Monday 27 April 2015

Harvest Monday - more greens and nettle soup

Brr it's turned a bit chilly here overnight, we've even had a few frosts this week. I earthed up my early potatoes yesterday, so they didn't get frost-burn. I hope also that all the strawberry flowers that have come out this week have survived. There's lots of flowers out on the other fruit bushes and my dwarf Apple trees too. Eep

I've started hardening off my squash and sweet corn plants. Luckily because my toms will stay in the lean-to they don't need hardening off.

So I thought I'd have another go at nettle soup, having made it for the first time ever last week. I used some mashed potatoes, carrot and leek from the freezer as the base like last week too.

Defrosting the mash concoction
I collected the nettles fromthe allotment and added them to the pan of potatoes, plus some vegetable stock, onion and garlic. Gloves are essential for handling these leaves!
As with a lot of greens, the leaves really reduce down once cooked
Because the potato was already cooked it only takes a few minutes for the nettle leaves to soften up. Then I whizzed it with a blender stick.
With some goats yogurt, mmm.

So in terms of texture, the nettles remind me a bit of mint leaves. Flavour wise, Jan described it as 'fresh'. I think you could use them with other veggies too and actually thought quinoa might be nice to add, or red lentils to thicken it up a bit.

Other harvests have been:

More kale shoots and purple sprouting broccoli. I thought I'd had the last of the PSB but spotted another plant growing right up against one that had hidden it until I went round the other side of the bed

We had these all with a wholemeal chickpea pie each on Friday night (alas, I did not make the pies!)

We've had a few leaves of corn salad and rocket. The corn salad is from a tub in the lean to, and rocket over-wintered in the back garden.

I've got quite a bit of overwintered chard

This lot went into a cauliflower and butter bean curry again one night

And kidney bean pasta sauce tonight, with plenty of left over overs for lunch the next day from each meal too

I might make nettle soup once more, whilst the leaves are young :)

In naturey news this week I found a huge toad under a pile of recently cut grass (it had moved when I went to take a pic the next day) and I saw a robin feeding it's mate with little grubs collected from where I'd just been working. They must have amazing eyesight to spot these things!

Here's some blueberry flowers to finish off. Hope the frost didn't get them!

Linking in with Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions


Thursday 23 April 2015

A tour around the allotment - part 1

I popped out early on Wednesday morning to do some watering at the allotment before I nipped into the city to get our shopping (by early, I mean 8.10, this is earlier than I'd normally leave for work! I poured my bowl of museli and left it to soak up the milk ready to tuck into when I got home).

So I also took the opportunity to take the iPad and get some piccies for a quick tour round the plot:

The entrance to my plot, hedged on one side, brambles on the other. Just inside on the left are two dwarf apples under-planted with strawbs and herbs that seed around. On the right, is a small lavender run of 3 plants next to the shed (just out of view)

The apple trees, with two strawb beds behind. You can see the mulch of woody bramble prunings round the base of one of the trees, it's working ok
One of the strawb beds, where I've saved up stone from around the plot to use as a mulch. It seems to work well and should keep the soil off the fruits too. I did have to weed a bit this spring though, by pushing the stones aside where the weeds were growing, then moving them back again

The second bed, doesn't look as nice as the first, I don't have enough stones! And has some self seeded chard growing in the middle that I've left for now but will remove once it's started to bolt. It's covered with mesh to stop the pigeons eating it

Next to them, a small bed of early potatoes just coming up. I'll earth-up once, then use grass clippings as mulch. (The snail shell is empty, I checked!)

My little shed, with plum tree to the left. I bought the shed from someone who only had their plot a couple of seasons, then gave it up. A couple of friends helped me move it into my plot, that was a fun experience!

We get really strong winds coming across so last year I started making wind breaks from willow along my right (East) boundary, here under-planted with more transplanted strawbs. Ooh I can see some strawb flowers.

