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