Gooseberry and Rhubarb Jam

The kitchen waste bucket has been overflowing and Shakti was complaining that I haven’t collected hers for a while either and was in a similar state. Compost pressure forced me to get out of bed to go and fix the tyre on my bike so I could take the trailer on a neighbourhood sweep, collecting food waste before heading to the allotment.

It was threatening rain all day but I had a very productive afternoon on the plot. I dug up an entire row of Maris Peer so I could clear some space for another row of peas. I’m risking a late sowing of Kelvedon Wonder as I’m desperate for a taste of the sweet peas of my childhood rather than the starchy offerings I have to put up with at the moment. I’m a little worried about my glut of spuds though, I’ll probably be 3 stone heavier by the end of the summer, I seem to be eating a combination of potato salad and spinach and potato curry for breakfast, dinner and tea.

Radish not Parsnip

I took the cloche off the solitary carrot bed to remove more weeds and discovered that what I thought was lush parsnip growth was actually radish, swollen to elephantine proportions.

Shame I missed out on those, they were too hot to handle at this size and had to go on the compost heap.

I’ve found a couple more carrots in the bed and have replaced the weeds with yet another sowing of carrot seeds. I’ve taken advice from all quarters and followed the following procedure, practically guaranteed to result in a carrot bed worthy of the name:

Fresh Carrot Sowing

Prepare drill
Soak drill thoroughly
Sow the carrot seed
Top off with potting compost
Do not water for a fortnight (to prevent capping)

I like the tram line effect.

I stripped the gooseberry bush bare so I could make jam but thinking there weren’t quite enough fruits to bother with, I pulled a few sticks of rhubarb to bulk it out.

Back home, an exhaustive search of the interweb failed to reveal anything useful on the subject of Rhubarb and Gooseberry jam, although there were plenty of recipes on the individual versions. I considered the possibility that jam makers of the past had tried the combination and declared it vile and constitutionally un-jam-like but rejected the notion and proceeded to knock up my own recipe.

Gooseberry and Rhubarb Jam

It went something along the lines of, 1lb gooseberries, 1lb rhubarb both simmered in juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 pint of water. The resulting puree seemed very watery and I considered draining but didn’t. To this I added 1 bag of sugar (1kg) and then boiled for ages and ages as the damn thing refused to set. I was hoping to boil off enough excess juice to give the setting process half a chance but then I got fed up waiting and wanted my pan back so I could make yet another batch of spinach and potato curry, so just slopped it into my waiting jars.

It’s been a few hours now and it still pours like very runny honey. Tastes damn fine though.

Post to Twitter

Potato Tasting

I’ve given up on my first earlies for now, the slugs had their wicked way with the foliage and as a result hindered the tuber growth to pea sized proportions.

All the other spuds appear to be getting back handers of performance enhancing drugs though so today I decided to start whipping them out.

Spud Tasting

I dug two plants, one Maris Peer and another Kerr’s Pink. Both were pretty productive although the Kerr’s pink had loads of tiny little spuds with loads more room to expand. I’m going to be over run with these things in a few weeks so its a good plan to start on them early.

I took them straight from the ground to the trangia so I could carry out an immediate taste comparison. I don’t have any salt in the plot but I do have mint and the result was perfect.

Kerr’s Pink are supposed to be very floury but as an early spud, boiled young, they held together very well and were delicious. Boiled up like this they will encourage me to head to the plot for my dinner more often. Not very varied perhaps but I finished them off with strawberries and raspberries, delicious.

Post to Twitter

Sunbasked Garlic

Sunbasked Garlic

A lot of my crops have been cleared from the ground this month. I’ve just about eaten all the onions, both rows of broad beans have been scoffed and the remains have filled all three of my compost bins.

The plot is looking bare but at least the garlic looks promising.

Layered Strawberries

The strawberries have gone nuts producing runners faster than fruits so I’ve lopped most of them off. This particular variety are so tasty that I’ve kept a few back to propagate some more plants.

The peas won’t last an awful lot longer, Feltham First was a good variety for an early crop but they aren’t particularly tasty. They are very starchy and taste like marrowfat peas when they get a bit bigger. I might use them again for an overwintering crop but I’ll have to hunt around for a sweeter spring sown variety.

Post to Twitter

Maternal Pride

Frog

I was leaning over the pond this evening, trying to reach the juicy alpine strawberries, when I spotted a big adult frog eyeballing me from the comfort of the pool.

I was swelled with pride, as this strange beast had accepted lodgings in my pond. Now my eye was in though, I spotted 3 tiny frogs skittering around on the pond weed and even 1 out on the edge of the pond.

What joy.

Not really sure where these ones have come from, the tadpoles I had been watching, don’t appear to have legs let. I wonder if these are an earlier batch that I missed or perhaps they all develop at different rates.

Anyway, I’m happy. It makes it for the disappointment I felt when I discovered all my replacement cauliflowers had been eaten by the slugs.

Post to Twitter

Sacrificial Caullis

My squashes have not done at all well this year and if I don’t find myself buried under a glut of courgettes by mid Summer then I will have to declare myself an allotmenting failure.

I didn’t help myself very much by sowing 7 year old seed as the germination rate has been exceptionally poor. The fresh gherkin seed didn’t do too badly but my little plants were swallowed whole by the slugs and I’ve been forced to start again.

01062008094

Last week I planted my single successful courgette plant in amongst the sweetcorn, inter planted with climbing french bean “Blue Lake” in the classic Three Sisters arrangement. Since then it has done nothing but rain so I arrived at the plot this morning, convinced that a silvery trail would be all that was left of my gardening pride.

Thankfully the squash survived the week. I seemed to have provided an unintended decoy when I planted out my cauliflower seedlings on the same day. Every single one of them has been gnawed down to their flimsy little stumps. I had a few more left in the seed bed so these have gone out, along with a scattering of almost the entire packet of blue pellets. Slugs make me very angry.

I removed the earliest row of broad beans today, they were just about finished and I needed the space to plant out my purple sprouting broccoli and other assorted brassicas. I left the roots of the bean in for the nitrogen but the stalks have filled all 3 of my compost bins. I hope they compost down quickly as I’ll be removing the second row in a few weeks time.

Garlic

The garlic next to the beans are looking very sorry for themselves. All the foliage is badly covered in rust and although I must be a couple of months too early I have started to lift some of the bulbs.

They are drying off in the greenhouse now.

Lunch was an al-fresco delight today. I boiled up peas and broad beans on the trangia and tossed them in garlic and olive oil before adding a selection of the plot leaves – rocket, mustard, beetroot, spinach and mixed lettuce.

Finished off with a tonne of strawberries. These particular strawberries are so delicious I’m even prepared to share half with a slug, non will go to waste.

Post to Twitter

The First of the First Earlies

01062008096

Thought I’d test the progress with the spuds today. There has been so much rain that I imagined whopping great sacks of juicy tubers sitting under the mounds of earth.

My Mum had advised gently exploring the soil around the plant rather than digging the whole thing up but I didn’t find anything with my first tentative reccy, and thought what the heck, they must be buried deep.

In went the fork and out came 5 creamy coloured peas. Perhaps I should wait another 6 months before I try again.

Post to Twitter