Last harvest from the allotment today: 3 kgs of Fellside Hero potatoes that had been sitting for a while. The tubers are quite small ‘cos the shaws got damaged just as they were growing, but I’m hoping they’ll still roast well.
Harvesting the spuds cleared the one of the big beds, which I had hoped to fill with alliums but the stock I had wasn’t enough. I usually buy from Garden Organic so I expect a certain amount of stuff from an order and I guess I wasn’t paying attention when I bought Taylor’s stock. 1 head of Lautrec Wight garlic only had 6 cloves, when I usually expect 10 cloves per head; and there were 40 usable Senshyu Yellow onions in the pack, when I expected 120 onions in a pack. Anyway, shouldn’t grumble, caveat emptor and all that.
That only took up a third of the bed, so I planted 40 Super Aquadulce broad beans in the remainder. Bang goes my grand plan for keeping the big beds in a formal beans, allium etc rotation, but it gives me more space to follow the Permaculture Association’s mixed vegetable polyculture research programme. You can see some photos of last year’s trials here, and a progress report is here.
There’s lots to catch up on, both in what I want to post on the blog and also what I’ve got to do on the allotment. My bad back is pretty much fixed and I’ve been down the plot to plant some over-wintering onions (radar) and some garlic.
Onions in the bed
These have gone into the South side of the plot, which I’m keeping as beds. The North side is going to go into one big plot, which should keep the maintenance down, and as recommended by the allotment officer.
When I was down there I collected the last fresh produce of the year: a single pea-pod and some beetroot. The beetroot went into the halloween roast dinner, and we found out the younger daughter likes it.
That’s not the last of the produce from the plot. I’ve still got the sage to cut back for Winter, and I’ve a few onions and shallots still to use. And there’s a couple of pots of jam. I’d prefer to be in a better position in the run-up to Winter…
I also brought back the last flower, an English Marigold, and some seed heads of both English and French Marigolds. Since my daughters haven’t auto-reset their body clocks to GMT, we were up very early this morning saving the seed.
last flower of the year
An unexpected first prize in the other jam category with my rhubarb and ginger jam! I am very chuffed with that.
The 'other jam' category - looks like two other entries had already been removed
A colleague gave me a 1970’s recipe and I modified it to include real ginger rather than powdered stuff, which added a nice warmth to the jam. I also used an unrefined sugar and dropped the amount in the recipe, which gave a more rounded sweetness and not too prominent. And I simmered the jam until the rhubarb stalks disintegrated into their fibres. (You need to do quite a lot of simmering ‘cos rhubarb has very little pectin in as it’s a stalk not a fruit.)
We got to the hall quite late and so didn’t have much time to wander round to see the other exhibits and chat to friends. Caught a glimpse of David Somervell, who’s recently been featured in an article in the Guardian newspaper, and am very happy to see someone who’s working professionally to reduce CO2 emissions and also living the life.
She who knits and the daughter entered the tombola and won a huge book on Italian Cooking — Italia in Cucina published by McRae books. A quick skim shows it’s got a wide range of dishes made with simple ingredients, the instructions are clear and the photos are good. The organisation of the book makes no mention of the rhythm of antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti e contorne. Nevertheless, it’s got several recipes for gnocchi and for minestrone so I’m happy.
what we came away with
my rather weedy garlic is at the front; the winner looked so good
There’s been a few days of good weather in Edinburgh, and today’s been sunny as well. After handing over the daughter when her mum got back from Motherwell, I nipped down to the plot to retrieve my secateurs, then home to prepare some garlic for FEDAGA’s 57th annual flower and vegetable show. I’ve also entered some blackcurrant jam (27/07/09) and the rhubarb and ginger batch from Beltane. All 3 categories seem competitive, so I’m not expecting to win anything. I’m just chuffed that I’m able to exhibit in 3 categories (up from 1 last year).
For my first year growing garlic, I bought a hardneck variety pack from the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight to see which would work well. I chose hardneck ‘cos they’re more suited to harsher climates. The Purple Moldovan and Chesnok Wight went in at the end of October and the Lautrec Wight went in in March.
I had no experience of what garlic looks like as it grows, so it’s been in the ground too long. And with the wet Summer, most of the October-sown heads swelled so that the outer layers of skin have burst, or even rotted in the ground. I’d say this first year has been a qualified success: it’s worked out at about 50 pence per head, I’ve not got any plaits of garlic (you’d need softneck for that, anyway), I’ve now got to deal with a garlic glut, and I have three small, well-shaped heads of Lautrec Wight to exhibit at the show.
For tonight’s tea we had apple and blackcurrant crumble. Apples from a colleague’s tree had a good fresh flavour and low acidity. Add a few blackcurrants from my plot, let the daughter help measuring the crumble ingredients and you have a perfect dessert… Does that bode well for the allotment show? Hope so.
Quick trip to the plot today while the daughter was at playgroup. Sowed some winter spinach and the last lettuce for the year. Dug up the last of the garlic, and was very sad to see that a couple of the over-wintered ones had rotted in the ground. I’ve managed to get 5 of them and 8 of the Spring-sown Purple Moldovan today, and they’re now in the wee greenhouse. I’m hoping that the Spring ones will be OK for the allotment show in a couple of weeks.
In total, I’ve probably had two dozen heads of garlic. Could have got half a dozen more if I’d pulled the over-wintered ones out at the right time. Might have some bigger heads for the Spring ones if I’d left them in the ground a wee bit longer, but one of those had already rotted. Maybe that’s just the luck of the draw for this year’s growing season.
Here’s some photos of the previous batch of garlic that been drying. The two small ones look good, but the over-wintered ones have been in the ground too long and have split. Doesn’t bode well for the 5 old ones I’ve got drying…
small and perfectly formed garlic
two small and two big garlic heads
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.
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
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
Rocket pesto - we put it through the hand blender next
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
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
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
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.
Went down to the plot on Thursday to collect my gardening gloves, and took some pictures of the plot under a covering of snow.
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
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
While the daughter was at playgroup, I popped down to the plot to plant some garlic. It’s a lovely day, warm and sunny but with ice still in a couple of shaded areas.
Softneck or hardneck? The former can be plaited together, but the latter is more hardy. I bought a purple hardneck pack from The Garlic Farm. In it there was a bulb each of Purple Heritage Moldovan, Chesnok Wight and Lautrec Wight. In the hour I had on the plot, I managed to plant the Moldovan and Chesnok and my instruction leaflet says that Lautrec can be planted anytime ’til Spring.
Moldovan: 10 large outer cloves, 4 smaller inner cloves. The skin came away from a couple of the cloves. I probably should have brought them home and used them, but I planted them anyway.
The Chesnok: 8 outer, 2 inner, and the cloves broke away really easily without shedding their skin.
I think prefer the Chesnok. The website says that Purple Moldovan is a Chef’s choice: large juicy easy-peeling cloves with a rounded flavour. But easy-peeling also means difficult to seperate without peeling. I’ll have to wait and see…
For £9 one gets a good taster pack but the postage is quite pricey, so the planted garlic is comparable in price with shop bought (assuming they all grow). I’m using this as a way to discover what grows best in my plot (for this year, in that bed etc.) and will either plant lots of the same variety next year and/or team up with someone to share the postage.