Sunday, 24 August 2014


This year I have expanded my cucurbits from the usual one (courgettes) to four (add cucumber, Kabocha and Fig Leaf Gourd).

Up until now I have merrily removed all the male flowers from my courgettes and I have been doing the same for the melons/squashes/gourds/pumpkins. I remembered reading somewhere that if you left them the fruit might get bitter.  Doing a bit more reading, so as to figure out how to look after my new additions, I came across the word "monoecious" which derives form the Greek "One House".  In botanical terms it means that a plant produces both male and female flowers. Then the penny dropped: by removing all the male flowers there is the risk of making the plant infertile and fruit not setting properly or developing at all. Of course there is little danger of catching every male flower given that the plot is across town and the most I visit it is twice a week, but the couple of extra fig leaf melons I planted out under my nose at home have failed to produce any fruit. Now I think I know why - my over enthusiastic male flower snipping. No longer: now the "non productive" male flowers get to stay as long as they like.  Despite all this there have still been quite a number of young  fruit that have shown signs of rot and/or dropped off in the recent bout of cold weather.

Dioecious is where each plant produces flowers of just one sex. Examples are Holly,  Asparagus and (to my horror) Mulberry trees. This explains why our solitary specimen has failed to produce fruit to date!!!  Now I have to figure out which sex it is and order another sex specific tree.

p.s. You get some rather unhelpful results if you Google "How to sex a mulberry bush", but I have discovered that I need to wait until next spring and examine the flowers.

Sunday, 17 August 2014


Get an allotment and travel the World!

Chilacayota Beverage
Anyone following my blog recently will know that I have been growing Fig Leaf Gourd, also known as Sharks Fin Melon and that it seems to like the growing conditions in Scotland.  In the picture below  there are three fruit at different stages:

They seem to prefer climbing to growing on the ground, but they can get a bit carried away, as with this one which is not so much sitting on the fence as growing right through it.

Curiosity (and the acceptance of the inevitable) got the better of me and I decided to harvest this melon even though it was not mature.  

Scanning the net it seems that in Mexico the immature fruit is known as Chilacayote and in one region, south of Mexico City (Oaxacan), they are widely used to produce a cooling drink of the same name. The idea is that you boil them in sugar water for a good hour and then liquidise the pulp.

Some recipes include pineapple, some include the the seeds and stringy pulp, but I decided to go for the straight strained version with a lot less sugar to get the flavour characteristic of the fruit. The results didn't look particularly interesting, but ... it's a shame the internet is not good on flavours.

There's something akin to that watermelon quality about this drink. All we need now is for the temperature in Edinburgh to get into the high twenties to justify making another batch!

Mexico is not the only place this melon has been.  It is is popular in the Far East  where the Shark's Fin name has stuck in honour of the similarity of consistency to that controversial ingredient, and in Spain where they make a jam named after the stingy characteristic of it's flesh when cooked : Cabel d'Angel - angels hair.  Next time I will be making this preserve from the fully ripened fruit.

And just in case you think I am shirking, I cleared the former allium patch today and sowed a green manure, so it's all clear between the potatoes (another American import) and the parsnips now!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Lazing on a Rainy Afternoon

I left for the plot at 9 am this morning.  The rain started at 9:05 and by 9:15 I realised that I had to turn back. Its been raining all day since.  So instead of tidying up the now empty onion patch and cutting the grass on the path I have the opportunity to do a catch up on the state of the plot with a few pictures taken in the last week:

The biggest surprise has been the discovery of three Sharks Fin Melon/Fig Leaf Gourd fruit hidden away at ground level underneath all those leaves:
Its already more than six inches across, as is this one, and another one. There are plenty more on the way too!

Not to be left out the Kabocha have started to bulk up too:


All in all there is a riot at this end of the plot. The Jerusalem Artechokes are now over 6ft tall.

 In the foreground the parsnip is coming on nicely, and behind them, next to the carrot tent there is a bit of an experiment: 

These are scorzonera:

They won't be ready for a long time yet, but I can't wait to try them.

The brassica patch is thriving on top of the weed suppressant fabric.

and the maincrop spuds are looking good:

Of course the earlies are looking very scruffy now by comparison:

but they are providing good eating.

At the other end the beans and the leeks are keeping each other company.  The broad beans are all finished, but the runners have started cropping and the Canadian Wonder are being left for drying. In the background of this shot the fruit cage has given up on both strawberries and summer raspberries (although the Autumn have yet to start). Thank goodness for rhubarb which just goes on and on giving.

The signs are that the blackberries won't be long now with a bumper crop:

So a lazy day, but on review I am well pleased with the plot this year.