Tag Archives: Fruit and Vegetable

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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hooray it’s asparagus time (and some more foraging)

5 May

This is a mixture of what could have been three dinners ( if there had been enough of each). Linguine with nettle pesto, roast asparagus with parmesan and a foraged salad ( allotment weeds again*) with feta cheese.

English asparagus season is brief, about eight weeks from early May through June, but thanks to the gorgeous Spring we have been enjoying its early this year and has been on sale locally, and in some shops for a few weeks now.

As I’ve already mentioned I love asparagus but wince at both how much it costs at other times of the year and at the ecological of it being shipped half way round the globe (most often from Peru). Also I think the fresh stuff tastes so much better! You can still get ropey asparagus at this time of year but many shops are good at getting it on sale quickly, if you can pick it up from the farm or pick your own, so much the better. So for the next few weeks I will enjoy eating asparagus with a clear conscience, go get some and give it try, but be quick it won’t be around for long!

*Chives, hawthorn leaves, mint, garlic mustard and sorrel.

optimistic courgette planting

2 May

I’ve already mentioned that previously courgettes have grown very well for us, we now have an ever-growing list of recipes for using them up; from courgette bread to courgette jam to go on it and all sorts in between.  This year, in an attempt to achieve a mixture of flavours we are growing a green variety, yellow, the amusingly shaped  tromba d’albenga and

butternut squashes (last chance saloon for these as they didn’t do well last year). This year, to try to make finding the fruit less of a challenge and for a bit of crowd control in the planting we have tried a more structured way of planting, rather than just chucking the seed in the ground and crossing our fingers!

It might not look like it but there is a plan at work here…honest. Each half bottle sits on top of a mound of soil, compost and manure and has two seeds planted under it. It should act like a mini green house helping the seeds germinate faster and helping keep them warm if the temperature dips. That’s the theory.  They might need it as I have a sneaky feeling we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the recent lovely weather but fingers crossed the seedlings should stay warm in their little domes and we will have another bumper crop.

dandelion fritters – give these a try!

29 Apr

Inspired by out adventures with Fergus last week on our last trip to the allotment The Man and I were on the look out for anything edible that we had previously considered a weed! It’s been a real eye opener, and I feel I can justify my lazy attitude now, I’m just growing alternative crops, not encouraging weeds! We grow dandelions almost as well as we grow nettles, and at least they have the advantage of being pretty! Shallow? Me?

Pretty yes, and tasty too! Dandelion leaves are edible, we tasted them when we were out foraging,  they were too bitter for me, but I’d encourage you to try them and see. The flowers and stems are also edible. We ate the flower petals scattered over a salad, but Fergus also suggested a savoury tempura treatment and many web sites suggest adding honey or maple syrup which is where this idea came from.

First pick your flowers; legally you need permission from the land owner before you pick anything, as ours came from our allotment they are fair game. Also you need to be careful not to pick too close to roads, anywhere that has been sprayed with chemicals or peed on by dogs etc! Boring maybe, but I felt I should say it.  When picking, leave enough of the stem to act as a handle when cooking and eating, think of them as a floral lolly pop.

For the batter I used a drop scone batter; you will have some left over, but you can make pancakes the next day which is no bad thing.

Ingredients

As many dandelion flowers as you wish.

125 g self-raising flour, 2 tsp caster sugar, 1 egg beaten, 1 tbsp melted butter, 150 ml milk, 4 tbsp sunflower oil. Other batters will also work just as well.

Runny honey, maple syrup, golden syrup *sauce of your choice.

Dunk the blooms in the batter and shallow fry in hot oil until browned and crisp. Serve together, the stems will act as a handle. I think they look incredibly pretty too!

Dip in chosen sauce or syrup and enjoy!

You should experience a range of tastes and textures, sweet syrup, crispy batter, soft petals and then a slight bitter finish. The Man and I ate them up with relish and they are certainly and accessible and tasty way to begin experimenting with foraged food. Also, like the nettle pesto, I find a certain satisfaction in finding a use for something I’d otherwise consider a nuisance.

gardener’s revenge – nettle pesto

10 Apr

I one thing we have always grown really well on the allotment are nettles! It really isn’t intentional, but we seem to grow a super strength variety. One caught me today, stinging me through a glove and I spent a good five minutes, nearly crying, trying to find a doc leaf to rub on the sting. It still hurts now 3 hours later; they really are weapons grade nettles!

I made loads of this, some to freeze and some to eat straight away.

125g blanched nettles ( about 1/4 carrier bag)

2 garlic cloves chopped

50g pine nuts

60g grated parmesan ( or other hard cheese)

80 ml extra olive oil

1tbsp lemon juice.

First blanche the nettles in boiling water to de sting them. Drain the nettles, and leave to cool. When cold, combine with other ingredients and blend until smooth. This recipe makes a very thick pesto, so you can add more oil as you wish but it is easier to get into ice-cube trays ( my prefered method of freezing) and add more oil or other ingredients when you come to use it.

To be honest I didn’t detect a particularly nettley taste, the cheese and garlic take centre stage, but it is a fantastic green colour; and knowing I had made something tasty out something that pains me on a regular basis made it all the tastier!

