Monday 31 August 2015

Harvest Monday - rain, rain, rain

Look, I'm well ahead of my usual posting time today (normally scraping in at about 11pm). It's bank holiday Monday and I'm here visiting my folks in West Sussex. It's also my sister's 50th, who lives along the coast a bit in Brighton.
It's great here as you've got the South Downs running along on one side, and the sea (English Channel) on the other. Usually my visits are packed with seeing my brothers and zillions of nephews (big family) but most of them are away at the moment, so my mum and I fitted in a short walk through the Downs on Saturday morning before the rain set in. Now, I'm used to walking lots in Norfolk (which isn't flat like everyone thinks) but walking in the hilly Downs definitely gets your legs working! The views are amazing, looking back across the town down to the sea. I took photos but they're trapped on my camera, darn.
Yesterday I headed over to Brighton to see my sister, and a whole gang of us got the train out and went for a much longer walk through the hills, earning our pub lunch at the end (I had falafel burger, which was very good). The expected rain didn't come until very late evening, when there was a storm, but I was back at my folks by then, phew.
Today it's raining.... again. Here's a picture from my folks' house, you can just about see the lower Downs through the rain and cloud. On a clear day you'd see more behind them too.
But on Saturday before the rain It was quite bright. I like looking around my mum's garden at the food she's growing. When I was very little she grew tomatoes in a greenhouse and I can really remember the distinctive smell. They had an old apple tree too and a veggie patch. But as times changed the Greenhouse, apple tree and veggie patch went. Having footballs kicked all over the place wrecking the garden probably didn't help! But in the last few years the foody plants have been creeping back in, I like to think my attempts at growing have encouraged this. We did also go to the 'pick your own' farm quite a lot when we were kids and my mum now takes my nephews there too.
I'm quite jealous of this pear tree she's got in a tub, plus she has a nice plum tree, an apple tree and a big gooseberry bush. She started growing annual veggies like toms and chard but the local fox population like to dig, poo and wee all over the place, which had put her off that, which is a shame. Oh but she does grow runner beans behind the shed - I'm always amazed how well they do considering it must be quite shady there, squeezed between the fence and the shed.
Not ripe yet unfortunately, I'd like to try one!
So back in Norwich the past week has been very rainy too. I haven't been to the plot much, just to pick what's ready and look for slugs etc.
In the lean-to the toms are mostly doing ok but a few have a bit of blossom end rot and a couple were being nibbled by a slug or snail, climbing up the glass at night to reach them. Still it wasn't too bad damage.
But the heavy rain made loads of drips through our leaky lean-to roof.....the extra weight caused one of my tom plants to collapse - the supporting twine broke. I had re-used some twine from last year that was still hanging down from the roof - won't be doing that again! I think if it was new twine if would've been ok. I managed to rescue most of the plant though.

Meals this week have tried to make the most of the summer variety, like this mixed curry thing
And when we've been in a rush, posh beans on toast are handy....fry your veggies of choice a little first and then tip in a tin of baked beans, easy peasey.
On Wednesday, after heavy wind and rain there'd been some more windfall apples - the red ones are eaters and the others are cookers, small but tasty.
I'd popped to the plot in my lunch break from work that day as I hadn't been down for a few days. There weren't any massive marrows but a few little courgettes. The yellow one below and round one from the pic above were given to me by a fellow allotmenter. I had a few little cukes too.
I had Friday off work to get some things done before heading off to my folks, and took a trip to the plot.....Well, more apples had started to fall off and many still on the tree had damage so I reckoned they might rot too much if I left them until after the long weekend.


So I picked the majority of them that came away from the tree easily and left a few on. Then I had the dilemma of what to do with the them all, so chopped them all up and mixed with the blackberries just picked plus more from the freezer to make stewed fruit. There wasn't time for them to cool before I had to leave though, so I had to put them warm into freezer in tubs....not ideal.


I also picked a load of other things which might either get too big over the weekend or would spoil. It was more than I was expecting! We've been eating some of it over the weekend at my folks.

I also had another big bowl of toms - these I put in a double paper bag in the fridge (though I wouldn't normally keep them in the fridge) and brought a whole load to my folks, which have been going down well. My Dad's been eating toasted tomato sandwiches each day, so much nicer than the supermarket ones they buy.
Here's the huge vat of fruit, with some apples done separately (I added cinnamon and ginger to them both) and the toms
I have to go back to work tomorrow so it'll be a surprise pop to the plot afterwards to see what's been happening over the last few days (if it's not raining), maybe my dwarf beans will have got going, ooh. That reminded me, I did pick some runner beans this week too, from the back garden but didn't photo them.
Sorry for the huge post, that's what happens when you have a bit more time on your hands!



