Monday, 16 January 2017

Harvest Monday - extending the stored goodies & a freezer peek

I often find that around mid-January to February the stored veggies start needing a bit of attention (especially as we've had a lot of mild weather again this winter....despite a bit of snow this week).
 
I store my potatoes in thick paper sacks in a brick shed in the front yard, which faces north, so they keep pretty well in there. But they started sprouting recently, so we decided to use some in a big pot of mashed potato, to then freeze in portions.
 
Similarly, the carrots (stored in plastic mesh trays lined and covered in newspaper) have started shooting too. For these I prepped a whole load of them and am storing in a big jug of water in the fridge. (These were reject carrots saved at one of the gleans back in November).
And with another batch I'm having a go at fermenting in a brine solution. They've been going a few days so far and the bubbling has eased off, but they haven't developed a sour taste yet, so I guess I'll just leave them longer and see what happens.
I've continued to sprout seeds this week, which go nicely in sandwiches and added to noodle soups right at the end of cooking. These are alfalfa on the left and green lentils on the right.
And a mixture including mung beans and chick peas. They have a really good crunch. Sprouting your own beans etc is way cheaper than buying sprouts from a shop, and it's easy too. There are expensive kits you can get for sprouting seeds but actually just an old jar will do, as long as you can rinse the seeds out effectively.
Before Christmas I grew mushrooms from a gift kit which uses spent coffee grounds as the growing medium. They produced a lovely crop and were tasty too. The instructions said it's sometimes possible to get another crop from the same kit, so after leaving the grounds to rest for a couple of weeks I got them going again recently....ta dah....not as many as the first time but they were very tasty again.
I thought we'd have a quick peep in the freezer to see what's left. I've been using up bags of frozen sliced green beans, chopped courgettes, tubs of stewed fruit and tubs of partially cooked greens (chard and kale). Here on the top shelf are some glass tubs of mashed potato plus leftovers and green beans. I'm trying to use less plastic and was kindly given the tubs for my birthday (just the sort of pressie I like). They have a glass base with plastic top.
Second shelf - mainly tubs of greens and leftovers.
Third shelf (drawer) - mainly bags of fruit plus a big tub of stewed fruit. When I've used up all the tubs of stewed fruit I'll make up some more batches using a mixture of berries plus apples that I've got left in the storage shed.
Bottom shelf (drawer) - more fruit.

Hmm it's not a bad little stash altogether. Plus on the plot I still have kale, chard, corn salad, with purple sprouting broccoli to come too. I'll try and get down the plot tomorrow to harvest some more goodies.

 

Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted at the moment by Michelle at From Seed to Table.

 

 

Monday, 9 January 2017

Harvest Monday - a new harvest

I didn't think I'd taken many harvest pics, but looking back through the week has surprised me....I'd forgotten these from only a few days ago....
 
My first (and possibly last) Brussels sprouts. Quite small but very tasty....Jan even said how nice the flavour was. I just cooked them quickly in a little bit of boiling water, to keep in the flavour and goodness. They didn't need many outer leaves taking off either (which is good as there wouldn't have been much sprout left!).
I used up the last butternut squash this week, cubing and then roasting
I added some pumpkin seeds and freshly ground cumin seeds towards the end of the roasting too, yum. We had some of the squash as a side dish and made the rest into a soup with Nero kale from the plot....
....along with some of these chestnuts which I'd also roasted (shown here before roasting). I didn't get a photo of the finished soup but it was really tasty, all whizzed up. These were the last chestnuts, but they kept pretty well and we got several meals from them altogether.
I harvested quite a bit of kale from the plot this week (dwarf curly kale and Nero kale), and some more leeks, but didn't get any photos. I slow-cooked the leeks for a few hours with red lentils, a tin of tomatoes, onion, garlic, grated carrots and spiced with cinammon and ginger, adding in a small bag of purple basil pesto from the freezer towards the end...the last of the pesto too I think. Even before adding the pesto, the stew had turned a lovely dark colour. As with a lot of my meals it didn't look so good once it was dished out but sure tasted nice!
 
The corn salad did look good though...I still can't believe how easy this is just left to sow itself around the plot. I literally have carpets of it in places. My harvesting technique is to snip off whole plants just above soil level, (avoids disturbing the soil) then wash them all en masse, as it's a bit fiddly. I tip them all into a bowl of water, then swoosh each plant through the water a bit and then pinch off the bottom of the plant (which removes the lesser quality leaves and base of the plant where all the leaves meet, where the soil is hardest to clean out). This also separates each of the leaves, which I then keep in a glass bowl in the fridge so we can dip into it over the course of a few days making sandwiches etc.

So it seems to have been a week of some 'lasts' but also a first (Brussels sprouts)....what will this coming week bring (some very cold and rainy weather by the sounds of it!).

 

Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Michelle at From Seed to Table, over in California, for a few weeks.

 

Monday, 2 January 2017

Harvest Monday - a new year

I hope you've enjoyed the festive season - normally we'd make a special meal with homegrown veg over this period but we were away for a few days and then at friends' for different occasions so haven't made one (yet?).
 
