Sorry for the lack of posts of late, I’ve been a bit busy. Busy with work, busy making a Disney’s Princess Elsa dress for my nieces 7th birthday (way more important than work), busy with the allotment, and very busy cooking, preserving, storing and generally wondering what to do with all of the allotment produce. Also catching up with friends and family and offloading cucumbers and jars of jam wherever possible.
We’ve started to clear out the beds on the allotment now, which is sort of sad, but also – a bit like packing the Christmas decorations away – quite satisfying too. Apart from the butternut squashes and some remaining borlotti beans, the space is dedicated to the winter crops now. Leeks, carrots and parsnips, some overwintering broad beans and (still to be planted) garlic and overwintering onions. One bed has been stripped back ready for the garlic, which is on order. I’m going to try (first time) a hard neck variety (Red Duke from Marshalls) as well as my usual, trusted variety of soft neck (Provence Wight) and then a whole row of elephant garlic. Every year we plant more garlic, and every year we go through it too quickly and need more. We are garloholics.
Any other beds which are unoccupied and not needed for the winter have been sown with mustard. It’s a cheap and cheerful green manure that covers the ground really quickly and suppresses the weeds. It will die back naturally over the winter putting essential nutrients back into the soil that would otherwise be washed away, and it deters eelworm too, so great for growing where you plan to grow the potatoes next year. Win-win-win-win. See the bed of bright green in the top left picture.
I’ve been harvesting no end of lemon cucumbers (top left), there’s no real way to preserve these unless you pickle them, but somehow pickled cucumbers have never appealed to me. The borlotti beans are great for drying and storing for winter use, but they’re also lovely used fresh, so I made baked beans with some of the tomatoes that were rescued green from the blighted plants, and ripened at home.
The trug basket (top right) was bought on our local market at the weekend, and is proving it’s worth already. It’s filled here with donated courgettes, the first leeks, some french long shallots that were grown from seed a bit late, and a punnet of blackberries and raspberries.
Talking of which, I made some cordial for the first time from these, along with more berries from the freezer. It was pretty easy (even if I did make a complete mess) and it tastes delicious. So much more fruity and less sugary than most cordials. I made 4 and a half bottles, but I’m keen to make some more. I’ve still got strawberries in the freezer, so maybe strawberry and apple? There are lots of recipes online, I recommend giving it a go, especially if, like me, you’ve got enough jam to last a lifetime. Apart from just adding it to water, you can add it to fizz (alcoholic or not) or vodka/gin, or use it for making jelly, or just pour over some ice-cream.
Finally, my chilli peppers have been taken out now due to whitefly, but I got a great harvest from them, and they’ll dry out and still be useable throughout winter. And my bell peppers (grown outside) have started to ripen to red. I made a big batch of roasted carrot, tomato and red pepper soup, which also used up a large courgette, and of course lots of garlic. I’m a happy bunny if a recipe uses up 3 or more allotment veg!
We’ll be spending a few days self-catering by the sea in Northumberland in the middle of October, so hopefully I can get the bean and squash harvest in, and all of the garlic and onions planted by then, and enjoy a well earned rest. I’ll be needing it.