Friday, 6 December 2019

December Crops - School Garden


4 Seasons Beds (Brassicas behind)
It's time for the harvest from the 4 seasons "winter" bed in the school garden.  The aim of these square meter beds is to demonstrate that there is something to be harvested in every quarter of the year. The winter harvest has been bolstered by produce from the brassica bed, notably brussel sprouts:

The school celeriac has rubbed salt into the wound by producing better celeriac than I have ever managed to grow on my allotment. (Despite the plants the from the same batch of seedlings)
Other pickings are:

Seakale Beet 

Swede or ' Neep'


Once you re picking parsnips it begins to feel a bit like Christmas:

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Compostable Material

I'm starting an experiment today.

The question was posed: Are the claims of degradation of plastic alternatives justified?  Do they biodegrade as efficiently as they claim?

Today this bag has gone into my compost dalek, along with the usual kitchen vegetable waste.  I will leave all alone for three months when I will make my first check on progress. 

A few notes:

This was promoted as a people's science experiment but after volunteering I have heard nothing further from the organisers, so I am doing this off my own bat.

Biodegradability is different from home compostability and isn't on its own a cure for all aspects of the recycling problem - see the thought provoking article here  

I have been caught out before, most notably with teabags, which it turns out have a plastic element (glue?) to them.  Worse still the seemingly "paper" sachets some come in turn out to be plasticised and turn up years later when harvesting potatoes. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Endive Another Year

At -6 C it has been the coldest night so far and I am reluctantly accepting that we have moved straight on to winter mode. 

One autumnal novelty that has worked a treat this year is Endive Pancalieri. It tolerates cold and thrives just as all the usual lettuces are grinding to a halt.

It looks like a loose leaf lettuce but has serrated leaves rather than the rounded oakleaf we are used to, and is sold by the supermarkets in bags as 'Frisee'. Although the leaves are green they are best blanched in order to minimise the bitterness that can develop as the temperature drops. Here is the result of my experimentation:

 The crisp and sweet blanched stems are encouraged by holding the rosette up with a loop of string. In the row of three below the middle plant can be seen before and after tying up. 


The loop can be lowered for harvesting and then pulled back up again if the whole plant is not being harvested at once.  Meantime the next rosette can be tied in readiness for harvesting in a week or two.They are quite voluminous and the stems seem to cluster in groups even though I am sure each rosette is just one plant. 

As these are across town at the allotment I am not sure they have survived the current frost, but so fare they have been a roaring success and I will be growing them in future years so as to extend the salad season into the colder months.

p.s. Endive is a member of the chicory family.  I am also growing some chicory proper to be dug up and then forced for 'chicons'  still later in the growing year.  Watch this space!

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Halloween Harvest

On the frost carpeted grass are the last pickings of raspberries and runner beans and the remnants of the tomato harvest that has been sitting it out in an unheated greenhouse at the school garden.  Ironically the one BIG pumpkin has been given away to the nursery class so is missing from the picture.

To make amends for this omission here is pretty much the entire pumpkin crop gathered from our allotment.  I had a big push on cucurbits, but it looks like I chose the wrong year to do that*.  The result is one fruit from each plant that survived.  There is the traditional orange pumpkin (only just turning orange), Uchi Kuri, Kabotcha and Butternut squash Hunter.  Oh yes, two random Sharksfin Melon also made a surprise appearance.  Now they are scary.  I was surprised to see these on Gardeners World a few weeks ago and even more surprised to see the intrepid presenter sampling them raw.  Like a mature marrow, but more dense, they definitely need to be cooked!

*The other 2019 push was sweetcorn. I grew three varieties and ended up with a unanimous raspberry:  They don't like the cold and never quite made it to edible proportions.   

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Culinary Notes

There have been some novelties this year.  Yes we have grown cauliflower before but the abundance this year prompted a bit of experimentation with how they are cooked.  That's why the broken off florets are sitting in the food processor:
Deconstructed Cauliflower
 In a few seconds they are transformed into cauliflower couscous.  A couple of minutes cooking in a skillet with appropriate seasoning and viola!  See i-cant-believe-its-not-couscous if you want more extensive instructions.

The next novelty is something I have read about since purchasing my first gardening book (Dr Hessayon's Vegetable Expert) many years ago, but only now tried for the first time.

It is Asparagus Peas.  These grow quite happily in a tub at home and are quite decorative, with deep crimson flowers.  Best not to leave the pods too long before picking as they can turn quite tough and stringy, although the central seed pod remains succulent for longer than the frilly aerofoils.  Like most novelties they will not be repeated for a few years.

My last item is a banker rather than a novelty:
Sungold Cherry Tomato
When all other varieties let you down Sungold can be relied on to ripen on the vine, even in Scotland, producing a steady supply of balanced sharp/sweet gobstopper sized fruit that explode with flavour when popped in the mouth whole.  It is an F1 hybrid and exhibits hybrid vigour - as well as good flavour.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

My World is Blue

What a year it has been for blueberries.  I have been picking them for months and expected them to peter out, but these pictures were taken two days ago

There are plenty more on the way if the weather holds.  That's not say that the cold nights aren't affecting the leaf colour:

This installation is now nine years old, and doing very well after a slow start.  If you want you can check out the early years at Blueberry History or their progress in  2016

Now my outdoor tomatoes...  haven't enjoyed the conditions this year and have remained green. It is time to harvest them for indoor ripening. 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

A Funny Old Year

It is dawning on me that, although we had a poor summer,  there is not going to be a compensatory extension.  Septembers wind and rain has arrived and there is no going back.  When I say poor I mean OK up until mid July and then wet cold and sometimes windy thereafter.  Some crops fared well, particularly blueberries, but others took forever to get started (tomatoes, runner beans and squashes) and then got battered by the wind as soon as they did. Everyone's sweetcorn was very late and probably will not ripen - I still harbour  hopes. It was warm and wet enough for the blight to sweep through our site in August.   If I needed confirmation that the weather pattern has been atypical it has been provided by the wisteria which has decided it has been through a winter and it is now time to flower.  It makes a start contrast to the rowan berries: