May recipes

We haven’t had much this month as our plants are still growing and not fruiting yet. I have had the pleasure of harvesting some crisp and peppery radishes and, of course, there is always the rhubarb!

However, keeping it seasonal, I have enjoyed the British strawberrries that have now been appearing in the supermarkets! They have pepped up my breakfast in the morning where I added chopped strawberries to a bowl of bran flakes and instead of using milk, I add a plain vanilla yoghurt. Filling and healthy!

So onto the recipes, this month I have been looking for ways to use my radishes as my salad leaves are not yet ready to harvest!

Sticky Pork and Radish Noodles

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I found this on BBC GoodFood – my go to place for all things recipes! I liked the idea of being able to add radishes to meals I already eat and this recipe was very similar to a Korean Pork recipe I already enjoyed just with added radishes and noodles!

If, like me, you are watching the calories, use low calorie cooking spray instead of the oil – same result!

Potato and Radish Salad

recipe-image-legacy-id--592464_12I love a good potato salad, especially in the summer alongside some lovely BBQ chicken and crunchy corn! The radishes give a lovely peppery taste to the potato salad and I like the idea of using crème fraîche instead of mayonnaise although you can substitute it if crème fraîche is not your thing!

Quick-Pickled Radishes

If you really have a glut and no salad to put them in then you can always pickle them and add to a salad later on. I found this recipe whilst searching on google for things to do with Radishes. I have yet to try it but plan to get pickling this weekend when I harvest the rest of my fully grown radishes before they get too woody!

pickled radishes

This recipe originally comes from Cookie+Kate.

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Vegetable of the Month!

MAY – BROAD BEANS

May is an exciting month with temperatures warming, the last of the frosts and moving our crops outside into the warming soil! With June on it’s way we are approaching the end of the hungry gap and nothing quite signals this than the opening of flowers on our broad bean plants!

There is nothing better than the first fresh broad beans of the season and if you planned ahead you may be looking forward to your first harvest from your autumn-sown broad beans.

How-to-grow-broadbeans-pod-close-upBroad beans are also known by a few other names, most notably ‘field beans’ in the UK and ‘fava beans’ in the US. The plant itself is normally quite erect with pods that point upwards rather than hanging down such as other beans such as runner beans and french beans. Each pod holds 4-6 beans and the inside of the pod is often coated in a downy ‘fur’. The flowers on the plants are white with a black spot. Unlike other plants, this black spot is a ‘true black’ colour as opposed to very dark blue or purple. Like other legumes, their roots contain bacteria which are able to fix nitrogen in the soil.

A very short history

Broad beans have been cultivated since 3000BC being once of the most ancient cultivated plants. It was grown by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans up until today and were the only beans in Europe until we ‘discovered’ the New World and other beans were exported here!

broad beans nutritionWhy should we eat broad beans?

To be honest, this question is easily answered if you get the opportunity to eat small fresh broad beans straight out of the pod – they are delicious!

But in case you want specific nutritional information, broad beans are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and are very high in protein and dietary fibre – a good weight loss combo!

They also contain high levels of folate and are an excellent source of B vitamins which we need for nerve and blood cell development, cognitive function and energy.

How to grow broad beans

There are two times during the year when you can start growing broad beans; autumn and spring. Autumn sown broad beans are sown in early November, of which specific varieties such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ are more suited to autumn sowing, and spring sown broad beans can be sown from as early as February up until May, sowing successionally for a long harvest.

Broad beans should be sown 2-3 inches deep, 6-9 inches apart and should be ideally sited in a well-draining site improved with compost or well-rotted manure. Both dwarf and tall cultivars are available and tall cultivars may need staking as they grow or, if broad beans are grown in a block, can be kept erect by placing posts in the corners and tying string between the posts.

broad bean stake.jpgWhen the first pods have formed, you should pinch out the tops of the plants to promote fruit set and reduce black fly infestation. Pods should be picked when they start to swell to enjoy the beans when they are at there tenderest!

Broad beans have many problems, pests include black fly, pea and bean weevil, mice and sometimes birds like to pull out freshly planted small plants.  Also watch out for fungi and viruses such as chocolate spot and rust.

