Friday, 31 July 2015
Mid-harvest catch up
It has been all quiet from me on the blog front for a while - Hiya! - but you'll no doubt be relieved to know that things on the allotment have been trucking along in spite of their not being electronically documented. Plenty of rain along with some sporadic blasts of heat and light have seen things growing at full throttle. Kasia's mum lent a much appreciated hand which rid large sections of the plot of all weeds. We've been off work this week and although some serious downpours have kept us away most days, we squeezed in a few hours worth of graft yesterday in some lovely weather.
I busied myself by pulling up the last couple of rows of first early potatoes (Pentland Javelin).
Despite doing my usual trick of planting them a bit too close together, they've been productive. What is more impressive though is that practically every single tuber is in edible condition with scarcely a blemish to be found among the entire crop. This contrasts with the spud harvests we managed on our previous patch at Nunsmoor, where about a quarter of what came out the ground had be lobbed due to being full of holes, presumably caused by slugs. I'd love to know what has prevented the crop here being similarly afflicted. Could it be due to this being the first time in many a year that this patch has been cultivated? Or perhaps due to the much finer and less clay/claggy soil? I gave the patch from which the spuds had come a quick turn and rake, then sowed some turnips, chard and beetroot.
We've found that these potatoes have good flavour, but have been very floury for an early variety, certainly not waxy as Pentland Javelins are supposed to be. This means boiling them is a fraught venture, with the water having to be kept under a boil in order to prevent them falling apart. They do make excellent roasties though, and they held up well when called to action in a dauphinoise. I bloody love a good dauphinoise.
Kasia hoiked up the larger of our red and white onions, putting them in the shed to dry out. This will hopefully help those that remain in the ground bulk up, while preventing the toppling foliage from getting damp and diseased by allowing better air circulation through it.
The onions, like almost everything, have done great. We got these sets for next to nothing from Lidl. Just goes to show that with the right conditions you can get great results without spending too much on sets from a specialist retailer. Again, I wonder if the bounteous crop is due to this bit of land not having been tilled for so long? If anything, I had expected not to get good results until we'd had the chance to work some serious amounts of manure into it over the course of a couple of seasons, but not a bit of it. Chicken manure pellets have been the only fertiliser we've used.
Nasturtiums and sweet peas - admittedly planted far too close together - have put on way more growth than we've ever had at the old plot, threatening to take over the path at the entrance. The sweet peas in particular are kicking out a hell of a pong; Kasia has picked a couple of bunches which are perfuming the house right now.
The brassica patch is going well too, although needed a good weed out yesterday. We've been enjoying cavolo nero, both as crisps (so good as crisps) and just wilted in a little butter and a splash of water. Red cabbages are starting to develop heads. The greyhound white cabbages are one of the few things that have been really attacked, by snails I think. I rescued one the other day which, along with a freshly pulled beetroot and red onion became a really excellent coleslaw. I've been subjected to some grim and miserable "slaw" lately when eating out; such a crime when the real thing is so simple but so delicious.
Things in the shed/greenhouse are ticking along unspectacularly. We were pretty late to get our tomatoes in here, and in truth it's nowhere near as hot as a real greenhouse, so I'm not expecting great things from these moneymaker plants.
Still, a good number of trusses have set and they've got plenty time to go rouge yet. The smell in the shed as you brush past the plants is wonderful.
The cucumbers we've grown in there are only putting out a few very small fruits. I don't think they're too happy being grown in pots. The couple that we've picked so far were sliced and flash-pickled in a perky toasted dill, salt and cider vinegar bath overnight, and jolly delicious they were too.
Just as we were getting ready to leave, this butterfly took a rest on my boot. Don't think that's ever happened before. I tell you what, they've got a strong grip. I couldn't get the damn thing off.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating; this plot, being so much smaller than what we had previously, makes maintaining it so much more rewarding and, actually, fun. We spent no more than three hours up there yesterday but managed to get quite a lot accomplished and left feeling that we were more or less on top of things. As the home grown veg comes in thick and fast, that's a lovely feeling to have.