a few days and on Saturday found this rather large courgette....
...along with lots of other things! I laid them out back at home to get a few pics.
The purple blauhilde beans have been particularly prolific. I could've picked loads of chard and more kale too but thought I probably wouldn't get round to dealing with them, and they'd be better harvested another time.
The courgettes are interesting as they're from two different plants. The bigger plant produces very shiny fruits whereas the smaller plant is more matt. I haven't done a taste comparison yet!
Yesterday I picked a few more bits. I've tried to be more organised this year and actually have some wintery things to plant out (winter purslane etc) so to make some planting space I dug up some potatoes - these are from just two plants, so looks like it could be a good crop.
Minxie was trying to get in on the photo action as well.
Aaaw (those are my runner beans in the background).
The two corns picked Saturday and yesterday were interesting
I've never seen a cob completely full of kernels. This is one of the cobs that I helped pollinate by hand, sprinkling the tassels from the top of the nearby stalks into the top of the cob silks. Seems to have been effective! I'll try and be more thorough amongst all the plants next time
We've been eating the corn straight front the cob plus cut off some kernels to add to dishes like this pasta concoction, including all homegrown veggies of course. Ooh and last night I picked a load of kernels from a cooked cob and popped them in the freezer (I don't have enough freezer space to add the whole cobs).
Tonight Jan made a delicious omelette, using the peppers, some courgette and beans.
Our sandwiches this week have been tasty too, lots of basily, cucumbery, tomatoey mixtures.
And we've made a start on the fermented cucumbers, yum, which I've now moved from the kitchen worktop into the fridge.
Out at Eves Hill Veg Co where I volunteer, the toms in the big polytunnel are heavy with fruit, lovely.
And I spotted one of the trays of seedlings I sowed a couple of weeks back. I think this was one of my trays anyway. Although now I'm not sure!

So, that's me for this week, 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 up to.