How to cook broad beans

Young and tender beans can be eaten raw but as the beans get older they develop a ‘skin’ which should be removed after cooking to really enjoy their flavour. Beans can be boiled easily for 3-5 minutes in water and the skin is removed easily by slitting the skin with your nail and then pushing the beans out.

One of my favourite things to do with broad beans is to put them in a risotto with some fresh peas (although frozen will also do fine) and courgette.

Here are some recipe ideas for using your broad beans:

Risotto with peas and broad beans

broad bean risotto

Broad beans and peas with mint butter

broad beans and peas

Spanish roast fish with broad beans and chorizo

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In Memoriam

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For the last 15 years, my beautiful dog Maisie, has been a part of my life. She has been there with me through GCSE’s, A levels and University and, although a family pet, she has lived with me on and off, landlord permitting, since I have moved into my own place. She has enjoyed country walks with Sam and myself up until her arthritis got the better of her and enjoyed coming down to the allotment with us (even if she did find it a little boring!)

Maisie was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma last week and unfortunately suddenly died the next day. It has been a heartbreaking time for me as I feel like I have lost my best friend and in the days since her passing, I have missed her so very much!

To celebrate her life and give us something to always remember her by, Sam and I have decided to plant a rose in the herb garden at the allotment in memory of my darling little dog. Unfortunately, I have had trouble tracking down a rose called ‘Maisie’ but we did find one called ‘Little White Pet’ which I felt was quite appropriate!

We have ordered it from David Austin Roses and it is arriving today. It will have pride of place next to the bench we are going to put in the herb garden as Maisie often sat with us by the bench when we were having lunch hoping that we would throw her a little treat every now and then (which, of course, we did – who could resist those eyes!)

I can never replace my lovely girl, she was definitely one of a kind – she loved going with us wherever we went and felt it was only right to plant the rose at the allotment where I spend most of my time! Hopefully, I will be able to care for this rose as much as I cared for Maisie!

She was a beautiful dog and I’ll forever remember her in my heart!

 

April recipes

This post is a little late but here are my April Recipes:

At the moment, the only thing I am harvesting is Rhubarb! I was disappointed to see that the Asparagus beds I inherited have come to nothing but this could be to do with the immense weeds that were covering it!

Anyway, my challenge this month has been to start using the 6 kilos of Rhubarb I harvested (people are starting to hide from me when they see me with Rhubarb!). Firstly I made some Rhubarb and Orange Jam which has gone down well with some of my new colleagues. I have posted the recipe before so it can be found here.

Rhubarb and Orange Cake

This was a lovely Rhubarb and Orange cake, the recipe found on BBC Good Food (I do like this website!). The almonds gave the cake almost a bakewell taste to it and the rhubarb added a lovely moistness to the cake.

rhubarb and orange

I also thought I would share my home-made scone recipe (to be enjoyed with clotted cream and, of course, rhubarb and orange jam!). Now I know that this recipe doesn’t actually use any allotment veg but you have to have something to go with all that jam that you make so I figured what better than scones! I have never baked a bad batch with this recipe and it is quite easy to do.

Home-made Plain Scones

Buttermilk-Scones-batch

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 85g butter
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 175ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • beaten egg
  1. Heat oven to 220C. Add the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl then mix. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until the mix looks like fine crumbs. Stir in the sugar.
  2. Put the milk into a jug and heat in the microwave for about 30 secs until warm. You should be able to comfortably put your finger in it. Add the vanilla and lemon juice, then set aside for a moment. Put a baking sheet in the oven.
  3. Make a well in the flour mixture and then add the liquid and stir all the components together quickly.  Scatter some flour onto the work surface and tip the dough out. Fold the dough over 2-3 times until it’s a little smoother. Roll it into a round about 4cm deep.
  4. Take a scone cutter and cut out four scones. Press what’s left of the dough back into a round to cut out another four. Brush the tops with beaten egg, then carefully place onto a hot baking tray.
  5. Bake for 10 mins until risen and golden on the top.

Thai Pork and Peanut Curry

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It’s not all been rhubarb this month. One recipe that we have tried is a beautiful Thai Pork and Peanut curry. I just couldn’t get enough of this! The recipe is also on BBC good Food and uses baby corn. Both Sam and I don’t like baby corn so much so we replaced it with Green beans which is not exactly seasonal but you could use Asparagus, spinach or spring greens instead.

