I went to the allotment quite early yesterday morning, I knew we were going to have a very hot day. Picked a couple of courgettes, some lovely pale peppers, cucumbers and another huge bag of tomatoes.
This time I used my tomatoes to cook the pasta sauce – chopped them, sliced the courgettes and the peppers, put into a large saucepan where I first gently cooked some chopped onions and then slowly cooked it all. Only added a small amount of water. This sauce has got some of my basil leaves in, the flavour is lovely. I have six more jars ready for the winter.
After a break of a few days I have decided to put down some more facts about the farm. As I mentioned before I have three plots and they contain my little shed and four greenhouses. There are also a few net cages of different sizes, all full of plants. We have to cover all our crops that pigeons might like to nibble. An easier way to do that is to grow these crops inside the net cages, much easier to harvest, weed and water. If there is a bit of space left in the cage I usually plant a few tomato plants there, they always survive and do very well. My main harvest of red tomatoes is from the greenhouses, that is no surprise but the outside ones ripen eventually.
As usual I’m growing courgettes this year but not on such great scale as before. I have found out the hard way that courgettes produce a lot of fruit – one plant can keep a family in fruit. This year I have grown yellow bush courgettes and yesterday was the first time I was able to pick some.
I remembered that last year I made lots of courgette and tomato sauce to use with pasta. I decided to do that again, with some onions, garlic and basil. I didn’t use my tomatoes but used some tinned passata as I wanted to use it all up while it is in – date.
Because I had another good harvest of tomatoes I roasted them just with olive oil and a few sprigs of rosemary and bottled.
The courgettes gave me four Kilner jars of the sauce and there was enough left to have it on our pasta for lunch.
I’m lucky to have a space in the loft to store all my empty jars, be it Kilners or just jars for jam so for now I can continue. Another problem is storage space for the produce – cupboards are filling up. But I think that is not a problem, at least we shall have something wholesome to use during the winter.
My tomato plants in the three greenhouses on the allotment needed some attention today, putting canes beside them and tying them – all 41 of them. They look very healthy and some of them are almost ready to flower. There is a plan behind this large number of plants, I like to bottle them either as passata or just oven roasted ones, they are much better than any tinned tomatoes from a shop.
I still have some more tomato plants in the greenhouse in the back garden, nine of them in smaller pots, they will be planted later on the allotment in one of the net cages, and four plants in big pots. With those I’m just waiting for settled warm weather so I can stand them outside on the patio.
There was a change of activities on Saturday. I was given some vouchers by our son Tom for my birthday and it was just the right time to go to the Perfect ponds to get some more fish and plants for our pond. Two guys from this place came in December last year to sort our pond, the result is an amazingly clear water and happy five old fish. We got four more Koi and loads of food for them and some plants. These are now on a low ledge in the water and hopefully they’ll get bigger and will prevent the heron from fishing in the pond. We have also rigged up a system of CDs on strings, they flicker and again act as a scare. Time will tell but I’m hopeful.
I thought that my tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouses on the allotment have finished. Not so. After a rainy day I finally managed to go down the ‘farm’ and see if we suffered any damage. I’m delighted to say that the only casualty was a multi-headed sunflower, only because the squirrel wanted to nibble the seeds and the whole thing just came crushing to the floor. No problem there, I have saved the biggest face and took it home before the squirrel found it. I harvested a good number of perfect cucumbers and there will be many more.
For the first time I managed to grow basil in the greenhouse. Before now I was carefully sowing the seeds in small pots and then hoping to transplant them and it never worked. This time I simply scattered the seeds in the grow bed and a lot germinated. I harvested so much basil I was able to make a lot of pesto. I’m freezing portions of it ready to serve with some tasty pasta.
The squashes are ready to harvest too, these are my ‘mashed potato’ squashes. I never grew them before but I will again next year. The reason for the name is simple – you cut them in half, scoop out the seeds and roast them in the oven cut side up. When cooked, the flesh is scooped out and it is like a mashed potato, with only a fraction of the calories of spuds.
I would like to have a few things to keep me happy and they would ensure that we could be self-sufficient.
Not in the exact order: a cow, some chickens and a few sheep and I would keep all that in a walled garden. Well, a woman can dream…..
But we’re almost there, even without these special items. Today’s harvest was:
I think the big tomato must be the biggest one I’ve ever managed to grow – 181 g!!
And this is just about the start, there will be many more. I found a way of bottling them in Kilner jars, gently cook them with some sliced garlic and olive oil, then add chopped rosemary and basil. When the jars are filled I sterilise them in water bath for about 5 minutes and that way I shall have a good supply of chopped tomatoes for the winter.
I tried Borlotto beans in the past but always used them young. This time I have let them dry on the vine; I will shell them as they dry and then store them in large jars with some silica sachets to reduce the moisture. Again, a very useful addition to winter soups and stews. They are very attractive when maturing, the pods are bright red before they dry and turn dusty purple.
I had an old dustbin on the allotment – with holes already drilled so it was obvious that someone grew something in it. I brought it home, put it behing my greenhouse and put some of my potatoes in. They have sprouted and weren’t good for anything else and as I don’t like to throw anything away, I planted them there. It was very early in the year – February I think. If they did well – fine, if not – fine too.
They did well and I’ve got the result for our lunch today, served with home-made pesto, together with a cheese and onion flan.