Saturday, 28 December 2013

2014 Here We Come!!

Part of the fun this time of the year is thinking of all the great seeds to buy in readiness to plant indoors in preparation of the time to plant at the allotment!

For Christmas I got some funky seeds and plan to plant them to see what grows.  As I am also a writer of a food blog the idea of growing my own food is very exciting!

Have you ever seen purple tomatoes? Me neither - this should be fun!

I also got these great looking kits.

Cocktail Garden Kit has everything I need to get started with Mint, Lime Basil, Lemon Balm, Borage and two I have not heard of before; Agastache and Cucamelon!

Funky Veg Kit has Purple Haze Carrots, Yellow Courgettes, Striped Tomato Tigerella, Red Delucious Brussels Sprouts and Brightlughts Swiss Chard.

And finally the Hot Chilli & Sweet Pepper Kit contains Chilli Peach Habanero, Chilli de Cayenne, Chilli Pepper JalapeƱo, Sweet Pepper Corni di Toro Rossi, Sweet Pepper Etiuda and Sweet Pepper California Wonder!

Each kit contains starter growing pots, peat blocks, plant markers and full sowing and growing tips.

The kits are by Plant Theatre and are great gifts for those who love gardening like me.

I will of course document how I get on as the growing season progresses.

The kits and seed packets were Christmas presents and I was not obliged to blog about them!







Friday, 8 November 2013

Getting Ready for Next Year

There is always mixed emotion in any garden or allotment at this time of the year.  I am sad to pull up the remains of the plants that fed us so well during the summer but also excited at the preparation of the ground so that we will be able to plant straight into it in the Spring.

When I first started at my allotment in the cold and the wind I admit to having those thoughts. What have I agreed to? What on earth was I thinking when I agreed to work this 'lawn'?

And here we are at the end of the first growing season and I have not regretted a single moment spent up there.  Of course, I do admit, that we have had a fantastic summer weather wise but the sense of achievement is absolutely fantastic!

Mr R had to be dragged up to the allotment under threat of death and starvation in April and May but by July he was insisting on popping up after work to make sure everything was well watered! He is now even planning for the Spring!

There is still loads more digging to do over the next few months weather permitting. We still have to cut back all the blackberry bushes and burn the pile we cut back but we have learned so much and are looking forward to next year!!

Onions are planted and will stay safe under the fleecy stuff until they are a bit bigger and the birds can't get them.

But not everything is finished growing for the winter - sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli continue to fight the elements. Don't know if we will have these ready for Christmas but they will certainly be ready for harvest in the new year.

My plan at the moment is to get loads of the rest of the digging done before Christmas and covered over with carpet or heavy plastic to keep the weeds from re-growing.  We are also cutting back all the fruit at the far end of the plot to find out exactly what is there.  Mr R treated himself to an incinerator to burn all the debris and of course the ashes get dug back into the ground.
When we have it cleared we will put down some mulched wood fibre to keep the weeds down and try to do some training as the new fruits grow next year. 
I also have an apple tree courtesy of Waitrose to plant there too.
And the most exciting times are ahead.  Thompson & Morgan the seed specialist have sent me their 2014 catalogue so I can spend hours planning and designing my vegetable growing ready to order my seeds and get planting in the new year.

I also want to thank Thompson & Morgan for the seeds they sent me at the start of my allotment journey!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Pumpkin time!

Hard to believe the summer is over and it's autumn.  Time to clear out vegetable beds, cut back old growth and its.....


I never planted pumpkins but somehow these little plants came up amongst the beans and courgettes. The leaves looked like courgette at first but it soon became obvious they were not! 

Little green globes started to form and then grow and I decided to just leave them and see what happened.

They grew and grew and then started to ripen to orange a dead giveaway they are pumpkins!

In the end we have 10 lovely round, orange pumpkins waiting to be picked.

I have promised BoyG he could pick one next weekend and if Miss Lizzie comes she can have one too.

