DELIGHT IN A JAR

I don’t usually force my rhubarb – the truth is I forget and when I remember it is too late. This year is better – I have covered six crowns with an assortment of buckets and tubs just before I went to Malta.

It worked! When I went to check it, I picked a large bag of tender pink sticks of rhubarb.

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It must be quite early, I didn’t see any in the supermarket. It’ll be there, I’m sure but at a price. Because I was going to bottle it, I had to weigh it – 950 g!

I’ve got my favourite recipe, used it last year and realised that should have made many more jars. It is quite delicious. I made just a few changes – I don’t just squeeze the oranges, I peel them and cut the segments. I feel that gives much more to the overall taste. I have three Kilner jars out of this little harvest, with many more to come.

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Delicious with creme fraiche, on its own, ice cream….possibilities are endless.

MODEST BEGINNINGS

When I first started working on the allotment I had just one half of a plot. I thought that it would be enough. Little did I know that I will have so much land in the end.

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This was the first bit of land – without any structures on it and rather overgrown!

The chairman just mentioned that the person who had the other half of my plot doesn’t want to work it any more and would I like it. I didn’t need any time to think about it because I realised that just a half is nowhere near enough for my plans.007

Every plot needs a shed – mine was made for me by one of the other allotmenters – out of pallets – talk about recycling!

First if was one more half then a bit more and end is that now I have two full plots and three separate halves. I have the luxury now of growing flowers!

I have finished puling the weeds, cutting the path edges, building the structures for growing beans and climbing courgettes and now all I have to do is wait. I even had time to put a huge flowerpot over one rhubarb crown to force it so we can look forward to some very tasty pink rhubarb later on…..

Not easy….

SPRING IS HERE…

…I hope. Today was a beautiful day and it would’ve been a pity to stay inside.

After lunch I made myself a flask of herbal tea and went down the allotment. I knew there wasn’t too much to do, just clearing the weeds from the raspberry patch. In the end it was quite easy – the rows are fairly well organised, paths between them are covered with strips of pond liner so the weeds at least don’t invade them. I was pleased that I managed to clear the whole patch.

The days must be getting longer – I finished around 4pm and it was still light – good enough to carry on working – but no energy left, alas.

Right next to the raspberry patch is my rhubarb – that was done a few days ago. It looks good and I can see new young shoots appearing.

I’ve got a few fruit trees there too – a plum, pear and an apple. The plum is quite young but doing very well indeed – we had 5 huge plums last year.

Here’s hoping for a big harvest this year.

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RHUBARB

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I think most people know rhubarb crumble or stewed rhubarb – it could be thought of as a bit boring or basic. Not so. I have found a great recipe, Jamie Oliver’s one and changed it a bit. The main idea was the addition of orange zest. I didn’t just use the juice of the orange, I peeled it and got rid off the white pith as much as I could and cut the segments into smaller pieces, added them to the mix. Also, I didn’t use any of the water he says but mixed the pieces of rhubarb with the sugar and oranges and left it for a few hours. Excellent result, I had lots of juice in the bowl. As I don’t like ginger too much I didn’t use that either and I think it didn’t matter much.

The first time I cooked it slowly and we had it with yoghurt and also with cream the secondĀ  time.

The next step was to try and preserve it for later – bottling came to the rescue. I packed it in Kilner jars, juice and all – double the recipe and I got four jars. Put them in a water bath, brought to boil and let it bubble gently for 10 minutes, left it stand there for another five (give or take a few) and carefully lifted out.

Eight out of eight isn’t bad!

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SECOND HALF OF MAY

Well, the weather isn’t too great but everything in the garden – or rather on the plot – is growing fine.

It was rather chaotic in the greenhouse and in the veranda at the back of the house – an organised chaos I must add. The veranda was used for hardening off all the plants before I took them to the farm to plant out and this method worked! Everything on the farm survived the move and is growing well.

Cabbages in the net tunnels, tomatoes, lettuce, Chinese lettuce, climbing beans are all fine. And then there are the hardy types who survived the winter out there – onions, shallots, garlic, strawberries, rhubarb and last but not least the potatoes and raddishes who are trying their best.

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RHUBARB

I like nice young rhubarb, freshly picked and quickly cooked with some sugar and served with cream or ice cream. The only problem, if I can call it that, is, that there is so much of it. Not complaining but you can only eat so much….

I’ve pickled it, sweet and spicy and then thought – if it works like this, surely I can bottle it in some light sugar syrup.

It works and it is very nice – much better than freezing it. This way I shall have more room in my freezer(s) for other things, like soft fruit and countless pounds of beans.

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FIRST OF MANY

One thing that everybody grows on our site is rhubarb. I’m no exception. I like it, either just stewed with custard or cream, even icecream, but I don’t like it as chutney.

I was looking for other recipes (not that I don’t have enough recipe books!) that might use rhubarb in an altogether different way and I found this great book. I chose the recipe for “spicy pickled rhubarb” and the result is, as can be seen, very satisfying.

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RHUBARB

I was making my mind up about forcing one or two of my rhubarb crowns this year. Some time ago I covered both the rhubarb and the paths between my raspberries with woodchips and I think that was the reason I forgot about the forcing – I couldn’t see any of the crowns.

I had a very nice surprise today when I went there to do a bit of work – some of the rhubarb was big enough to be picked so of course I did.

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The weather was much better than the forecast had said and I managed to put in one row of the very early Swift potatoes and two rows of Lady Christl. The ground didn’t feel too bad, certainly wasn’t too wet. Also I sowed two lines of turnips and one of swede, it will be interesting if the birds will leave the seedlings alone – they didn’t in the past and I had to put a net over the swede bed.

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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