Monday, 17 July 2017

Harvest Monday - summer harvests

So the lovely yellow tumbler tomatoes in the lean-to greenhouse at home are coming along nicely. We've had quite a few handfuls like this. These types of toms seem to ripen earlier than the cordon varieties, so growing a couple of plants gives an earlier crop. It's also quite surprising the number of fruits from relatively small plants. I have issues with the other tomatoes though...I don't normally get any problems (apart from a bit of blossom end rot) but I think there's a virus going through some of the plants, wah.
The little yellow toms are nice in sarnies (gap left down the middle for easier slicing sandwiches in half without contents immediately falling out). Used a bit of purple basil and parsley in these too. The parsley in self sown in the back garden.
The courgettes are still coming steadily. I realised I got the variety wrong's actually coucourzelle (apparently an unusual Italian heirloom variety). I really like the flavour, and it slices well.
A few more larger ones.
Aaand another (plus little cucumber)
The first couple of gherkin fruits were ready too. We actually ate these like cucumbers (peeled) as a snack rather than fermenting. They had a nice flavour.
There were more crystal lemon cukes plus even more courgettes and burpless evergreen cukes. (These are from the other day, I've harvested more today as well).
I have masses of self sown chard, I like picking the soft young leaves and making them into pesto (slightly cook the leaves first).
I add a bit of basil too...and for the last batch I used toasted cashews rather than walnuts.
The pesto is lovely with pasta, or spread in sandwiches.
Or with a Sunday nut roast....these were the last of my early potatoes, and were delicious mixed with the pesto. I stuck a few of the tumbler toms in for roasting too. And the nut roast (made by Jan), included parsley and rosemary from the backgarden and allotment.
Tonight we had the rest of the nut roast with Nero kale and a courgette lightly steamed together (and only just picked this evening too), more of the pesto, homemade marrow chutney and home-sprouted lentils....not bad for a Monday night dinner, yum. I'm enjoying having kale so early but hope it keeps cropping into the winter...there are plants at different stages of growth, so hopefully the smaller ones (only recently planted out) will spread out the harvests.

Oh I also made a gooseberry cake yesterday using a different recipe to the one I made recently but it didn't turn out that well! And after a huge harvest the fresh raspberries are finally running out but we're enjoying the few that are still cropping (and have frozen loads).


I was hoping to share some photos of the Bishop's Garden, near Norwich Cathedral, which had an open day yesterday. But it chucked it down with rain all afternoon, so we didn't get there in the end (we actually got halfway there when the heavy rain started, so stood under a tree for ages with our brollies, watched some canoeists paddling by on the river getting rather wet, then we took shelter in the nearby bowling alley arcade, played some arcade games, rain wasn't stopping so we soggily came home.). Not quite the naturey planned afternoon but it was fun anyway. Will have to keep an eye out for the next open garden session.


Waffling over, thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.


