Tag Archives: allotment

January on the allotment

22 Jan

January is the month I usually start to tidy up the allotment after the ravages of winter, I spent this afternoon spring cleaning the shed, digging over the vegetable beds, rescuing our very over grown strawberries and generally taking stock. I got a bit carried away and did more work than one person probably should so I’m typing this while nursing a medicinal G&T.

Sundays on the allotment also come with the ammusing accompaniment of local league football being played just over the fence; today it seemed very important that man called Gary should “keep his head up”. I’m not sure what that meant and from all the shouting going on neither did Gary!

Although the winter so far has been much milder than the last one, it has been very windy and there has been one major casualty on the allotment, the greenhouse. Here it is…

Doesn’t it look sad! The Man and I found it with the cover completely ripped off by the winds a few weeks ago and all we could do at the time was pick up the plastic cover which luckily hadn’t gone too far and stuff it in the shed. For reference here is the view in January 2011.

The Man thinks it’s fixable, but I’m not sure where to start.  I’m impressed it has held together for the three years we’ve had it, we snapped part of it on the day we put it up, it had to be majorly re enforced last year, and the other allotment holders around us looked pretty sceptical when they saw it. We shall see, I hope there is life in the old girl.

On a brighter note the rhubarb is starting to come through.

The first thing we planted and still coming back for more.

Despite the hard graft which always accompanies the first proper session on the allotment in the New Year it’s nice to return to something cyclical, look back at where things were last year and what might be this year. One thing is for sure Cabbages are now added to the list of things I won’t bother with again (soon there will only be weeds on this list), but something has been eating them despite all my attempts at protecting them so I’m giving in if I can’t eat them then nothing else is going to!

Autumnal allotment

8 Nov

Although I think it’s still unseasonably warm the allotment is winding down, and we should really get on and do those end of season tasks we always put off until the weather turns really wintry; we never seem to learn! Most of the vegetables are over now and the beds have been cleared but there are still a few plants still hanging on though.

We still have a few chillies left, the others are drying at home.

These little chillies are supposed to be mild but a taste test suggest otherwise! I had to pick them all as the plant was looking a bit bedraggled.

The very last of the cherry tomatoes were sweet and delicious,they have benefited from the extra warmth and staying on the vine for longer.

It’s not all digging up and the end of the line, these cabbages are starting to develop hearts and as long as we can keep the slugs off them should be ready in spring. Our cavalo nero is also doing well and should see us through the winter and into spring nicely.

Allotment Goodies

22 Sep

It’s been a mixed year on the allotment with somethings flatly refusing to grow, but grass and weeds doing very well but you can’t complain too much when you can pick a bunch of goodies like these!

flowers from the allotment

27 Jul

The Man and I don’t knowingly grow too much that isn’t edible on the allotment but I have a soft spot for sweet peas. I’m yet to grow them as well as my Dad, but they grow well enough to keep me happy.

I love the fine yet sturdy stems and delicately drooping flowers; the smell takes me straight back to childhood summers. These sweet smelling lovelies are from a pound shop packet of seeds and so far have proved very good value.

I work from home quite a lot and having a bunch on the table while I work is a real pick me up, and that’s worth much more than a pound!

sausage, broad bean and potato casserole

17 Jul

The other day, after two very busy weeks The Man booked us a table at Caldesi in Campagna in Bray. Since buying The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Calsesi, (one half of the husband and wife duo behind the restaurant), we had been promising ourselves a visit as a treat so it was lovely to finally go. This isn’t a review site, but the food was wonderful and the staff charming and easy-going; our meal was not cheap but a fabulous treat and one that was much-needed!

The meal also inspired me to go back to the book and try some more recipes. I was keen to use something from the allotment so looked up broad beans in the index and found Stufato di salsicce, fave e patate a much more elegant way of saying; sausage, broad bean and potato casserole.

For a recipe with a fairly simple list of ingredients (sausage, potato, beans, tomato, chilli & garlic) it was a really rich, tasty stew, with a good kick of heat. Perhaps better suited to winter or autumn eating, but with fresh ingredients picked and dug up earlier in the afternoon on the allotment it made sense. The Man pronounced it ” a triumph” so it must have been good.

We ate it with a slice of home-made rye bread to soak up the sauce, (the bread maker has really been earning its keep), and a glass of italian red. I’ve got a feeling this recipe will become a regular fixture even if visits to the restaurant don’t.

at last, potatoes and broad beans.

10 Jul

We finally dug up some of the Shetland Black potatoes, they got hit by a late frost and haven’t grown as quickly as normal because the poor things  had to re grow most of their leaves!

