Monday 19 December 2016

Harvest Monday - winter harvests (yes there actually are some)

Well, I don't have any harvests as interesting as mushrooms this week but there's been a few bits and bobs.
First though, using up some stored previous harvests, I roasted up a small butternut squash (leaving just one more, along with some other veggies (celeriac, carrot, garlic, not homegrown). I just have one butternut left now, though it's a big 'un.
And whilst the oven was on, roasted some more of the sweet chestnuts we foraged back in November. I sliced them down the middle first, otherwise they'll explooode.
After about 20 - 30 mins or so
I've been using up the little beetroots I cooked last week, they've kept quite well in a bowl in the fridge. I like cheese and beetroot sarnies, with a bit of mustard. (One day I'll make my own mustard just like Dave at Our Happy Acres).
Today I popped to the allotment for an hour or so for a bit of a potter around, and started bagging up some of the piles of couch grass roots I've been weeding out. Normally I just add it to the compost heap and pull out any that's still alive when I sort the compost later but there's so much which has crept into the beds that it needs dealing with separately (it re-grows from even a tiny bit of root). I've got some old black bin liners and have doubled them up, bagging-up the roots to block out the light and hopefully kill them off.
Whilst I was there I lifted a few leeks (not too bad a size), taking alternate plants to allow the others space to bulk up a bit.
I also harvested some more Nero kale, which went into a noodle soup this evening
And I made a first picking of corn salad / lambs lettuce. There are blankets of it in several beds because I just let it seed around. Most of the plants are pretty small but there were some worth picking....very nice to have some fresh salad leaves and hopefully the first of many. One good thing about having such a thick covering of plants is that the soil doesn't splash up onto the leaves when it rains, but it does mean the individual plants will generally be smaller than ones growing on their own with no competition. But, the ones growing close together probably produce as many leaves (if not more) overall.

I'm looking forward to having some of these leaves in sandwiches tomorrow, yum.


That's me for now, thanks for reading and have a great Christmas if I don't hear from you before then :D

I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.


Monday 12 December 2016

Harvest Monday - mushroom update

My seed order arrived this week, yay. I didn't need loads this year, but chose a decent selection, including some new varieties of squash. Onion sets and seed potatoes will arrive later.

I needed to make up a few pounds to get free delivery so thought I'd try a small bag of wool pellets, which are supposed to deter slugs. I lost a lot of seedlings and young plants to slugs this year, so it's worth a shot. I'll use it around my more valuable (in terms of time/energy/cash invested) plants such as squash.
And onto the recap, I was kindly given a mushroom kit for my birthday recently. The kit includes a bag crammed with spent coffee grounds that now have mushroom mycelium (root system) growing through them. Next they just need a bit of moisture to encourage the fruit (the bit we eat) to form.
First, cut along the cross using a knife (There's an outer bag here too, which I removed when I realised it wasn't needed).
Then soak for 12's very buoyant and needs weighing down.
Then drain off the excess water
Pop it back in the box and spray with water twice a day (a nozzle is provided). This was Day 5 (last Monday).
They quickly put on's Day 6
Day 8
Day 9
Day 11 (yesterday)! Now, checking against the photos on the Espresso Mushroom website, we probably should actually have harvested these the day before....I misread the instructions and was waiting for the edges to turn up, but it's the Pink ones which do that.
They're still pretty good though
We picked them yesterday morning (cut the whole lot off at once) and stored them in the fridge until tonight, when I made a curry loosely based on one suggested on the Espresso Mushroom website. My photos don't do it justice really, but in addition to the mushrooms, I also included other home grown veggies - courgette from the freezer and kale picked from the allotment a couple of days ago, plus other bought bits and bobs. The mushrooms have a nice flavour, with a springy texture.
It's suggested you leave the mushroom bag to rest for about 10 days, before starting the process again to get a second crop, and there's even a possibility of a third crop. And after that, as a bonus, the mushroomy coffee grounds can be used as compost, brill. I think there are other brands of kits too, so not sure how they compare, but this one has worked for us nicely. Apparently there's the equivalent of the grounds from 100 espressos in just one of these bags, so it's a great way to re-use them.
Other things happening this try and diversify the winter harvests, I ordered some new alfalfa seeds, along with my main allotment order, to sprout in the kitchen. The seeds are tiny, and after a few hours soaking and draining, only take two or three days before they're ready to eat, yum (plus remember to rinse them with water twice a day too ).
Makes winter sarnies a bit more interesting, here with some baby beetroot I recently brought home from the plot (they weren't actually meant to be baby, they just didn't get very big), plus a homemade hummus and red cabbage slaw (not homegrown unfortunately). I'm sprouting some green lentils too.
At the weekend we had our first Christmassy get together, round a friends....Jan made a roasted butternut squash salad (still two butternuts left!) that included more beetroot and kale, plus carrot, mushrooms, lettuce, chickpeas was very nice and good to have a lighter option, on top of all the tasty Christmas baked treats.
On the allotment this week I spied a few Brussels sprouts which look about ready to pick, so it must really be nearly Christmas! Oh, I have a sneaky addition, I forgot the curly kale I picked this week too....about three times this much, nice lightly steamed and drizzled with cider vinegar.
Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.


