Archive for the ‘fruit’ Category

I thought it was time to update on the veg garden and the new veg beds which are now all up and running.

It’s been an…’interesting’   year – with all that snow earlier stopping all work .. then this heatwave – a long hot summer, and so dry. Watering takes ages, but has been necessary.

This year I grew broad beans – well field beans – a type of broad bean – developed initially as animal feed, then developed back as people feed! – the plants are tough, the beans smaller than average but loads and loads of pods, and the beans were lovely – and handled being left standing on the plants unharvested without going starchy or bitter. I will definitely be doing them again.  Hopefully a bit earlier than this year, as I had an early set back with a mouse in the green house stealing all my beans and I had to start over…


They are all over now, and I have a few squash and some beetroot to take up that space


Courgettes – yellow and green – are cropping madly – evener madder as, as per usual, I planted too many plants – you know how it is, you sow more than you need in case of fails, have no fails, and plant all the plants because you have a bit of spare space doing nothing.. and anyway you could give the extra courgettes to the hens.. except you don’t and soon you have 40+ courgettes in the fridge and people are afraid to visit in case they are made to take courgettes away with them….

actually they might be made to take cucumber too.  I’m not an experienced cucumber grower… and planted too many of them too – although.. see I sowed 6, gave one away, planted 5, one died, of the remaining 4, one is useless and refusing to grow, so leaves me with 3, 2 of which are average… and the remaining one is set on world domination.
We do like cucumbers, my son and I but might eat as much as half of one in a day, and on that same day I might pick seven new ones.  Tomorrow I am looking into pickling some…

Meanwhile I am steadily filling up the freezers with the surplus of runner beans and purple French beans – although attempting to eat as many fresh as we can.
After last year’s sparrowagedon – whereby the sparrows ate ALL of the flowers of my runner beans, this year I tried a white flowering variety – and although the sparrow population is very much on the up in my garden, they seem to have ignored the white flowers – success!  I was a bit baffled by getting a crop in before the purple French beans – as in my experience the PFBs always crop first – but it has made me realise we probably always lost the early flowers on the runner – just never noticed with so much else going on.  Anyway, unless the sparrows get over their colour prejudice, I am going to carry on with these white flowering ones.  They are supposed to produce nice white beans too – we shall see (since some of the beans have got away from me and are too big already…).

I have futures in squash and sweetcorn –20180712_200131
baby sweetcorn – as it is what my son likes, but those plants are not baby sized – they are taller than me .  I have, as you can see, opted for a ‘two sisters’ planting scheme and the crown prince squash underneath and lurking and swelling.  I’m quite glad there is nothing to pick from this bed yet, as frankly I am a bit overwhelmed with everything else.

I also have tomatoes, cherry and large, vegetable spaghetti squash, and some salads,  coming along, raspberries and blueberries and the picking garden is providing me with lots of lovely flowers.20180720_163018

I hope you are all having a good harvest too

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bee1 I like to garden alongside nature – in a way that does minimal harm. So I am delighted at all the wildlife living around the place, we have frogs and newts, and a resident hedgehog. I saw a deer in the fields.  It’s worth fighting the slugs off my veg without the use of chemical warfare.bee2

This year, I’m doing it alone, and have my new veg beds – I thought if I got one up and running that would be a win, – I managed last year but was on autopilot, now I am about seeing how viable it is and how well I can do it.  As it goes, I wheel-barrowed compost from our heaps, up the lane, and into the garden and have beansmanaged to establish Three beds.  The beans have never looked finer – I have managed to fight the slugs off with nightly collections, and all plants survived.  I did notice the flowers weren’t setting, which was odd, as we have bees.

Then the plant really took off and were covered with red flowers….only in one day they all vanished.  Gone.

I established it is the sparrows.  Once in decline, we have loads of them around here.  I have never had a problem with bean flowers being scoffed by sparrows before – if you have the solution, let me know.  I was despondent for a couple of weeks, then realising each time a new flower appeared, it was swiped, I decided to try to net them – problem is the flowers will grow through the netting, and the plant leaders wind thought.. we may never get the net back.. if we get beans we may never reach them – slugs are safe in there, weeds are 20170714_144831growing… it’s all not ideal.  I may have to rethink it for next year.  Or not have runner beans.  Which I cannot imagine…

In other news, the rest of the gardening projects appear to be working, the courgette mountain is upon us – despite strong winds snapping one plant in two – the usual – sowing more courgette plants than we need, planting them all out – well I had space in the new flower cutting bed, so I bunged them in.  A glut is never actually a problem.20170715_120351

We have had lots of raspberries – despite the raspberry bed being completely overgrown, we should get lots of blackberries (ok I perhaps ought to cut the brambles out of the flower beds…) and despite me fighting those dang sparrows (shakes fist) nature still seems to like my garden – Whilst taking a peek at how the compost heap was doing – it is very satisfying to observe waste being turned into lovely compost….(ok maybe that is just a nerdy gardener thing…) I found a clutch ( .. is clutch the right word?) of  grass snake eggs – well I am pretty sure that’s what they are as the UK’s only egg laying snake, and we have found grasssnake shedded skins in the area.  I’m quite pleased, so carefully tucked them back in – as the snake lays them, then abandons them, depending on the heat of the composting to do the work.  Kind of OK about not seeing them though.

