Monday 29 December 2014

Harvest Monday - post christmas

So I missed last Monday because I'd picked up the lurgy and didn't do much for a few days. Luckily I started feeling a bit better for Christmas week, and I had a few days off work on holiday too :)

My main seed order came in, which is exciting. I use the Organic Gardening catalogue and get 10% off as a Garden Organic member.

Included are Sturon onion sets:
Colleen early potatoes and Setanta main crop. I've set these out in the greenhouse lean-to (frost-free). The earlies had already started sprouting a bit and I want to make sure I get the right sort of shoots (if you leave them in the dark, they are pale and long, rather than the green leafy shoots in the light)
I picked a bit of coriander from the lean-to.
A small Savoy cabbage and kale for Christmas lunch

Some parsnips for Christmas lunch too. I didn't get a photo of the final meal but it included chestnut roast too (using chestnuts we harvested ourselves from the woods in autumn that I'd kept in the fridge). We also made our own gravy and bread sauce (using herbs from the garden)

On Christmas Eve I went round to friends' houses delivering cards and presents, including jars of my elderberry, apple and clove jelly. I've had good reports on this :).

My first chance to get to the plot for a while, on Sunday for an hour or so, I started a bit of clearing and brought back a few onions.

And today I returned to work (sigh) but it was sunny and I popped to the plot at lunchtime and picked some chard for tea,

And picked a chilli from the houseplant to go with tea too. They're starting to get quite wrinkly! But seem ok.

Zzz feeling a bit pooped after returning to work and with the tail-end of illness. So to end, a not very good but sunny Christmassy photo of my decorated birch twigs! Usually I collect some holly and ivy and make a Christmas wreath but what with being ill I didn't get round to it this year.

Hope you all had a good Christmas and have a great New Year!

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions :)



Monday 15 December 2014

Harvest Monday - a few bits

The cold and wet theme has continued this week. I did get to the plot yesterday and collected up 4 more bags of leaves from nearby. The council had been out during the week sweeping them all up ( I saw them doing it on my lunch break) so thought I'd missed them but then a windy day brought some more along, yippee. I got a few wierd looks but that doesn't bother me!

So harvest wise, I brought a few onions back from the shed (not many left now)

Picked some chard (a bit holey)

And some kale (These are quite small leaves), a tiny bit of broccoli and found a parsnip I'd dropped the other day after digging up a short row. I roasted a few of the 'snips with some potatoes, they were rather tasty :)

And a couple of chillis from the plant I've brought in at home. One went into a curry (with the chard) and the other went into a homemade pizza topping sauce.

So just another quick one from me but nice to be picking a few bits.

Linking in with those hanging in for winter harvests for Harvest Monday hosted by Daphne's Dandelions :)


Monday 8 December 2014

Harvest Monday - parsnips

Unsurprisingly, a bit of a quiet week. Haven't got on the plot very much but I did collect up 4 big bags of leaves for making leaf mould. I could do with some more but ran out of time on Saturday. And then Sunday was a bit cold and rainy so I didn't go down. Of course today, when I was at work, it was lovely and sunny and perfect for a day on the plot, darn.

I popped across during my lunch break though today and dug up some parsnips. Quite a mixture of lengths! This was all the 'snips from one of my little rows. I have another 3 or 4 rows. I sow them in between the rows of broad beans.

I was given another bag of apples this week too from someone at work, which I used to make a big batch of stewed fruit for the freezer yesterday. I'll be giving a jar of preserve as a thanks. The last one (blackberry and red currant jam) went down well.

I roasted my last butternut squash with cashews and flaked almonds (no pics). It was so good, gutted that was my last one. I do still have a couple of large 'orange' squashes and a couple of little ones too but wanted to use up the butternut first as they don't keep so long.

And finally, a little wrinkly chilli pepper that went into scrambled eggs. There's a few more left on the plant but having brought it indoors, the naughty aphids have warmed up too and are going on a rampage.So I don't think it will last that much longer.

Well, that's me for the week!

Linking in with Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions.



Monday 1 December 2014

Harvest Monday - ooh!

Well, this Sunday was....sunny! In the morning at least. So I finally sowed my broad beans (scattered some chicken-poo pellets on the beds and covered with anti- kitty sticks. I'll probably add a bit of compost in spring too). I sowed about 80 seeds. I'll buy some seeds for spring sowing when I put in my seed order soon as well. In spring I'll also sow parsnips between the rows to make best use of the space. The parsnips don't need to get going too much until after the beans have been harvested.

I also cleared out my leaf mould piles (and bagged them up for using in the spring, lovely & crumbly) ready to receive this autumn's leaves. I'll probably head out at the weekend and collect up leaves from where they pile- up near-ish the allotment, hopefully before the council comes round and sweeps them all up.

