This Week’s Harvest – 2017, week 23

The hungry gap is over and it is filled with broad beans! I have had a good harvest this week of broad beans, some lettuce and a few peas.

20170607_174600[1]

I harvested 1.4kg of broad beans and 150g of peas. I also pulled up a couple of carrots to see if they are ready yet. They are still small and have forked but at least there are no sign of carrot root fly!

20170607_174634[1]

I also pulled up the spinach which had started to flower. This tends to happen quickly in dry weather – I think I need to find a cooler place to grow spinach!

20170607_174655[1]

I hope your harvests are coming along nicely!

Advertisements

This Week’s Harvest – Week 21, 2017

At last the hungry gap is passing and I have more to harvest from the allotment than rhubarb!

This week we have harvested two heads of lettuce, one green butterhead and one red little gem, a handful of radishes and 250g of broad beans.

20170527_144313

This went towards a lovely meal of hickory smoked beef brisket with a homegrown garden salad and broad bean and bacon potato salad!

I feel like summer is really here!

What to do this May!

Like April, May can be a busy time for gardeners and allotmenteers! Frosts are becoming less frequent and by the middle of the month we can  be reasonably confident that our more tender veg can be planted out and beans and squash can be sown direct in to the ever-warming soil!

Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!

It is particularly busy time for planting and sowing now that summer is nearly here!

Sowing

  • All your beans can be sown now; runner beans, climbing beans and dwarf beans and peas.  Watch out for the dreaded pea moth laying her eggs in June and July on peas which are sown now.
Untitled
Peas and beans can be sown direct now!
  • Squashes and other cucurbits such as courgettes, melons and cucumbers can be sown direct outdoors in May or started off in pots indoors if there is still a chance of frost.
  • At the same time, sweetcorn can be sown now both outdoors and indoors. They will be an excellent companion crop to squashes and climbing beans
20170512_131013[1]
Sweetcorn can be sown now, either indoors or direct in the soil once frosts have passed.
  • Continue to successionally sow root crops for continual harvests including beetroot, carrots and this moth is really the last chance to sow parsnips!
  • Brassicas such as winter cabbage, broccoli, late season Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers and kale can be sown now for harvesting in Autumn/winter.
  • Don’t forget to sow other brassicas such as radishes, turnips and swede. These root brassicas still require protection from pigeons who loves to strip the leaves!
  • Salad leaves and other crops that add pep to your salad including spring onions, swiss chard, spinach and lambs lettuce can be sown now. Where necessary remember to keep sowing successionally so you can enjoy salads all summer long.
  • For your herb garden, tender herbs such as basil, parsley and coriander can be sown now too!

Planting

  • Chilli peppers, sweet peppers, aubergines and greenhouse tomatoes  that were started back at the beginning of the year can now be planted out into greenhouse and polytunnel borders.
20170512_132033[1]
Tomato plants are ready to be planted into greenhouse/polytunnel borders.
  • If you have ordered sweet potatoes then they will be delivered this month ready for you to plant out. Make sure you plant out after all chances of frost have passed.
  • Any courgettes, cucumber and sweetcorn you started in April will be ready for planting out from the middle of the month onwards.
  • If you haven’t been able to start brassicas off from seeds then you can plant out brassica plants bought from your local garden centre or any of the online retailers.

Harvesting

  • Salad leaves and other salad crops such as radishes, swiss chard and lettuces will be ready to harvest now.
  • Early peas and broad beans may be ready to harvest this month
  • Rhubarb will continue to crop this month as will asparagus if you are lucky enough to have this delicious crop.
20170430_182106[1]
Rhubarb will be cropping well at this month.
  • Towards the end of the month, early strawberries will be starting to ripen. Make sure you get them before the birds or slugs!
  • If you planned ahead, last year you may also be harvesting spring cabbages and cauliflowers!

Jobs on the plot

As the weather warms and we start to make the transition into Summer, your crops will be growing strong – as will the weeds. Watch out for any late frosts in the first half of this month depending on where you live.