Disclaimer. Wear gloves when picking nettles. Only pick from an area you know has not been sprayed with weed killer or other nasties. Just the top leaves will do, please pick responsibly! Remember to rinse the nettles before cooking to remove any bugs, grit, etc.

green shoots

27 Mar

The days are getting longer and warmer and it feels like it’s very  nearly beer garden weather so that must mean it’s time to get planting seeds like chillies and tomatoes.


These little beauties are a mixture of Scotch Bonnet, Habanero and Cayenne chillies so won’t be for the faint hearted when they are ripe. We will have to wait until then to work out which is which as I didn’t label them straight away and now can’t remember which is which. We are going to have a go at growing them inside this year as our green house wasn’t quite hot enough for the normal peppers last year and these will definitely need a bit more heat, they also look quite pretty.

If all twelve plants make it we could have an awful lot so if you have any recipes to share please let me know, I’d love to hear them and will post about them here.

You say potato…

17 Mar

Sunday was the first day I’ve felt really warm sunshine on the allotment this year, it’s not difficult as we haven’t been that often. The excitement of the promise of warmer days led to the possibly rash decision to plant out first early potatoes . It feels like a bit of a gamble, last year we lost a whole row to a late snow fall  but I trust the wisdom of the more ahem… senior allotment holders and they have planted theirs so damn it so will I! I love digging up potatoes, it’s a very strong childhood memory for me and I still get a child like thrill from digging up a plant and searching for the potatoes in the fine, crumbly soil underneath it.

We are growing two old varieties this year Shetland Black;

with funky purple skin and a purple ring in the flesh, and Home Guard. Developed around the Second World War and apparently good for chips!

Last years problems aside, potatoes seem to grow very well on our patch and have been great for breaking up the soil making it easy to dig and plant other crops the next year. Planting is simple too, dig a hole approx 20cm ( or a trench if you’re being traditional and feeling energetic) line with manure or fertilizer, pop in the potato with most the little shoots facing upwards.

Plant 30 cm apart in rows and cover well with earth, but leave a mound or a ridge so you can tell where you have planted them. They can be left to their own devices until the green shoots appear, then you need to rake earth up over them to stop light getting to the growing potatoes and to force the plant to produce more. apart from watering they don’t need much attention, I hardly bother weeding them, but I am lazy; if weeds bother you then by all means weed them! If you are pushed for space, or are even more lazy than me, you can even grow them in containers. Fingers crossed in July we should have tasty potatoes.

Mid Week Mexican

13 Mar

Mid week meals can often be a chore, or a time for tried and tested favorites and not much experimentation; but sometimes I like to dive into the recipe books I normally leave for the weekend. This recipe from Mexican Food Made Easy by Thomasina Miers is a much-loved member of our collection and I’ll definitely be making cheesy polenta with mushrooms and greens again.

I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter; the polenta should have been allowed to cool, cut into slices and grilled but I served it straight away. The mushrooms and still in season purple sprouting broccoli are stir fried with onions and chilli, making a spicy but light accompaniment to the polenta. Using quick cook polenta means it can be whipped up very quickly mid-week, and is a comforting and filling supper. What are youre mid week staples?

If your experience of mexican food runs to fajita and guacamole I’d recommend Mier’s book as a great introduction to an underestimated cuisine.

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

2 Mar

We made a tentative visit to the allotment last weekend, I’ve been keeping it ticking over but we hadn’t done any meaningful work since well before Christmas and the very cold snap. I’ve felt a little judged recently when I turn up looking ready for some serious digging and then scarper ten minutes later with a bag of veggies, leaving the plot to look decidedly battered!

Fairweather gardeners? Probably, but at least it keeps up our enthusiasm and doesn’t become a laborious chore. One thing that also keeps us going in possibly our least favourite bit of the year are the signs that spring is nearly here, like our rhubarb which is looking like it is going to have another productive year.

We’ve found it very easy to grow, it was the first thing we planted on the plot and it was flung rather carelessly in but it keeps coming back year after year.I always think it’s a strangely prehistoric looking plant, or had a touch of the triffid about it, indeed its leaves are poisonous; and it has a history as a medicinal plant used for purging the body (lovely). I prefer to use it in crumbles, fools or to make a syrup to go with sparkling wine in a rhubarb belini. We will still have to wait for those for a few weeks as it needs to do a bit more growing, but it’s always a sign to me that winter won’t be around for too much longer.

Veggie Haggis Quesedillas

20 Feb

Dinner the night before this was veggie haggis burritos, just as tasty but much harder to photograph reasonably! I like haggis in both its vegetarian and original offaly form but had been left with a veggie haggis hanging around in the fridge (no I’m not sure why either). As it is a hefty combination of pulses, vegetables, nuts and spices it was always going to last for more than one meal and I decided to carry on the mexican theme, and use up some of the tortillas.

This is a slightly un promising combination of black beans, haggis, sweetcorn and grated cheese to make it all stick together. I have to admit its selection which would perhaps do little to change my friends opinion that all food in Scotland in beige (not a view I share), but it was incredibly tasty.

Personally I think it looks much better cooked, I served it with a simple salad and a large amount of Valentina Sauce a current obsession of mine and something I could probably eat with almost anything! definitely fusion food and certainly not beige.

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