Monday 29 January 2018

Harvest Monday

Last night (Monday) I went to a Norfolk Organic Group talk about butterflies (really interesting), but by the time I got home it was getting on a bit for finishing off the blog post, so I'm coming in late again for a Harvest Monday....

This week has been pretty busy with various foody bits n bobs, but not much allotment time. 

We had friends round on Friday night, so Jan made roasted butternut squash pasties again, incorporating some of the last green butternut plus caramelised red onions. We had the pasties with mashed potatoes - the stored potatoes have started to produce shoots due to the intermittent mild weather, so I'll try and use the rest up soon. There were enough pasties for leftovers at the weekend, and we shared one for lunch, with truly delicious salad, freshly harvested from Eves Hill Veg Co (not-for-profit market garden where I volunteer), grown in the polytunnel overwinter.

Earlier in the week we'd been continuing to eat-up my own winter salads....a load of corn salad from the allotment - 

And mizuna, also from the allotment. It seems to do well despite frosts. I'm glad I sowed it back in late summer - I wasn't going to bother as the seed was quite old!

Here's the kale and the 'random brassica' leaves that I harvested last week - the random brassica leaves (unidentified self-sown brassica) are massive compared with the kale. Mind you, I've been harvesting from the kale for months, so they've done pretty well.

Another from last week - a tasty quinoa meal with the green butternut squash and dwarf French beans from the freezer.

Another freezer-inspired meal tonight, using up diced sweet dumpling squash and courgette, with blauhilde beans  (the bean itself rather than the pod) and those mega 'random brassica' leaves. It turned into a bit of a gloop but tasted good, with noodles, onion, garlic, ginger, cumin and turmeric. It's great just grabbing bits from the freezer, already prepped for cooking / heating - quick n easy. I've still got some onions in storage (variety Sturon, grown from sets), so hopefully a few more weeks before we need to buy any.

We've had lots of other home-grown meals too, though they were even less photogenic than the ones above! 

I was back out at Eves Hill today (prepping new salad beds) with other volunteers, so that's the third time in eight days - an extra visit on Saturday for the monthly community day, which despite being soggy had a great turn out. This was followed by a showing of In Our Hands, a film by The Landworkers Alliance about regenerative small farms - well worth a watch if you get the opportunity.

I'm cutting it short again tonight, feeling sleepy, so will say good bye for now, and hopefully have some better photos next week, maybe some of the plot and Eves Hill (which was lovely and sunny today...I need a good session like that for the allotment).

Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted this month by Michelle at From Seed To Table.
PS sorry if any email subscribers received a fairly empty post last night, I'm using a new app and accidentally published it live...oopsie.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Harvest Monday - rainy days

Well, after a couple of days trying to get photos to upload (even buying another blogging app), we've not managed to work out why it's not working, so here is Monday's blog post, sadly lacking any pics.....
It always seems to be rainy on the days I have free so I haven't made it to the allotment much, and I haven't got many photos this week either. I did pop down today briefly to check for wind damage, after the bad weather last Thursday morning (Norwich and Norfolk lost lots of trees, with loads of roads blocked too. We were watching the huge tree in the alley behind our house swaying around at 5.45am - it was a bit worrying but fortunately the tree stayed put, phew). Luckily as I don't have a greenhouse on the allotment, there's not too much that can be damaged, so just a few bits and pieces had blown around. And the shed was still upright so I'll count that all as a win.
I harvested some kale, leaves from the random brassica, corn salad, mizuna and rosemary. I wish all my brassicas did as well as the random. It grew from homemade compost I used as a mulch, so the compost must've had some good nutrients etc in it. In fact, that's on my list of jobs to do - weed the rest of the beds and mulch with compost or leaf mould.

We broke into the last of the green butternut squashes. It's much smaller than the two mega squashes that grew but even so, a meals worth used about a quarter of the squash, so we've still more to go. Jan roasted this with some homemade chilli flakes
We mixed the roasted squash with onion, carrot, mushrooms (not homegrown), and green beans from the freezer. It was nice! And there was enough to last two days so we had leftovers tonight

From storage, I'm also eating up the last of the dessert apples. There's a couple of trays of cookers left as well. And that reminds me, there's a tray of beetroot which needs using up too, the beets are starting to go a bit soft. Apart from that, we've got plenty of fruit and other goodies in the freezer including sweetcorn and courgette.


