..it’s not just winning, it’s about taking part

..really.  It was the allotment annual show on Saturday.  I thought I’d better enter some of our plentiful produce, although I wasn’t expecting any prizes.  I entered:

courgettes and runner beans, apples and rhubarb, raspberries, some not quite ripe yet tomatoes and a big vase of flowers. I knew the rules were all about perfection and submitting identical specimens. I had checked with the organisers whether unripe tomatoes would count – they said ‘no’ but thought I’d try anyway.  We could have entered our monstrous marrow, if only it hadn’t been carved, stuffed and eaten by musicians a few weeks ago, or possibly some of the stunning peas, but they have all gone now

 

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It was all about joining in though, so I did my best with what we had. I was delighted that we won three prizes!

My first ever allotment prizes.  I was a little chuffed. Then I brought all the vegetables that hadn’t won any prizes home and the musicians turned them into an allotment feast:

WP_20180915_13_02_23_ProIt was a very satisfying day.  Really it was about taking part but we will be proud to have those rosettes adorning our shed until next year.

 

Home

Back home from a little break involving much walking and talking and eating lovely things in the far north of Norway.  There wasn’t much gardening to be done but there was lovely scenery and good company. Northern Norway has the northenmost botanic garden in the world and it had some lovely things in flower in September

wp_20180906_19_15_46_pro.jpgI forgot to note down their names but I liked the colours.  We also had a couple of days in Oslo and spotted this unusual creature:

An important reminder to protect our natural world.  It was quite a short trip but now we are home and the garden is abundant.  The musicians have been looking after things at home, making serious inroads into the plum glut.  I felt a need to make some emergency plum jam to use up some more. This is ‘whole plum jam’, one of the easiest jam recipes:

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Whole Plum Jam

  • 2 kg plums
  • 2kg sugar
  • glug of green ginger wine
  1. Wash the plums, cut in half and remove most of the stones – you can leave a few in
  2. Place the plums and the sugar in layers in a large bowl and leave overnight or for a few hours
  3. Tip everything into a large pan (it needs to be very large for this quantity)
  4. Add the glug of green ginger
  5. Heat slowly until all the sugar dissolves
  6. Boil until setting point is reached
  7. Remove any scum that forms
  8. Any stones that you left in will eventually float to the top – remove these. Some stones may remain but that doesn’t matter so long as you warn anybody about to eat the jam!
  9. Pot up into warmed, sterilised jars – makes about 6-7 jarsWP_20180914_20_33_52_Pro

As well as eating plums and creating beautiful music, the musicians have been playing football in the garden (our neighbour noted that ‘they are much better at music than football’ ) and being quite careful with my precious vegetables, though ‘there may have been one or two ‘windfall’ tomatoes’:

WP_20180914_20_31_33_ProThe tomatoes are doing extremely well.  There have been a few ripe ones as well as all these ‘windfalls’ and I’m still hopeful that a few more will ripen before the frosts hit. Now I just need to get along to the allotment to see how it has fared in my absence.

Bouquet of vegetables

We are on a little adventure away from home, among other things, to celebrate an old friend’s retirement.  She showed us all the cards and bunches of flowers that she was given to mark the occasion.  All very lovely, but the most touching was a bouquet of vegetable flowers from a young relative:

WP_20180907_10_08_06_ProThe ‘bouquet’ includes broccoli flowers, fennel, marigolds and a lettuce. Who could ask for more? Well, apparently there were also a dozen eggs from the same smallholding but they don’t quite count as flowers.

There may be more travellers’ tales to come but I’ll leave you with the vegetable bouquet for now.

Autumn pleasures

It’s been a long week and it’s only Thursday.  Work is a little trying, extended family issues are rather energy-consuming and there are still musicians all over the house, overflowing into every room.  Don’t get me wrong, the musicians are delightful, just a little all encompassing. Anyway, coming home from work and feeling rather grumpy, I was trying to get into the garden to do some therapeutic composting of some paperwork, when I found a musician kneeling on a large sheet of paper covered in musical hieroglyphs and blocking my exit to the garden. Despite my joy at their presence in the house, this made me a little cross. ‘Enough! Out of my way! and please do something about the pile of dishes in the kitchen’ . ‘Oh sorry. I’ll move. By the way I cut the grass. Did you notice?’ . I hadn’t noticed but I was very grateful. In an instant all was forgiven and this unasked for grasscutting inspired me to do a little gardening myself. I did some pruning, smelled the roses:

WP_20180830_20_00_19_ProWatched some sleepy bees on the lavender:

WP_20180830_19_59_57_Proadmired the brilliant red of the rowan berries and rose hips:

and harvested some potatoes, beans and plums.