A couple of weeks ago I cleared the final Lipstick sweet peppers from the lean-to....there were just a few plants which I'd left to grow-on, but hidden underneath the leaves were a number of small fruits. After picking them I'd actually left the fruits on a shelf in the lean-to, then forgotten about them what with all the travelling and visiting. So today I spotted them on the shelf and luckily they were still in a good condition, thanks to the cool weather. I think they'd even ripened a bit. I used most of them tonight in a noodle soup (a handy quick one-pot meal)
I'm continuing to sprout seeds, mainly alfalfa in one jar and green lentils in another because they take different times to sprout (alfalfa are very quick). Here's a jar of green lentils, which we've had in sandwiches and added at the end of the noodle soup. I keep forgetting to rinse them twice a day but hopefully now the busy visiting time has calmed down I'll get back into a routine.
A couple of days ago I had a trip to the allotment, harvesting a few leeks, sprout tops, Nero kale and some nice corn salad. I was going to take a few photos down there but my fingers were too cold after snipping off the corn salad leaves - the leaves were wet but it was too fiddly to wear gloves, making very cold conditions, especially with a slight breeze.....the lovely leaves were worth it though.

Tomorrow I'm probably going to make a slow-cooked stew with the leeks and kale, plus red lentils, carrots etc. I still haven't harvested any Brussels sprouts... So maybe that special meal will come along soon after all.


Here's a few piccies from our trip to Jan's parents over Christmas....we managed to get out on some nice walks including this visit to RSPB Old Moor, which was particularly beautiful (and rather chilly) at sunset.

We had wanted to visit SWT Potteric Carr again but it was closed whilst we were in the area so we'll have to save that for another time.

 

Also just to mention that I really hurt my leg at the allotment in the week before Christmas....I'm not really sure how it happened, I was kneeling on a pad, weeding couch grass in between the rows of raspberries...and was probably leaning in at a funny angle, putting pressure on one leg. I didn't notice any problems at first but walking home I started getting a pain in the hip socket when stepping on my left leg. Of course, rather than resting it I walked over to some friends' on the other side of the city, hoping to exercise it off....big mistake, ending up with two days laid-up on the sofa not being able to put any weight on the leg at all (I couldn't even get up the stairs but luckily our loo is downstairs) and it being touch-and-go whether we'd be able to travel for Christmas. Oops.

 

I guess the lesson here is...listen to your body, change positions regularly when carrying out even simple tasks, especially repetitive ones in the cold...and don't be as silly as me.

 

So on that note, I hope you have a healthy and productive 2017, full of tasty homegrown produce...cheers!

 

I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted for a few weeks by Michelle at From Seed to Table.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Harvest Monday - winter harvests (yes there actually are some)

Well, I don't have any harvests as interesting as mushrooms this week but there's been a few bits and bobs.
First though, using up some stored previous harvests, I roasted up a small butternut squash (leaving just one more, along with some other veggies (celeriac, carrot, garlic, not homegrown). I just have one butternut left now, though it's a big 'un.
And whilst the oven was on, roasted some more of the sweet chestnuts we foraged back in November. I sliced them down the middle first, otherwise they'll explooode.
After about 20 - 30 mins or so
I've been using up the little beetroots I cooked last week, they've kept quite well in a bowl in the fridge. I like cheese and beetroot sarnies, with a bit of mustard. (One day I'll make my own mustard just like Dave at Our Happy Acres).
Today I popped to the allotment for an hour or so for a bit of a potter around, and started bagging up some of the piles of couch grass roots I've been weeding out. Normally I just add it to the compost heap and pull out any that's still alive when I sort the compost later but there's so much which has crept into the beds that it needs dealing with separately (it re-grows from even a tiny bit of root). I've got some old black bin liners and have doubled them up, bagging-up the roots to block out the light and hopefully kill them off.
 
Whilst I was there I lifted a few leeks (not too bad a size), taking alternate plants to allow the others space to bulk up a bit.
I also harvested some more Nero kale, which went into a noodle soup this evening
And I made a first picking of corn salad / lambs lettuce. There are blankets of it in several beds because I just let it seed around. Most of the plants are pretty small but there were some worth picking....very nice to have some fresh salad leaves and hopefully the first of many. One good thing about having such a thick covering of plants is that the soil doesn't splash up onto the leaves when it rains, but it does mean the individual plants will generally be smaller than ones growing on their own with no competition. But, the ones growing close together probably produce as many leaves (if not more) overall.

I'm looking forward to having some of these leaves in sandwiches tomorrow, yum.

 

That's me for now, thanks for reading and have a great Christmas if I don't hear from you before then :D

I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Harvest Monday - mushroom update

My seed order arrived this week, yay. I didn't need loads this year, but chose a decent selection, including some new varieties of squash. Onion sets and seed potatoes will arrive later.

