Monday 29 August 2016

Harvest Monday - Summery / summary

We could really do with some rain please...we keep getting rain and storms forecast but then nothing happens...they just seem to pass us by in Norwich. The positive side of this, is that our Bank Holiday / Jan's birthday activities weren't rained-off....including a train trip to Cambridge Botanic Gardens, and a picnic in Eaton Park in Norwich (amazing huge park).
So anyway, I have had to do a bit of watering to keep things ticking over, prioritising plants which need it the most - for example, I've noticed with runner beans, if they're too dry the pods go all withery and/or start filling-out with big beans much too soon. Most of mine have been ok though.
Curcurbits (squashes and cucumbers) are also important to keep well-watered. The yellow patty pans have a delicious flavour, quite different to a courgette (also tasty).
Most of my cucumber plants have had it now...all shrivelled up and producing funny-shaped fruit, like these two at the top. A few fruits are still tasting ok though, but we have to try each end before using, to make sure they're not bitter.
I kept missing this top courgette (hiding under a leaf) but noticed it just before it became too marrowy.
A bouquet of chard...not quite as nice as flowers but the stems are pretty
Having so many beans this week I decided to try fermenting some. After a bit of Internet searching, a ratio of 1tbsp salt dissolved in 500ml water seemed a fairly common proportion used but if anyone has other preferences I'd love to know.
I chose some of the straighter beans, so they'd pack tighter in the jar. Laying the jar sideways first helps with this too, as the beans aren't falling all over each other.
Cut to length so they fit inside the jar ok
They're actually packed in really tight here, some of the beans are a bit shorter and are in shadow
I added some garlic, chilli flakes and black mustard seed too. Various fermenting recipes said to keep jars closed tight but then open them once a day to let the ferment gases escape, so I'm following this advice and will see how it goes. I also made a jar of chopped courgette (with a couple of oak leaves added for the tannin to keep the courgettes crisp), which interestingly seems to be fermenting quicker than the beans. I will probably make some more this coming week so might vary the recipe a bit as an experiment.
This week I've harvested the first sweetcorn, it has a brilliant flavour and doesn't even need butter. (I need to check on the variety, definitely one to grow again). I grew them in four short rows, to make a block shape. The cobs on the downwind side are quite well pollinated, with very few gaps in the kernels. In the pic below we enjoyed some with Jan's cheese and courgette muffins and a concoction of allotment veggies. The muffins were leftover from the picnic...we've had several meals of picnic leftovers combined with veggies. Ooh I should mention an amazing cheese and onion quiche made by our friends with eggs from their own delicious. I reckon the eggs really made a difference.
The tomato harvests have continuted this week. For the picnic we made a big tomato salad with chopped tomatoes, red onion, olive oil, black pepper and balsamic vinegar. The tom/vinegar/oil liquid left in the bottom of the tub after we'd finished the tomatoes made a really good salad dressing too.
The second harvest (picked earlier today) needed a bigger bowl..
Here's a view from our lounge into the lean-to, full of tomatoes and peppers. This was after I'd picked the big bowl of toms so there's not much red on show. Hmm, There is a pepper that looks like it's ripe though.
The blackberries are stil heaving with fruits. I leave the brambles as a boundary down one side of my allotment plot (28 metres-ish), so there are masses to pick from.
I made a couple more apple and blackberry loaves, for the picnic
We've been lucky this week receiving delicious foodie gifts too....home made rhubarb and vanilla jam, rocket pesto, 6 eggs, and two absolutely gorgeous figs.

That's definitely something I aspire own hens and a fig tree, yum.


