Last Allotment Visit of the Year

parsnips

Today I went to the allotment to dig up parsnips for our Christmas Day meal, probably my last visit to the allotment before the new year arrives. The parsnips look and smell amazing, ‘Gladiator’ always does well for me.

The next few days ahead will keep me really busy but it won’t all be about Christmas, we have a special birthday to celebrate too, our daughter will be sweet 16 (which makes us feel old!).

Greek Gigantes Beans

greek gigantes beans

Back in May I blogged about having a go at growing a type of rare runner bean called Greek Gigantes. You can view the post here: http://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/sowing-greek-gigantes/

I grew just 3 plants up tall canes at my allotment, they grew well in the warm sunshine producing lots of lovely white flowers. Leaving the pods to go brown and papery on the plants, I picked them before the real wet weather arrived to avoid rotting. As you can see, the beans are huge and as white as snow, with a lovely buttery taste which I’m a big fan of.

dried pods of greek gigantes beans

greek gigantes beans and pods

I did rely on the runners to feed us throughout summer, but these beans are unusual and worth growing if you like buttery beans and wish to avoid a glut of beans throughout summer, considering how prolific runners can be!

Harvesting the Carrots

harvesting carrots

This year I grew carrot varieties that I’ve never tried before. After looking at so many tempting choices, I settled on a main crop variety called ‘Flakkee’ and a yellow-skinned variety called ‘Jaune Obtuse du Doubs’, a French heirloom with a beautiful sweet taste. Both nice varieties and trouble-free to grow if you fancy a change from your usual favourites.

carrots

I’ve just realised, I don’t have a photo of the yellow carrots! If I get to the allotment this weekend I will grab one. They’re a lovely colour and look fantastic grated into a salad.

carrots

I’m looking forward to browsing seed catalogues and websites soon, I’ll probably order new varieties for next year. I quite enjoy the challenge and unpredictability of growing new things.

Peas in October?

blauwschokker peas

I intended to do this post in July. Family and pet loss forced blogging out of the window for a while, along with all sense of time. I couldn’t find any enthusiasm to visit the allotment, as a consequence some of my planned posts haven’t met the publish button. So here we are, late October. Why bother to blog about peas now? Well, these particular peas, in my humble opinion, deserve a mention. The variety is ‘Blauwschokker’ and they’re definitely on my list of crops to grow next year.

blauwschokker peas

Deep purple pods with huge minty-green peas nestled inside, the plants grow very tall so you’ll need to grow them against something sturdy and high (I used 7 ft canes pushed into sheets of wire mesh, such as chicken or aviary wire). Stems and leaves are thicker and heavier than any other pea I’ve grown, with tendrils as thick as springs. Pods are easy to pick, thanks to the bold colour, and can be eaten as mange tout before the peas begin to swell. Eye-catching pink/crimson flushed flowers are large and could easily be mistaken for sweet peas, for that reason alone, a perfect addition for the allotment or veg garden.

allotment harvest

A doddle to grow, these peas are very similar in size to marrowfat peas with an earthy, punchy flavour. Shell and mix with young broad beans, mash and smash with a fork or pestle and mortar adding a little olive oil and fresh mint, spread onto warm olive bread. Yum!

My Verdict on Cucamelons

cucamelon

I meant to post about my Cucamelon harvest a couple of weeks ago but time has just eluded me lately. I only managed to grow two plants so I wasn’t expecting great things when it came to picking the fruits, however, I filled a small punnet  with my harvest which is pretty good going. But, that’s where my praise for this quirky-looking crop ends I’m afraid. I have to admit, I don’t like them.

I find the texture of the skin strange, for me, this takes away any enjoyment of the flavour – which isn’t exactly exciting either. There’s a tiny hint of citrus, but other than that, it’s like chewing on a tough cucumber. I think it’s safe to say I won’t be growing them again.

Sorry Cucamelon fans!

Bumper Strawberry Crop

strawberries

This year has been superb for strawberries. I’ve been picking large, super sweet fruits in great volumes at the allotment and giving away punnets to friends and neighbours to avoid waste. After doing a bit of research into the reasons why strawberries are so good this year, it seems the cool spring almost certainly played a part. Plants flowered later and had longer to put down roots. Because of a lack of sunshine up until now there was a longer gap between flowering and picking, fruit stayed on the plants for a longer period of time, absorbing extra nutrients, resulting in big, juicy and sweet fruits.

I have plenty of fruit to make jam, so that should keep me busy this week!

 

 

Christmas Parsnips

digging up parsnips

I do love parsnips with my Christmas dinner, for me, it’s just not the same without them. The growing year wasn’t a successful one overall and despite germination setbacks due to cold, wet soils, once again my parsnips haven’t let me down. My spade and fork are at the ready, I can almost taste their sweet, earthy flavour already. Yum!

 

Fistful of Carrots

This is my carrot harvest for the year, sparse but perfectly formed. A fistful of carrots will have to do, the weather was a real problem.

Mustn’t grumble I suppose. Did you do any better?

Forced Rhubarb is Ready

In January I forced my crown of Timperley Early rhubarb, using my rather stylish forcing jar. Stems are ready to harvest once the leaves reach the top of the forcer. The sweet aroma of rhubarb filled the air as I pulled pink tender stems from the ground early this morning.

A bowl of warm rhubarb crumble is just what’s needed to cheer up such a wet and miserable-looking day.

Harvesting Jerusalem Artichokes

I was kindly sent Jerusalem artichoke tubers at the beginning of the year and promptly planted them near the wildlife pond. I knew they would eventually produce tall and dense foliage and I hoped this type of planting would serve as a screen, creating some shade for the various pond wildlife. The plants did the job well, producing small pretty yellow flowers during late summer as an extra visual and wildlife treat.Towering at least 12 ft above my head it was obvious to see how these plants were related to the sunflower.

This is the first time I’ve grown Jerusalem artichokes and I found them pretty straight forward, producing a good yield for their first year. I began digging tubers in September but they were too small to cook so I popped them back in the ground and decided to leave the other plants for at least another month. I tried again a few days ago and this time the tubers were a nice size. I cooked some tubers to go with a Sunday lunch, I’ll admit to liking the taste but not the flatulence for which they are known - I cannot complain that I wasn’t warned!

I will leave most of the tubers to grow back again next year and plant a handful at my allotment, perhaps giving a few to plot neighbours if they’re brave enough!

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