I mentioned above my new venture – a cutting garden.  Because flowers bring me joy, but hot house flowers flown in do not, so best to grow my own – so far I have only planted a few plants and harvested gladioli, sweet peas and marigolds – and have been experimenting with some of the established perennials I have growing in the garden. I plan to set aside an area for growing spring bulbs too.  It’s been hard to actually cut the flowers…. as they look nice in situ – but having an area meant for this means I don’t see it as ruining a flower bed, but harvesting a crop20170720_082545

and the flowers do bring me joy.

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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.


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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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


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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apple crushing
This time of year is all about preserving the harvest, and some of that is the making of chutneys and pickles.  I have stocked up on supplies of malt vinegar, something that the village shops run out of quickly at this time of year as others are  doing the same, but this made me consider making our own vinegar, and I have been tuning into various mutterings over vinegar making on the net – in particular Andrea at Casalinho wrote a very interesting post on making vinegar from fruit scraps.

However, we have plenty of apples – not so many as in other years, but plenty, and more than we have freezer space, so the obvious thing to do is make our own cider vinegar…and for that we need cider, and before that we need apple juice.
apple pressing
We freeze and thaw the apples before pressing them (yes I know I said we had no freezer space – this space is already prebooked, we just borrowed it for a couple of days) as it makes crushing and pressing them so much easier. Then the crushed apples are pressed.
apple juice
Interestingly the first juice is white and cloudy – it goes orange as it oxidises, but as the pressing continues you get clearer juice. It’s all delicious.

 cider start

It’ been a while since we pressed our own apples, and today we have been kicking ourselves as the juice was so lovely.  How much makes it as far as vinegar remains to be be seen – we have already drunk a lot just as juice, and saved more back for that… then I might just drink the cider. Hopefully we will get as far as making our own cider vinegar too.

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raspberry flapjacks

raspberry flapjacks

This year’s raspberry harvest was plentiful, and we have a bit of a frozen raspberry mountain going on.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but new ways to eat raspberries  are being sought, and this one has proved popular with my family.  I tried a few different versions, all based on my standard recipe, as they are a bit on the soft side – due to the raspberry juice, but my attempts to make them firmer weren’t as good, so I’ve decided to accept them as they are, with their softer texture.

 Excellent cycling fuel, by the way.

raspberry flapjacks

100g/ 4oz demerara sugar

100g/ 4oz butter

100g/ 4oz golden syrup

250g/ 10oz oats

85g/ 3oz raspberries, frozen

1 lined 22cm/9″ square tin

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.

Put the sugar butter and syrup in a saucepan and heat gently until all the sugar has dissolved.  When it is ready, pour onto the oats and mix thoroughly. Stir in the raspberries and quickly pile the mixture into the tin and press down. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown on the top.  

Allow to cool before removing from the tin and cutting into squares.

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harvest autumn


I’ve been watching the apples on the bramley trees.  It is always a matter of timing, picking late means the harvest will keep longer, but we have to balance that against missing the moment and having rather too many windfalls.

Each year is different, so we cannot go by the calendar. In many ways crops are late this year, thanks, probably, to the cold spring. But the weather forecast made up our mind, with high winds forecast for next week and the apples rosy and willing to let go of the tree at the lightest touch, we decided to pick.

We have twenty one boxes of apples in the cold store, and the pressure is now on to process and/or eat them before they go bad. I hate wasting any, but we have freezer space issues, so I see a lot of preserves in my future.
bean wigwam cityThe freezer crisis is in part due to the really good season we have had in the veg patch, that and perhaps planting way too many beans. I admit to 12 wigwams of french beans, and a line of runners…. but last year had proved a bit of a bean disaster so it made sense to plant more…. Annnnyway, we now have enough frozen beans to eat beans at least twice a week for a year, plus jars of pickled beans (very nice with cold meat), and we have given them away, swapping them for freshly caught pollack etc. We have now opted to let the remaining beans mature, hope the frosts hold off long enough to have beans to pod.
The stormy weather predicted might do for them yet. But at least the apples are in.

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