The biggest will hopefully last till Halloween and I can carve it out but the others will become roast pumpkin, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin jam, jelly and chutney to remind us of them throughout the darkest days if winter!

Next year I will plant some and nurture them where I actually want them to grow!

Pumpkin soup anyone??

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Summer's Bounty

I love my allotment and even Mr R has come to want to be there, to carry out the day to day tasks that keep it running.

This year we have eaten more vegetables than ever and they were all free!  We have had courgettes in every form possible, baked, steamed and made into cake. I have written about lots of the food I have made and will be writing about the recipes for other things too. Check them out here.

But the deep shiny black star of the show is the fantastic crop of blackberries! 

I have so far made over 25 jars of jam,

blackberry and coconut cake,

blackberry pie and today made blackberry chutney.

I have also made blackberry vodka

and blackberry Bacardi

I made a visit today and although I thought the blackberries were slowing down they have had a new spurt - there are thousands of them still to pick! And still they keep on growing! 

When we get to the end of the month the bushes will be cut right back to encourage growth for next year but it will also give us a chance to encourage the blackberries to grow in a more civilized way next year. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The end is insight!

This time of the year there is still plenty of work to be done on the allotment!

I popped up there this morning and before I knew it 3 hours had gone by! I hadn't done anything major but just a bit here and a bit there.

One of my current tasks is to clear and add manure to the herb bed.  I had planted a couple of permanent herbs but used the space in between for radishes and peas so as not to waste space.  Today I put in a new Oregano plant.

I am also extending the herb bed so I can plant lavender, for lots of uses but mostly to attract bees and butterflies to the plot.

Next week I will be joining up two smaller beds getting them ready for onions!.

There is so much to do, I must remember the coffee next time and I can stay longer!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

My Allotment Contributes to Dinner

Tonight I was very proud to be serving a tasty, nutritious, satisfying meal to Mr R but which cost the total sum of £0.45! How did I do that?

Well, we had sausages, jacket potatoes, yellow courgettes and rainbow chard.

The sausages were turkey sausages and were a gift from a visit yesterday to Kelly Bronze Turkey Farm in Essex.

The courgettes were sauteed in a small amount of butter, salt and pepper and came from our allotment - free!

The Rainbow Chard was pan fried in a bit of olive oil and a tablespoon of sundried tomato paste with a little white wine. The chard was grown on the allotment so free and the tomato paste an item in the goodie bag from last month's Food Blogger Connect conference.

The cost of this meal can be attributed to the bag of four baking potatoes I bought at the supermarket, originally priced £1.89 but reduced to - you guessed it - £0.45!

And for pudding we had Rachel's organic, low fat Mango yoghurt which was also sent to me for review. This is a creamy pot full of yoghurt with pieces of mango and low fat.

Thanks to Kelly Bronze Turkeys and Rachel's Yoghurt for their part in tonight's dinner.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Ruby Redcurrant Richness

We have been doing quite a bit of work at the allotment this weekend.  For starters we have cut back loads of trailers from the blackberry bushes which will allow us to pick them more easily in the next few weeks.  There are loads and loads of unripe berries just waiting to ripen and be picked by me!

On the way out Saturday I noticed a small sign on one of the plots.  'Help yourself to red and blackcurrants as our freezer is full'!  How nice.  Mr R was ready to go home so we didn't stop but I noticed that both the red and blackcurrants bushes were laden down with currants.

Today I brought a container and popped down to the currents.  The blackcurrants had been stripped from the bushes which didn't really bother me since I am not that fond of them.

The redcurrants however were virtually untouched.  I popped down to pick whilst Mr R was watering and in just a short time had a box full of ruby red juicy jewels!

When I got home I stripped all the berries from their stalks, washed them and let them drain and then weighed them.  1.5kg!!!

They are now in the freezer in four small bags ready to be used this winter.  I think I will pop some into my cranberry relish this Thanksgiving and any jam I make will get a handful to ensure there is pectin present.

