Thursday, 26 July 2012

Runner Beans at Last

Getting to the allotment in the school holidays is not proving easy. To complicate matters it never seems to do much more than rain recently. Anyway, I managed to squeeze in a brief visit yesterday, and was delighted to find that in my absence a couple of baby runner beans have appeared. Yes, there is only two or three, but hey its better than none. By this time of year the runner beans are usually a dense mass of foliage, this year they are sparse and very see-through. I don't think 2012 will be a year where I get fed up of picking/eating runner beans.

This is one of my baby pumpkins. I have two pumpkin plants this year, each of which have undergone an impressive growth spurt in the last week or so. I have three or four pumpkins on each plant (however one went rotten/got eaten by something). I am not going to pull some of them off as I don't want to grow a monster pumpkin this year. Last time I did that I managed to drop one and it rolled into the greenhouse breaking it! The courgettes have finally got some decent sized courgettes on them and I think I might actually be able to pick some tomorrow.

On a different note, we went for a lovely long walk yesterday. The children were superpleased to find some wild raspberries (below), I have never seen one before so I was quite pleased as well. I didn't get to try one though as they ate them all.

Monday, 16 July 2012

In Which I Made Lots of Jam...

As you can see, I have been busy making jam. In the end I made redcurrant, blackcurrant, and gooseberry (in that order). For the redcurrant I used normal sugar and it does look a little runny (although it did set on the cold plate test). I don't know whether that was because of the sugar or because it was my first attempt at making jam.

Because I thought the redcurrant looked runny I decided to use 1/2 jam sugar and 1/2 normal sugar for the blackcurrant and gooseberry jam. I weighed the fruit, simply added just under the equivalent weight in sugar, and did lots of stirring. I was pleased that I didn't buy a maslin pan, as it really isn't necessary. Although I was pleased that I bought a jam thermometer as I think my first attempts at jam making might have been a bit disastrous without it! 

So, I am now the proud owner of 3 jars of redcurrant jam, 5 jars of blackcurrant jam, and 3 jars of gooseberry jam. Next on my list is damson jam.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Picking Fruit for Jam and Signs of Growth

I've picked my fruit for my jam. Now I just have to make it. I am hoping to get time for my first ventures in jam making sometime tomorrow. I have just over 1 kg of gooseberries, 1 kg of blackcurrants, and 0.5 kg of redcurrants.

Finally, there are some signs of growth down on the allotment. One of my Lebanese courgette plants finally has a courgette growing on it. This probably means that in a couple of weeks I will be writing a post saying how sick I am of eating Lebanese courgettes!

You can't beat a pumpkin patch. This is my first pumpkin to appear this year. I didn't grow pumpkins last year and missed them rambling over the plot. This year I have two plants.

My white cabbages are finally starting to get it together as well (although something does seem to be eating them). The red cabbages seem a bit behind.

This little honeybee was enjoying my lavender late this afternoon. I'm off to bed now. I need to have lots of energy tomorrow to tire my children out and hopefully get them to sleep relatively early, so that I can get on with my jam making tomorrow night!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Strawberries at Last

At last, some strawberries that haven't been ruined by the rain or sabotaged by slugs! I admit that it's not the biggest harvest in the world, and I won't be making strawberry jam this year, but hey it's better than nothing. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Beginning Jam Making

Ooh, all my jam making things have arrived! I bought a jam thermometer, funnel, jam strainer, and a couple of jam jars (I also have a stash of recycled ones). I didn't buy a maslin. To be honest I had never even heard of a maslin until last week. I thought they were a bit expensive, plus do you really need one? Maybe I will buy one next year if my jam turns out to be very successful.

So, what jam should I make? Strawberry jam is my favourite, however the rain and the slugs have put paid to that idea. We have lots of gooseberries, blackcurrants, and redcurrants. I'm not too sure about gooseberry jam. This leaves me with the currants. So, blackcurrant jam, redcurrant jam, or mixed currant jam? I have until Thursday (weather permitting) to make my mind up!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Two Days of Sunshine and Two Tomatoes

We have been very lucky recently here in the South Lakes. On Thursday it was sunny and I was able to weed around the raspberries and harvest the shallots, and yesterday it was also sunny and we were able to harvest our first tomatoes. All two of them. Which, were promptly eaten by Theo (kindly modelling them above).

