Saturday, 31 August 2013

Site work and Onions

As part of the Committee there are the occasional jobs which need to be done to help the site. One task which has been assigned to me is the numbering of the water tanks. Now when people report faults like leaky taps they can just give us the number rather than "near plot such and such". It makes life easier. So the water tank on my plot is now known as East 3.

Mean while today's courgette tally is 8.

But out and about painting the numbers brought me into contact with other plot holders. One such on the West Side is a chap who really knows his Onions. And then some.

As I reported the other day, my onions didn't really do so well. They were pretty small. But these onions are impressive. I mean really impressive.

Don't look like much? Let me bring some perspective in here.
That's me holding one of them. It's about 50cm in circumference. About 20 inches in old money. I wish I could get mine that big. Mind you, if he ever tries to pickle them, he's going to need a pickle jar the size of a small car.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Oh how the mighty have fallen... for jam.

'Tis a shame for a once mighty plant. My artichokes have seen better days. Once so proud with crowns of blues flowers and a feeding house for hundreds of bees. Now they lie sadly on their last legs.

But don't worry, my rogue sunflower is going great guns and now always seems to have a bee or three. Mind you those scruffy bees are throwing the pollen out. Just look at it on the leaves below.

And on the subject of flowers, there are still loads on the courgettes.

Just as well, because they're still throwing out the tasty goodness.

But my onions didn't really do so well. They never really seemed to get going and ended up small and neglected. I can't really use them in anything much. So instead I turned them into pickled onions. Just the thing to have with my fish and chips.

But that old stalwart of the plot the rhubarb has been sprouting again. So much so that I harvested over 5kg of the stuff. What to do with it all? Well jam of course.

This will be the jam I enter into the MAGA Produce Show on the 7th of September. So I chose a few various sizes of jars to make sure I get a good one for the show itself. (also going into the show will be the chutney and courgette loaf from previous articles.)

Does anybody know the best way to remove labels off commercial products? I can never seem to get them off clean. They always leave a glue residue.

Meanwhile back on the plot. A hungry fox has had a bit of nibble at my corn.
Maybe I should get him some proper fox food. Liver? Dog food? Angry plotholders?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Chunky Chutney and Soup

I have all these Courgettes to use. They're coming at me think and fast. So last night I spent a few hours making a Chunky Courgette Chutney.
500ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
400g brown sugar (any brown sugar will work)
1 tbsp mixed spice
2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
4 onions, chopped
1kg courgettes, diced
1kg tomatoes, chopped
4 eating apples, peeled and diced
300g sultanas
Put the vinegar, 300ml water, sugar and spices in a very large pan. Heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves then add the rest of the ingredients with a tsp of salt.
Bring back to a simmer then simmer uncovered for 2 1/2 hours until darkened, thick and chutney-like.
To sterilise the jars, wash thoroughly in very hot soapy water. Rinse in very hot water then put on a baking sheet in a 140C/fan 120C/gas 1 oven until completely dry.
Pour the chutney into the sterilised jars while still hot, seal and leave in a cool dark place for at least 3 weeks before opening.

Simple enough. And makes a goodly amount.

Tonight, I still have endless courgettes, so it's time for soup.
1 tbsp butter
2 onions, chopped
1kg courgettes, sliced
1kg tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp plain flour
½ tsp turmeric
2l chicken or vegetable stock from cubes
Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions and courgettes, and cook for 5 mins on a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes and flour. Cook for a couple of mins, stirring around to stop the flour from becoming lumpy. Add the turmeric and stock, cover and simmer for 30 mins.
Purée with a blender. Serve hot with crusty bread. Or chill, then freeze for up to 2 months.

Yeah, we have more than enough soup left over. Guess thats tomorrows dinner taken care of too. And Thursday's, and Friday's...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Bolting plants

Both the Rocket and Basil have bolted to seed. Not so much of a problem though, but I do need to collect all the seed.

The Rocket seeds are like small thin miniature pea pods on the flower stems. The seed inside is small. Incredibly small. So the first thing I do is start off by removing the pods. Once they have dried, the seeds should be easier to recover.

The Basil is a lot simpler as the seed stems can simply be snipped off and kept in a paper bag. In fact these lants are from seeds from previous year where I grew them on my window sill. One thing you can always guarantee is a lot of seeds. Just wish I could guarantee a decent amount of Basil that will stay health and not bolt. Maybe I should just scatter the seed all over the plot and harvest as I need.

This last week saw the 1 month anniversary of putting the courgettes out. Since I did they have gone crazy. I have been giving away the courgettes to anybody who wants (mostly the neighbours) as well as making the courgette loaf. Following on from a "complaint" from work (I said last week that I should bring the loaf in on Monday and I didn't) so instead I brought a loaf in on Friday. It seemed to be very much appreciated.

Next attempt is the making of courgette pickle. At least I have more than enough to spare. Oh, and I've left a few to grow into full marrows. I'll see how those turn out.

We had a Committee meeting last week. We have new height barriers fitted to the gate way to the East Side. Seems a little low to my mind.

But at least the bees are appreciating the artichoke flowers. Bees? That one isn't. But it's bigger than any bumblebee.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Courgettes galore

Well my courgette factory seems to be churning them out at a great rate of knots. So now I need to use them up. Fortunately we like courgettes.

But following on from a posting on a Google+ Allotments UK post by Natasha, I decided to give her recipe a go. I followed her recipe to the letter. The only difference being that I don't have a full size loaf tin, so opted for my two smaller tins. Works out better this way anyway. One for today. The other loaf for tomorrow.

2 large eggs
125ml vegetable oil
85g soft brown sugar
350g courgettes, coarsely grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
85g walnuts, roughly chopped
140g sultanas

Heat oven to 180C and Butter and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and sugar

then add the courgettes and vanilla.

In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients with a pinch of salt.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, then pour into the tin.

Bake for 1 hr, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool, then serve, or freeze for up to 1 month.

Wife gives this a rating of "2 thumbs up"! Which, in her book, means that it's pretty damn good.

And combine that with the Rhubarb and Ginger Jam I made a few days ago. Looks like we have new ot of food to munch on. Wonder if I should do a new batch on Sunday and take it into the office on Monday? Because this won't last long round here.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Beware the beasties

There are things that live down the allotment that really love us. That is to say they want to sink their teeth in us and suck our blood.

Last week I did the usual evening stint down the allotment to water the plants and I bumped into one of the new MAGA committee members who was voted in a few weeks back. We got chatting for a while until almost dusk (about an hour). We both had plans which we would like to see done so it was a chance to discuss things at great length whilst surrounded by the target of our intentions.

It was only the day after when I realised that something nasty lurked in the dusk. Not sure what it was the decided that I was tasty looking but something (or things I suspect) decided that they wanted to take a nibble out of me. Normally I'm immune to these things A small bite, stinging nettle or wasp sting only raises a small reddish lump which then goes within the hour. But this time around I got three massive big blisters, my legs heated up and the skin turned an angry red. The blisters eventually burst and became open weeping sores.

I'll spare you the pictures, if only because you probably enjoyed your dinner and want to keep it. It's not a pretty sight. But it makes the wearing of trousers rather uncomfortable and the site of me in shorts is enough to turn a few heads (and a few stomachs).

On the good side, the courgettes are now in full production so far having yielded 8 juicy sweet fruits. And the rhubarb is still going great guns. I had my first attempt at making Rhubarb and Ginger jam. Sort of a success, it hasn't quite set but it's certainly gloopy enough to spread on your toast. I think I'll give it another go in a few weeks time.