Down on the Allotment

What's happening down on the allotment? An intimate account of a passionate veggie grower.

Friday, November 07, 2014

A Trip to Bruges

 Regular readers will know I love visiting outdoor markets when I travel round the world. There is something very vibrant and exciting about all this fresh produce on sale. Also a sense of history when the market square is and always has been the centre of society for centuries. None more so in the Market Square in Bruges, Belgium.
 So where else would you find fresh, local Brussels Sprouts than in Belgium! National pride!
 But it is more than that. This is wonderfully displayed, squeaky fresh and mouth wateringly tempting.
 Why can't we display and sell produce like this in the UK? These carrots with tops and bottoms are just fantastic! You could actually smell them!
 Even the regular produce was displayed so beautifully.
 Top quality, locally produced fruit and veggies.  Why can't we get this over here?
 The Fish Market was amazing too.  These North Sea Langoustine were freshly landed just 7 miles away in Zeebrugge (that's the sea port of Bruges) and steamed at the market and sold straight out of the pot still steaming! 
 and look how these leeks are sold.  Still with their green tops and their roots on the bottom, bunched and displayed so attractively.  British supermarkets cut off all the leaves and roots and just sell them in a boring, sterilized, sanitized, plastic bag!
 Fresh markets are just the life and soul of a community.  Most UK local markets are over-run with mobile phone covers, jewellery, plastic stuff and more plastic stuff... I live in London and there are just so few outlets for really wonderful fresh fruit and veggies - I suppost that's why I grow my own!
The market in Bruges is on every Wednesday, and the Christmas market starts at the end of November.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Record Breakers!

 Now here's something you don't expect to see on a Halloween blog post!  There are still a few Gardeners Delight tomatoes ripening in my greenhouse. This very mild weather has kept some late crops growing. In London today it was a record breaking 23degrees!  (that's a whopping 73degrees in old money)
 My parsley is just amazing at the moment.  It should survive the Winter in some form or another, I will give it some protection.. but I am going to harvest lots of it and chop it for the freezer.
 Meanwhile these Oca plants are enjoying the long season.  I am going to keep these going as long as I can - I understand that it is this time of year when the tubers put on most growth.
 The most amazing surprise with this warm weather is that on 31st October, my courgettes are still producing more and more each day.
 I've kept them watered during this warm weather, so instead of having a Haloween pumpkin this year.........
I bring you the very first Halloween courgette!!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Keep on Picking!

The weather is still very mild here in Hillingdon, London.   I left my climbing courgette Black Forest only a few days since the last picking and there are still more!!!  Making the most of every one because soon it will all be over for another year!  Happy Picking!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Autumn Sunshine

 The warmest September on record this year in the UK and there are lots of lovely flowers (vegetable flowers!) out in the sunshine.  Jerusalem Artichokes are related to sunflowers and these lovely flowers put a smile on your face.
 Jerusalem Artichokes so called... from the Italian for sunflower.. Gira Soleil... turn towards the sun.
 My lovely climbing courgette Black Forest is having a great time too, pickings every day at the moment and the honey bees appreciate a late source of pollen and nectar to get them through the Winter.
 I've not grown Oca before, but these lovely little yellow flowers are adored by the bees.
 I'm growing these for as long as possible and apparently they are dug as late as possible until the frost knocks back the foliage.
 Bees also love my Garlic Chives, flowers now turning to seed pods.
and these lovely Sungold tomatoes in the greenhouse are reaching for the sky. If I keep them frost free and a little water they might go on for a while yet.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Late Summer produce

 This amazingly warm late Summer has meant that my courgettes are still producing.
 This time of year I am still watering and feeding the courgette because dry conditions can make the powdery mildew much worse.  Keeping it fed and watered regularly will keep this producing until the first frosts.
 This is a climbing or trailing variety Black Forest.  Always a brilliant do-er for me, but sometimes hard to source.  Well worth it if you can find it.
 I am very disappointed with this new variety of tomato Indigo Rose.  Yes it is really black... but even in full sunshine all day, leaves removed the tomato will not ripen.  Some in the greenhouse have ripened but they have black shoulders only and red bottoms.  Taste is not good either... like eating cotton wool.  Not good.. won't be growing this one again.
 This one is a star!  Golden Jubilee beefsteak tomato is a late season beefsteak and well worth the wait.
 Fantastic shape and colour and very prolific.
And the taste is fantastic too!  This one's a keeper!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Horseradish Sauce

 I dug a few Horseradish roots yesterday.  Not an easy task, sometimes the roots can go down many feet and it is impossible to remove if you don't want it.  Like many root vegetables they don't do well in my hard London clay.. but all you need is a relatively small amount.
 Scrub and peel the root thoroughly
 Nowadays this is just so easy... my Mother tells me that in the 1930s she had to sit on the kitchen step with a hand grater... and grate the horseradish root.  The pain must have been awful.. think how you feel when you stand over onions when you chop them?  then multiply it by 10.. PHEW!
 We have it much easier now.. if you want to experience some of the pain, then just take a sniff after it is chopped when you take the lid off!
There is absolutely no comparison with the weedy, watery, mild horseradish sauce you buy in jars from the shop.   This is the real McCoy!!   Just add either cream or evaporated milk, a couple of spoons of vinegar and some salt and pepper.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Golden Jubilee Tomatoes

 Not everything is blighted down on the allotment.  There are still a few lovely Golden Jubilee beefsteak tomatoes ripening now.
 a late ripening variety I have grown for a few years, with a fabulous taste as well as looks.
 There is really only one thing I like to do with beefsteak tomatoes..
 sliced with buffalo mozzarella, garlic vinaigrette and basil (actually parsley here)
Bon apetite!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The National Fruit Collection

It has been a few years since I last visited the National Fruit Collection in Brogdale, Kent.
I found myself there today taking a quick detour from setting up my Blackdog DNA trade stand a few miles away at the Kent County Showground.  Acres and acres of fruit trees, thousands of different varieties.
Just the right time of year for apples, but there are also national collections of nut trees, plums, cherries, pears as well as soft fruit.
A small railway exists around the site to transport picked fruit in boxes into the warehouses and shops.  The real purpose of the site is to research and preserve old varieties from extinction, so the actual production of fruit is secondary here.
and tucked away in a few acres in the corner of the site is the National collection of Quince trees!
Such a beautiful fruit to look at, less common nowadays but lots of different varieties come in all shapes and colours.
and in a corner of the quince orchard was the medlar orchard.  Heaven on earth!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Green Tomato Chutney

 So what do you do with a big tray of green tomatoes that will turn blighty in a few days?
 Green tomato chutney of course.  Chop and sweat 1lb of green tomatoes, 1lb of onions, 1lb of cooking apples with some salt for about 20 minutes.
 Then add 1 pint of malt vinegar, 2lbs brown sugar, 100grams dried fruit, and a selection of whichever spices you like.  I put in cloves, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, 1 whole chilli, ginger powder.. any of those really.
 Gently simmer with the lid off and stir to stop the bottom from burning or sticking.
 I never pay attention to cooking times because you have to wait till it is thick and most of the excess water has evaporated.
 cool slightly and pour into warmed sterilized jars.
 It says to keep for a month to mature.... hell no!
Ready straight away!  Yum!