Monday, 28 July 2014

Harvest Monday - 28th July 2014

We have finally reached that time of year when I can pick lots of different crops on the same day. I love being able to do that, because it presents good photo opportunities too!

In this basket there are French Beans, Runner Beans, Chillis, Peppers, Beetroot, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Tomatoes and more Tomatoes. Naturally I am especially pleased to be able to show off some tomatoes, since with all the issues I have encountered it seemed at one stage that I might get none at all this year.

The big tomatoes are "Dynnye", (the orange one) and "Larisa" (the pink/red one):

This week also saw the harvesting of my first Runner Beans - hooray!

Actually, I picked two lots:

Jointly it was enough for us to eat in the way we normally celebrate the arrival of the first beans of the year. We have them as a Starter, plain boiled, served with butter and black pepper, with a piece of bread - in this case some of Jane's home-made Juniper and Thyme focaccia. Having them this way allows you to appreciate their flavour without it being confused by flavours of meat etc.

I picked this "Predzvest" cabbage too.

 Unfortunately, when we cut into it, the centre had been extensively nibbled by caterpillars and the cabbage had to be thrown away. However, I immediately cut another just like it, so we still had cabbage for dinner. I found this chrysalis on the underside of the cabbage, so I guess the guilty party was inside. Does anyone recognise it?
 The French Beans are my old favourites "Cobra", a decent quantity this time - about 325g:

The two pale-coloured peppers seen in the next photo are "Ohnivec". They will supposedly turn red when ripe, but I just wanted to pick a few early on, to see what they are like when green. A taste-test is in order, I think.

 Last thing for me to mention this week is another 420 grams of Blueberries:
This is my contribution to Harvest Monday, and I expect lots of other people will have been harvesting nice crops this week, so why not drop by and take a look...?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Summer dining

Good food doesn't have to be complicated. When you have good quality ingredients you don't need to do very much to them to make a nice meal. And in any case, when the weather is hot you don't really feel like spending hours slaving over a hot stove.

Yesterday was a hot muggy day, and since it was my turn to cook I decided we would have a salad-based meal, with the only hot element being some potatoes. This is what I produced.

Firstly, one plate of vegetables:

All those are from my garden: beetroot, cucumber, tomatoes, French Beans and a garnish of Leaf Celery.

And then one plate of "protein items" - all these are NOT from my garden!

That is French saucisson sec (foreground), Jamon de Teruel (A type of Spanish ham), some lovely ripe Brie cheese, and a couple of hard-boiled eggs.

Then a big bowl of lettuce - "Devin", from the garden.

This is a really good butterhead type of lettuce. The leaves are soft, and have an attractive buttery colour.

Not pictured in their cooked state, but nearly so, the potatoes. (No, we didn't eat all of those!)

Also not pictured, but worthy of a mention, were some slices of Jane's Juniper and Thyme Focaccia, going a bit stale by this point, but great when toasted. The toasting process really seemed to enhance the flavours.

The fact that there was very little cooking to be done meant that we had a good opportunity to relax, and we sat watching a classical music concert on the TV as we ate. After dinner we sat in the garden and sipped a glass of cool Chenin Blanc and watched for bats (which we often see at this time of year). We didn't see any bats, but we did see a Barn Owl flying over (and making its distinctive eerie cry), which was really special. Summer evenings should all be like this!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Salad Succession

My self-imposed challenge this year has been to maintain a continuous supply of salads, through a disciplined approach to successional sowing. Every couple of weeks I have sowed seeds for more things like lettuce, endives, radicchio, landcress and Lamb's Lettuce (aka Mache)

I have devoted one of my seven raised beds entirely to salads (that's if you include beetroot):

This next photo demonstrates very nicely the variety of plants I have included, with beetroot at the top,  and lettuces, chicories and endives of various sorts at the bottom:

This is Curly Endive "Tosca" with lettuce "Marvel of Four Seasons" (the red one) and "Devin" (lower, centre). There is also a small "Can Can" lettuce and a Basil seedling.

Until recently I had a few Turnips at the end of the bed, but those are gone now, and I have slotted in some more lettuce and chicory seedlings from the next batch.

The Mesclun that I sowed in a small pot on the patio was looking good until a couple of days ago, but then the Flea Beetles found it and everything is riddled with holes. The mustard and the rocket is particularly badly hit. I'm not throwing this away just yet because the plants may survive and put up some fresh leaves, but I rather fear it might be beyond redemption.

It is supposed to be the case that lettuce seeds will germinate very badly or not at all if the temperature is above 22C (70F), but I don't believe this. The best germination rates I have had this year are the lettuces sown recently, at a time of prolonged high temperatures - up to 31C this week.

P.S. I have not been able to do much blog-visiting or commenting recently, because I have been working in London, which for me means long tiring days, and when I get home all I have the energy to do is to water the garden - and it has needed it a lot too, with all the high temperatures we have had. My stint in London comes to an end next week, so hopefully you'll see a bit more of me after that.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Veggie update

This is a sort of "metaphorical walkabout", so that I can show you how one or two things are faring...

Well, the first thing is (are?) my Cabbages. This one is a "Predzvest", which I mistakenly thought would not mature until the Autumn! It is ready now.

Here it is, posed on top of my wheelie-bin. That's a big cabbage! My netting managed to deter most of the butterflies, but the ragged outer leaves of the plant are ample evidence that netting does not deter slugs!

Next to the cabbage I harvested is this one, which is a "Caramba", a pointy so-called Sweetheart type.

It's not mature yet, but it is looking quite promising.

Still on a brassica theme, here's a novelty in this part of the world - a sunshade for the Purple Sprouting Broccoli!