Cumin Roasted new potatoes

And finally, if you are looking for a delicious way to eat your baby new potatoes when you harvest them, then I recommend this lovely recipe from Eat In magazine which adds a bit of spice to your meal. I really enjoyed them although I think if you want more of a cumin hit then double the amount stated!

  • 1kg baby new potatoes, scrubbed if necessary
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan oven 180°C, Gas Mark 6. Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water until almost tender – about 10-15 minutes. Drain well. Tip the potatoes into a roasting pan and add the olive oil and cumin seeds. Season with a little salt and black pepper, then toss to coat. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until browned.

 

Orchid Paradise!

When I first got into gardening and growing my own veg, I very much felt that if I couldn’t eat it then there was no point in growing it!

However, as I have traveled on this horticultural journey, I have realised just how much I adore every part of growing and gardening. I love growing flowers whether they are edible or not, for the bees and the non-cabbage-white-butterfly butterflies (I really don’t like cabbage white butterflies!) and also just for the sheer delight of looking at them.

This has inevitably extended into my home and I now have a range of houseplants, most of which you can commonly find in most garden centres. I have a spider plant, ti trees, a ficus, a yukka and an ever growing collection of Phalaeonopsis orchids (moth orchids). There is even one currently on my desk in my office (rescued from a Wyevale garden centre who had over zealously watered the plant to near death!).

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The moth orchid on my desk!
At home, I currently have 7 moth orchids and I am always keen to expand on this collection (much to Sam’s disappointment!). I have started to collect orchids with different flower colourings and markings. I currently have five in flower and have recently, successfully, managed to get one of my orchids to send up a new flower spike!

Due to my ever-growing love for orchids I visited a place at the weekend called Orchid Paradise located in Newton Abbot in Devon. It was a bit of a long trek down to Devon but totally worth it if you have a passion for Orchids and are in that neck of the woods.

The cafe inside was also lovely where Sam, his mum and I enjoyed a lovely Savoury Cream Tea! A buttery cheese scone with Devon Chutney, tomato and cheese and, I have to say, a very generous pot of delicious tea!

I came out with five new orchids – three of them babies a few years off flowering and two in-flower orchids.

I meant to take pictures whilst I was there but got caught up in the excitement of it all so I guess if you want to see what it is like then you will have to take a trip yourself!

Jobs for May

I absolutely love May – it is my second favourite month (after September which is my Birthday!) not only because we get two bank holiday weekends but because I can finally move my plants from the greenhouse and into the allotment where I can be reasonably assured that they won’t succumb to the frost! Unlike the plants in the polytunnel!

I have been quite surprised at how much I have achieved this year and for once I have had the time to really focus on the plants rather than having to play catch up because the plot is not in order.

So my ‘TO-DO’ list this month is reasonably short (short for me at least!):

Plot 1

  • Plant out courgette, squash and sweetcorn plants
  • Plant/Sow more brassicas
  • Plant cucumbers in growhouse
  • Finishing filling new carrot bed and sow carrot seeds
carrot bed
The carrot bed needs filling!

 

Plot 2

  • Raise the Strawberry bed and cover with bird netting
  • Keep earthing up potatoes
  • Mulch the fruit cage
  • Sow lettuces and salad leaves amongst onions and garlic
  • Sow beans – runner/dwarf/french/shelling
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Strawberry bed needs covering to keep the birds off!

Plot 3

  • Turn over soil and plant brussels sprouts on bed 3
  • Start planting up herb garden
  • Plant sweet potatoes (when the are delivered)
  • Plant oca
  • Plant pumpkins

 

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Ground needs digging over ready for the sweet potatoes!

I feel like I am missing something ….Oh yes! Weeding!

With the weather warming up my key job this month will be to keep on top of the weeding. I don’t want the weeds to get to epic proportions like last year!

'Welcome, dear, to the Garden of Weedin'.'

 

The Big Pea Moth Challenge – Update

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen germination issues I have had to suspend my pea moth challenge until next year!

The germination rate of my peas have been quite bad but then the packets are a few years old!