A couple of interesting items arrived in the mail this week - the diary from My Harvest (for recording allotment visits) and the Organic Gardening Catalogue. So hooray I can now sort out my seed order (that's a job for Weds as I'm volunteering at Eves Hill Veg Co tomorrow), and I must fill in the allotment diary with today's visit.


And excitingly, the little wren has been flitting around again in the lean-to greenhouse at home, picking off tiny insects from plants. I got a really good view of it yesterday, I was standing right at the window with it just a couple of feet away. It's helping with the aphid problem too, so is welcome any time.


That's me for now, thanks for reading. I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted this month by Michelle at From Seed to Table.


Monday 15 January 2018

Harvest Monday - mid January already

In last week's post I mentioned that some of my sweet dumpling squashes had started looking a bit oozy, so I'd roasted them up. Well, not long after, a couple of the blue kuri were going a bit mouldy on the outside - I didn't have time to cook them up, so instead I cubed them for the freezer, ready to use another time.
Whilst I'm on squashes, we used up the final chunk of the mega green squash in some yummy pasties made by Jan, which also included caramalised red onion (grown on the allotment from sets last year). I have one medium sized green squash left, which I'll probably crack into next, and which will then leave just two acorn squashes and three sweet dumplings (that I'll keep a close eye on for any mould developing - well that's my intention anyway, whether that actually happens is another matter!).
I had a couple of hours on the allotment on Friday, before it got too cold. We'd got some cardboard boxes that a nearby supermarket kindly let us take, so I flattened them out and laid them over a couple of my grassy paths (weighed down with bits of wood from my old raised beds), to cut out the light and help kill off the couch grass - I have quite a lot of paths, which take time to manage and also the couch grass creeps in to the beds from them, so I'm gradually getting rid of the smaller ones but keeping a main network through the plot. Mind you, it takes a surprising amount of cardboard, so I'll be making several visits to the supermarket.
I also made some harvests whilst I was at the plot - kale, chard, corn salad and this unidentified brassica. It grew out of some compost I'd used as mulch around a fruit tree, and is a big plant now, and as I'm not sure what it'll develop in to I thought we may as well eat some of the massive leaves.
They've got quite a full flavour, we had some tonight along with the kale as a side dish to home made falafels. It was a bit of a mish-mash meal - literally - mashed potatoes (grown on the allotment), some leftover red cabbage with chestnuts (foraged in autumn), and some gherkins I grew / preserved a few years ago. There are several jars that I'd forgotten about in a kitchen cupboard - they were a bit of an experiment as usually I ferment gherkins, but this time just used cold cider vinegar and spices. They're actually surprisingly good, a bit soft but lovely flavour, sweet and sour despite not adding any sugar.
The corn salad was nice too, a welcome addition to lunchtime sarnies. I tend to pick a few plants at a time and then prep them altogether, keeping the washed leaves in a covered bowl in the fridge - it saves faff each time you want to use them. I'd planned on getting some more from the plot today but it's been too rainy, bah.

I've been hoping to order my seeds for this year but apparently the main catalogue doesn't come out until the end of January - usually I order my seeds in Autumn (from the Organic Gardening Catalogue) so I've been very tardy this season. Still, it's a bit early for me to be sowing anything, so I'm not too worried, apart from whether the seed potatoes I want will be in stock by then. Some people like to start their chilli and onion seeds off around now but that's mainly if they have a heat source and 'grow lights' to support the early seedlings, which otherwise would get leggy in the weak winter light. I usually sow my tomatoes and peppers around mid-February and will try and do the same this year too.


Thanks for reading this week - apologies about the poor photos, the light in the house is not good for evening pics! I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted this month by Michelle at From Seed to Table.