I needed to make up a few pounds to get free delivery so thought I'd try a small bag of wool pellets, which are supposed to deter slugs. I lost a lot of seedlings and young plants to slugs this year, so it's worth a shot. I'll use it around my more valuable (in terms of time/energy/cash invested) plants such as squash.
And onto the mushrooms......to recap, I was kindly given a mushroom kit for my birthday recently. The kit includes a bag crammed with spent coffee grounds that now have mushroom mycelium (root system) growing through them. Next they just need a bit of moisture to encourage the fruit (the bit we eat) to form.
First, cut along the cross using a knife (There's an outer bag here too, which I removed when I realised it wasn't needed).
Then soak for 12 hours...it's very buoyant and needs weighing down.
Then drain off the excess water
Pop it back in the box and spray with water twice a day (a nozzle is provided). This was Day 5 (last Monday).
They quickly put on growth...here's Day 6
Day 8
Day 9
Day 11 (yesterday)...wow! Now, checking against the photos on the Espresso Mushroom website, we probably should actually have harvested these the day before....I misread the instructions and was waiting for the edges to turn up, but it's the Pink ones which do that.
They're still pretty good though
We picked them yesterday morning (cut the whole lot off at once) and stored them in the fridge until tonight, when I made a curry loosely based on one suggested on the Espresso Mushroom website. My photos don't do it justice really, but in addition to the mushrooms, I also included other home grown veggies - courgette from the freezer and kale picked from the allotment a couple of days ago, plus other bought bits and bobs. The mushrooms have a nice flavour, with a springy texture.
It's suggested you leave the mushroom bag to rest for about 10 days, before starting the process again to get a second crop, and there's even a possibility of a third crop. And after that, as a bonus, the mushroomy coffee grounds can be used as compost, brill. I think there are other brands of kits too, so not sure how they compare, but this one has worked for us nicely. Apparently there's the equivalent of the grounds from 100 espressos in just one of these bags, so it's a great way to re-use them.
 
Other things happening this week....to try and diversify the winter harvests, I ordered some new alfalfa seeds, along with my main allotment order, to sprout in the kitchen. The seeds are tiny, and after a few hours soaking and draining, only take two or three days before they're ready to eat, yum (plus remember to rinse them with water twice a day too ).
Makes winter sarnies a bit more interesting, here with some baby beetroot I recently brought home from the plot (they weren't actually meant to be baby, they just didn't get very big), plus a homemade hummus and red cabbage slaw (not homegrown unfortunately). I'm sprouting some green lentils too.
At the weekend we had our first Christmassy get together, round a friends....Jan made a roasted butternut squash salad (still two butternuts left!) that included more beetroot and kale, plus carrot, mushrooms, lettuce, chickpeas etc....it was very nice and good to have a lighter option, on top of all the tasty Christmas baked treats.
On the allotment this week I spied a few Brussels sprouts which look about ready to pick, so it must really be nearly Christmas! Oh, I have a sneaky addition, I forgot the curly kale I picked this week too....about three times this much, nice lightly steamed and drizzled with cider vinegar.
 
Thanks for reading, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Harvest Monday, mushrooms and a glean

Whilst I was at a carrot glean on Saturday, Jan made us some tasty falafels, using dried split fava beans as a base, plus our own (small) red onions, some slightly weary-looking mint from the front yard and chillis that were originally in the lean-to but now are in the lounge near the window. (She used a lot more beans than in this photo!).
Yummy. There were even a few lettuce leaves from the lean-to, and a sweet pepper left from last week.
The beans and recipe were from Hodmedod's, a local company selling British-grown pulses and beans, a great company to support.
Jan's look a bit like this I think!
This week I also harvested a few veggies from the allotment....some Brussels sprouts tops, chard and these leeks. They're a bit small but I dib the seedlings out quite late in the season, where I've had early potatoes, to avoid the leek moth caterpillars. Actually I wouldn't have had many leeks at all this year if my allotment neighbour hadn't given me some spare seedlings, 'cause I didn't get very good germination with mine.
For my birthday I was kindly given a grow-your-own mushroom kit, which uses spent coffee ground spores as the growing medium.
You make a cut in the bag (on the already-marked cross), soak it for 12 hours (it needs weighing down), and then spray the opening twice a day. (You get a spray nozzle in the kit too).
After just a few days the 'shrooms are starting to grow, ooh. Should be another week or so before we can start harvesting.
So, on Saturday we had probably the last glean of this season, rescuing organic carrots graded-out mainly because they're not the 'right' size or shape.
I may have climbed to the top of the carrot mountain, hehe.

We saved just under a tonne of carrots (which have gone off to various charities via Fareshare) but only nibbled around the edge of the heap. Blimey. And to end the day, we were treated to a huge skein of pink-footed geese flying over at dusk, heading from the sugar beet fields where they feed, out to The Wash for the night. I've really enjoyed the gleaning this year and hopefully there'll be more opportunities to be involved in the future. If you'd like to get involved in the gleaning network, check out the Feedback website to sign-up.

 

Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.