Rhubarb or raspberries?

After the worst year yet on the allotment, I’m giving up half the plot. Feeling a bit dejected about that but today I was there and looking at the half plot, and thinking that it’s a more manageable size.

The South side is the one with the shed I fixed earlier in the year, and has the best-developed beds. I’ve been moving as many plants as I can on to this side before the North side is reallocated but there are plenty of plants still on the North side that I’ll leave: an apple tree, a redcurrant, some Autumn raspberries. And today I had to make a decision. I’ve only got one bed clear on the South side and I had to choose whether to move some Summer raspberries or some rhubarb. I can’t imagine I’ll have another chance to prepare a bed and move the other before the plot is reallocated, hence decision time.

I chose rhubarb.

In the end it wasn’t a difficult decision: rhubarb comes up earlier in the year and there’s more bulk from the plant, so it’s a sensible decision. But I feel a little sad that I won’t have raspberries for the next couple of years until I sort my new half-plot out. There’s something so good about picking a couple of warm raspberries when down the allotment… That would have been the heart decision.

Theory informs, but practice convinces – George Bain at the Galleries on the mound

First committee meeting of the Saughton Mains Allotment Association this morning, where I learnt about the role of treasurer and the bean-counting that entails. We also heard about the other assets and duties that the committee is responsible for, which includes maintaining the composting loo. There was a diversion into the relative merits of sawdust versus leafmould for the bulk material that goes in a composting loo, and a move to get some training on how to maintain our loo. I think this is a critical piece of infrastructure and allows us to recycle the nutrients, so I’m keen to get involved.

Coincidentally, the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia has just published this piece on urine closes the NPK loop.

I then had some time to kill before I collected the family coming back from Glasgow, so popped into the galleries on the mound to visit the exhibition on George Bain and Celtic Art [1][2]. It’s not a big exhibition, yet it touches on both celtic knotwork theory and examples of rugs, ceramics and a bracelet. I was particularly taken by the phrase theory informs, but practice convinces.

This exhibition is tucked away at the back of the galleries. That’s great because near to the exhibition space there’s a few paintings from the late C19th which focus on vegetables and the horticulture trade. Arthur Melville’s Cabbage Garden was shown at last year’s blockbuster Impressionist Gardens and there’s a couple of other stunners. I always love the chance to look at these pictures. I’m intrigued by the note that I only saw today, that “vegetable garden subjects were popular among artists throughout Europe in the late 1870s and 1880s” — perhaps scope to follow up here.

Depicts a vegetable stall with rhubarb, leeks, cabbages and root vegetables

The vegetable stall, William York MacGregor

A cabbage garden, with a labourer stopping work to talk to a lady

A cabbage garden, Arthur Melville

First harvest of the year – rhubarb

I’ve munched on some lovage leaves and chives this year, but this is the first substantial harvest. Not really a surprise, is it? Rhubarb is one of those plants that most allotments have because it’s easy to grow and comes up early.

In November 2009 I split off three segments from one of the crowns. Replanted the crown where it came from, and planted the 3 new ones in my new rhubarb bed. These are coming through well and so 2011 will be a bumper rhubarb year. Not sure if that’s a good thing…

Had a bit of a miscommunication with kidlet. I had said that I would do rhubarb crumble, but we’re going on holiday this morning and so didn’t have time to make the crumble (which she loves). Instead I offered stewed rhubarb, and she declined. After a bit of back-and-forth, we realised that kidlet thought stewed rhubarb was like a meat stew, with onions and carrots. Not so! This one comes with ice-cream!

So what a great start to a holiday. Eating the first harvest, and rhubarb and ice-cream for breakfast.

Straw in, roses out; ubiquitous rhubarb

Am still here! When I do have some time in the evening I’ve been heading down the allotment, so the posting has been a bit sparse. However, a couple of things to note today and an obligatory picture of rhubarb.

Bought a bale of straw from Gorgie City Farm. 15 minutes later, we had manged to get it strapped into the bike trailer. It’s one of those things where it would be far quicker in a car (but I don’t have one) and I did get to have a chat with a couple of the farm workers in the interim, so I’m quite happy with the way it turned out.

straw bale in a bike trailer

straw bale in a bike trailer

Now I’ve got my strawberries protected by straw underneath and netting above, so I’m expecting a bumper crop.

Later this evening, my allotment neighbour gave me some roses that were blooming.

a posy of roses: white, pink and peach coloured

a posy of roses: white, pink and peach coloured

And here’s the haul of rhubarb from last week, all 4.4 kilos of it.

jam, rhubarb and sugar prepping for making more jam, and bags for the freezer

jam, rhubarb and sugar prepping for making more jam, and bags for the freezer

It’s been some time…

Got back from Glasgow somewhat earlier than expected, so headed down to the allotment for a quick hour to see how it’s faring. Came away feeling very positive

  • the 3 transplanted rhubarb crowns are coming up — I’ll not pull any stalks from them this year to let the plants get established
  • the established blackcurrants are starting to bud
  • the blackcurrants me & D transplanted back in November seem to have got through the Winter
  • the blackcurrant I transplanted in 2008 has wee side shoots! I am very excited that it’s starting to make a globe shape

Did a bit of weeding, set up some cloches, chatted to a neighbour.

Plans for the year

First thing to appear this year should be the rhubarb. I’ve got one newly-transplanted crown, one re-planted crown and two crowns that haven’t been touched. That is an awful lot of rhubarb! Perhaps I’ll try and force the smallest of the crowns, just to see what happens.

And there’s loads of soft fruit…

Here’s a plan for the vegetable beds:

planting plan for 2010 and beyond!

planting plan for 2010 and beyond!

Last year 4 people helped out, and I’m really grateful to them. Three of them say they want to continue helping out, so I’m looking forward to seeing them & having a bit of company on the plot. (The fourth was a neighbour, so I’m not angling to get more help from them!)

World summit on food security opens Monday

Over 60 heads of State and Government are planning to attend World Food Summit this week. A parallel forum People’s Food Sovereignty now! runs from 14-16 November. I’m going to follow these from the comfort of my home, and will try and make some sense of how it relates to me.

Tomorrow: if the weather holds, I’ll be transplanting rhubarb on the allotment. This soil and health page gives me some understanding of the root structure anad this page has a picture of a rhubarb root

First frost

Was going to transplant some rhubarb today, but the ground’s still hard from last night’s frost. Weather report says tonight will get to -2 in Edinburgh.

Not too worried about the rhubarb as Joy Larkom reckons mid- to late Winter is the best time to transplant.

Rhubarb and ginger jam FTW

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

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

what we came away with

my rather weedy garlic is at the front; the winner looked so good

my rather weedy garlic is at the front; the winner looked so good