Monday 8 January 2018

Harvest Monday - a new year

....but first a quick look at the end of 2017, as I had an unplanned gap in blog posts (not for any particular reason, they just didn't happen, and time flies).
So of my friends had a lovely candlelit wedding on the winter solstice. She asked me to bring along a dish for the reception and I thought it would be nice to make it completely from homegrown goodies. I made a winter salad with roasted butternut squash, red onion and garlic plus home-sprouted lentils and boiled beetroot. I'd made loads so there was enough for us to keep some, and it was quite good heated up too.
We were here in Norwich on Christmas Day and whilst needing to use up some bought veggies before heading off to visit family the next day, it was nice to include homegrown goodies too. So in the morning we nipped to the allotment to lift a few leeks for the chestnut pie filling. Funnily enough there was no-one else on the allotments, huh. The chestnuts were ones I'd foraged for in October and previously roasted and frozen, which made things easier. And of course we had roastie potatoes. Jan made the pie pastry top, a lovely buttery flavour, mmm.
Last week I noticed that a few of the sweet dumpling squashes had started to ooze a bit from their skin, so it was a good excuse to cook them up.
The first batch I roasted straight, with just a little oil. I'd ummed and ah'd about how large to cut the pieces, and in the end decided to just cut them along the indentations, which meant they didn't take too long to roast.
For the second batch I added some small onions which I'd brought back from the allotment shed, and also sprinkled a few homemade/grown chilli flakes.
The squashes have a very sweet flavour, so a little chilli kick adds a bit of diversity.
It's been handy having some pre-roasted squash in the fridge, which can just be added to various dishes like this risotto Jan made. We've also had a curried rice dish, one with pasta and one with bulgar wheat.
On Friday I went to the allotment briefly to stock up on a few veggies - the leeks are growing slowly but surely, and by harvesting alternate leeks it means the ones inbetween have more space to grow-on.
I have a couple of dwarf curly kale plants and picked these leaves from one of them (Jan used them in the yummy risotto).
And I have quite a few Nero kale plants, so whilst the leaves aren't huge, if I pick enough of them it makes a reasonable harvest. I try and pick from different plants each time to allow the others to grow-on inbetween. I was also going to pick some mizuna but thought we probably wouldn't use it up quickly so decided to save that for another day. I'm hedging my bets a bit and leaving the mizuna and one kale bed uncovered - the strong winds keeps blowing the covers off, despite weighing them down, and the kale plants are actually getting squashed by the supports, so fingers crossed the pigeons don't decide to have a meal of them.
Back at home I still have winter salad leaves growing in the lean-to greenhouse. Including some lovely sweet rocket -
And juicy winter purslane - it's pretty amazing how well this stuff grows back after each harvest. I have a few pots (using the old tomato compost, complete with tomato plant roots still in situ, probably breaking down and feeding the purslane), so again I can harvest from different plants each time. Hmm I have a quandary though - usually I sow some peas around now to harvest Spring shoots, but all my pots have salad in. Ooh, what to do?

Back down at the allotment, I had a good few hours yesterday in the sun (yes....sun!), mainly pruning a big old buddliea (to encourage new growth) and moving a stack of timber that had been near a couple of my rotational beds, and had been a source of hidey places for slugs, snails and woodlice. I don't use much timber on the plot anymore but it's still handy every now and then, so the stack is now further away from any annual plants. I also want to get on with clearing more of the weedy beds (which actually includes a lot of self-sown rainbow chard) and around the fruit bushes, then spreading compost or leafmould on top. I aim to disturb the soil as little as possible, so in some cases the clearance will just involve snipping the plants off at ground level and leaving the roots to decompose in place. I also want to lay cardboard to kill off some of the grass paths (too much hassle to keep cutting them all, plus the couch grass encroaches from them). So that's my plans for the next couple of months, plus no doubt getting side-tracked by many other things along the way. How about you?


Ooh, one other thing, I've just signed up to My Harvest - a study by Sheffield University into different aspects of allotmenting throughout the year, including how many hours spent there, physical inputs, harvests etc, recorded in a diary. I thought it would help improve my record keeping as at the moment I only really record quantity / timing of seeds sown. They're still looking for participants if anyone else is interested.


Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday, this month kindly hosted by Michelle at From Seed to Table.