  • Protect young and tender plants from any late frosts. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, if the temperatures are set to plummet over night protect with cloches and fleece and earth up potatoes to protect the shoots.
20170430_170008[1]
Potatoes have been earthed up with straw to protect them from frosts.
  • New sowings and young plants will be vulnerable to pests especially slugs and snails who are looking for an easy meal. Put down barriers and traps to stop these critters in their tracks! Apply predatory nematodes and predators such as ladybird larvae to keep the pest population under control and fit brassica collars round newly planted brassicas to stop cabbage root fly.
  • Sow catch crops such as fast growing radishes and lettuces between slower-growing crops like brassicas to make good use of the space and keep weeds at bay.
  • Hoe off annual weeds as they appear but when you see perennial weeds in your patch it might be better to dig these out by hand and remove as much root as possible otherwise they will just come back. Also make sure you get up any volunteer potatoes as they could be a reservoir for blight!
  • Harden off your tender plants before planting them out to acclimatize them to outside conditions.
  • In the fruit garden, thin out raspberries where necessary so they don’t become overcrowded and prune almond, peach and nectarine trees. Remove strawberry flowers from very young plants or any that appear to be struggling and as the fruit starts to ripen on older healthier plants, protect them from pests.
  • In the polytunnel or greenhouse, any tomatoes you have already planted may need staking or tying in as they grow and any side-shoots removed. The temperatures can get quite high under cover so make sure you open vents and doors on particularly hot days remembering to close them again at night when temperatures drop.
  • Keep your plot well watered especially if there isn’t much rain or you grow your plants in pots. Rising temperatures can cause the ground to dry out fast. Where possible apply mulches that keep the moisture locked into the ground.
  • If you have ordered plug plants, then they will be arriving on your doorstep. Get them potted on or planted out as soon as possible. Suppliers send out these plants at the best time for planting.
20170512_131944[1]
Plug plants will be arriving – pot on or plant out immediately!

May Recipe

Pea and broad bean risotto (from BBC Good food)

broad bean risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g cold butter , diced
  • 1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
  • 175g risotto rice
  • 100ml white wine
  • 600ml hot vegetable stock
  • 50g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 200g fresh peas, podded (about 1kg/2lb 4oz unpodded weight)
  • 200g broad beans, podded (about 1kg/2lb 4oz unpodded weight)
  1. Heat oil and 25g of the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4-5 mins. Stir in the rice and cook for a further 2 mins. Turn up the heat and add the wine, let it bubble to evaporate the alcohol.
  2. Once the wine has reduced, begin adding the hot stock a ladle at a time over a medium heat, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next and stirring continuously. The rice should always be moist, but not swimming in liquid. The process of adding and stirring should take about 16-20 mins, depending on what kind of risotto rice you use.
  3. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the peas and beans for 2-3 mins. Drain and set aside. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, Parmesan, peas and beans with some seasoning before serving.

April 2017!

April was really off to a sunny start with temperatures of 18 degrees in the south west!

I did quite a lot of work in my own garden the first weekend in April so that Sam and I could actually sit outside and start enjoying the lighter evenings but as always at least one day a week is reserved for the allotment.

20170430_165225[1]
Overview of plot 1

We took the ‘mother-in-law’ around the allotments (not really the mother-in-law but for want of a better word) and she really liked the plots although thinks we are completely bonkers for taking on so much! Fast forward to the actual work we did, I dug up the newly planted strawberry plants on plot 1, laid weed control membrane over the bed and then re-planted the strawberry plants through it. This will save me the headache of constant weeding and stops the strawberries from being able to root runners! I then bought some straw and have placed that round the strawberries. This acts as a mulch, keeps strawberries clean as they develop and has the added benefit (or so I am told) of reducing slug damage.

20170430_165321[1]
Strawberries have been planted through membrane and mulched with straw!

Sam and I also got to work digging over Section D where the potatoes will be this year. We removed the very last of the leeks and dug  over the ground ready for new raised beds on that section. This is the last part of plot 2 that needed raised beds in and then the structure of plot 2 would be complete! The weekend of the 8th saw us actually build those raised beds and set them in the ground (slightly wonky but hey, it doesn’t have to be perfect – just functional). Weed control membrane was laid down for the paths and then covered with bark chip. Fast forward to Easter weekend and Sam had the lovely (hard) job of planting all the second early and maincrop potatoes.

20170430_165929[1]
New raised beds in section D!

Over the last three weeks, spring-planted onions have slowly been planted out in Section E and a variety of lettuces have been planted in the same beds. I have also sown a number of sowings of spring onions and beetroot but the seedlings don’t seem to get very far. I think this is more to do with the soil than with the seeds. Unfortunately, no matter how much compost or manure I add to the soil, it is always hard and dry! Yesterday I decided to sown my next lot of spring onion and beetroot sowings in the old wicker carrot planter where the soil is much nicer!

