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Archive for the ‘grow your own food’ Category

31082842545_932e299d28_oI’m going to give a go at growing veg in a different way. Mostly, I  wanted to break the growing areas up into manageable bits.  It’s a visual trick really, but I figured it was all so much less daunting if you could see it as one small bed at a time, rather than a massive unmanageable area. OK so the beds aren’t that small but still…

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With this in mind, I researched various gardening set ups and am planning on dabbling with the no-dig method.

I have always ignored it as a method, because  quite frankly the do-dig method works very well.  There I said it.  Furthermore, I’m going on to say both methods appear to work. Controversial of me, I know – as usually people have to choose a side and laugh at the other.  With the ‘old allotment boys’ laughing at the folk who “think they don’t have to do any work” and the no-dig gardeners rolling their eyes at the ‘old allotment boys’ and sighing “at what cost to the soil” and stating that the old method doesn’t work… and “why do work you don’t have to do?” and so on.

It’s ignorance that is the problem – no-dig doesn’t mean no work – seems to me there is a lot of time spent moving compost about and mulching and weeding.  And the digging method does work, because you know….people have been using it all this time. I really dislike the snorting and laughing at the other camp – it doesn’t matter – do whatever works for you. I particularly dislike being told by anyone without successful experience…

Anyways, most of my experience with veg growing has been by trial and error – this is true for most gardeners and different things will work with different climates and different soils etc.

As I read more about it, it turns out that some of the things we just naturally arrived  at doing, fit in with the no-dig way – for example I try to start as many plants as possible as modules in the greenhouse  – they just do better.   And I haven’t fed my tomato plants  in years … well.. forever. Because we always replenish the greenhouse with compost from the compost heap.  And as it goes I always put the wood ash from the fire on the heaps so there is no potash shortage, and have always had good tomato crops.  Also when adding compost to the veg beds before planting out the hungry plants – like squashes beans and sweetcorn, we have just added a layer of compost on top.  These are all part of the no-dig method, and I have been doing it all along.  Who knew.

There are lots of calls on my time in other areas of life, and a certain amount of stumbling about trying to find my feet in difficult times… so no promises. But these new beds are inspiring, and doing things differently suits.

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So, it’s tweaking my veg growing habits into a slightly new but actually not that new way.  And venturing back out gradually, one smaller bed at a time.

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Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsIt’s juicing time of year again, and this year the apple juice is pink Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

This is because we have had our first harvest of the variety ‘redlove’.  It make for  good garden apple tree as the leaves are dark the flowers dark pink and the fruit dark red. As a juicing apple it is interesting as the flesh and juice are also red, and only a little added to the press makes the juice a beautiful shade of pink.

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As usual, we pre froze the apples, and in this picture this is how they look once defrosted – a little sad, but it does help with the juicing, you can practically squeeze them by hand after a brief freeze.  The other variety of apple we use is an unknown apple that the previous owner grew from a pip. We call this variety ‘bejeezus’, as we have found it is not particularly good for eating or cooking, but ideal for juicing resulting in juice sweet enough to drink without added sugar, that is also good for making wine and cider with too.  This year we shall probably have it as juice, as the cider stocks are still high.  Why we call it ‘bejeezus’? because once we realised we were going to freeze and press these apples, less care is needed when picking, and our method is to hook the shepherd’s crook around branches and shake the bejeezus  out of the tree, resulting in apples raining down hard, (and sometimes painfully) – making a fast harvesting process.  Mr CIG was a little surprised the first time I did this, and hadn’t shared my plan with him, but  he ducked fast…

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18958845944_b5d9189a4f_oWe have been picking soft fruit for some weeks. here at Colour it Green towers.  We have raspberries, blackcurrants, loganberries, wild strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

I realise I have listed raspberries twice, but there are so many of them, they deserved a second mention.  Our raspberry bed is a jungle. I haven’t been in and pruned out the old wood, the paths are lost to junior raspberry canes taking over triffid style, and the bed also seems to have willow, buddleia and bramble and bindweed, which we attempt to remove once we have climbed in for picking.  Still we are picking about a kilo of raspberries a day, we still have some of last year’s in the freezer, and for reasons that seemed logical at the time, last winter also established a bed of yellow autumn fruiting raspberries … Suffice to say, we need more ways to use raspberries. loganberry pavlova and a sunset

Firm favourites are raspberry crumble, jam, smoothies, in rumptopf, pavlova ice-cream, and eton mess (made with easy microwave meringues),  and raspberry flapjacks

I have a few recipes I haven’t shared yet and so will set about setting that right over the next few weeks, as well as trying some new ones.

