Down on the Allotment

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Success in 2014

There have been a couple of firsts Down on the Allotment in 2014. I grew Oca this year, it is pretty easy to grow in that it just looks after itself.  Another big bonus is that the tubers seem to be quite hardy under the soil in Winter - so anything at this time of year under frost and snow is worth growing.
 But the thing I am most proud about is growing carrots!  My heavy London clay has always meant that carrots grown in the soil were always forked and mis-shapen.   This time I took the time and effort to sieve a couple of square meters of soil and add lots of sand and grit.  Didn't thin them out for fear of attracting carrot root flies - just left them where I sowed the seed.
So on Christmas Day (with the help of my furry kitchen assistant) we had home grown carrots for the first time!   Wishing all my blog readers a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cooking Oca

 I wasn't sure what to do with this unusual vegetable, so I cooked a few Oca tubers until they were soft. Just a little salt in the water.
Mashed them up with a little milk.  I think I prefer the taste like this. Hard to describe but the Oca mash tastes a little bit like pease pudding, or perhaps mashed swede or chic peas.  Would be quite nice as a veggie with a roast dinner.  I might try adding butter and pepper next to see if it improves.

Matron's Christmas Veggie Blog 2011

Welcome to Matron's Christmas Veggie blog. It is quite a challenge to grow anything at this time of year, so thank you to everyone who sent a photo. Here's what's on the menu in your neck of the Christmas woods! Well this lovely plate of citrus fruits was sent in from the Estudio Campana in sunny Almeria, Spain.
Many thanks to Stacy at Plot number 58 for this lovely Cavalo Nero. This is a wonderful Winter crop, just perfect for the Christmas Dinner plate.
Jane sent in this beautiful Swiss Chard. This is one of my favourite Winter veg, it brightens up any plot right the way through to Spring.
And what a feast from Scarecrows Garden down in the Southern hemisphere. Christmas dinner in Australia must be a very colourful event.
And here is Matron's own offering, these Jerusalem artichokes are a bit smaller this year. They are such an invasive pest if you don't keep them under control. I have been picking stems and stalks all year to try to keep them under control. That said, I just adore the flavour - and now that I work from home I don't have to worry about the antisocial consequences from eating bowls full of these... fartichokes!
Rob from Birmingham sent in these lovely brassicas, Gloire de Portugal. Really fresh green leaves are a real delicacy on the Christmas table, freshly picked and steamed. Bon appetite.
Jeffrey from the Eagle Close allotments sent this lovely selection of squashes and pumpkins. I keep meaning to try growing spaghetti squash (left) I must put it on my list for next year.
Serious congratulations to Jennifer for her first ever attempt at growing potatoes!! Once tasted you are hooked on growing your own .. forever. This variety California White.
What a wonderful trugful of veggies. Thanks to Kay at Gardening Tools.
Beautiful photos of beautiful veg on the Christmas Table at Kelli Boyles Garden.
What Christmas dinner would be complete without fantastic home grown parsnips. Bon Appetite goes to Nome at the Nome Grown blog.
A fresh crop of Oca from the Oca testbed blog. Fresh and in season right now! Thank you Ian for adding wonderful variety to my Christmas Veggie blog.
Jeffrey at the Eagle Close allotments has inspired me to attempt more green salad in Winter. These pea shoots are decorating the best plates in the best restaurants at the moment!
What a beautiful still life painting this would make! Thanks to Peggy from her Organic Growing Pains blog in Cork, Ireland for this festive fare. I just adore brussels sprouts!
Beautiful red Cabbage from Orlaith. This is an essential ingredient in Matron's Christmas Dinner, just steamed with apple, onion, vinegar, cloves and seasoning. Brilliant!
And my lovely blog-mentor Stan for starting me off on this blog-quest all those years ago. Inspired! Wishing you all a Veggie Christmas!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Winter Harvest

 Earlier this Summer I planted some Oca tubers in a black plastic dustbin full of compost.  This is the first time I've grown them.  All the advice given told me to leave them to mature as long as possible so that the underground tubers swell as much as possible.
 Well, we've had a lovely long, warm Autumn and they have had the best conditions possible. A sharp frost overnight has really knocked them back now so it is time to see what lies underneath.
 So I decided to start to dig down with a trowel to see what was there.
 One by one the tubers appeared.
 I only took two plants today but I have quite a few more.  These striking tubers resemble Jerusalem artichokes.
 I did plant different coloured tubers, so there were different varieties coming up.
 I tried eating some raw.  Not unpleasant - the texture of a crisp radish but without the heat. A faint flavour of a lemon acid.. I guess it would be oxalic acid.  Probably better chopped up in a salad to give texture.  Will have to try cooking them and see if they improve.

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.