Monday 31 October 2016

Harvest Monday, foraging and a glean

After being away for a few days, I've had a very foodie week. I got back to find a couple of ripe tomatoes and a little cucumber in the lean-to. The tomatoes are in a tray, ripening slowly.
There were a couple of ripe peppers ready too.
On the allotment there were a couple of teeny courgettes and a handful of beans. I spotted some in the back garden aswell today but forgot to pick them.
I helped in my friend's mum's garden again this week and came away with some very tasty eating apples. The skin is a bit rough in places but the flavour is lovely.
On Friday I helped chop veggies with Norwich Foodcycle, in readiness for the Norwich Pumpkin Rescue event on Saturday in the city centre....the aim being to encourage people to cook-up their pumpkins, not just carve them up and chuck away the innards. A couple of local supermarkets had donated some spare pumpkins, potatoes, onions, garlic, celery etc, which we chopped-up into a humongous soup (four massive pans on the go) which was being given away free the next day. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of that but it was fun to be involved in mass catering for the morning. I didn't get chance to taste the soup either but it smelled lovely.
Then on Saturday I helped at another glean with Feedback (rescuing crops that the farmer doesn't want, which then get distributed to various homeless shelters etc). It was carrots this time....take a look at the huge pile of carrots that didn't meet the grade (but that we could dib into). Some were a bit manky (had a virus or something) but lots of them were just slightly bent or even just too big.
There were also carrots throughout the field which the machinery had missed or dropped. It's like hunting for treasure.
We got two pallet loads...not bad for just four people. Next up is an apple glean that I'm looking forward to. The farm is nearer to Norwich so hopefully more people will be able to make it.
Here's our co-ordinator Jannine with one of the graded-out carrots.... how cute is it?
Yesterday, Jan and I got the bus out to a village just outside Norwich to go chestnutting (Not sure if that's actually a word but anyway...). Seems like it's a really good year for chestnuts, wow there were some big ones. I think we were a bit late last year, and there weren't many left, so I'll have to make a mental note that the end of October is prime chestnut season.
We walked back into the city along Marriott's Way disused railway, like last year too. It was a gorgeous day.
And finally, today I picked another couple of peppers from the lean-to, plus a chilli from inside.
The chilli went into some cauliflower fritters and we had one of the peppers raw on the side, along with a homemade slaw. The pepper turned out to have a hot / sweet combo like one a few weeks ago..odd! It's a Quadrato variety which is meant to just be sweet. We ended up having a blob of plain yogurt on the side too, to help counteract the hotness.
Oh I forgot....finally finally, tonight I went to a talk organised by the Norfolk Organic Growers, given by one of the founders of Hodmedod's British grown pulses and grains. The business developed after it was identified that in Britain we hardly grow any of our own pulses anymore, even though we used to and the climate is good for it (apparently it went out of fashion as they were associated as peasant food). So these guys are bringing it back in fashion, and have been doing it in an ethical and sustainable manner, developing relationships with farmers and encouraging them to diversify into organic pulses ....brilliant.

I actually used to buy their products a few years back and didn't realise I was supporting their early adventures into the world of pulses. They've come a really long way by the sounds of it, so I'll look out for their new lines. There were a few free recipe cards too...the dishes look really good, mmm.


Okay, that's me for now, thanks for reading. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday 17 October 2016

Harvest Monday - still hanging in there

Out in the glass lean-to attached to the back of our house, some of the summer fruits are still ripening away. I finally got round to harvesting the few aubergines, plus a few peppers (some red, and some green). A couple of the green peppers had dodgy spots starting to develop, so it was best to just pick them and use them up. Hopefully some of the others still on the plants will continue to turn red (I much prefer the flavour of red to green peppers). We'll have to see though, because at this time of year, even though the lean-to faces South, a large evergreen tree in the alley behind our house blocks out the lowering sun.
Down on the allotment I picked some more Nero kale and self-sown chard. I still haven't covered them over to protect from pigeons though. Hopefully I won't regret my tardiness!
I also found possibly the last summer squashes, though there is a chance of some really weany ones if we don't get a frost soon. The white custard marrow is protected on three sides by a low barrier of (safe) broken greenhouse glass that I put around it when planting out, so that might keep it going a bit longer too.
I harvested the remaining apples on one of my dwarf trees...I can't remember the variety but have it written somewhere (at one point there was a tag on the tree but that went missing ages ago). They're crunchy and have quite a sweet flavour. Some of the apples are rather small which probably means I should have thinned them out earlier in the year.
They fill up a bowl nicely though. There's a bit of damage from snails and other beasties.
This week I sorted out my previously dug-up potatoes, which had been sitting in a sack in the kitchen. I sorted them into three piles - the best (for storage), ones with holes (possibly slug damage) and ones starting to sprout, which both need using up asap. We went to use up the ones with holes in and unfortunately, even though in most cases there was only one or two small holes, the whole tuber was riddled inside with damage. Darn. It's not surprising....there have been loads of slugs this year and I bet they loved it under the mulch covering the potatoes.
Meals this week have included an omelette with courgettes, beans, chard and peppers. (I still have beans from last week).
A raw kale salad, with pepper and pumpkin seeds, drizzled with homemade cider vinegar.

It went nicely with some of the last few tomatoes, home-sprouted beans and homemade red cabbage coleslaw (not home grown unfortunately).

I've made the spiced apple cake again (third time recently, it's a nice cake!) and also made two big pots of spicy stew with loads of veg chucked in. We had friends round and that kind of meal is always an easy-ish tasty just mainly involves chopping veggies, which I like. Today we had leftovers, which I added noodles to, as a change from potatoes. I like the noodles because you can just add them raw in to the leftovers, add some more water to the pot, stick on the lid and let them cook away for a few minutes. Easy peasy and no extra washing up.


So I still need to work out my crop rotation, check out what seeds to order this year and get chopping away on the allotment. I did a bit of grass cutting this week, which feels good. But some paths I only recently cut already need another trim...the darned stuff just keeps growing. At least it's more to add to the compost heap.


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


Monday 10 October 2016

Harvest Monday - and a canoe trip

I've had a pleasantly surprising amount of harvests this week, considering the turn in weather (cold and rainy)....there's been another cucumber in the lean-to:
A few more tomatoes (also in the lean-to)...
Peppers from the lean-to and beans from the back garden (the purple French beans were a big surprise, hiding under some leaves)
A big bunch of chard from the allotment, with lots more to come
Some more summer squashes being slowly squeezed out, plus some beans
And a big bunch of Nero kale. Again there's still quite a bit more of this, which I should protect soon from the pigeons over winter (same for the chard).... Just need a dry day to do some more path cutting around them before I lay out the enviromesh.
I thought kale and butternut squash would go well together (using up my split butternut squash first) and found a nice looking stew recipe online.
The split hadn't affected the inside of the squash at all, hurrah
I would recommend the recipe, a delicious one-pot dish full of lovely spicy flavours (smoked paprika, chilli flakes, cumin, coriander). I added in turmeric as well.

A few toasted flaked almonds on top added some nice crunch.

I made another spiced apple cake this week too (using less than half the sugar, and room temp goats butter instead of oil).
I took half the cake round to a friend's house today, leaving us with the other smells amazing..mmm
Canoe trip from Norwich
It was Jan's birthday recently and some of our friends kindly gave her a voucher for a two-person canoe trip (which meant I could enjoy it too, yes). There's a firm called Pub and collect the canoe from one pub and then paddle up and down the river (stopping off at other pubs if you wish). We had a four hour session booked, which ended up as about 3 hours of paddling and an hour at a pub for lunch.
Because we went out on a Friday and it was slightly off-season there wasn't much other river traffic around, phew. Especially as to begin with we weren't very good at paddling in a straight line, oops.
It was lovely though, seeing things from a different angle (Cow Tower in the pic below) and exploring parts of the close-by countryside from the water. We saw two kingfishers fly by aswell, brill. And didn't fall in the water, double-brill.
Once we'd returned the canoe we had a little walk by the river too, and made friends with some ruddy darter (I think) dragonflies, he hee. They liked the warmth of our skin.
So back to the veggies, in the next few days I'll be looking at what'll go where this coming year (crop rotation), particularly for the autumn sown broad beans and garlic that need to go in soon. I used to plant out autumn onion sets as well, but they don't do too well for me, so now I just plant out sets in the spring. Ooh, it almost feels like spring is on the way...just got autumn and winter first (hopefully with some more harvests throughout).

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



Monday 3 October 2016

Harvest Monday and a glean

We've had a lovely sunny autumn day today....hopefully this is a trend for the rest of October (bit of wishful thinking there but you never know). The evenings are chilly, but that's what I like about this time of year, it's nice to start wrapping up. I've actually got socks on for the first time in months, gasp.
I've had a steady trickle of harvests this week...the summer crops are hanging on in there. We were also lucky enough to be given 10 eggs from our friends who've recently got some new hens....they're good layers (the hens that is, not my friends).
Yesterday I spotted some quite long beans in the back garden
And got a decent harvest from a quick trip to the plot too
Plus some reasonable toms from the lean-to today. It was quite warm in there with the sun out.
I've made this spiced apple cake a couple of times this week, with apples from my allotment (and in the second cake I used the gifted eggs). The recipe uses two cups of sugar, but that's way too sweet, so I actually use just-under one cup. I also replace the oil with room temperature butter, which is soft enough to mix in ok.
I didn't have chance to take any nice pictures of it dished out, but got good reports from everybody who had a slice. I expect I'll be making more because lucky me, I got this huge bag of apples this afternoon after helping in a friend's garden...
I volunteered at another gleaning day this weekend, returning to the organic farm in west Norfolk. There were only seven of us but we harvested masses of food.
Broccoli / calabrese field
Big ol' field - looking back the other direction
You can see the stumps where the farm workers had already been through harvesting the main crop. We were getting the smaller heads that had been left behind, but still lovely veggies. It's quite fun spotting the heads, in a sea of leaves. There must've been about 30-40 trays worth that we found.
We also harvested about 70 trays of caulis...some were too small for the farmer to harvest, or they had a slight discoloration or a spot or two of black, but nothing that couldn't be easily cut out.

The morning was beautifully sunny but then rain set in, so the afternoon turned out rather soggy, harvesting trays of Savoy cabbage and onions. Still good fun though. Goodness knows how much we saved from being wasted but it was several van loads altogether over the course of the day....and once again we could've harvested more if there'd been more of us. But word is getting round, with new people taking part each time. Hopefully I can make the next one, in a couple of weeks. The gleaning days are organised by Feedback and the food is distributed by FareShare, do get involved if you can.


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