Monday, 15 February 2021

Spot The Gall

Recently I have been paying more attention to deformities in trees.  I would have called the the rough patches on this tree trunk 'galls' but it turns out they are burls or burrs depending on which side of the Atlantic you live.

Another tree in the same wood also has an impressive collection.

Casting back to an autumnal walk I thought this clumping of branches was a result of pollarding, or grazing cattle.  It is known as witches broom and, whatever the cause, is the tree's attempt to generate more root growth, albeit up in the air!

There is another impressive example on a silver birch just along the road.

Given the location pollution could be factor.

I have a lot to learn but I am looking forward to finding out more about these intriguing aberrations.

We are lucky to have a tiny remnant of mature woodland on our doorstep, saved from the developer by the steep gradient and now afforded the interest of a local group of enthusiasts.

Here is one of there recently erected information notices giving some background.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Stir Crazy


Prompted by another blogger's "What's in your kitchen draw" feature (Thanks Sue) I collected together a selection of stirring and whisking devices from our kitchen just for the fun of it!  From top to bottom

Spiral whisk

Dough mixer (Scandanavian)

Wooden spoon

Porridge spirtle

Balloon whisk

Double sided wooden spoon

Silicon spoon/scraper

Ball whisk

Yes I'm going stir crazy!

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Snow Joke

 Visiting the allotment today for the first time for a week the brassica patch has been decimated by the pigeons, taking advantage of the snow weighing down the netting. The Brussel sprout tops are gone but the sprouts on the stalk are untouched! The spring cabbages have taken a serious hit though.

The carrot patch cover was droopy, but completely pigeon proof.  

And the crop has benefited from  some frost protection from net and snow.  I dug up some monster carrots today:

Thank goodness I removed the netting from the fruit cage.

Here is an example of structural damage that can result from the weight of the snow if you don't.

The leeks don't look too hot but at least they and the parsnips don't appeal to the pigeons!

Thursday, 21 January 2021

A Snow Day


The view from the window suggests a day off from gardening duties.  

My workstation is definitely "snowed in"

Path clearing (on the street side) and birdfeeding will be the main outdoor activities today!

Tuesday, 19 January 2021


 We are in the season of root vegetables.  It is high season for  Jerusalem artichoke. Celeriac, parsnip, swede are in their element.  Carrots and beetroot are still soldiering on while potatoes are all in storage.  Always keen on trying something "exotic".  Salsify and scorzonera take it turn about and this year we have grown scorzonera (sometimes called black salsify)

The flesh is white but the skin is markedly black:

Once peeled you need cook straight away as the roots exude lactose and discolour quickly.  You can get away with dropping them into water with a spoonful of vinegar (or lemon juice) to acidulate it .  The taste?  Bland in must be said.  Subtle might be kinder.  It and its white sibling Salsify have been compared to oyster in taste.  Not having tasted oyster I can't comment.

Scorzonera is reputed to contain protiens, fats, asparagine, choline and laevulin as well as minerals potassium, calcium,phosphorus,iron, sodium, and vitamins A, B1, E and C.  Also containing the glycoside inulin, it is suitable for diabetics.  So perhaps I should be more enthusiastic about it! 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Brioche Sans Tête

With the weather being horrible and the news horrible too I have been resorting to my form of 'cupboard love'.  First I made a batch of marmalade.  With one and a half kilos of fruit and 3k sugar I needed my largest saucepan.  Stored inside it I found my brioche tin, so had a go at that.  It rose well enough but the tête wobbled off to the side and was only just hanging by a thread by the end of baking time. (see second picture) 

Loosing the head

Hanging on!

This has happened before with brioche rolls which I posted about  here,  but the problem seems to have scaled up on this occasion.  Next time I am loading up the tin I will make the top ball smaller than the ones it sits on and squeeze it on as hard as I can!  Needless to say the taste was in no way affected.


Monday, 4 January 2021

Winter Vegetable Bed - Judgement Day

It is time to revisit the 4 seasons square foot vegetable bed for the winter harvest.  The above picture was taken on 21st December and the ones below were taken today as the crop was lifted. ( If you want to see previous seasons posts just click on "4 Seasons" in the labels list.) 

Here is the day's harvest 

First prize has to go to parsnips. 5 roots out of 5 and all of them stout and long,  The only problem with them was that they grew so strongly that their leaves flopped over their neighbours, depriving them of light.

The leeks also showed well with 6 out of 6 transplants growing long if slender.  Some bonus parsley was also grown in the same square foot.

Celeriac was a bit bullied by the parsnip foliage, One tennis ball sized bulb (or swollen stem) would be a fine addition to a stew.

I left the swiss chard in the ground.  It has already provided several meals worth from earlier harvest. Light picking over winter progresses but there is plenty more to come in late winter and early spring before new seedlings will catch up with it. 

The pigeons had a good go at the Swedes but three survived and grew larger than tennis ball size after netting.  These would have happily waited for Burns' night on 25th January.

Beetroots were only salad size, despite the long growing season.  To be fair I think the larger ones were raided to make soup by one of the classes.  These are just the tiddlers left behind.  Also featuring in the picture below is the one mooli (white radish) that reached any size.  There were some tiddlers too but this crop  was the victim of being overshadowed by it's neighbour - parsnip.

Next is a real experiment: scorzonera.  Plenty grew.  The roots are long thin and whippy. Very hard to dig out without snapping. There is also the challenge of how to prepare them.  Once peeled the white flesh oozes latex and rapidly turns brown.  You need to turn to French cuisine to get tips on how to use this exotic ingredient.  That said, they grew well regardless of the cold.

The only no show was carrots, which was a victim of its popularity with badgers.  No sooner had they reached a reasonable size that the whole square foot was excavated and only the tops left as evidence!  I am just relieved that the badgers restricted their mining activities to these (and some potatoes).

It is only a shame that this exercise can only be reported virtually as it was designed as an educational exercise for the children to participate in,  Perhaps next year?