Monday, 10 July 2017

Harvest Monday and an allotment update

The harvests are getting a bit more varied now, with lunches including quite a few homegrown elements (not the carrot...I haven't grown any this year). I like mixing up lettuce leaves with a bit of green / purple basil and parsley, plus a lone tomato here, and a tendergreen burpless cucumber.
The kale which I planted out in June (after lifting my garlic early due to white rot) has been growing really well
And the self sown chard is all over the place, I've made several pickings, some of smaller leaves like this and others left to get a bit bigger.
Depending on how sunny it's been, we sometimes have more than one tomato at a time! (Here with a little bit of salad from Eves Hill Veg Co where I volunteer, including some borage flowers...I should really harvest some from the allotment the way, the Eves Hill salad is amazing...25 varieties of leaf I think, wow. We piled some more salad on after this pic but I wanted to show the tumbler toms first).
The courgettes are coming along steadily. Definitely not glut proportions, just a nice quantity. I have three plants all in quite different locations (different light / space etc), so that seems to be keeping the numbers steady. This variety is zucchini, from a free packet of seeds off the front of a magazine a few years back. It slices really nicely and doesn't go seedy, even when accidentally letting the fruit get a bit big.
I also spied the first couple of crystal lemon cucumbers (always good for making eyes in a veggie face). Now, although it's nice to have them, this particular plant I thought was going to be a dumpling winter squash. I must've got my baby plants mixed up because after a few new leaves had appeared it was obviously some kind of cuke...and turns out it is a crystal lemon. Oh well, it's doing the best out of the other crystal lemons anyway.
I harvested a bit more kale today too.
Some of the chard went into making a big load of pesto (lightly cook the chard then whizz with toasted walnuts, oil, garlic etc). It was tasty in sandwiches as well as with pasta.
Yesterday Jan made a yummy nut roast with Yorkshire puds...and even better, there was enough leftovers for tonight aswell, here with chard and courgette plus marrow chutney from last year (our last jar of it, will have to make more soon).
The allotment is looking pretty good at the moment, if I do say so meself. An allotment neighbour even said he thinks it's the best he's ever seen it (still early summer and time for weeds to take over though!). Here's the view from just inside the plot entrance. The lavender has flopped over the path even though I've already tied it back once. It's nice to brush past though, and there are so many bees on it (I apologise to them each time i disturb them walking past).
The rotational beds are all in use now, though some of the plants are quite small (like the leeks I planted into the old broad bean bed). My plot goes back to just where the swing is poking above the bushes. I have mainly soft fruit bushes and a couple of hazel trees down that end, plus the huge buddliea on the left of the plot. The three compost heaps are down there too. Incidentally, we've been picking lots more fruit this week but I've not got any pics. Jan's been helping pick the raspberries again. I was just looking back to photos from last year, and the different soft fruits do seem to be ready a couple of weeks earlier this year.
Looking across slightly to the right. Gherkins in the foreground climbing up sticks and netting
Bit of a polyculture with courgette, a couple of other squashes and self sown chard in the bed, beans and cuke up the mesh (which I purloined from a skip years back...I did check with the owners first, honest guv). Tray of leeks waiting to be planted out elsewhere. There are maincrop potatoes on the other side of the mesh. Originally I had this area as the strawberry patch, and there are some little plants which have grown in the path seemingly from nowhere. There's some mildew on these squashes / cukes and I keep forgetting to do a milk spray to try and keep it in check.
The kale / cuke / dwarf bean trial is going ok so far, with all plants looking healthy (this is where I've been harvesting kale but I have other plants at different stages in a couple of other beds too). I'm trying to keep on top of hoeing around the plot this year, probably for the first time ever, and it's really helping keep the beds clean and not too much slug damage.
This winter squash is a new one for me - sweet dumpling I think, without checking. There's meant to be lots of small fruits, though the other little fruits on this plant look like they're going to rot-off - in fact you can see the stalk of a tiny one I removed which had a rotten bum.
I was given a mixed packet of green and white butternut squash...I've never heard of green butternut but this looks like it might be one. I'll have to see if it turns white or not! You can also see a lot of soil splash on the leaves, from the huge storm last Thursday. It gave everything a good drink at least anyway, and filled my water butt at home up.
It's nearly time to lift and dry the onions (variety sturon). I want to use this bed for the leeks, so I'm trying hard to resist lifting the onions too soon (in terms of crop rotation, it's ok to follow in the same family within the same growing season, but to rotate next year).
Talking of leeks, here are a few more from last year that I've let go to flower.
The bees love them (ignore the fly). In the background are some of my wigwams for squash, cukes and beans, made from trimmings around the plot and willow from an allotment friend.
There have been loads of butterflies around too, here's a gatekeeper enjoying one of the many self sown marjoram plants around the top end of the plot.

Thanks for reading this mega-post. I'm linking in as usual with Harvest Monday kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres. Check out his blog to see what other people around the world have been harvesting too.


Monday, 3 July 2017

Harvest Monday - summer harvests and gooseberry cake

On Tuesday I harvested all my spring-sown broad beans (Eleanora Express). Looking at the bed, I didn't think there were too many pods but working along each plant they added up to a decent amount. I harvest them by cutting each plant off at ground level (leaving the roots to decompose in the soil), then when I've got a few plants in a pile, go through snipping the pods off. I noticed a real difference in size and flavour of this variety compared to Super Aquadulce (which I grew over winter and harvested a while back). Eleanora express had a lot smaller beans but very sweet...lovely. I made a massive batch of hummus (pod the beans, boil, then use as you would chick peas. The Eleanora express skins were OK to leave on, whereas the super aquadulce were a bit tough and needed slipping off). There was enough hummus to freeze some, so we'll enjoy that later sometime.
This evening I picked a couple of courgettes from the allotment. I noticed the big one on Saturday but at that time it was quite small....two days later it was a fair bit larger! I also picked a small one the other day, which we had sliced thinly in sandwiches (with broad bean hummus of course).
Tonight I also harvested some Nero kale - I have some under netting, and the leaf stalks of one plant had been snapped a bit so I think a cat or fox had jumped on it. They were still in good condition to eat...first of this year's sowing to be eaten, yum. (Here I've removed the stalks already).
So after getting back from the plot I had a quick, rather late tea (9.15 pm) - one of my 'classic' meals - onion, garlic, courgette, kale, an egg in the middle, on toast. It was soo tasty and all the veggies homegrown (I've lifted a few small onions which had flopped over, the rest are still growing).
I've picked so much fruit this week...this is just some of it...
Jan helped on Saturday and did a marvellous job picking all these raspberries, which freed up my time to plant leeks and beetroot. The leeks went into the old broad bean bed.
We've been eating fresh berries and I've frozen a lot of the fruit, to eat later. But we were heading round to friends' yesterday so decided to make a gooseberry cake, based on the Waitrose recipe (but used a bit less sugar as the berries are a dessert variety). You make the cake mix, then pop the berries on top, which then sink in.
After baking for a while, add flaked almonds on top and bake a bit longer. Very tasty.

