FEDAGA allotment show 2010

Just back from the FEDAGA allotment show. It’s a great piece of organisation and over a hundred people turned up, and there was a great buzz in the hall.

This morning we had to set up the produce between 8am and 9am. If I’d had my bike it would have been simple, but trying to get across town by bus was a bit fraught and so I reached the community centre with 20 minutes to set up. I also had 7 categories of produce (which is up from the 3 categories I exhibited in last year) and that took more time to register…

Peas, Greenshaft
Potatoes, Charlotte
Runner beans, Hestia (dwarf)
Shallots, Red sun
Onions, Sturon
Blackcurrant Jam
Rhubarb and ginger jam

Most of the other exhibitors were much higher quality so I didn’t expect to win anything, so I was pleasantly surprised to pick up a third place in the shallots. Am a little disappointed not to get anything form the (competitive) blackcurrant jam category because I think mine was quite delicious.

entry card for shallots category

She who knits certainly showed that she can knit, and won the cup for handicrafts. Congratulations to her! And perhaps next year she’ll spend a little bit more time at the allotment helping out ;-)

first and second place in the knitting category

big smiles from the winner!

Not an enchilada…

The plot’s looking a bit sad. I’m getting better at growing stuff, but the planning is awry as I’ve now only got garlic and beans left to harvest. When I look at the neighbours’ plots I see acres of potatoes, flowers and beans. Never mind; I’ve got ideas for the Autumn and beyond, and I’ve learned a lot from this year.

K wandered by on Sunday and gave me a bag of (stringless) runner beans. Fantastic flavour! On Sunday I made a great veggie stew and today I finished the beans off in a tortilla. I thought I was making an enchilada, but it turns out that enchilada is the past participle of enchilar – to add chile and mine didn’t have chile in. As an aside, I think that’s a cracking verb!

Veggie entomatada – no claims to authenticity

  • hard vegetables: sweet potato, beetroot, half an onion, carrot.
  • grated ginger
  • soft vegetables: mushrooms, leek, small tomatoes (halved), runner beans.
  • left-over haricot beans

Make a tomato sauce: sauté the other half an onion, add garlic and then sieved tomato. Set to one side.

In a heavy pan with a lid, sauté the hard vegetables and then put the lid on to let the veggies steam for a few minutes. Add the ginger and stir for a minute. Then add the soft vegetables and haricots, sauté and steam until all the veggies are tender. The veggies weren’t too wet.

Turn the oven on medium. Put the veggies into tortillas (from the inimitable Lupe Pintos), roll them up and into an ovenproof dish. Tomato sauce, cheese and then into the oven for a quarter hour.

Last of the broad beans

Two quick visits to the plot today. I took the daughter on the first one, and she was fantastic. Second one I got bitten to death by the midges…

Picked the last 250 grammes of broad beans (that weight is when they’re podded but not yet shelled). The daughter picked some blackcurrants and redcurrants and I’ve bought some strawberries, so it’s Summer pudding tomorrow. That’ll be after a main course of egg fried rice with spring onions, peas, broad beans, mushrooms and carrots. The onions, peas and beans are from the plot.

I also have a glut of turnips, but suspect they’d not work well in the stir fry :) They’ll go with a massive haggis that she who knits bought from costco.

Managed to blanch 175 grammes of the beans for freezing, but worried about the amount of energy that it’s taken to prepare them. Next year I’ll sow beans every two weeks for eating fresh and have a patch from which I can pick and freeze a significant quantity.

Recieved two courgette plants from a neighbour.

Sage and hyssop seem to have settled in OK: the sage is standing proud; the hyssop has started to flower.

Wildlife count: 1 teeny-tiny frog, 1 grasshopper, plenty of spiders, way too many midges.

Currently have 1 empty bed, 3 empty half-beds, and 2 empty 1/3 beds. I’ve also got spaces where I have to build 2 new beds.

Oh yeah … and Go Bradley!.

Good news, bad news, grubby hands

Last week was very windy, and I was worried about the peas and beans. I also put up some netting over the strawberries and redcurrant, so I was a bit worried that the net would act as a sail and get blown away.

Success: The sun’s out this week and everything’s looking much better. Nothing got blown over and the stakes I put in for the broad beans have kept them upright; elderflowers ready (not that I did anything to manage the elder tree); strawberries warm and tasty; garlic progressing nicely. OMG blackcurrants! A lot of these are coming through…

Less good: the overwintered vegetables haven’t come through. Out of 60 onions I planted, only one has survived (although I did munch on a couple of shoots in February). A slightly better rate for the broad beans but still quite poor (3 out of 21 survived).

Which reminds me: transplanting has been a great success. I moved one onion, three broad beans and the redcurrant and all of them have taken to their new homes. Forgot to move the rhubarb this year, so that’s something for the Autumn.

The last piece of bad news is that the French beans didn’t work, and only a couple of fragile sprouts came through. The under-planted lettuces are going great so I don’t think the soil is deficient. Perhaps just wrong conditions for germinating, so this morning’s activity with the daughter was getting some more beans into modules. It’s a little late in the year, but we’ll see how it goes…

the daughter helped put French Beans into modules

the daughter helped put French Beans into modules

calabrese, fennel, French beans

calabrese, fennel, French beans

the daughter's grubby hands

the daughter's grubby hands

The rocket starts

Nice family trip to the plot today — a low impact way to spend the bank holiday Monday.

The rhubarb’s still going strong and now the rocket and spinach are ready for harvesting. It’s nerve-wracking, really, ensuring that the food’s not wasted. And I can see the blackcurrants swelling but still green, the garlic strong, the beans in flower; more picking and preserving needed throughout the Summer.

