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!.

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It’s not too late for elderflowers

The peak of the elderflower season’s gone but there are still a few newly-opened infloresences around, on lower branches or in sheltered spots. This year I vowed to make elderflower cordial and today is the day…

today's haul of elderflowers - about 25 heads

today's haul of elderflowers - about 25 heads

The first step in The River Cottage Cookbook recipe is to steep 20-30 heads of flowers + zest of 2 lemons in just-boiled water for 4 hours or overnight. The recipe also calls for zest of an orange, but I didn’t have one.

elderflower infloresences barely covered in just-boiled water

elderflower infloresences barely covered in just-boiled water

Strain the liquid. For each 500ml of liquid add 350g of sugar and 50ml of lemon juice. Here, I had 1100 ml liquid and used 775g add sugar and 125mllemon juice. Bring the mix to a gentle simmer, skim, leave to cool, strain again and bottle.

It’s gently cooling at the moment, and I’ll bottle it up before bed. Apparently she who knits’ mother is impressed that I’m making cordial.

Other produce today includes a few small turnips, two beetroot, a box of mixed lettuce and enough fruit (strawberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants) to make two summer puddings. Tomorrow, when the daughter is asleep for her afternoon nap, I’ll break them out for me and she who knits.

lettuce and summer fruit

lettuce and summer fruit

Creating, maintaining, transforming

I felt the need to get to the plot because it’s a time of renewal and change in the Celtic calendar. At this time of year one has to make the most of the weather, and it turned into a gloriously warm and sunny day. I just went down to propagate some blackcurrants but then spent 3 hours getting stuff done: built new compost bins, propagated 4 blackcurrants and 2 elder, and dug up the remaining redcurrant bush.

new compost bins in the sunlight

new compost bins in the sunlight

elder, blckcurrants and strawberries. the bed has been weeded!

elder, blackcurrants and strawberries. the bed has been weeded!

a view of the allotment with the remaining redcurrant

a view of the allotment with the remaining redcurrant

Had a friend round for dinner last night who pointed out that this was like the Hindu trinity: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer and Shiva the destroyer or transformer. I certainly transformed the redcurrant as I took the secateurs to it and put it into the habitat pile behind the red shed, and I’m becoming less squeamish about uprooting plants because I know that the minibeasts and fungi will find the remains attractive.

The other friend who was round for dinner suggested I could rip up the vicious rose in the centre of the plot if it was getting out of hand. That is probably going a step too far, but I will prune it back hard.

Transplanted a redcurrant

The two redcurrants were getting overrun by grass, so I pruned the healthier one and left the other in the long grass. Today I dug out the beetroot half bed, moved the frame and transplanted a redcurrant. It seems that most cultivars are self-fertile, so I’ll junk the straggly one.

Beetroots were a lot of work, and I only got one meal from the half bed full. I didn’t thin them soon enogh and the most of the remainder got eaten by slugs when we were on holiday :( However the daughter loved them, so they’ll be planted next year.

I now have identified areas for 3 news beds. I need to order in sufficient manure from Gorgie City Farm relatively soon. (Wait until after half term)

Good news and good food

Received word from the RBGE that I’ve passed the Certificate of Practical Horticulture with merit. Not only that, but because that was the first year the course was run and there were some teething problems with the course handbook etc., all the students have been offered a free place on a one-day course next year.

The course was enjoyable, the assessment day was fun and I’ve got something to show from it. However I won’t be able to make the award ceremony since I’m at Typography: thinking with type on that day.

This evening I headed to the allotment via Waitrose. I wanted to make Summer Pudding, so wanted to get some cream. The thought of the ride from Shandon to Morningside, through Craiglockhart Woods and to the allotment was also enticing. At the plot I picked redcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants and then headed home, getting there just before the rain came on.

Summer Pudding adapted from Nigel Slater’s Appetite

Put the fruits in a pan with enough water to cover them, then boil for a couple of minutes. This will burst the skin and release the juice. Into a suitable receptacle (I used a glass tumbler), layer sliced white bread and the fruit mixture, keeping the bread very moist. Then pop it in the fridge for an hour, turn out and serve with goat cream.

tasty Summer Pudding with cream

tasty Summer Pudding with cream

In other news: I’ve signed up for the four week long beginners course in Italian at IALS starting at the end of this month.

Hello world!

When I posted about rhubarb from my allotment on another blog I got loads of comments, so maybe a blog dedicated to the allotment is the thing …

After two years on the waiting list for Saughton Mains Allotments in Edinburgh, I heard in February that I’d been allocated plot 18. The key arrived on 1 March and I’ve been a few times since then. The allotment is second from the right, 4 from the top

Highlights so far

Friday 6 April: single-dug a bed in the allotment — damn hard work for a 4′ x 8′ bed. Met the neighbours and was given some garlic and 2 redcurrant bushes. They also pointed out what was left in the allotment from previous holders: comfrey, chives, blackcurrants.

Monday 23 April: pulled the first rhubarb. Didn’t have to do much work as it was already established in the plot. In March, as the crowns were just starting to waken, I weeded around the sets, watered liberally, and then mulched with some compost from Redhall Walled Garden. Cut back the stems with inflorescences today — perhaps a little late for this though.

My books say I shouldn’t pull any stalks after midsummer or mid-July, so I’ve got to have rhubarb every week. Am also experimenting with freezing it.