Raspberry recipes very welcome.

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crown prince

crown prince

We do like squash in this family, and my favourite is crown prince, because it is sweet, creamy and tasty, easy to grow, but also because it stores so well.

We harvested our squashes at the beginning of October and stored them carefully in a cool dry out-building, on pallets for good ventilation. They all stored well, and we checked them regularly as it is just too disappointing to have your hard earned crop go ‘blop’ and make a mess of the shed! They do become tastier and sweeter if stored, and we have been slowly working our way through the crop.

The crown prince have kept well until now nearly six months later, which is pretty good going. Now the weather is getting warmer they are beginning to deteriorate, and so it is time to chop up the last half dozen. And this is the final good thing about this squash, is it freezes well. Handy that is hung on until there was space in the freezers!
We blanch and freeze it in chunks, and from there can be made into soup. added to curries and tagines or roasted.

I’m always trying new varieties, we like the pumpkins for their halloween qualities, and the sweet lightening are delicious roasted whole, but I shall always grow crown prince.

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the squash harvest

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The plants are dying off, so time to cut the pumpkins and squash – we have jack-o-lantern pumpkins, crown prince, autumn crown, sweet dumpling and sweet lightening. Late putting them in, several plants died due to dry weather when they first went in, but still a harvest big enough for the family.

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tomato jungle

tomato jungle

I always start the tomato year with the best of intentions, dutifully pinching out side shoots and tying in the  plants.  Always, they get away from me – I get distracted and before I know it.. the side shoots have side shoots…. and by this end of the year, the greenhouses are jungle-like, and picking tomatoes involves threading an arm in to reach the ones at the back, through the mass of greenery.

cherry tomatoesI felt a bit guilty of it.. bad gardener! …But then again.. I am picking about 8 lbs of tomatoes a time – it has been a bumper crop – and I realised that if I had done the ‘right thing’ and stopped the plants at the top, instead of just tying them in along the wires…then letting them dangle down, then roping them back in along with all the sides shoots as best as possible.. well the crop would be a lot smaller.

You can get away with it with cherry tomatoes – the plants tend to be lighter, and the fruit doesn’t take so long to ripen – with bigger fruiting varieties, I think a bit of discipline is required, so the plants can concentrate on getting their few larger fruit to maturity. Cherry tomatoes can survive the jungle style method… just as well!

I’ve roasted many pounds of tomatoes for roast tomato passata, I’ve made soups and cassoulets, ketchup and three batches of tomato chutney.

Eventually either blight or the cold will do for my tomato plants – but with the early good practices, the bases of the plants are clear an have air around them and I leave the doors and windows open day and night and will push out this crop as long as possible. Then when the plants drop… all I have to worry about is processing the green tomatoes!

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Bertha produce
They say when God gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Personally, I would opt for limoncello, but we live in a cool climate, and don’t have a lemon tree… but when what was left of hurricane Bertha swept through last month, she gave us windfall apples, lots of them.  We picked plums early to take the weight off the branches, and that was highly successful, the pale plums finished ripening indoors, albeit all at once, but the apples were not ready and had to take their chances, and many were blown down and bruised before their time.

I hate waste, but we don’t have pigs at the moment, and the chickens will only eat so many… I made apple jelly, blackberry and apple jelly, apple cheese and started a batch of apple and blackberry gin.

Jelly making is an ideal way to use windfall apples as you can use the bruised fruit, and it is an easier than peeling hard unripe apples.

apple jelly

1.8 Kg/4 lbs apples – no need to peel or core, bruises are fine, but cut off any bad bits and wildlife

1.7L/ 3 pints water

sugar

Chop up the apples and place in the pan with the water, cook gently until the apples are mushy. Strain overnight using a jelly bag (no squeezing!).

Next day, measure the liquid and add the same volume of sugar.  Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then boil and bring to setting point 104 C on my thermometer – but you can also judge by watching how the mixture drops from the spoon. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

I use this apple jelly in cooking mostly – although it is nice as a jam, but works well in a steamed sponge pudding, or as a glaze on tarts and everywhere that calls for apricot jam under icing etc.  It can be stirred into casseroles and sauces.

Blackberry and apple jelly is the same recipe, substituting half the apples for blackberries.

Now the apples are ripe and we have picked the remainders – juicing the sweeter ones, and the bramleys are in the cool of the shed waiting to be cooked and eaten.

 

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