And I made a start at weeding round my fruit trees and bushes, so the birdies can get at all the non- friendly bugs that might be hiding out in the soil there. I'll not do too much clearing in general though as our soil is v sandy and the nutrients will leach out with the winter rain if the soil is bare. Plus there's so much weeding to do I won't get through it all anyway!

And on to the harvests:

Tasty greens
Some little beet roots (that were where I needed to sow the beans) and a few onions from the shed
I used up a butternut squash (roasted, so tasty but only one left now)

And picked the rest of what was left in my lean-to greenhouse at home, as the cold weather would start to spoil them:

Some basil (and chilli peppers from the plant I brought into the house recently)

And some baby aubergines and sweet peppers! These all went into a ratatouille type thing (which was a tad hot due to the three chillis) with a couple of tins of tomatoes.

The photo is quite a small chopping board, so makes them look bigger than they really were!

And I made another batch of elderberry and apple jelly (8 jars) using the same method as last time except I also added some red currants for extra pectin. I still had to boil it for ages. Maybe the fruit is particularly watery and needed to boil-off a bit first.

So a much more productive week for me. I didn't get chance to dig up any parsnips as it started to rain (yawn, more rain) so maybe I'll get some this week.

Linking in with the good folk for Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions


Monday 24 November 2014

Harvest Monday - frosty and garlicky

We had a really heavy frost last night, thick ice in the puddles this morning. Although quite chilly, today has been sunny, hooray (after a whole weekend of constant rain). Unfortunately I was at work, booo. But I did head to the plot for my lunch break ( I work in walking distance from the plot, very lucky) and it was good to get away from the desk for a while in the Autumn sun.

As I hadn't been down to the plot over the weekend because of the rain, I still haven't sowed my broad beans. But I did get time today to finish sowing my garlic, which felt good. By accident I've done two different planting methods; the first bed I just pushed the cloves into the ground a bit (kind of like onion sets) but by the time I remembered this wasn't deep enough they'd already settled themselves in and were rooting and shooting so I didn't want to disturb them. I think I'll cover them with a bit of compost as they really seem too high and are pushing out of the ground.

The second lot (that I did today), I made a hole by pushing my index finger all the way into the soil (it's so wet, it easily pushes in) and dropped the cloves in and covered them over. They're probably still not as deep as recommended but I worry about them rotting if they're too deep? What do you guys do?

Also today, I moved the chicken wire that my gherkins had grown up to cover over my chard as I spotted signs of pigeons munching on it. That was all I had time for and didn't even get time to pick anything but if the weather's ok tomorrow I'll head over again.

So it's been slim pickings again, just some chard and onions brought back from the plot sometime last week. In terms of eating up stored foods, weve been enjoying gherkins from the fridge, plum chutney, stewed fruit with breakfast and chilli-tomato sauce from the freezer. I also swapped a big jar of gherkins for a jar of our friends' honey, which they produce (well their bees produce) right in the centre of Norwich :)

Here's the chard! Not very exciting.

Here's the honey, much more exciting! It's a very rich and full honey, the main pollen for this batch came from the lime trees that are in their neighbourhood, it's quite aromatic too.

Linking in the with the nice folks for harvest Monday hosted by Daphne's dandelions. Ooh, I've just thought, Daphne's post from last week reminds me that I can start harvesting parsnips now we've had a decent frost. Probably save that for the weekend as its a bit messy to do in my work clothes.

See you next time.


Monday 17 November 2014

Harvest Monday - rain (and elderberry & apple jelly)

Continuing with the autumn theme this week, unfortunately we're not getting crisp November days but instead rather soggy ones. Still not had a frost though.

Thanks to the rain yesterday I didn't get down the plot to sow me broad beans as it started in the morning just as I was about to head out. So I spent some time in the back garden ( in the rain) clearing away the beans etc. Mainly because I wanted to pull the canes out so they didn't rot in the ground over winter.

I did find a few blauhilde beans that seem edible (still crisp when snapped) and also some nice runner beans for saving seed from. There was a gherkin too but I didn't want to risk it being bitter, so just composted it. I cut back a couple of rocket plants to hopefully re-grow in the spring.

Here's the beans with a chilli from the lean to. I've just brought this plant indoors, managed to squeeze it on the shelf with two sweet pepper plants.

This week I picked one of the sweet peppers too:

That's pretty much it in terms of harvests apart from some chard I didn't get a piccie of. I have a small container in my front yard that I put some old tomato compost in and put in three chard seedlings earlier in the year. The yard faces North so they're not going to grow any more this winter but it's handy having them where we can pick a few leaves when I haven't got down the plot.

Using up some stored veggies this week included a yummy curry with roast sqush ( the skin was rock- hard and difficult to cut though but the flesh was delicious), beans from the freezer and fruit from the freezer too.

I made an apple and almond cake (using Shaheen at 'allotment to kitchen's plum cake recipe (which I also made when I had some plums in late summer). It was really good. Didn't get any pics though.