The weather last week was a real trial. Very hot by our standards (high 20s Celsius), very humid, and with some severe thunderstorms that dumped a load of heavy rain. The PSB seedlings were already under stress (you remember I wrote about problems with Cabbage Root Fly?), and I didn't think they would survive the strong sunshine, so I rigged up the sunshade by draping some fleece over the protective netting and securing it with clothes-pegs.

I have labelled this raised bed the "Intensive Care Ward", because the survival of the "patients" is far from assured. A couple of the plants (seen here, nearest camera) seem quite strong, though even they droop during the middle of the day; three more will probably pull through if I keep watering them twice a day, and one is almost certainly doomed because it has been severely attacked by the Cabbage Root Flies. I have administered a good dose of "medicine" in the form of general-purpose plant food to try to build up their strength, so we'll just have to see what happens.

Elsewhere I have more potatoes nearing maturity, their "haulm" (foliage) now yellowing and beginning to die down:

Those are a maincrop variety called "Nicola". It's not one I have grown before, so I can't tell you much about it - yet - but since all the other potatoes this year have been very good, I have high hopes that these will be too.

The other day I wrote about seeds which were not what they were supposed to be. Well, here we have another interloper - in a row of Beetroot have appeared one or two plants of Perpetual Spinach (the ones with the plain green leaves):

OK, Beetroot and Perpetual Spinach are closely related, and the seeds are very similar to look at, but... Actually I'm not worried about this, because although Jane doesn't like it and I therefore don't grow it any more, I do like it and a couple of servings of it just for me will be welcome.

This is more like it - an attractive trio of "Iznik" cucumbers.

This plant is actually a spare one, planted-out when the other ones appeared to be in danger of not getting established at all, and for want of space it sits amongst the flowers next to the sliding door to our Living Room. Although perhaps not quite as prolific as courgettes, these cucumbers certainly deliver a good yield, and they don't take up much ground space.

Best news of all is that I have begun harvesting tomatoes. Most of them are misshapen, and many have Blossom End Rot, but there are still some good ones. More about these in a day or two...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Late July Chilli update

Everyone knows that I love growing chillis!  Here's an update on how things are going this year.

The "Nosferatu" plants kept from last year are delivering ripe fruit now:

The difference in colour between the immature and the ripe fruit is really very dramatic, and the ripening process happens very suddenly with this variety. Often a chilli can be partially ripe for a couple of weeks, but these ones seem to go from black to red in not much more than a day.

These are Turkish Sweet Peppers, the first fruits of which are now turning colour.

Last year this variety produced a large number of peppers per plant (I had two), but this year, what with cold spells in the Spring and hail storms etc the number of fruits is much less.

The surface of the first couple of fruits is scarred in a way very reminiscent of the Jalapeno. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.

These are "Ohnivec". I'm tempted to try eating one of the fruits to see what they are like, but I want to see them turn colour first. They will eventually be red.

This is "Piment d'Espelette" - a chilli that thinks it is a pepper,

Or a pepper that thinks it is a chilli maybe?

These next ones are "Ring of Fire". The fruits on one of my two plants are short and stubby, and those on the other are longer and more wedge-shaped.

"Ring of Fire No.1"

"Ring of Fire No.2"
"Turkey Small Red" doesn't so far have any fruits set, possibly as a result of the setback caused by the contaminated compost - whose effects you can clearly see here in the distorted crinkly leaves:

There are plenty of flowers on the plant, so it may yet go on to produce a crop - albeit a late one.

This is "Red Jalapeno", whose fruits are mostly uncharacteristically round.

The small plant I nicknamed "Redfields Small Red" (possibly "Demon Red") is setting lots of tiny upward-pointing fruits now.

"Explosive Embers" is a similarly compact plant. It has loads of flowers, but no fruits yet. I have been unable to reproduce the colour of the flowers correctly. You will just have to take it from me that they are a lot less blue and a lot more purple than they appear in my photo to be.

"Bird's Eye" has made a remarkable recovery from the verge of extinction. It was looking so bad that it came VERY close to being dumped.

Making allowances for that (and ignoring a few brown spots on the leaves), it doesn't look too bad now, and it even has a few flower buds:

Not illustrated here is "Aji Limon". At present there is little of interest to show you. Sowing it was a last-minute decision, after the non-germination of a couple of other types. I'm hoping it will be able to produce some fruit before Autumn comes along. Last year it kept on fruiting up till the first frosts.

Anyway, there you go, that's how my chillis are doing. How are yours?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Tomatoes - will there be a late rally?

The other day I wrote about my decision not to remove the sideshoots of my tomato plants in the hope that they might be able to produce some more fruit. Well, the plan seems to be working out...
Here you can see one of the new sideshoots at the left, tied with string to the old main stem and its supporting cane. The leaves on the new shoot look much more normal and best of all, tucked in there amongst them is a flower and a tiny fruit.

I have used the same technique wherever there is a viable new shoot.

This "Yanni's" plant with two strong sideshoots sporting a fair few flowers looks promising.

Taken from a different angle, this photo shows the existing truss of fruits rather better. Up till now I thought this would be the only truss this plant would produce.

Meanwhile, lower down... This is "Larisa".

If just one of those huge fruits would ripen without rotting I'd be reasonably happy!

Likewise with these "Dinnye":

This is one of the "Japanese Purple" ones, though it has yet to show its true colour.

And this rugged monster is "Cherokee Purple".

But this is what I really want:

Well, actually I want twenty times that amount! They are "Maskotka".

Maskotka is an untidy, trailing type at the best of times - probably best in a big tall tub so that it can cascade downwards. But what it lacks in looks is amply made up for in terms of yield and flavour. This year it has earned more credit in my book by being the least affected by the compost contamination problem. Having said that, the plants are much smaller than I would expect, and there are far fewer fruit trusses than I normally get.