My motto is – waste not want not – this gooseberry and mint conserve is made using the thinned out small gooseberries, otherwise I would get loads of them but all would be small. This way I can make this delicious conserve and later have decent sized gooseberries to eat (or bottle or …)
The weather was very kind to me today, you could be forgiven to think the spring is here. Yesterday was storm Eric, I had an enforced day in and did some housework, curtain washing etc so I was more than ready for some grubbing in the soil today.
My friend gave me a standard gooseberry, a red one but I wasn’t able to plant it till now – first the ground was frozen solid then it poured down.
I made up for lost time today though. Morning was planting time, the gooseberry is in the fruit cage and the afternoon session was dedicated to weeding the cage, the surround and clearing a neglected path right at the end of one plot, behind a net cage. As we are going to have the rest of our hedge cut next week we shall gain a lot of wood chip and I shall put it on that path. It had grass but it was also full of weeds like creeping buttercup so I have cleared it and will put the wood chip there. It’ll be so much easier.
As it is so hot these days I started going to the allotment quite early in the morning. The plan is that I will either water the most needy plants with the hose or, on alternate days, feed the ‘special cases’ either with the seaweed extract, comfrey tea or the liquid from my wormery.
It was the turn of the comfrey tea. My, does it stink!! And the smell seems to linger close to the ground, so when I was bending down, I got a good whiff of it. Never mind, the squashes love it!
I managed to pick another large box of strawberries, pulled out a lovely bunch of carrots and a few nice beetroot.
yesterday was a day to thin out the gooseberries…..
As I was picking the gooseberry I also noticed that the currants are almost ready. That’s the beauty of having the fruit bushes in the net cage – I can take my time picking them, not like in the past where it was a competition between me and the birds. Guess who lost??
Another benefit of net cages is the ease of growing brassicas. It was the same story in the past – try to stop the birds nibbling the leaves of the young plants so there was hardly anything left. I thought they wouldn’t like kohl rabi. I was wrong. So now the kohl rabi grows in the net cage and nothing gets at it and I can enjoy the fruits of my labour.
I have got two gooseberry bushes – one red and one green. As I’m trying to do everything (well, almost) by the book, today was the day of working inside my fruit cage.
In there are the gooseberry bushes but also a number of red-, white-, and blackcurrant bushes with some blueberries thrown in for good measure.
The book says that I should shorten the fruit-bearing branches so that the plant doesn’t waste the energy in growing ever bigger but it makes the fruit develop.
That done, I thinned out the gooseberries on both bushes because otherwise I would have have loads of tiny fruit. The thinnings can be used in making jellies so I decided to make more of my favourite – mint and gooseberry jelly. The only change in the recipe I made it I didn’t sieve the cooked fruit to obtain just the liquid, I used everything and call it conserve.
Equally delicious with cheese, meat or savoury pies of any kind.
I had a weekend away but that didn’t mean there was no gardening to do – quite the opposite !
The weather wasn’t ideal but myself and Mike managed to get quite a lot done. To make sure we would remember how much we did I took a number of photos before and after – and Mike took a few of me while working, perhaps to show that I actually did some work. Well, one pair of gardening gloves is no more and my fancy new boots are caked in Cumbrian mud.
Just to show what we did, there are some photos before
The job was quite simple – clear out the nettles, find the gooseberry and the raspberry canes, dig the ground and replant the above mentioned. The hardest job was digging out the nettle roots – they were amazing, a huge tangle and in some places almost impossible to get into. But all is done now, there is only a small part of the very long border to clear and then, of course, keep it weed-free. I’ll be monitoring it!
And just to show that I actually did some work there …..
We both worked the whole day on Friday and Saturday but Sunday – the rain stopped play after lunch. I think it might have needed a wet suit, the rain was something else and the ground turned into quagmire.
I have got three apple trees on the allotment – Egremont russet, James Grieves and a Bramley. I was waiting for the ‘June drop’ and finally today did my rounds to check. All is well, the obvious casualties have dropped down but I was still left with quite a lot of bunches of apples. As I was thinning them I thought – they would make great jelly (or something like that). Saved them all and then found out that when I was thinning out the gooseberry bushes I just did one of them, left the other. Did that today and finished with a nice box full of goosegogs.