I removed an old strawb bed this winter and in its place have put up a mesh fence (at right angles across that side of the plot). On one side of it I have an onion bed and the other side, main crop potatoes (sticks to keep the cats off) I've sown some peas at the base of the fence though peas don't do that well on my plot, as its very dry and sandy. I'd weeded the onion bed the day before and left the weeds on top of the soil to dry up and die and act as a mulch too
Close-up of the plum tree, with new strawbs underneath (from old runners) and self seeded chard I transplanted in too. Netting to stop the pidgies.
Plum flowers - only three on the whole tree - pretty though.
View down one side of the plot from the plum tree -my plot goes down to the higher trees at the end but then there's a garden with a hedge. I'm standing in the spot where my green house will go when I get round to putting it up (it's been several years now of keep moving the bits around, and more glass keeps breaking (now stored under the plastic and cardboard on the left)
Looking back up to the shed, Autumn-sown broad beans (attacked by pea / bean weevil, scalloping out the leaves). Another small bed of onions on the right. Beyond the broad beans is a bed of main crop potatoes, and next to that, two with weeds!
Summer Raspberry canes, tied in to wire. My posts aren't tall enough though and I have to put in individual tall sticks to support some canes, otherwise the canes flop over and it's hard to see the fruit. I've since finished weeding around the base of these (evil couch grass that gets all in the root system of the rasps). I'm mulching with leaf mould ( that the blackbirds love to swoosh around in, looking for things to eat).
Then behind where I'm standing in the piccie above, is more fruit - large red currant in the middle, gooseberry to the left and black currant to the right (there's actually 3 black currants, with the bramble mulch like the apple tree up the top). I've cut the grass since then too! I'll use the grass as mulch for my potatoes
Here's the black currants, they're different sizes because I cut them down fully on alternate years to re-fresh the growth. The one at the back will be cut down completely after fruiting this year. I'll actually then take the branches home, full of fruit, as it's easier to pick it off there.
My little Saskatoon fruit bush, neglected right at the end of the plot. Poor thing!

And finally for this side of the plot, my three compost bays, next to the rasp bed. I'm in the middle of using up the middle one and then will fill it up with stuff which is lain around the plot in piles at the moment.

Oh go on, one more, a nicer one to end with, one of my dwarf apple trees, near the Saskatoon and the redcurrant

Well, I could've rambled on even more but I'll leave it until Part 2 of the allotment tour! I hope you enjoyed seeing it at last!


Monday 20 April 2015

Harvest Monday - nettle soup and a touch of colour

It's been quite a sunny week but windy at times. I haven't had too much time at the plot but have been chipping away a little bit at all the things that need doing (a looong list). Good news is I've spotted quite a few berry flowers - gooseberries, redcurrants and black currants. It's not looking promising on the plum front with only 3 flowers though!

Looking back, I've picked quite a lot this week:

Perpetual spinach from the plot, that I had under a small plastic tunnel. This is from one plant, which has really come back to life

I added it to a cauliflower & butter bean curry
Tonight I picked some chard from a small tub in the front yard and some purple sprouting broccoli yesterday from the plot. That's all the PSB for now but some more might come if I'm able to leave the plants in for long enough before needing to plant the next crop in that bed:
I've picked mint a few times from a tub in the front yard too, nice in a lemony drink (simply lemon juice and water)
The less-glamorous tub of mint (the tub's getting quite old, I made it from scrap wood years ago)
Some rocket that overwintered in the back garden
My splash of colour : Overwintered rainbow chard (hooray) from the plot
Some curly kale re-shoots. I cut the top off the plant and picked all the side leaves a while back and this is the re-growth
I was especially pleased as I managed to make a funny face :D
Some lambs lettuce (the green leaves) from the last ones left on the plot. I can't remember when I picked this but it took a few meals to get through it because I picked a whole load at once as it was startling to bolt and the stems were getting tougher. I've left a couple of plants to go to flower and to seed around for more plants this year or next. We had a chopped up home-grown gherkin too.
Nettle soup
Ive never made this before but thought I'd have a go as the small nettle patch on my plot had some nice leaves growing.
So the recipe I looked up in my book Wild Food by Roger Phillips was basically: onion, garlic, stock, cream, nettles (2 gloved handfuls).
For the potatoes I defrosted some home grown ones that I mashed recently, with some carrot and leek
The washed nettles - I had to keep stopping myself swoosh them around with bare hands. A glove is essential for picking and washing these!
I held the End of the stems (without gloves, ooh risky) and snipped the leaves off straight into the pan
It didn't take too long, because the potatoes were already cooked, just a few minutes really. I whizzed it up and added a swirl of goats yogurt instead of cream (as that's what was in the fridge).

All I can say is YUM! I might make this again tomorrow :)

Linking in to Daphne's Dandelions for Harvest Monday