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


Monday 22 August 2016

Harvest Monday - blackberry and apple loaf

After a long period without much rain we finally had a decent downpour last night, hooray. It was quite windy at times too but there doesn't seem to have been any damage.
This week the harvests have picked up even more, loads of runner beans, courgettes and cucumbers. I haven't photographed them all but you get the idea....
Couldn't resist a little face, hehe
Several batches of beans like this
More self-sown chard too
And kale
I've made a tasty curry (freezing a portion of leftovers)
And a big batch of a more Mediterranean - type thing, with courgettes, tomatoes, red onions, lots of garlic and rosemary. My red onions are teeny, the slugs really attacked the stems, which hindered their growth.
I also added in some kale plus some haricot beans which I cooked-up today in the slow cooker, after soaking them yesterday. Haricots seem to be one of the quickest pulses to cook that I've tried so far (they're quite small).
This week I've harvested the first sweetcorn, it was really good, mmm, didn't even need any butter. On the whole the corn hasn't done too well but we'll get a few cobs.
Onto more fruity things...
First tiny sweet peppers with a pen for scale (I think they're meant to be bigger!)
A crown prince squash from one of my plants plus a spaghetti squash from an allotment neighbour. I'll try roasting the spaghetti squash - I cooked one that way years ago which I think is nicer than when just boiled. I'm not sure how many winter squashes I'll get this year, they sulked for a long time before doing much, so we'll have to see how the next few weeks go weatherwise.
I've had a couple of nice big bowls of tomatoes though
Picked today
I'm continuing to remove lower leaves and thin out ones higher up to let in more light and air..this is the 'after'. I'll remove some more soon too.
From the allotment I've had a few apples including these below. You can see some codling moth damage (and the caterpillars were still inside). There was still a good amount of edible apple though.
(A joke from my childhood "Q: what's worse than finding a maggot in your apple? A: finding half a maggot")
I cut into these apples rather than biting into them and risk finding half a maggot!
These were better. There were a load more windfalls too, which I combined with blackberries, ginger and cinammon, and froze in tubs (after a shuffle round in the freezer to make more room).
I used the peel and (non-maggoty) cores to make a couple of batches of cider vinegar - just add water and a few teaspoons of honey. Mix around, cover with something breathable (I've used kitchen towel), leave for a couple of weeks to bubble and ferment (check occasionally to push any poking-out bits back under the liquid, otherwise they might develop mould), then strain out the liquid and leave it to mature a few weeks or longer (I use old cider vinegar bottles and feel rather good when I see a price sticker still on them, knowing I've just made some for virtually free)
Talking of honey, my friends who have a couple of hives in their back garden in the city gave us a jar from their latest harvest, mmm. By the sounds of it they've had a bit of a nightmare with swarms this year but the honey looks good.
My friend Andrew has a greengage tree on his plot. The fruits all seem to ripen at different times, which means you have to keep checking for windfalls, but they've got quite a nice flavour
I've picked a couple of big tubs of blackberries again (and eaten quite a lot straight from the canes). There are some lovely big plump ones which attract your attention but also when I tried a few tiny ones of a different variety they were super sweet. The smaller ones take longer to pick but it's worth adding a few to the mix. There are so many though, I can't pick them all (well I would if I had more freezer space).
I wanted to use some up in a cakey-thing so a Google search came up with Blackberry and Apple Loaf on BBC Good Food. I simplified the recipe by just using Demerara sugar and didn't bother separating out any of the mix. I also doubled the recipe to make two loaves. Some blackberries get gently mixed in whilst others are popped on top. Oh, also I didn't include any orange zest but it didn't seem to matter.
Turned out nicely!
And it wasn't too sweet either. I gave half a cake to our neighbours, shared some with friends and family, and we ate quite a few slices ourselves, hehe.
We're having a picnic with friends at the weekend so this recipe may come in handy again, especially as there's so many blackberries around at the moment.


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


Monday 15 August 2016

Harvest Monday - hello summer veggies

I've not been doing too badly on the summer veggies so far, but this week they've picked up apace.
At the beginning of the week I was picking a few tomatoes every day or so.
But today I got a lovely bowlful. A few sunny days here and there have really brought them on. I've also been snipping off quite a lot of lower leaves (and even a few higher up ones where the plants have been very congested) to help with air circulation and to let light in.
Back in the kitchen, mmm look good. I'm heading round to a friend's tomorrow so I'll take some with me.
There've been lots of green things (with the occasional splash of colour)
This cucumber is from a plant I have growing in my lean-to at home. The cuke was hiding away and got a bit big but was still quite tasty. Funnily enough the outdoor cukes are doing much better than the indoor one. There's a tomato plant nearby that I think is affecting it, plus the rhubarb plant just outside the window has been shading it.
Allotment cukes
Blackberries have also been on the increase this week, I'm picking a large tub every two or three days (and actually could pick a load more if I went wearing thicker clothes to reach further in)
Of course there's more (and more) courgettes too
And beans
Yesterday I went through harvesting leafy greens too, about 1.5 lbs in the bag
So, using up some of these goodies I've made salads
Frozen some of the beans
Made loads of these mixed veggie meals (adding tomatoes really lifts the dish too)
Frozen the majority of the greens
Oh, and I made a spiced marrow and tomato chutney today. I'd been meaning to make it for the last couple of weeks, so luckily the marrow was still ok. It seemed to take most of the day to make, what with all the chopping and simmering
But the end result was ten jars of (hopefully) tasty chutney. I whizzed it a bit with a stick blender so it's easier to spread in sandwiches. I made a bit of a mess to begin with when I was pouring it into the jars (I use a small glass jug) because I forgot I actually have a funnel which sits nicely in the neck of most jars, doh. They cleaned up ok though.
This coming week I need to try and find some time to do a bit (a lot) of weeding and grass cutting...but it's much more fun just picking things to eat.
Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.