Friday 23 September 2011

Things To Do

Apologies for the silence - I've been fighting a horrendous cold, which has kept me out of the garden, uninspired in the kitchen, and generally unable to do very much at all. (I always seem to get these things ten times worse than anyone else - especially since a spot of bronchitis a few years back scarred my lungs.) I'm getting waaay behind in the garden and allotment now as winter approaches, and the list of things to do is getting longer and longer!
  • Plant out broccoli, kale and spring cabbage plants - I picked some young plants up in Homebase.
  • Buy, and plant, overwinter onions and garlic - I've never manage to autumn-plant before and I'd really like to try this year.
  • Sow spinach and winter salad greens.
  • Sow overwinter carrots and onions - it's probably too late for this now, I'm not sure...
  • Pull last beetroots and make chutney.
  • Dig the rest of the potatoes!
  • Tidy and cut back the strawberries.
  • Clear old bean plants - the French beans have kept producing all summer, despite a rough patch in the middle - I'm so pleased! - but they're just about finished now.
  • Sow green manures, if it's not too late - I have a big pack of Phacelia seeds I bought last year and didn't use.
What else can I still sow for the winter, when I get back out there? I've been very good at clearing old crops this year, so I have lots of bare soil to fill!

In the meantime, and because I hate to write a post without a picture, I have really been enjoying this bunch of sunflowers we brought home from the plot three weeks ago! They were still closed when we cut them, but they were self-sown and in the way, and had to be sacrificed. They've done really well on our windowsill and look amazing when the sun shines through them in the morning.

Thursday 8 September 2011

How Do You Like Them Apples?

For the first time since we planted it in 2008, our 'Gold Spur' apple tree has borne fruit... And it's pears!

I'm sure this is somehow my fault; I must have got them mixed up when planting. I always thought it was the pear tree that I planted near the path and someone kindly strimmed to the ground while it was still pencil-thin, but apparently not.

They're too hard to eat right now - like apples, you know they're ready to pick when they twist off easily with the stalk intact, but unlike apples you have to let them ripen for a few more days off the tree.

Only a couple of the apples are ready so far. They look amazing - they're soooo red!

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Summer Show 2011

Sunday was our allotment association's summer produce show. I haven't been to one before, but now I'm on the committee I felt it was time to get involved. I even entered some raspberries and potatoes, albeit a bit half-heartedly considering the scab on the potatoes and the varying colours of the raspberries!

It's hardly Chelsea, but it's a good bit of fun and events like this really increase the community spirit on the plots. And I got dozens of lovely comments about my first association newlsetter, which went to print a couple of weeks ago! It's nice to know it's appreciated :-)

The event started at 10am in the 'Sub Aqua Club' house next to the allotment site. People turned up with baskets and barrowloads of produce, registered their entries and laid them out on the tables, category by category.

As well as single veg categories, there were some for displays of veg or flowers...

...and some for the kids!

The entries were examined and scored by an accredited RHS judge. I was given the task of walking round with him to write down the scores, so I got a little extra insight on what he looks for! Then we enjoyed a barbecue and bring-a-dish lunch, a few pints at the bar, a raffle and of course the prize-giving. No, I didn't score a single point, but I'm really glad I went (and glad Eddie enjoyed himself too!), and maybe next year, diminutive onions and curly runner beans notwithstanding, I'll try to show a few more entries...

Do you have a show at your allotment site or town? Do you enter?

Thursday 1 September 2011

Tomato Burger Relish

We hosted not one but two barbecues over the bank holiday weekend, and I was glad of the chance to use up some of the tomato glut in a fab burger relish from Thane Prince's book Jams and Chutneys.

It's only lightly cooked, with just a little sugar and vinegar, so the tomatoes stay nice and chunky and remain the dominant flavour. We used mustard seeds instead of the recommended fennel seeds, and it was lovely. It's dead simple - red onion, seeds and garlic fried until soft; diced tomatoes, seasoning, brown sugar and a splash of vinegar added; and simmered for a few minutes. The recipe had just a touch too much vinegar I think, but we neutralised it by adding the tiniest pinch of bicarbonate of soda - it works a treat! (Careful - too much and you'll be left with a soda-y taste!)

Now all I have to do is find a way to use up the other half of the jar!

When the barbecue had cooled, the food had gone down and we were all lazing around wondering what to do with the rest of the day, a sudden urge for scones and jam hit, and a friend convinced me to have a go at baking some.

We used this basic recipe (although I have aspirations to try this richer one next time) and it was barely half an hour from scales-out-of-the-cupboard to scones-out-of-the-oven! We ate them warm with fresh, sugar-sprinkled strawberries and clotted cream. Bliss, even without any bank holiday sunshine! And they're so quick to make, I'm sure this won't be the last time...

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