Friday, July 22, 2011

A Rose by any other name....

Just look at these weeds!
Does the fact that I love them mean I'm not a serious grower?
My allotment neighbours are perturbed by my love of weeds. They tolerate my quirks because I diligently mow my paths and any communal areas near my plot and because I always pay my rent in cash and on time but I know they think I'm very strange.
Last week a new lady took over the plot next to mine and I heard the allocations officer explain that I 'garden differently' from other folk. 'It takes all sorts' she added.
 But I am no botanist and I don't really understand the difference between a weed and a wildflower so I have come up with my own definition.
I have decided that a weed is a plant that hurts me with prickles or stingers, hurts the plants around it by strangling them or growing enormous very quickly and is of no conceivable benefit to either.
Very, very few plants fulfil this criteria! Stinging nettles for example, hurt me but not the surrounding plants and they are very beneficial to bees and to compost and to me when cabbage whites lay eggs on them instead of my brassicas.
Must be wildflowers then!
Any really pretty unidentified plants that are 'in the way' get carefully transplanted to the amaranth bed (because amaranth simply doesn't care)   
I think this yellow one is called birdsfoot trefoil. It makes beautiful pillows of yellow and red.
And I think this one could be the elusive Scarlet pimpernel! I'm not at all sure though and if anyone could recommend a good book to ID these with I'd be everso grateful.
I especially want to know what this lovely purple flower is.
It's popping up all over the place this month. It wasn't here last year and I suspect it's one of those whose seeds lie dormant for decades untill the ground is disturbed again.

A less welcome flower springing up all over the plot is the ragwort.
Ragwort is so poisonous and horses who ingest it die slow and painful deaths. There is no antidote.
I recently discovered that small children (like mine) who pick flowers for their mum (like mine)  can also die if they ingest the milky sap of ragwort....the stuff that gets all over their hands when they pick it.   So that one's going in the fire pit.

As for the actual veg on the plot it's rather a mixed bag this year. I had my first ripe tomato last week, earlier than ever before but the cucumbers on their big healthy plants are just refusing to swell. And judging by the slime trails on that leaf, I'm not the only one impatiently waiting
Plus, to my great shame, my courgettes are not even
flowering yet (surely any fool can grow courgettes) 
nor are my runner beans.

 But the grapes....ahh! the grapes are doing splendidly with literally hundreds of bunches swelling by the day....think of the wine! jam too and fresh black grapes for eating but mainly...think of all that wine!!!!


Friday, July 08, 2011

Day of the Triffids...

Things are growing like triffids up at the plot!
The combination of rain and sunshine is bringing things on at such a rate.

 The tomatoes, particularly are doing well. The gardener's delight are starting to colour and have fifteen or so fruit on each truss. At this rate I'll be setting a personal best by eating homegrown, outdoor toms in July! It's usually well into August before I get a taste.

The marmande has set more fruit than ever before, purple ukraine setting now and the mille fleurs have gone completely bonkers!

All I need to do now is cross my fingers and hope that the dreaded blight doesn't strike before I have the chance to harvest them.
A couple of plants at the end of the row have been stripped totally leaves or fruit remain just a stubby stalk. I've a horrible feeling this is rabbit damage and I need to step up my defences quicksmart.

The squashes are running riot, escaping from there beds and careering across the paths.
This (I think) is a 'Queensland blue' a heritage variety reported to taste divine. 
It already has sixteen fruit on this one plant. I know I should thin but I'm essentially a greedy person.
How many pumpkins can one plant grow anyway?
I'm hoping one of you experienced growers can tell me. I'm after good eating rather than competition winners.

Somewhere in the middle of these flowers lives my garlic.
The first crop of purple garlic had to be pulled early when it split. I turned half into umami paste and the rest into 'persian sweet pickles' thanks to a new cyber friend's suggestion.
The pickles need at least a month to mature so I haven't tasted them yet but they smell heavenly!

t's not really time yet to pull the other garlics but, worried they might be splitting and ever the impatient gardener, I dug up one of each today...just to check.
Here is a picture of the elephant garlic and the normal white garlic together.
I think they will both need harvesting real soon because the ground is so wet. Further down the site there is a problem with white rot and I don't want to tempt fate.

Clustered round the bottom of the elephant garlic were half a dozen of these little bulbils.
Apparently, if replanted immediately these will form single cloves this year then the proper, divided bulbs the year after.
Given the price of elephant garlic to buy this has to be worth a try.
I wonder though, if I left one complete bulb in the ground, would it perennialise itself?
What do you think?

Right, that's it for today. It's been a long, wet day at the plot and I'm looking forward to a steaming hot bath followed by a dinner of roast elephant garlic and roast new potatoes.

Friday, July 01, 2011

And the prize for knobbliest spud goes to......

Well, it would if I entered it in a competition!
I've reached that time of year when I can serve up meals almost entirely produced by me and it's a wonderful feeling. What's more, I find I'm reaching this happy point earlier each year!
This very knobbly spud is a 'pink fir apple' and I am getting the heaviest crop ever from these at the moment. They are delicious steamed or boiled but for a real treat, they make the most fantastic big and lumpy chips! It seems the early frostnip they got did no harm at all.
Yesterday dinner was a plate of these, beetroots and carrots from my allotment with hard boiled eggs from my chickens and mint and chives from the garden. (okay, I bought the butter but even so!) 

We often have eggs for breakfast but when we don't our shopbought breakfast cereal is studded with berries from the garden, gleefully collected by little flower in her pyjamas on her way back from letting the hens out.

 We've had a little robin redbreast keeping us company in the garden for the last couple of weeks.
We've watched as she hopped round the garden collecting bits and pieces for her nest that she built in Wurzel's shed.
We brought horse hair back with us from the stables and put some on the ground beside us and she came right up and got it.

We bought live mealworms to keep her strength up while she sat on the eggs and were so excited when those little fledglings started bombing round the garden!
One came close to being a chicken snack so little flower had to pick it up and show it back to the nest....quite an experience for an eight year old London kid!

I've started processing the purple garlic that had to be harvested early because it split.
For the first batch I decided to make myself  some 'umami' paste. I cooked the cloves gently in oil, added herbs, balsamic vinegar, anchovies, horseradish, parmesan and worcestshire sauce.

When it cooled I blitzed it all and put it in the freezer. It tastes really good but not very garlicky or strong which is a bit disappointing. 
I'm hoping that the oil will make it easy to take just a spoonful of this paste to liven up risottos or to add to basil for a super quick pesto.

So, all in all June has been a good month. Plenty of fresh things to eat, wildlife nesting in the garden, the weather is evening out now and we're all looking forward to the long summer holidays. 

Even the dog looks chilled out! He spends hours like this, asleep on the decking.
 It ain't a bad life eh?