Spuds out; garlic, onions and broad beans in

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.


Catch-up: alliums & halloween

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

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.

scary daughter

scary daughter

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

last flower of the year

saving seed

saving seed

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!.

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.

60 onions in; 104 to go.

After the success of the Winter onions last year (Radar), I bought some more.

I planted 60 to fill one of my beds, and still have over 100. Not sure if this is a good thing… They were a success, but they stay in the bed until midsummer or later so I can’t really use the bed for much else (note to self: how about transplanting seedlings that have been sown in rootrainers?).

Even if I do grow a squillion onions this year, I’ll be able to use them. I’ve blanched and frozen onions befire — which turned out OK — and I can always learn how to dry them. Also I may be able to use them as informal currency.

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.


Yesterday: Pulled the first onions from the plot. Radar variety of Winter onions, so they’ve been in the ground over six months. Seems a long time, but it’s worth it: made white onion soup with chorizo. It’s so nice to have fresh onions, cooked slowly…

Today: down the plot again to get more onions, and cooked the onion and cheese tart. Onions from the allotment, thyme from the garden, cheese from my partner’s recent trip to Rome and the the first time I’d used puff pastry.