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Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Category

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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Courgette season is upon us, and as always the forums and groups call out for courgette recipes – and frankly some are a bit scary, but there are lots of great recipes and a few winners. This is my contribution, first posted in 2012 (!), the courgette bhaji – definitely a family favourite:

 

 

 

 

courgette bhajis
3 or 4 courgettes
1 tsp black onion seed
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
gram flour
oil for frying
For this I use 3 courgettes – but I probably pick slightly bigger than shop size.
Grate the courgettes using a food processor.  Tip everything out, liquid and all, into a bowl and fish out any bits that did not get grated and slice them up.Now stir in the spices and salt, and mix well.Add gram flour and stir, and keep adding more gram flour until everything comes together as a sort of ball, and is fairly stiff.  How much gram flour depends on how juicy the courgettes are!Heat oil in a frying pan or wok, and when the oil is hot enough (test with a shred of courgette – it should sizzle instantly), drop small amounts carefully in – about a dessert spoon is enough  -much more and it wont cook in the middle.  I use my hands for this.As soon as they browned on one side, turn and fry until cooked on both sides. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper, whilst you cook the rest.

Serve with a cucumber raita or as a accompaniment to a curry.

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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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It is very mild – yes stormy with more high winds to come this week, but mild.  I have often not lit the esse,  and, unheard of in harvesting records, we picked courgettes and beans in November and are still picking tomatoes from the greenhouse – though they are finally coming to an end.

The downside of the mild weather is the stores are not doing so well – I’ve already mentioned the apples going bad before time. Yesterday revealed a pumpkin was showing early signs of going.  This wasn’t in the plan.  Right now I want to concentrate on christmas baking, but I’ve got veg store processing mixed up  in it.  Today, as well as cooking the roast, and a family session of making gingerbread men/stars/trees/angels/you name it, and stollen, and mince pies, I am now making the fourth batch of curried  pumpkin and lentil soup.  Not a  bad thing – it is delicious! – but not was I had in mind for today.  So, if you too have squashes, pumpkins and apples stashed.. time to check those stores.     Making  apple curd next…..

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pumpkin and squash

There’s something lurking in the shed….well several somethings, our pumpkin and squash harvest. This lot was brought in a couple of weeks ago, and we cut the last few green ones to see if they will ripen in the light of the french doors.

Along with the apples, in another shed (apparently you shouldn’t store them together…something the apples give off can make the squash go bad – is this true? no idea.. we put them in different sheds so they will behave) this harvest, thankfully, are not taking up freezer spaces. The freezer crisis is bad, and we did not have any pigs to put in this year! – how we shall clear space for thingymas foods, not to mention future pig years, I’m not sure, but it is a good problem.   The pumpkins are grown for halloweeny reasons, the crown prince is our favourite large squash, but I am really taken with the little sweet lightening – I like the idea of a squash of manageable size, and will be experimenting with other small varieties next year.
podding beansWe also have had a bumper bonus harvest of haricot beans, thanks to a really good bean year, we stopped picking the beans for slicing and freezing and let them mature up and we have had many pounds of podded beans.  Not an unpleasant task to sit chatting and podding by the fire.

The stormy weather predicted and the clocks changing this weekend makes it feel a good time to retreat to the warmth and safety of indoors and enjoy the stored food.

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harvest autumn

apples

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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beans beans and courgettes

Life seems to feature a lot of these at the moment.   And a lot of picking, slicing, blanching and freezing. The runner beans we are trying to eat fresh, as they are the best that way, but these flat French beans, and the purple ones, are all for the freezer, to feed us throughout the year.
Life also seems to involve freezer tetris too, as we resist putting on another freezer, if we can just reorganise, use up, eat up produce..

Tis a good problem to have.

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