IT KEEPS GIVING

Each time I go down to the allotment, or the farm as I call it, I spend quite a bit of time harvesting. It was the strawberries to start with, then the raspberries and now redcurrants. And in between I picked the first greenhouse cucumber.

I have made loads of jam – strawberry, raspberry and mixed jam with the two fruits. Today was the turn of redcurrant jam, and the result is great. I’m happy with that and the amount I picked yesterday was just a fraction of what is there! I think the rest will have to be frozen.

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There will be more cucumbers, one of the water melons is there, only as big as a gooseberry – it has got to start somewhere!

READY FOR THE WINTER

My Grandma was, and still is, my inspiration in the realm of cooking and preserving.

She was the old school – no fridge in her days, it was a walk-in larder with a stone floor, no freezer either so any preserving for later was done by bottling. I’m tot quite sure if she ever used the salting method but I’ll have a look at it anyway.

Granddad had a plot of land where he grew a huge variety of fruit and Grandma bottled it and made jams. I think they would both be pleased how I try to follow in their footsteps.

 

It is rather easy – all you need is some Kilner jars, a large pan to use as a water bath and fruit of course.

One idea for the use of all these was – summer pudding. Not sure if it is still being made but it is rather yummy.

I can see having summer pudding at Christmas – what a lovely idea.

IN FULL SWING

It is harvest time!

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…..

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…and I was pleased I had this lovely lot.

Got them home and in no time made a very tasty gooseberry and mint jelly. Goes a treat with cold meat, cheese or a quiche.

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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??

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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.

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ONE AFTERNOON…

and all this is done.

Of course, I had to pick the fruit first. Thanks to my fruit cage the birds don’t get a chance to steal my currants or gooseberries. The redcurrants are really plentiful this year – it must be something to do with all the horse manure that I put round them last autumn.

The raspberries are not covered but somehow the birds leave them alone – perhaps they don’t see the fruit so well, as it is hidden amongst the leaves.

Anyway, I had enough of the redcurrants to make some jam, did that the other day, but the highlight of today was making jelly. I boiled the fruit, stalks and all, last night, let it drip overnight and just measured it and added the suger today and finished it. When I was boiling the fruit I added a bunch of mint to it as the jelly is meant to be served with cheese or cold meat.

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While all this was going on I had one bowl with my sourdough bread rising – having started last night; I’ve got to plan making my bread as it takes some time but it is worth it!

The other bowl had the dough for a brioche (challah) – that is much quicker so in the end I had one loaf and two round loaves of brioche in the kitchen, right next to the jam and jelly.

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A perfect partnership!

SOFT FRUIT

It is all go now, despite the wet and rather cold weather – no flaming June here!

I keep thinking every year that it was well worth getting the fruit cage as the redcurrants are perfectly protected from the birds. Strangely enough, they don’t seem to bother with the raspberries – just as well, I couldn’t cover the raspberry patch, it is too big.

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After the effort of picking the fruit and getting it ready, we have a lovely lot of raspberry and redcurrant jam.

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BOTTLED SUMMER

I always wanted to have a house with a walk-in larder or a pantry, I don’t have either and I can see the reason in having one of these. I’m running out of space to store my produce.

This is the result of my efforts from last night and today – bottled red and white currants, raspberries and strawberry and raspberry jam. I’m sure my Grandma would be very happy with my efforts, she always bottled and preserved everything Grandad grew on his plot. I’m sure I’ve inherited their genes!

In the winter we can all have a taste of summer on our plate!

The strawberry harvest was 26 kg up to and including yesterday. The first 3 beds are almost empty, I shall take the nets off to give the birds a bit of treat but I have one more bed close to the shed and that one is just starting to produce fruit.

More strawberries, here we come!

You can’t have too much of a good thing.

SERIOUS HARVEST

I went away for a few days to the Lakes – last friday to be precise. My friend has kindly offered to water the polytunnel on the allotment – nothing else is really vulnerable, everything is in the open and can look after itself.

Had a great time there, did some gardening – different kind, flowers this time. I do have flowers in my back garden but this was more organised, herbaceous borders etc. Fortunately the weather was kind and I got a lot done.

Came home on Tuesday 30th June soon after 1pm and after a short rest went to the allotment.

Amazing amount of fruit – 3 kg of strawberries, a full box of raspberries, red currants and white currants.

I also picked a big bunch of very fragrant sweet peas. They are great this year after I planted them inside my fruit cage, the birds can’t peck them and the stems are nice and straight.

STRAWBERRIES AND OTHER 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…

FRUIT

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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