The big autumn clear up of the allotment beds has begun to take place, and a hoard of produce was taken home for storage.
John dug us a huge compost trench (I should have taken a photo) which has now become an essential task each autumn, prior to clearing the beds. We have three compost bins on the plot, but by this stage in the year they are all quite full already. Once this has been dug we can just chuck all the top growth and excess produce in there and give it a good chopping up with the spade. It gets topped up throughout autumn until the beds (apart from the over wintering crops or green manured ones) are cleared. It is then covered with soil where it rots down over winter ready for the beans to be planted into next year. They love the rich soil produced by the composted material below.
First to go in the trench were some of the calabrese plants that had bolted, or what remained of the plants after harvest. Some of them are still producing some sprouting side shoots, so I left those in place but removed a lot of the yellowing leaves from below. That alone was enough to fill an over flowing wheel barrow.
Then I cleared the squash and cucumber bed. There is an amazing amount of green growth on squash plants for the amount of fruit you get, so that filled the trench. Only 4 more squashes, a fifth one had been almost completely eaten by something, not sure what but there where teeth marks in it, so not just a very hungry slug. Oh well, at least I only lost one.
The final row of potatoes, not the greatest harvest, the slugs had unfortunately got to some of these.
I also stripped the last of the sweetcorn, the majority of which has gone into the freezer. I already had some whole cobs in there, so I decided to strip the sweetcorn kernels off these so that I also have a bag of loose sweetcorn for quickly adding to curries and pie fillings and anything else that I can get away with. The books tell you to cut the kernels off with a knife, but I find the knife just cuts through them and I end up with chopped up corn, so I’ve developed a knack for levering the kernels off with a fork, being careful not to fling sweetcorn all over the kitchen. It’s then washed, blanched for all of 2 minutes, dried, and then spread out onto baking sheets (or you can use a try) to go into the freezer. Once frozen I then bag it up.
We also harvested a barrow load of tomatoes (my biggest harvest yet) most of which went into making a sort of cross between a ketchup and a relish. I basically couldn’t decide between two recipes. The relish has a lot more sugar in it, which I wanted to avoid, but the ketchup involves straining the sauce which I equally wanted to avoid (too much work, too little time). So I added a couple of apples and some honey as per the relish recipe, but the same sugar and vinegar as the ketchup, and after blending, I boiled it down to a thicker consistency. The resulting sauce tastes, to me, more like ketchup, it’s just a little more chunky, slightly sweeter and not as concentrated in tomato flavour as the regular stuff, but it tastes good and who can argue with that? I’m more of a chips and mayo fan myself, so this will get used for the occasional bacon or cheese sarnie, or maybe spread onto a pizza base. Also, I might be common, but I like a bit of ketchup with a shepherds or cottage pie.
I also made more oven roasted pasta sauce which went into the freezer. I had problems with the first batch of sauce fermenting and almost exploding from the jars. Not sure why.
I also stripped the bean plants, and podded the already dry beans for storage in a sealed jar. A few have been saved for replanting next year. They’re an old heritage variety called Bird’s Egg but are very similar to Borlotti beans, the most widely available variety is Barlotta Lingua di Fuoco. See here for some recipe ideas.
So that’s pretty much it, a few more courgettes (not sure I’ll get many more now), some autumn fruiting raspberries and blackberries, and my work cut out in the kitchen. All that’s left now are carrots and pasnips, leeks and purple sprouting broccoli, all of which can left in situ for now. The leeks are pretty much ready for harvest, but I’m not quite ready for them yet, and they say parsnips are better after a frost, which will hopefully be a while away yet.
My thoughts are now turning to garlic planting, and whether to attempt to over winter some broad beans and sweet peas. I’m looking forward to a gardening rest over winter, that’s when my crochet season starts!