Section A on plot 1 (where the beans and peas are going) is starting to come to life. Pea and bean supports have been put up ready for plants. Two lots of pea plants have been planted out, one at the beginning of April and one at the end, and I have sown a further rows of peas direct which I hope will give me successional harvests of peas. All the broad beans have now been sown and the broad beans I planted back in November are flowering! Unfortunately, the frost we had last week has caused some of the tiny pods that were developing to go black! I guess that means I will be waiting a little longer for my first harvest of broad beans!

The Thursday after Easter, my dad came up and built me a new shed! We have treated it, painted the inside and can now store some of our tools on plot 3 instead of having to traipse all the way over to plot 1 every time we need something (or have forgotten to get something)! It is not as big as the one we originally inherited but hopefully with a lot of love and care it will last us for quite a few years (I am hoping for at least a decade!).

And shock! I finished tidying up the strawberries! I can’t believe it! I had to remove quite a lot of runners that had rooted and then moved some plants so there wasn’t such a big gap in the middle like before. We will be putting raised beds around the strawberries which should make it easier to weed, harvest and generally keep tidy – a job for May! I am so glad to finally get this off the to-do list! The strawberries are already showing lots of flowers so with a bit of luck I am in for a good harvest again this year. It is probably the last really good harvest I will get off some of these plants as they are 3 years old (some are new runners which have been moved). They will probably be left for another season and then the bed will be cleared for something new. By that time, the strawberry plants on my other plot will be nice and big and producing lots of strawberries!

20170430_165826[1].jpg
Strawberry bed has finally been cleared!

We have also lined the beds around the pond with wood.  The Californian poppies from last year have self-seeded and I decided to leave them there as they are such pretty flowers. I have also sown a white-flowered borage at home, and hope to plant them into the ponds beds and herb garden in the next fortnight!

20170430_165937[1]
Pond beds have been lined with wood! This will stop the grass from creeping in!

For those of you who follow this blog you will know I have two friends who love to come up and help out on the allotment (often helping me get the hardest tasks done)! This last Saturday they came up and helped Sam and I to finally move the pile at the end of plot 3. The pile was dug up and moved to the lazy bed where it should hopefully compost down, and then we cleared the back of the plot of brambles, nettles and bindweed. Here we laid a thick mulch of dead leaves and then laid weed control membrane to hopefully stop all the weeds from coming back. We will cover this area with bark chip and next winter we will plant currant bushes here. We also marked out where the polytunnel will be going with bamboo canes and string and now that we have a nice (relatively) flat surface, I can order the polytunnel!

20170430_165958[1]
Large pile has been removed and (mostly) leveled out. The polytunnel was marked out but unfortunately the bamboo canes snapped. Membrane at the back for currants next year!

There have been a few disappointments this last though, the frosts did some damage in our plots, the first early potatoes were hit quite hard. They are grown in bags and I didn’t get the bags filled up with compost in time! There is still some green foliage growing so have placed straw in the bags to keep them warm and protect from any further frosts and we will see if they recover!

20170430_170008[1]
Straw put in potato bags to cover potato shoots and protect from any further frost.

Some of our plants around the pond were hit hard! The ‘Bleeding Heart’ and the flowers on the Heuchera have really been affected. The buds on the grape had just started to open up but I think the leaves have now died! It seemed to withstand the frosts really well last year but not so much this year! And also there seems to be a cat digging up my allotment! It dug a hole in the soil in my seed bed, destroying my brassica seedlings and it dug a hole in my parsnip bed!

Despite this, April has been a rather productive month! There is still a lot to get done in May. The polytunnel needs to be bought and erected and there will be a lot to plant out but I am looking forward to the month ahead!

20170422_143742[1].jpg

I hope you have  been able to enjoy your gardens and allotment this month as much as I have! Although I hope your muscles don’t ache as much as mine!

 

What to do this April!

April is a busy time for most gardeners and allotmenteers! The sowing season is upon us and with Easter happening this month, there is also the tradition of planting out your chitted potatoes over the Easter Weekend!

20170422_180856[1]
Chitted potatoes ready to be planted!

Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!

The sowing season is upon us and if your ground is not ready and prepared for your new sowings and plants then it really is time to get a move on!