I have bought some peas from the garden centre and a few new packets of seed but it is now a little too late to begin my experiment, however, I will still investigate whether or not the moth traps are useful – they have been ordered and should arrive shortly.

trap

 

April 2016

April has been as I expect April to be – full of rain, frosts and the occasional bout of brilliant sunshine that lets you know Summer is on the way. I have enjoyed the lengthening days which has meant I can pop down the allotment in the evening after tea to do a couple of quick jobs and generally check on my newly planted brassicas.

On plot 1, I have been busy preparing the ground for planting. I have added a bag of compost to each bed and the plots that will be getting the squash plants this year have had a bag of well-rotted farmyard manure too. Cabbages and calabrese have been planted in their beds with home-made cloches sitting over most of them until they are a little stronger. Slug pellets have been liberally applied, having lost half of my red cabbages to one greedy snail already!

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Cabbages planted and under bird netting.

Parsnip seeds have been sown along with small carrots (Paris Market 5 and Royal Chantenay) in the seed bed.

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Parsnips seedlings coming through!

Lettuces were sown in their designated bed along with spinach but soon after we had a heavy ran which let a hard pan on the soil and the seedlings have yet to emerge. I am not sure if the seeds were washed away or the hard pan prevented the seedlings from breaking through. A few spinach seedlings made it through but the germination rate has been poor. To remedy this I have sown more seeds in my seed bed and will plant out the seedlings when they are ready to be transplanted, however, so far I haven’t seen these seedlings raise there head either so might have to buy some new seeds! Plot 1 also had a bit of a tidy up with the large growhouse, mini growhouses and fruit cage all being put up/out.

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Fruit cage is back up!

The rhubarb is situated on the plot 1 and we are in full swing having already harvested 6 kilos of rhubarb. I have shared this out with some ladies at Slimming World as well as making some Rhubarb and Orange jam, the recipe which I have posted previously.

On plot 2, our focus has been trying to get the bean bed dug over and the potatoes planted. The second earlies went in on the 10th April and the maincrop potatoes went in on the 23 rd April thanks to some help from my friends; Adam and Jenny!

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All the potatoes have been planted!

The last of my onions have also been planted out which has filled the last gap in the onion bed. I have noticed, however, some large gaps between the rows which are quickly filling with weeds. I have been regularly hoeing off but have decided to combat this with some companion planting; I will be planting lettuces, mini cabbages and broccoli ‘raab’ between the rows of garlic and onions. The bean bed has been dug over, a walkway put through it to separate it into two plots and nearly all the support structures have been erected.

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The asparagus bed that was there last year is no more as it was covered in nettles and we had to dig down deep to remove them, possibly removing and/or damaging the crowns at the same time. So far, no asparagus has reared its head which is disappointing but I shall probably attempting to establish another asparagus bed next year.

The pond has also come on leaps and bounds since March. The frog spawn hatched and the pond was filled with hundreds of tadpoles, more plants have been added to the borders and the water has really started to clear up since adding all the oxygenating plants. We have also added a bench and an archway so we can sit by the pond and enjoy our lunch!

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Pond is coming along!

One thing that has been on my to-do list for a while is to tidy up the compost area as it was always a mess and surrounded by weeds so we covered the area in front of the bins with carpet and laid bark chip on top, as well as round the small polytunnel. It is a much neater area now and hopefully, the carpet will kill off the the many weeds and couch grass underneath. We may re-seed the area in a few years time with grass but for now it is a tidy space with enough room for us to also set up a BBQ when the weather is nice enough like last weekend!

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My Mum came down to give a helping hand this last weekend so we managed to make a start on plot 3. The shed is nice and tidy and the first bean bed has been weeded!

A new cover has been put on the polytunnel and peppers, aubergines and cucumbers were been planted inside. Unfortunately, I arrived at the plot on Sunday to find that all the tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and some peppers had succumbed to the frost. The courgettes which had been stored in there died too! I have re-sown the courgettes but will need to buy aubergines and maybe some tomatoes at the garden centre. I have spare Alicante and Moneymaker plants but have lost some of my more specialty ones!

But on to happier things, the most important news of all is that we have now bought a little camping gas stove and kettle! Now I can enjoy a nice steaming hot cup of tea whilst looking out on the hard work I/we have done! Now my allotment life is (almost) complete!

cup-of-tea-n