WP_20180830_20_25_39_ProWP_20180830_20_29_51_ProEquilibrium has been restored. I may even make another cake for the musicians.

 

Cakes

There have been a couple of late night cakes this week, brought about by a combination of allotment gluts, visitors, resident musicians and Friday nightitis.  So we had a raspberry and apple flapjack earlier in the week, made from the windfall (well broken branch fall) apples in the allotment and a handful or so of autumn fruiting raspberries. pictured here in mid-preparation:

WP_20180821_20_08_53_ProAnd here once completed:

 

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The recipe is based on the rhubarb (or plum) flapjack here

It seemed to work and it got hogged very quickly by the resident musicians. There is nothing like having a bunch of young people in your house for getting food eaten, although even they are struggling a bit with the marrows, despite their valiant efforts.

Tonight’s attack of Friday nightitis was brought about by getting a long overdue work thing finished and needing to celebrate. I don’t know what other people do when they want to celebrate on a Friday night but it was pouring with rain and we couldn’t be bothered going out so making a cake seemed like a good idea to me. So here is a Danish apple cake (also from the allotment windfalls).

WP_20180824_22_16_53_ProThe musicians have gone out for the evening, so we have a chance to have some before it disappears.

Allotment harvest

I was along at the allotment this afternoon to bring home a harvest. Up until now, I’ve tended to bring home a few vegetables at a time but today it felt like a real harvest. In preparation, I took my bike along. I still can’t actually cycle though the arm is improving every day but I knew that I could walk with the bike and it would act as a handy pack horse.  As usual, I forgot to take any photographs of the vegetables but we collected up a huge pile of potatoes, almost all of the onions, two huge bags of apples (a branch had collapsed off one of the trees – they are not quite ripe but should be cookable), three more marrows, six courgettes, six white turnips some runner beans and a handful of autumn fruiting raspberries.  Here are a couple of photos of the allotment from a few weeks ago when the peas and beans and potatoes were in full growth:

We shared our spoils between us. My share fitted nicely in the panniers of my bike:WP_20180819_17_14_50_Pro (1).jpgenabling me to get a very heavy load home.  We had the turnips in white sauce for tea. I’m going to have to organise a jam and pickle making session for the marrows and apples soon but haven’t quite found the time.

At the allotment, I had leant my bike against the compost bin – it has to go somewhere – and while my back was turned, a family of ladybirds moved onto the bag I had brought for the potatoes – along with some less pleasant blackfly:

WP_20180819_17_02_03_Pro.jpgI was tempted to bring the ladybirds home, but moved them all onto the marrow plants instead to continue their blackfly munching.  We also spotted a huge frog in the compost bin. Something rather larger – we don’t really want to know what – has been helping itself to some of our broad beans and leaving plum stones lying about but it is good to know that there is at least some helpful wildlife on the plot.

The trouble with

.. courgettes is that they grow into marrows. We’ve had a bumper crop on the allotment this year and I’ve been struggling to keep up. My allotment keeper friend is not very keen on the big guys so I said would deal with them. Only, I didn’t get along to the plot for a few days and they grew even bigger and I couldn’t carry them all with my dodgy arm. I did get several home eventually. Fortunately my house has been taken over by a bunch of enthusiastic and hungry musicians (nothing to do with the Edinburgh Festival, just one of those things that happens when your young people grow up). They insisted on taking the most monstrous marrow and cooking it whole:

giant marrow(plates for scale, it didn’t even fit in our biggest casserole dish). In fact they cooked two marrows: the monster, which was stuffed with practically everything from the store cupboard plus some cheese, and its baby sister, which was created as a vegan version, with same miscellaneous filling but no cheese. These fed several hungry musicians, plus a few of us oldies for tea one night and the leftovers were turned into a rather good soup which fed us all the next day too.

You may not have spotted from the photo above, that the outside of the marrow was also tastefully decorated  to make it look like a bus – close up of windows here:

wp_20180815_21_59_06_pro.jpgThis was inspired, we think, by  The Trouble with Grandad by Babette Cole, a much loved favourite from when the musicians were much smaller. Fortunately we still have a copy so were able to remind ourselves of this glorious gardening story. I won’t give a way any plot spoilers, but lets just say that it features a similar giant vegetable which is not dissimilar to  our bus marrow.