Monday 5 December 2016

Harvest Monday, mushrooms and a glean

Whilst I was at a carrot glean on Saturday, Jan made us some tasty falafels, using dried split fava beans as a base, plus our own (small) red onions, some slightly weary-looking mint from the front yard and chillis that were originally in the lean-to but now are in the lounge near the window. (She used a lot more beans than in this photo!).
Yummy. There were even a few lettuce leaves from the lean-to, and a sweet pepper left from last week.
The beans and recipe were from Hodmedod's, a local company selling British-grown pulses and beans, a great company to support.
Jan's look a bit like this I think!
This week I also harvested a few veggies from the allotment....some Brussels sprouts tops, chard and these leeks. They're a bit small but I dib the seedlings out quite late in the season, where I've had early potatoes, to avoid the leek moth caterpillars. Actually I wouldn't have had many leeks at all this year if my allotment neighbour hadn't given me some spare seedlings, 'cause I didn't get very good germination with mine.
For my birthday I was kindly given a grow-your-own mushroom kit, which uses spent coffee ground spores as the growing medium.
You make a cut in the bag (on the already-marked cross), soak it for 12 hours (it needs weighing down), and then spray the opening twice a day. (You get a spray nozzle in the kit too).
After just a few days the 'shrooms are starting to grow, ooh. Should be another week or so before we can start harvesting.
So, on Saturday we had probably the last glean of this season, rescuing organic carrots graded-out mainly because they're not the 'right' size or shape.
I may have climbed to the top of the carrot mountain, hehe.

We saved just under a tonne of carrots (which have gone off to various charities via Fareshare) but only nibbled around the edge of the heap. Blimey. And to end the day, we were treated to a huge skein of pink-footed geese flying over at dusk, heading from the sugar beet fields where they feed, out to The Wash for the night. I've really enjoyed the gleaning this year and hopefully there'll be more opportunities to be involved in the future. If you'd like to get involved in the gleaning network, check out the Feedback website to sign-up.


Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.


Monday 28 November 2016

Harvest Monday..and where did November go?

Well, we're at the end of November....that month has just whizzed past. I've been away at a couple of different places the last two weeks so missed out on the most recent Harvest Monday. BUT I do have a few things to mention this time round

At the weekend I snipped-off most of the peppers remaining in the lean-to....a couple had started to get soft spots so I didn't want to risk losing them all. Some were quite a decent size and it was nice to get a bit of red too.
I also wanted to use up a Crown Prince squash (actually my only Crown Prince squash) as the skin colour had started to fade so I was a bit concerned it might begin to rot. Inside it was fine though, so I removed the skin and cubed the flesh for roasting. It was so sweet...really tasty. The place I normally get my seeds from doesn't seem to have Crown Prince for sale this year so I've ordered Blue Kuri instead.
At the same time as the squash, I roasted some foraged chestnuts too, slicing down the middle so they don't burst. This is a pic before roasting. Ooh, we roasted some of the peppers as well, they were very nice too.
Today I managed to get a few hours in on the allotment, mainly weeding so I could plant out some garlic cloves. I also weeded around the base of two dwarf apple trees so the birds can get at any unwanted beasties in the soil. On the whole I'll try and keep my sandy soil covered over winter though, so the rains don't leach out the nutrients. I'll keep it covered with weeds! I did also harvest a decent amount of Nero kale and self-sown chard. It almost felt like spring out there today because the sun was so warm and the sparrows were chirping away. A little robin came to say hello too. But tonight it's meant to get down to minus 3 or 4, so that's a reminder of things to come this winter.
I used up some of the kale plus a couple of peppers in a scrambled egg dish tonight. Adding the kale right at the end of cooking just lightly wilts it and keeps the lovely dark green colour.
So, it was my birthday recently....the big Four-Oh (something's not right there...I'm sure I'm still late 20s). As you know, I enjoy a nice walk and a bit of nature so we spent the day over at Great Yarmouth, a seaside resort normally heaving with people in summer. At this time of year it's perfect for long walks on the beach, with hardly anyone around...apart from a flock of ringed plovers that were just up on the beach here...
Lovely sandy beach
Nelson's Monument...I hadn't seen it up close before.
Looking towards the harbour
And we fancied a bit more coastal action so spent a few days on the opposite side of Norfolk, at Hunstanton, another seaside resort, which actually faces west, into The Wash. It looks like open sea but Lincolnshire is on the other side, which you can even see on a clear day, and the lights at night. This is the view from our apartment...the beach here is full of tasty morsels for wading birds and we could see oystercatchers, curlews and turnstones without even stepping outside. I miss it! I have lots of photos from lovely walks but they're on my camera so I'll hopefully share some another time. I can definitely recommend an out-of-season trip to the coast though...lovely and quiet, and you don't risk leaving your veggies unattended.

Thanks for reading this week. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.