They were still very small, but have an incredible purple skin when given a good scrub. They also have white flesh with a purple ring running through it.

I’d love to be able to include a photo of what they look like cooked, but I took my eye off them and they boiled to mush, so no pictures and a slightly odd dinner. I’ll have to pay more attention to them next time but here are some broad beans instead!

I used to hate them when I was little but growing them and eating them fresh has rehabilitated the humble broad bean in my eyes. That’s lucky really because for the first year The Man and I have managed to grow enough for a few dinners worth.

slow growing, but getting there!

4 Jul

The long dry spell in April may seem a long way away now, but it seems to have taken its toll on the allotment, at least that’s my excuse! Things are slowly getting going. The courgettes had been dawdling, after a really good start with the bottle cloches, but  are finally catching up.

This one has a way to go before it’s worth eating but I’m relieved they are getting a move on, in previous years we have been eating courgettes for a while, and are probably a bit fed up of them (so perhaps it’s a bit of a saving grace).

The broad beans on the other hand are doing very well for once and there is the real possibility we will be able to have them with more than one meal this year, a break through!

rhubarb and lavender

22 May

I love rhubarb! As a kid my Dad used to let me eat the very young stems raw with an egg cup of sugar  on the side to dip them in.  When we first took over the allotment Dad split one of the crowns in their garden and gave it to us, I could get quite sentimental about it but I’ll try not to. It was the first thing we planted, well I planted (The Man was away) and I still remember an old man wandering over to tell me that was exactly the sort of thing I should be planting, but “why wasn’t my husband helping me”, kindly meant I’m sure so I didn’t challenge it!

Luckily rhubarb seems to travel well and it’s been very happy in it’s corner of the allotment ever since. It’s a versatile vegetable, yes vegetable, and can be used in meat dishes as well as more traditional desserts and puddings. This was a gorgeous pud, but it didn’t photograph well.

Inspired by Peck Peck’s honey and lavender ice cream at the underground night market, and with a big lavender bush on the allotment I wanted to try adding lavender to my cooking. This combination was picked on a whim when I was weeding round the plants but a quick google shows it is fairly common. The highly perfumed flavour of the lavender seemed to make the rhubarb, well more rhubarby and more complex tasting than straight up stewed rhubarb.

Ingredients

3 sticks of rhubarb, leaves removed

50g caster sugar ( more or less to suit your taste)

3 sprigs of fresh lavender

4 tbsp water

Method

Place all ingredients in a pan and simmer gently until rhubarb is soft ( I went over board and over cooked it ).  Can be served hot but I left it to cool and served it with Greek yoghurt with honey from Tims Dairy which I love! It’s rich and creamy with a lovely but not overpowering honey taste. Lavender in cooking, watch this space for more ideas..maybe brownies next, any suggestions?

things are growing!

12 May

Although it still hasn’t rained very much here, Windsor seems to have a dry micro climate ( I think the Queen has something to do with it) things are growing really well.

The DIY cloches have worked a treat and all the courgette and squash seeds have germinated and haven’t been nipped by the very cold night last week which has trashed the potatoes. Too embarrassing for a photo but they have been set back a good month, but we lost a whole row last year so I should look on the bright side. They are now covered up with fleece just  in case there are a few more cold nights.

Luckily the strawberry patch hasn’t been affected and is doing really well. If the weather stays fairly sunny we should have strawberries earlier than ever, fingers crossed and with some help from some of these…

topsy turvy tomatoes

9 May

Last year they got rid of the taps on our allotment, meaning all our water now has to come from a tank and we can no longer use the hose pipe. This has made The Man and I much more mindful of the amount of water we use, mainly because we now have to carry it and I decided to have a go at alternative ways of planting to reduce how much water we need to use and carry, good for us and a little better for the environment. So take selection of household items,

and you too can make one of these;

an upside down tomato planter.

It was quite easy to make and time will tell how well it works, but it should reduce the amount of water needed to feed the plant and would be a great space saver.

To make one you will need; 1 large plastic bottle, duct tape, a chopstick, string, scissors and compost. Be warned it is a bit fiddly!

Cut the bottom off the bottle and poke some small holes in it, you will need this later. Next make holes in the side of the bottle to pass the chopstick through, this will be what you attach the string to hang it up with. Then, VERY GENTLY feed the tomato plant through the neck of the bottle, use some rolled up news paper to help stop the plant falling through. Hang the bottle up in your chosen spot and fill with compost and wedge the inverted bottom back in the body of the bottle; it will act as a drip feeder. Lastly wrap the whole lot with the tape to hold it all together and protect the roots from the light. Feed and water regularly and keep your fingers crossed!

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