And made elderberry and apple jelly. I had the berries in the freezer from earlier pickings around the neighbourhood. I used up about half of them (3.5 pounds), with the same amount of apples and 1.2 litres of water. I cooked them up one evening til they were soft (and squished them up a bit more too to get the juice out). With the apples you just chop them up to get pectin from the skin and core.

Then I set up my jelly strainer (upturned stool). This is in the morning after. I do squeeze mine to get all the juice ( and risk cloudy jelly).

Mm, juicy (Also bring back memories from the 80s by looking like a member of the red hand gang after squeezing out the juices)

Then heat up slowly to the boil and add lots of sugar (450 grams* to every 600ml liquid). I had 2000ml so used 1500 grams of sugar. (Think I got that right). Hmm, Looking at the photo again, I had about 2200ml so should have used a bit more sugar than that.

*corrected from 4.5 lbs! Thanks to Margaret for spotting my mistake. Not too much of a difference there then, oops.

Then stir the sugar in slowly until it's all dissolved and start bringing to a rapid boil for about 10mins ( or in my case, 40 mins or so! It just would not set so I kept adding lemon juice til I finally got a set)

Tah dah! But not as many jars as I was expecting because It boiled for so long and I lost a lot to evaporation. I've got the same amount of berries in the freezer so might make some more (and lots of apples still) and add some red currants for extra pectin.

As it's hard to get all the jelly out of the pan, I didn't want to waste it and so used the pan to make up a big batch of stewed fruit for the freezer. I also added some scum (bubbly aerated jelly juice) that I'd scooped off the top of the jars being point in wasting it! (But it does make the jars a bit messy, really I should've scooped it off from the pan).

Linking in with the good folk for Harvest Monday hosted by Daphne's dandelions


Monday 10 November 2014

Harvest Monday - brrr

Yup, autumn / winter is here and we've even had the heating on (I always resist this as long as possible!).

I've brought two of my pepper plants in to the house from the lean-to (which is basically a greenhouse stuck on the back of the house). They still have little green peppers just growing through the flowers so thought I'd see if they'll get any bigger. It's nice to have more plants in the house anyway.

I still have in the lean to; some basil, a chilli pepper, two aubergines (with small aubs on) and two more peppers with small fruit on too. I'd like to bring them in to the house as well but don't have the room unfortunately. One day I'd like to build an earth ship with one whole side of the house for growing food!

Earlier in the week, a pepper and some basil -
I got a reasonable picking yesterday from the plot - chard, kale
I also picked a little cabbage, found a potato, brought a couple of onions back from the shed and....found acouple of cucumbers! These were from one I planted quite late, under some enviromesh and forgot about. I was pulling out the plant yesterday and found these! Haven't tried them yet, so they might be too bitter. The little pepper fell off a plant from the lean-to when I moved it inside.
Yesterday I also spent a couple of hours getting the ground ready for planting garlic, I had to cover it over with sticks afterwards to stop the cats and foxes jumping and digging over the beds. Next in line is the broad beans.

This week I've also used up some frozen cubed pumpkin and a batch of frozen pumpkin soup. Tonight we had a yummy tea of fried onion, tomatoes (slowly ripening in the kitchen - they get a bit wrinkly so are better cooked with than in sandwiches), last weeks' courgette, cooked chard plus a couple of eggs all scrambled together on toast, drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar. Mmm, wish I'd taken a pic!

Oh, and yesterday, with the oven on I roasted some potatoes, the chard stems (braised) and some of my hazel nuts (they were awesome! I'll be doing more hazels that way for sure. The skin flakes off as well, leaving just the clean nut).

Linking in with Harvest Monday hosted by Daphne's Dandelions



Monday 3 November 2014

Harvest Monday - a nice surprise

We've been away on hols and I haven't been to the plot for over a week....until today when I popped across from work during my lunch break to see what was happening.....

......lots of weeds and old plants needing to be cleared, plus (drum roll) MORE COURGETTES! It seems crazy, the plants aren't protected and look very worse for wear but as we haven't had a frost yet they're just hanging in. Overall it's been really mild too. Ok, these really must be the last ones. I also brought a few onions back from the shed.

I picked a chilli from the lean to on Sunday, to add to a huge pumpkin soup. Jan's work had several massive pumpkins for a Halloween event, so we brought a couple home (they'd have just been chucked away otherwise).
There was three times this amount of pumpkin, I cubed and froze some of it. In the soup I added my own onion and potatoes, plus some garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger (plus the chilli) and salt and pepper, plus a tin of chick peas.
A bit of yogurt to finish it off.

Today jan brought another one home! Blimey, so I'm currently roasting it in batches, with garlic and cumin seeds for the first two and garlic with rosemary ( from the front yard) in the second. I was surprised the pumpkin lasted since Friday (obv I cut off the skin and inner layer that had been scooped against). The flesh was so thick that there was still a good amount left after cutting off the exposed surfaces.

Linking in with Harvest Monday hosted by Daphne's dandelions