Today’s work: weeding, weeding, weeding; planted a row of peas with the girl; planted 25 French beans around the tepee.

Planting peas with gusto

Planting peas with gusto

Today’s haul: 1.8 kg of rhubarb that’s gone straight into the freezer in 300 gramme bags; 125 grammes of spinach that’s maturing in a dahl sag for tomorrow night’s tea; 250 grammes of rocket that she who knits made into a jar of pesto.

Picking rocket with the girl

Picking rocket with the girl

Rocket pesto - we put it through the hand blender next

Rocket pesto - we put it through the hand blender next

know your onions

Evidently I don’t know my onions, since most of them have rotted in the bed. Last year they were fantastic but this year I’ll have four if I’m lucky. The other 56 have either rotted away completely or the skins lie withered and empty on the soil.

One metre from the ruined onions, my garlic is in rude good health. Every single bulb has come through, including the 2 backup bulbs! I just do not understand…

chesnok wight garlic - in rude good health

chesnok wight garlic - in rude good health

I was really down at the plot to sort out the broad beans. Having planted the first 15 Super Aquadulce beans in November, I’m now putting the remaining 20 beans in the ground. I’ve still got another variety (Bunyards exhibition?) for next month to give succession. Did I say that I love broad beans? I just can’t wait!

This bed was also an experiment using Phacelia Tanacetifolia as a green manure. I didn’t sow it densely enough — after the Winter there was perhaps a handful of Phacelia in the bed compared to a trug full of grass roots and horsetail rhizomes.

phacelia tanacetifolia losing the fight against grass

phacelia tanacetifolia losing the fight against grass

I’ve also learned what people mean by planting your beans in double rows. It makes it way easier to stake and allows for easier weeding. There might even be enough room between the double rows for a catch crop.

double rows of broad beans, with stakes and twine

double rows of broad beans, with stakes and twine

The blackcurrant hardwood cuttings seem to be doing OK. One of the cuttings has a bud that is starting to uncurl – it’s not as far on as the established plants at the end of the plot, but I’m pleased to see some life. The established plants smell faintly of blackcurrant leaf and are starting to bud.

Allotment in the snow

Went down to the plot on Thursday to collect my gardening gloves, and took some pictures of the plot under a covering of snow.

Four blackcurrants on the right, two elder on the left and invisible garlic at the rear left

Blackcurrants, elder and invisible garlic

Gardeners’ Question Time yesterday told me that garlic shouldn’t be waterlogged, which I suppose means that I should have cleared the snow a bit rather than just wondering how the plants would survive.

The blackcurrants at the end of the plot are starting to bud, and squashing one of them brings forth an astringent smell. There’s a hint of blackcurrant leaf in there but mostly it smells of cut grass; so that may be the smell of cut meristems.

Broad beans at the back; phacelia at the front

Broad beans at the back; phacelia at the front

I’m planning on sowing the other half of the Super Aquadulce at the front of that bed, and that should be done by the end of the month. I’ve also learned a better way of sowing and staking broad beans: double rows with stakes on the outside of the double row.

Strawberries are behind the redcurrant

Strawberries are behind the redcurrant

a kilo of windfall potatoes

Two years on the plot and I’ve never planted potatoes, but they still come up! I was digging over a bed for the last of the garlic and Winter onions, and got a few pink fir spuds and about a kilo of white ones. Tonight’s tea is going to be the last of Wednesday’s stew, mashed potatoes and steamed cabbage.

Spent this morning’s annual leave planting a dozen broad beans — an experiement with overwintering them — and preparing ground for manuring. Also transplanted 3 runaway strawberry plants close to the redcurrant bush, and am already dreaming of next year’s Summer Pudding.

It was cold with bouts of rain and a light fall of snow, and getting perennial weeds out of the beds (mostly grass roots and equisetum) was cold and dirty work. It’s not the middle of Winter yer and there’s still life on the plot: the weeds are still growing, A robin kept me company once I’d started to unearth worms and other minibeasts, and a tit was calling from the blackcurrants.

Homegrown feast does not raise GDP

Felt contented last night. Went down the allotment straight after work and picked onions, broad beans and blackcurrants to bring home, and ate the first couple of raspberries (just to test!) and some alpine strawberries. Nearly a cornucopia…

Evening meal included onion tart. I’m not sure that Nigel Slater’s recipe even needs cheese when the onions are fresh and one uses the amount of butter he recommends.

The side dish: take young broad beans, podded but left in their inner skins, and blanch for a couple of minutes in boiling water. Put olive oil and a little chopped garlic in a bowl and throw in the drained beans. Grind black pepper on top and serve.

Plus carrot and tomato from the ECO box and green salad and the hardest avocado I’ve had ever tried to eat from ASDA.

I’d rather eat more self-grown food. I’m still learning about vegetable growing, but mostly it’s taking the time to grow and cook them that stops me. In a misguided attempt to help my employer, I’ve agreed to work an extra day per week. I get paid more, but I’m spending more: on childcare; on disposable nappies, because I don’t have the energy to wash and do real ones; on food, because I’m not preparing my lunch on the days I do work. It’s good for GDP but not good for me and my family.

The girl has a watering can…

…and is much more helpful than when she was swinging a wee fork around. I think the broad beans can survive a dousing better than decapitation. However the poor strawberries got trodden upon; must build raised beds to keep the feet out.


It’s been very windy but the broad beans look OK. The onions are coming along nicely, and I’ll make something nice this weekend; probably onion tarts from Nigel Slater’s Appetite or white onion soup with chorizo from Paul Merret’s Using the plot.