This time I had a recipe in mind but only for the ratio of sugar to the liquid. I can’t really call my creation a jelly – because it has got all the bits in!
First I cooked the little apples and pushed the resulting mush through a fine sieve and got 1,5 pint of thick liquid. Then the gooseberries were cooked in just enough water to cover them in the saucepan, with a bunch of sage – for a change!
Again, everything was mashed up, the bunch of sage taken out and to each pint of liquid a pound of sugar was added.
Back to boil, slowly first to dissolve the sugar and rapidly for about 15 minutes. In the meantime I chopped a big handful of sage leaves and added them to the mix, after the plate test showed thet we’ve reached a setting point. For that I kept a small plate in the fridge, put a small amount of the liquid on it and when it wrinkled when pushed with my finger I knew I was home and dry.
Bottled and another batch of tasty conserve is done.
Every year I think how lucky I am having my fruit cage. The red currants are turning pink and that would’ve been a sure signal for the birds to come and feast!
I have two gooseberry bushes, red and green one. I also had fourberry bushes, they gave some fruit last year and even though they flowered well last week I discovered to my horror that they were smothered in some dreadfull black/grey fly infestation. Completely beyond saving and the rest of the soft fruit bushes in danger, so they had the chop!
Fortunately all the other bushes escaped. As I was checking I realised that the gooseberries were getting quite big. The best thing to do if you want some decent-sized fruit is to thin them. And of course the thinnings can be used.
This time I am not going to use them to make jam – somehow not many people eat jam these days; I know we use much less. So it’ll be savoury instead. I found a great recipe, it is Mint and gooseberry jelly and it goes very well with cold meat or cheese or with anything else that might take your fancy.
This way nothing is wasted, mint is looking very good now. One thing I’d like to add is that I don’t follow the recipe exactly – instead of letting it drip and just using the liquid, I mash the fruit and use it all because the skins are nice and soft after being boiled. It is a shame to waste the fruit.
I was very surprised to see some flowers on my strawberries. I had other plans when I got to my allotment but changed them and made some anti thieving bird preventions! I hope this will work, otherwise it’ll be back to draping some netting over them.
I also had a look in the fruit cage and again was very pleased that I have it – the red currants are starting to flower and you can see some tiny fruit on one of the gooseberry. Blueberries and fourberries are just a bit slow but they’re getting there too.
The first year I did exactly what the leaflet suggested and took the top net off, in case of a heavy snow fall. That winter we didn’t have ANY snow! The job of putting the top net back on wasn’t nice at all. I decided last November that I’ll leave it on and just watch the weather in case of some freak snow deluge. Again nothing! And then some people say we don’t experience climate change. Hmm…
The soft fruit on the allotment is well organised and ready for the spring.
Raspberries have been planted on a separate plot, in double rows and the paths between the rows lined with a membrane to (try) to stop the weeds from invading. It has been great, I had hardly any weeds there! The canes are contained in the rows by some wire and that is holding them back, all this makes picking them much easier.
Rhubarb crowns are resting , if next year’s harvest is as good as this one was I’ll be happy. There are three young fruit trees beside the rhubarb – a plum, a pear and a cooking apple. All had some fruit this year so I’m hoping for much more next year.
A large part of one plot is taken by a fruit cage, this is a must on our site as we have a large number of pigeons and they would strip the fruit off before we know it is there. I found out the hard way during my first year there – I had a red currant bush in the middle of one plot, an obviously mature one and very soon I started noticing some currants, they were just turning pink. Next day – nothing! That drove me to getting the fruit cage and moving all fruit bushes there – red, white and black currants, gooseberries, fourberries and blueberries. It was worth the effort, the harvest was great this year. All the fruit is either frozen, eaten fresh or made into jams.
Last but not least are the strawberries. It is quite amazing how much can be harvested from jus three beds. When I first started gardening on my plot I was given enough plants to make one bed – the original plants multiplied and this summer I had 30 kg of sweet juicy strawberries. Delicious!