Monday 24 August 2015

Harvest Monday - beany

We've had quite a mix of weather this week, Saturday was really warm (we took a bus ride out to North Norfolk, the bus was packed with people going to the beach but we got off at aylsham, a historic market town, and walked across to Blickling, a National Trust property). The walk was quite nice and shady plus there were some tasty blackberries to snack on.
Anyway, since then it's been rainy, rainy rainy, helping my beans grow big and strong (except for when it's also been very windy, battering the leaves and blowing the flowers off!)
Here's my main lot of beans in the back garden, to the left of the bed is a wigwam and to the right they're growing up the fence (using poles and string) I've also got some stray shoots coming out that are twining round the low mesh fence - the same thing happened last year and I got lots of extra beans. I Have some more beans growing up the left fence (not pictured) which are borlotti I think but they're a bit behind these runners.
Lots of flowers (this was before the rain and wind though). This method of supporting the plants is a bit tricky to find the beans as they hide amongst the foliage but I kind of like hunting for them, there's always a surprise when you look from a different angle. If I was growing a bigger quantity I'd probably do something different.
You can see one of the shoots coming out to the bottom left, it'll produce more flowers when the main plant is getting tired. Also amazingly I have one plant from last year that's started growing again (not pictured) as I just cut it off at ground level and left the root in. They're meant to be perennial if the conditions are right but this is the first time it's worked. I'll let you know if I get any beans from it.
A nice crop :)
Goes well with pie and home grown corn (from the allotment)
Also good added to a curry
The rest of this week's harvests - a few windfall apples from one of my dwarf trees.i need to keep an eye on the apples as last year a lot of them rotted on one of the trees before I noticed. These apples have split for some reason (uneven watering?) But tasted good. The cukes are very slow now and the plants look bad but this rain might pick them up.
Friday's harvest - Still getting blackberries though they've slowed a bit. This rain will make them go bad quickly but on some of the branches there's some new berries coming.
From yesterday (Sunday). Though it includes some sloes picked on our walk on Saturday - they were only just ripe but as we wouldn't be going back any time soon it was worth a go. I've put them in the freezer which has the same effect as them going through a frost - splits the skins when they de-frost to let the flavours out into what ever you're making, like sloe vodka or gin. Oh, also a couple of greengages were from the walk (a round variety), hanging over a high wall. Most of them were too high to pick (or already squashed on the road) but we managed a couple - the rest are from the allotment, hanging over the adjacent lane. They were also mainly either squashed on the road or too high up but we used Jan's walking stick to hoik the branches down!
The toms in my lean-to are doing well still
I roasted some more in the oven, with my own garlic and onion. Mmmm, and used a bit of bread to mop round the dishes afterwards, tasty juices.
Jan decided to make gazpacho
So we picked a pepper too. It was funny - shaped as it'd grown squished inbetween two stems. No blemishes though, which was a surprise.
There was quite a lot of it, it's lasted several days! Here's yesterday as a starter (Topped with my own onion and cuke) with the rest all home grown too (except the lettuce and day we'll have chooks, cluck cluck).

So not a bad week, all in all though I really must do some 'proper' work on the allotment....picking blackberries just takes up all the time, in a nice way.

Linking in with Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions



Monday 17 August 2015

Harvest Monday - red and green

One of the many good things about Harvest Monday is it makes you look back at everything you've picked. At this time of year it's always surprising the amount that gets harvested in just one week....
The tomatoes have finally started to get going
Yesterday I removed a lot of the lower leaves to improve air circulation around the plants and to let more light in, which should speed up the ripening more as well
And I picked a few peppers too - they're on the top shelf in the lean-to. I'd been hoping they'd ripen but noticed they'd started going a bit funny so didn't want to risk losing them completely
I'm not a fan of raw green peppers so as I was heating up something in the oven i decided to cook these up too, with a splash of olive oil and crunch of black pepper
The blackberries have been going mad this week again, I have a long bramble hedge down one side of the allotment
And the runner beans from the back garden, weird shaped cukes (which I gather is when they're under stress - it's been very dry), and lookee....a few apples! They're just windfalls but are quite tasty
And some more
Excitingly, the first sweetcorn! I meant to pick some more this weekend but haven't had chance.
My plum tree didn't have any fruits this year so I was pleased to pick a few greengages - one of the allotments has a couple of large trees that overhang the adjacent lane and I noticed a load were on the floor (squashed by cars), so I found a few ripe ones on a low branch - the guy is happy for anyone to help themselves plus they're growing over a public lane anyway.
And aha! Some more plums.....we caught the bus out to the countryside on Saturday for a lovely riverside walk, (though it was a bit too long for Jan, she's been quite tired since then, recovering from the thyroid problem) and, always looking out for free foraging I found a few plum trees, small but quite sweet, nice to just snack on. I could've picked loads more but left them in case anyone else wanted them too (didn't look like any were getting picked though)
Some of the simple meals this week have included - Oven potatoes with veggies softened in goats butter
Noodle soup
Curry with cuke & mint raita and quinoa
Mixed veg with basil and Spelt pasta
And the corn....mmm
The rhubarb in the back garden was getting in the way again
So I mixed it with some of the blackberries to make a flapjack (I was considering making a blackberry cake but went for the flapjack in the end), based on the recipe I used recently (but increased the quantities a bit and used mainly date syrup instead of honey, cause I didn't want to use up all my local honey). The rest of the blackberries are in the freezer, to be made into mixed fruit later.
Some of the buttery muesli oat mix gets put in first, in the base and up the edges
So you can fill in with the fruit mix
Then top with the rest of the muesli mix
The morning after
I took most of it into work (and saved some for us too of course), it was easiest to cut it all up first rather than faff on in the office. A good way to make you popular with your work colleagues.

That's it for the week, linking in with all the folk for Harvest Monday on Daphne's Dandelions