The weather forecasters have got it slightly wrong for our area, the map showed the belt of showers further up north. It started drizzling here after breakfast and continued till the early afternoon. Around three in the afternoon it stopped so I put on my waterproof jacket and went to the allotment. I didn’t want to do a lot, just to see how things were there and perhaps pick some raspberries and currants. I managed to do all that and got home dry. I wanted to try another recipe using fruit from my farm and thanks to my friend in Allotment Haven I have got just the thing. My blackcurrants aren’t ready as yet so I used red and white currants. The resulting cake smells delicious and looks great. Frank will be the judge of it tomorrow.
Yesterday was another busy day on the farm and in the end I was just too tired to write it all up. I did a lot of weeding in the orchard – again! and picked over two kilo of raspberries so of course I just had to make more jam. It would be a shame not to, this jam is so tasty. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing very well, I have removed the bottom leaves so there is a flow of air around them and they are in full sun.
Everything is growing well, the lettuce in one of the greenhouses is amazing, really big and very tasty.
I have used it to make a big green salad – I throw everything and anything in – chopped hard boiled eggs, Feta cheese, olives, capers and then just stir in my dressing made with olive oil, wholegrain mustard, balsamic vinegar and a little drizzle of honey.
Today was going to be a harvesting day and I’m very pleased with the result. I have a little routine when I get to my allotment. First I open my four greenhouses to get some fresh air in, perhaps water the plants if it looks like a hot day ahead and then start the real tasks I had in mind. This was exactly what happened in the morning. As soon as the greenhouses were done I started harvesting the currants, red and white ones. Both bushes are in the fruit cage, safe from thieving birds so I don’t have to hurry picking the fruit. I picked two large boxes of the red currants and one of the white ones. I already had a big bowl of gooseberries at home, they were from yesterday. I always try to thin the fruit on the bushes so in the end I get some nice large gooseberries. This took most of the morning and I was quite glad to lock up and go home.
Picking the fruit was one task, the next one was removing the stalks and weighing it ready for jam making. In the end I have a lovely lot of red currant and gooseberry jam, the white currants are so delicately flavoured I don’t make anything out of them just freeze them loose, put in a freezer bag to be enjoyed in the winter.
Even though the spring was nothing to write home about, the harvest was fine. The vegetables coped well with the cold spring and not a very great summer and the harvest was good, apart from the carrots. Germination was poor and I made sure the ground was stone free. I tried three times, in the end I got two rows of reasonable carrots. I don’t think I was alone with this problem, other allotment holders experienced the same. Never mind, there is always next year.
Soft fruit was great, apples also. The figs were rather disappointing, certainly the cold spring affected them. There are countless immature figs on all my trees but I don’t have a chance to harvest them now, even though it is still quite mild. The days are getting shorter and they need the light.
About two years after starting on the allotment I treated myself to a fruit cage. It wasn’t cheap but it is well worth every pound. I have rearranged the bushes there during late autumn and winter and it is much better now, enough space around each bush.
I have got a number of blueberries, gooseberries, black currant, and my favourite, red and white currants. Today I picked some of them, the white ones are delicious on our porridge in the morning.
It is all go on the allotment. This year the raspberries are amazing, I manage to pick a large box every other day. Not sure what I did but whatever it was it worked.
The same goes for the red and white currants, beautiful. Here I know the reason, I did pamper all the fruit bushes in the fruit cage.
I also had my first harvest of courgettes and french beans. Both are great, it is amazing how different the taste is when the fruit and vegetables are freshly picked.
But the biggest surprise are the aubergines. I always thought that they would be difficult to grow – not so. I had one plant last year and it produced some tasty fruit. This year I’m amazed how many I have. It seems that every seed I put in the soil germinated, I have aubergines in the greenhouse in the back garden and in both greenhouses.
This is the biggest one so far. I have found a few good recipes and am looking forward to using them.
Not bad for one aubergine. I’ll have to decide which recipe to use….
The last path to be filled with wood chip is ready, the edges are built with planks of wood from a dismantled fencing panel so today I could concentrate on the fruit cage. I’ve had this cage now for a good number of years and it needed sorting out. Some of the blackcurrant bushes were getting too old, they had to go. Blueberries are a super food, I like them and we put them on our porridge every morning so I bought a few new bushes. Early and late varieties and planted them in the cage. I already had some of them there. Now I have two standard red gooseberries, a redcurrant, two white currants and a jostaberry. That is only a cutting, I haven’t had any fruit from it so I live in hope.
I’m always amazed how well the weeds grow – even though I thought I managed to pull them all out, they came back. I cleared them again. That done, I wanted to put pieces of wood all along the bottom. The netting is buried in the soil and pinned down but this is for extra security, in case some little bird or a mouse should find a gap to get in.
Spring is here, I just hope my Asian pear tree isn’t bursting into flower too soon – we might get some late frosts.
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.
There will be more cucumbers, one of the water melons is there, only as big as a gooseberry – it has got to start somewhere!
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.
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.
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.
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.