Archive for July, 2012

I brought in a lovely crop of Broadbeans today. The pods were just starting to get knobbly and the plants were getting heavy enough to start falling over. There was a touch of brown spot on them too but not too much black fly.

Broadbeans aren’t a very economical crop, space wise. The plants get rather tall, need support and take up quite a lot of room in my small garden. They go in quite early but take a while to get going and are not the first thing to be harvested. It’s already the end of July and so they’ve taken up the ground for close to five months.

Are they worth it? Yes, I think they are. I love the fresh, green taste and you just can’t buy them in the shops. Farmers markets maybe but you’ve no idea how old they are and they never taste quite like your own ‘just picked’. But for me the part Broadbeans play in my garden is this – they get me excited about the coming season. When I first sow them and see their big, waxy green leaves pushing through I know that Spring is on it’s way. They are the ones that keep me going through the tough late Winter. And for that I will give them space every year.

ps. Here’s a little post on how to shell Broadbeans

mtp

Clearing Out the Strawberries

It’s time to say goodbye to the Strawberries. The rain killed the harvest and all I could do was watch as they rotted or were eaten away by slugs. The sunny weather has meant that the last few ripened well but you can’t fix what is already broken and I spent some time clearing out the debris from underneath the plants. Looking strangely colourful in the sunlight it really was just a pulpy mess.

There’s something very sad about seeing what should be a bountiful and beautiful harvest ruined. And I feel for the fruit farmers too. Our local pick-your-own farm has been closed for the last month. Their website just says ‘crop failed’, which says it all.

mtp

Beetroot – Bolivar

I harvested my Beetroot today. They were about the size of tennis balls and the top of the Beetroots were starting to show above the soil so I thought that would be an ideal time to bring them in. I don’t want them getting woody.

I don’t grow Beetroot very often. I guess I just don’t eat that much of it. It’s a very earthy taste. Does anyone have any great suggestions on what to do with it. I’ve pickled it in the past and was thinking about making this Beetroot and Chocolate cake. It sounds good.

mtp

Borage Flowers

My Borage has been flowering now for about a week. It took a while to open because of all the rain. It’s still raining but the flowers are open. And when there’s a break in the weather the hover-flies and bees are all over it.

The flowers are such an amazing purple/blue and they droop their heads beautifully. The plant is quite tall too – about a metre high. At the moment it’s being held up by my White Currant bush. I’m guessing in open ground it would need staking, especially in bad weather.

It’s so worth it though. The flowers are very unusual. I haven’t made any Claret Cup yet. This historic recipe uses Borage as a garnish for the drink.

My Tayberries are fruiting and they are literally covered in fruit that is plump, juicy and tastes amazing. I’d like to say that they are really difficult to grow and ‘it’s been a struggle but worth it in the end.’ But really, I haven’t lifted a finger. I haven’t fed them, or watered them at all. They grow in a pot that is frankly too small. I did prune them, last summer after they fruited but that’s it.

I was boring talking to my husband about this last night. Soft fruit really is the gift that keeps giving. My Red Currants, Black Currants, Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Tayberries, Blueberries and now Pineberries take up little of my time, yet when they fruit they do so spectacularly.

I’d say the Raspberries are the easiest of a very easy bunch. I think I could cut them down with a flame-thrower and they’d still grow back in Spring and fruit prolifically in July. There’s no stopping them.

If I really were growing fruit and vegetables to feed my family I’d fill my garden with soft fruit, Potatoes and Lettuce (hmmm maybe Rhubarb and Seakale too) and sit back and watch everything grow. Maybe my diet would be a little strange but honestly, I’m getting sick of putting in all that effort for a handful of Tomatoes (and that’s in a dry year!).

I planted my Highland Burgundy Red Potatoes back in April. Today, I harvested the first ones. The plants had flowered and they were getting big enough to start flopping over onto my Lettuce so I thought it would be a good time to start the harvest.

I recently bought a vintage Potato fork (with flat tines) for this very purpose and couldn’t wait to give it a spin. It seemed to work – I didn’t spear any, in any case. The first glint of purple was quite exciting too!

Once I brought them in (and they caused quite a stir in the kitchen too) I washed them and scraped the skin off. Or should I say pushed the skin off because it came off very, very easily. Then I boiled them with a sprig of mint. Served them with salt and butter and watched them disappear.

I had heard that this particular variety wasn’t that tasty but they tasted great. I’m of the opinion that anything that comes directly out of the ground and into the kitchen is going to taste good. At least better than they would if you bought them, right? And I just love the fact that you can’t buy these in the shops but you can eat them at chez Plot. Love that.

mtp

Simple Red Currant Jam

This year I harvested over 1.2kg of fruit from one Red Currant bush! That’s the most I’ve ever had I think. I’ve made Red Currant Jelly before but I wanted a simpler recipe because I knew that I wouldn’t be keeping the jam for very long as it would probably get eaten in a matter of weeks.

The bush was so laden with fruit that I even had to cut off some of the branches as they had bent over with the weight.

The recipe was a simple one. Just pick the fruit (which took about half an hour) wash and weigh the fruit. I had 1.2kg of fruit. Put these, stalks and all, into a preserving pan. Cook the fruit for about 10 mins squashing the fruit to release the juice. Add the same quantity of sugar (1.2kg)
and bring to the boil. Boil for eight minutes then strain through a muslin. I bought this stand for the job. And it worked well.

Sterlize some jars in the oven and when the mixture is strained pour it into the waiting jars.

Regarding the amount of sugar – it is alot. Certainly when you weigh it out it looks like an excessive amount. Now that I’ve tasted the jam I think you could get away with putting less sugar in. Maybe even two or three hundred grams less. The resulting jam I’m guessing will be a little more tart but personally I’d prefer that so I’ll be reducing the sugar next time. If you like your jam sweet then go for equal proportions.