The sunshine seems to have given the fruit plants a bit of a boost. We have been awash with raspberries and gooseberries, the loganberries are beginning to ripen, as are the blueberries (at last). Unfortunately, the strawberries have not faired well this year, there are loads of them but because of the excess rain they seem to have either gone yucky or been devoured by slugs :-( I am a bit upset at this because I was really hoping to make some strawberry jam this year.

This is one of my Lebanese courgettes. Like most things, they have been slow growing this year. I grew these for the first time last year and they are the best courgettes to grow, ever! Last year I had tons and tons of courgettes off one plant, and they are so tasty. This year I sowed seeds for three plants, three weeks apart, in a hope to extend my harvesting season. Fingers crossed they are going to undergo a growing spurt soon.

It was even sunny enough on Thursday for the Livingstone Daisy's (Mesembryanthemum - meaning "midday flowering") to bother opening up! 

This is about 50% of our shallot harvest this year. I dug these up on Thursday and they are currently drying. At least these seem to have avoided any rain-issues. Unfortunately the potatoes look like being a different story. The Sharpe's Express first early's were pretty successful but we dug up some Arran Pilot yesterday and the yield was really disappointing - about 5 potatoes per plant. I don't think we'll be growing them next year.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Calabrese, Perpetual Spinach, Peppers, and Summer Berries

It's got to that great time of year when I can visit the allotment and pick a whole bunch of things for dinner. To go with my Sharpe's Express first early's that we harvested last weekend I got some calabrese...

...some perpetual spinach...

...some green sweet peppers...

...and last, but certainly not least, raspberries, loganberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, and gooseberries! There was only a handful of ripe loganberries, but in the last few days the raspberries have come out in force, which was surprising since it has done nothing but rain for weeks. 

This year I am absolutely determined not to let the vast majority of the gooseberries and currants go to waste and am going to attempt to make some jam. My first attempt at jam making will no doubt appear in a post sometime soon :)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Finally...the First of the First Early Harvests!

It's been a long time coming, but this weekend was a momentous occasion as it marked the first potato harvest of the year. I think this is the latest first early harvest ever for us. Why so late? For some reason the first early's this year did not flower. Our second earlies and maincrop potatoes flowered ages and ages ago, so we waited patiently for the flowers to appear but not a single one did. I would like to blame the weather, but all the other potato plants flowered, and they are much bigger, so I really don't know.

Anyway, we took the plunge and dug a few Sharpes Express plants up, this was the yield from 3 plants. To be honest, I was really pleased as compared with all the other potatoes we have growing this year, these were the least impressive looking. I cooked them for 15-20 minutes and they were lovely :)  Sometime over the next week or so we will have to dig up some of the other first early's we have growing this year (Pentland Javelin and Arran Pilot) and see if they have been as successful. The other varieties we are growing are Wilja and Kestrel (second early's), and Desiree and Pink Fir Apple (maincrop). I love Pink Fir Apple potatoes! This year we have stuck to "old favourite" varieties. Last year I tried some of the heritage variety Mr Little's Yelthom Gypsy, they were really expensive to buy and I got barely enough potatoes for a meal for 2 from about 6 plants. I was really disappointed.

Fresh mint to go with the potatoes.

I also use the mint to make fresh mint tea in my Turkish teapot (çaydanlık). When I pick the mint I put it in a glass of water to keep it fresh for when I want to use it. The normal advice for making mint tea is to add sugar or honey to sweeten it. I don't do this as it is sweet enough already! All you need to do is to put the mint leaves in water, bring it to the boil, and let it brew for 5 minutes or so. If you want you can also add a teabag (black or green) to the mix, but I don't do that either.