I must pop into the supermarket and see how much redcurrants cost. I always like to know the extent of my bargains.

What do you do with currents, leave me a comment below please.  Thanks.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Veggies veggies everywhere!

We hadn't been to the allotment for about five days and during that time we had warm weather and a fair bit of rain.

That means only one thing - veggies!!!
As daughter and grandsons were visiting we made it a family affair!

Boy G helps me pick courgettes and helped Grandad with the watering whilst Baby G sat there looking cute!

The courgettes had been growing steadily but today WOW courgette explosion! 

We picked over 20 yellow courgettes (the green seem to have slowed down), loads of French beans both yellow and green, beet root, rainbow chard and runner beans!

The blackberries are ripening and will be ready to start picking soon, will be checking to see the jam jar situation in the shed!

Still so much to do but I love it there. Mr R is keener to go now as well and keeps referring to 'his potatoes'!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

That is no weed!

I was up at the allotment this afternoon with a visiting cousin of ours and after giving her some produce that I had grown we took a walk around the whole site.

It's so tranquil there and I love seeing what everyone else is growing and the ingenuity they use to make the supports and tunnels etc.

On the corner of my plot and my neighbour's I noticed this weed like clump growing and then today whilst walking around I saw loads more clumps of this.

When we got back from our stroll my plot neighbour was at his plot so I asked him if it was a weed.  No way, he said, its horseradish!  He got his spade and dug up a piece for both of us.

I had never seen horseradish growing before so it is with great excitement I shall grate some on something I cook this week. 

I also plan to put one of the smaller roots in a pot of soil and see if it takes.

Love new learning experiences!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Courgette Anyone!

The courgettes I planted are finally starting to produce an abundance.  To start with the yellow ones were so tiny and didn't seem to be going any where but with the recent heat wave and the rain this week they are really on the move.

Tonight we picked 5 yellow courgettes and 5 green ones and there are loads of small round courgettes almost ready to pick.

Quite funny that some of the plants are producing a green stripe variety in the middle of the yellow ones!

The dwarf french beans and the runner beans are also starting to pruduce enough to make a meal. My problem is that I love them raw so tend to eat them, and the peas, actually at the allotment!

Tonight after the watering session I also planted some purple sprouting broccoli and Brussel sprouts which will hopefully be ready in time for Christmas Day but will at least feed us in the New Year.

And judging by the excitement in Mr R's voice he is starting to enjoy the adventure!
Are you growing any vegetables or do you have an allotment? Let me know how you are getting on!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Dinner was inspired by my allotment!

There are loads of 'Here's what I had for dinner' blogs but please grant me this one because I grew a good deal of the meal on my allotment!

I do feel quite proud of myself lugging my trug home full of produce that I took the time to sow in the greenhouse, re-plant outside, weed, water and generally look after.

I started planning the meal by taking some wild scottish haddock fillets out of the freezer which were sent to me a while ago by Fish Is The Dish and supplied to them by Delish Fish in Aberdeen. Even though this fish has been in my freezer it still tastes as fresh as the day it left the sea!

I just wanted simplicity itself with the fish so popped in on a grill pan, light brushing of oil, sea salt crystals with lemon from Falksalt and a sprinkling of mixed spiced that my sister sent me from North Carolina. Under the grill for about 10 minutes whilst I got on with the stir fry.

Into my large frying pan I poured about 2 Tablespoons of rapeseed oil and gently started to fry the schallot that I had thinly sliced.

Next went in the thinly sliced courgettes (2) and peas from the allotment followed by the rainbow chard also thinly sliced. For some heat I added a large teaspoon of Gran Luchito Mexican chilli paste.

I stir fried this for about 5 minutes till tender and at the last 2 minutes I added two packages of chinese noodles (I got them reduced from £2.40 to 24p!) and about 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce and presto - a really fast and delicious supper topped with the fish fillets.

Mr R said he really liked the dinner even if he nearly broke his back digging earlier in the Spring - drama queen!!