Well done, young people for your creative efforts. Meanwhile, here is what is still waiting in the kitchen to be attended to (just saying):

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I’ll get the pickle making juices flowing soon. I won’t be pickling the cucumbers though. They have been equally majestic, if rather more restrained in size,  this year:

WP_20180811_12_31_42_Pro (1)The cucumber plant in my cucumber frame has escaped out of its raised bed and started climbing up the hedge at the back of the garden:

wp_20180818_11_16_05_pro.jpgWonderful. But these are best just eaten raw in salads, or even straight from the plant as a mid-morning snack.

Holiday with some vegetables

I’ve been away for a few days, staying in a caravan with my mother. My luggage included several holiday essentials: my swimming things,  drawing materials, a very fat book, my laptop (in case I had an urge to work or blog) and a load of allotment vegetables. We enjoyed the vegetables one evening after an invigorating dip in the cold Scottish sea:

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This is allotment delight: courgette, white turnip, broad beans and new potatoes in a white sauce.

The swimming things got used if not much actual swimming (what with the cold water and the not yet fully functioning arm). I didn’t open the laptop or the drawing materials but I did finish the very fat book.

On the way, I discovered that my mad son had helped his equally mad granny build a garden pond – it is always dangerous to leave these generations together unsupervised. But it turned out rather nice and I helped them to finish it off and plant a water lily

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My mother’s cat was not impressed though:

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No work or blogging got done. It has been very invigorating and rejuvenating short break. Now I’m home and catching up on all the vegetable growth that has happened in my absence. I can confirm that the cucumber frame experiment has been a great success:

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Of course it has been an unusually warm summer but I’ll certainly be trying growing cucumbers outdoors again another year.

Fig

I have a fig tree in a pot, given to us for our silver wedding by a much loved and much missed cousin. Every year I worry that the winter will finish it off, but every year it has survived:

WP_20180804_12_13_47_Pro[1]It even made it through the snow this year, when we had more snow than I can ever remember in Edinburgh. I think it may be the twiggy things you can see in this picture:

WP_20180301_07_48_59_Pro.jpgBut this summer, what with heatwaves and such, it has not only survived but is producing actual figs:

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How exciting is that? I’m not holding out for a fig glut, but you never know.

Meanwhile we had our first ripe tomato for tea last night:

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We ate it with some chopped garden cucumbers and a little salt and vinegar, to accompany a Friday night Indian takeaway.

We should really be working our way through the courgette and broad bean glut but last night we were all too tired. Today I’ve just harvested the last of the broad beans from last autumn’s cardboard experiment and will do something improving with them:

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Here’s how they looked in the autumn, planted through the smiley cardboard, and in the spring after all that snow:

Hard to believe but the changing seasons and the surprising survivals are what makes it all worth it.

Pickle

Last night’s rain has caused the cucurbits to grow overnight I think:

and we had some more rain this morning:

WP_20180728_10_57_13_ProStotting off the patio is the only way to describe it. The sun’s out again now and we had a garden lunch:

WP_20180728_14_18_39_ProWhole cucumbers, along with yesterday’s courgette pickle and pea guacamole.  The pickle was surprisingly successful – recipe here

Courgette pickle

  • 1kg courgettes
  • 4 tblsp salt
  • 2 onions
  • 1 ltr vinegar
  • 240g sugar
  • spices – I used a handful of home grown coriander seeds, peppercorns, mustard seeds and radish seed pods
  1. Cut the courgettes into cubes or slices  and chop the onions
  2. Place in a bowl with the salt
  3. Cover with cold water and leave for at least an hour
  4. Then rinse the vegetables in cold water several times and leave to dry in a colander or similar
  5. Boil the vinegar with the sugar and spices for at least 5 minutes
  6. Add the vegetables to the mixture and cook for a few minutes
  7. Pack the vegetables into sterilised jars and cover with vinegar
  8. Cover with waxed paper and seal – makes about 5 jars

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I found this on the internet somewhere and it used far too much vinegar so some has been put in the fridge for use on salads. The pickle is a bit like pickled gherkins and not a bad thing for that. I don’t know how long it will keep but we may eat it rather quickly anyway. So a use will be found for those courgettes, busy growing as I type.