Oh I forgot, I've also lifted all my early potatoes, so I could plant out some more winter squashes in their place. Not very exciting but I'm hoping the squashes do well, to help provide winter meals. There's masses of chard too that I've been picking, lovely soft young leaves. I might pick a load and make a pesto. And there'll be another cucumber to pick tomorrow, from the back garden. Ooh, and a couple of yellow tumbler tomatoes, hooray.


I did go to the farm again on Wednesday (not for profit market garden) but it was very rainy so I didn't get any photos. We had a good session picking peas and lifting garlic though...quite good fun apart from the thistles!


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


Monday, 26 June 2017

Harvest Monday, intercropping and Eves Hill Veg Co

This week has seen the proper start of *courgette season*....ooh. I picked these yesterday, two were from one plant, with a single one from another. I only have the stripey ones this year 'cause none of the dark green ones germinated (the seed was very old).
And today there was another from the plant that had two yesterday...that plant's going to be the most prolific by the looks of it - though it was the first one I planted out so maybe it just has a head start. Also there was the first cucumber, hurrah -an outdoor variety who's name I've forgotten (and I'm out babysitting so can't check). We'll have the cuke with lunch tomorrow, hope it's not bitter after this dry weather.
Yesterday I lifted a few early spuds - these were from three plants, so still not loads, but not too bad. The tops have died off completely now - a lot earlier than normal. And the maincrop plants look a bit dodgy, it's been so dry.
I tend to boil them all up then mix in with other bits n bobs.
At home in the lean-to greenhouse we've had our first ripe tomato - a yellow tumbler type - these always ripen earlier than the rest so it's good to have a couple of plants of them as well as the bigger varieties.
Look, we even cut it in half and shared it (new game 'spot the tomato'). There's been a lot of lettuce leaves from the back garden too, much better than last year when the slugs ate more than us.
Talking of the back garden, here's a quick snap of it. Raised veg beds on either side (the soil isn't very deep as the foundations of the old terraced houses are still under there). To make use of the space I grow things up the fences too (beans and cucumbers this year, the beans were direct sown, so are a lot shorter than the ones growing up the right hand wigwam, which I grew indoors in loo roll tubes). The beds are fenced off so our cat doesn't use them as a giant litter tray (she would if she could).
Back on the allotment, the strawberries have pretty much come to an end (they were earlier than usual) but have been replaced by summer raspberries, yum yum (there are a few tayberries in the tub too, which grows up the side of the shed). This pic is from the other day, the raspberries are really big and juicy, which is a surprise as I haven't been watering them and it's hardly rained recently. But this year I did mulch them with compost, then cover with several layers of newspaper, and weighed the newspaper down with old couch grass roots. It seems to have helped a lot, and kept the weeds down too.
So this afternoon I thought I'd have a couple of hours of proper berry-picking. Clockwise from top left - Raspberries (will need to pick again in a couple of days), gooseberries (need a dedicated session just for them another time), Saskatoon (what remained after a blackbird has gobbled the rest, doh), redcurrants (could again spend ages just on them), blackcurrants (still loads more). Well, it's a start, and the freezer will be well-stocked!
I thought I'd just share a couple of intercropping / polyculture methods I'm using this year - cucumber and blauhilde climbing beans sharing wigwams, with chard in between.
Nero kale with dwarf French beans direct sown inbetween, plus a crystal lemon cucumber growing along the ground through the middle. This one's a real experiment (and is the bed where I had to lift my garlic early due to white rot), whereas I've done the bean/cuke wigwam before. In other areas of the plot I've under-sown sweetcorn with dwarf French beans, have cuke / beans growing up a fence, and have beetroot under bean wigwams and under a gherkin climby thing. It'll be interesting to see how well each crop does.
I've left some leeks to go to flower too - they're so beautiful, and good for the insects (maincrop onions in the adjacent bed).
Out at Eves Hill Veg Co (not for profit market garden where I volunteer) it was the monthly community day on Saturday. I spent most of the session weeding and using the wheel-hoe (push-along hoe, good for doing the paths and quite fun). Other people focussed on getting leeks planted out - there's a lotta leeks! The salad area is still looking good, so many varieties...I'm not sure what this one is but it's a lovely shape.
Basil seedlings in the small polytunnel
Very long row of beans!
As it was near the solstice, we had a BBQ in the evening to celebrate...and were treated to an amazing rainbow
The light was gorgeous (here's those runner beans from a different angle).
Huge huge rainbow, what a treat!

There was no filter on those photos...don't think I've ever seen such an intense rainbow, wow. Well I don't think we can top that each session at the farm but you never know.
Thanks for reading this week, I'm linking in with Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres. Head on over to check out what other people have been harvesting too.