Sowing:

  • Peas and Broad beans can be sown now. These will crop a little later than those that were sown in the Autumn or back in February. French beans (dwarf or climbing) can be started this month too but better off indoors as if sown outdoors you will have to watch out for those sneaky frosts!
Untitled
Peas can be sown now!
  • Root vegetables such as beetroot, parsnips, salsify, scorzonera, turnips and carrots can be sown this month. For successional crops of carrots and beetroot sow every three-four weeks.
  • Salads leaves such as land cress, chard, spinach and lettuces can be sown now ready for those delicious summer salads
  • Brassicas can be sown outdoors into a well-prepared seed bed or where they are to crop including early season calabrese, late cropping sprouts, kale, cauliflowers, and summer/winter cabbage. Sprouting broccoli should be started now too. It needs to be sown approximately a year before it is due to be harvested.
  • Leeks should be sown by the end of this month and spring onions can be sown successionally every two to three weeks to give you a continuous supply.

Planting:

  • If you have always wanted to have an asparagus bed, then now is the time to start one. Remember not to harvest in the first couple of years and only take a few in the third, after that you will have asparagus to enjoy year after year!
_asparagusplantingsm
Start an asparagus bed now!
  • Spring-planting onions and shallots can be planted out now.
  • Jerusalem artichokes can be planted out in April. They produce beautiful sunflower type flowers throughout the summer and earthy sweet tubers in the winter
  • Second early and maincrop potatoes can be planted out now. Traditionally, they are planted out on the Easter Saturday (which has now passed) but if you are a little behind, not to worry, they will soon catch up if you are a few weeks late.

April firmly sits in the hungry gap but that doesn’t mean you can’t have offerings in the garden.

Harvesting:

20170304_1500411

  • If you already have an asparagus bed you can start harvesting from around St George’s day up until the Summer solstice.
  • If you are a lover of chicory, then this can be harvested now too.
  • Any remaining winter savoy cabbages, cauliflowers and leeks should be harvested this month to make way for new crops and Sprouting broccoli and spring cabbage is in full swing during the month of April
  • If you have planted hardy lettuces over the winter then you can harvest these for a delicious salad along with any new sowings or radishes, leef beet/chard, spinach and other salad leaves that may be ready now.
  • Rhubarb should be cropping well throughout April.

 

Jobs on the plot

April is busy, busy, busy what with all the sowing and planting but be sure to remember the other jobs that might need doing:

  • Hoe off any weeds that appear in your vegetable beds. The days are longer and the temperatures are warmer which means weeds will be growing quickly. Control weeds whilst they are still small and before they flower and set seed.
20170422_143917[1]
Hoe off young weeds now before they have a chance to set seed!
  • Pests can often start to appear this month especially aphids. These pests should be controlled and removed in whatever way you see fit (chemical, biological or mechanical) before their numbers get too great.
  • Support your legumes! Build bean and pea frames to support your pea and bean sowings that you will make this month. Bean frames can be bought from many retailers or you can make your own from hazel sticks or bamboo canes.
  • Watch out for those frosts! Keep a close eye on the weather forecasts and if it looks like the temperature is going to plummet over night then bring tender plants in or protect them with fleece.
  • In the fruit garden, feed blueberries with a liquid feed or mulch with ericaceous compost to help get them off to a great start. Grape vines and kiwi fruit should also be fed and mulched with general garden compost or well-rotted manure. Keep an eye out for any fruit tree pests and deal with them quickly remembering not spray chemical controls on trees in blossom.
20170422_150706[1]
Mulch blueberries with ericaceous compost!
  • Train and tie in blackberries against a fence or using a wire support system. Mulch thickly around blackberries and raspberries.
  • Clear out polytunnels and greenhouse to make sure there is room for new sow plants. Also make sure you are removing any dead or diseased foliage so that rots can’t spread.
  • If you have planted first early potatoes in a polytunnel or grow bags then make sure to earth up the foliage as it grows..
  • Thin out young seedlings to make sure that plants have room to grow and aren’t competing with one another for food and light.
  • You still have time to trim and tidy up any perennial herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage.

Indoor jobs

  • If you have tomatoes growing indoors or in a greenhouse, don’t let them get pot bound. Make sure you transplant the tomatoes into a bigger pot ready for planting out in May.
  • If some of your seeds have been unsuccessful then take a trip to your local garden centre and buy some replacement plug plants.

 

April Recipe

Creamy Chicken with Asparagus and Tarragon (from BBC GoodFood)

chicken and asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 500g baby new potato, halved
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 350ml chicken stock
  • small bunch tarragon
  • 175g asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tbsp reduced-fat crème fraîche

 

Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling water for 8-10 mins until tender, then drain and keep warm in the pan. Season the chicken with ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Gently fry the chicken with the onion and garlic for 5 mins until both are lightly browned. Turn over the chicken once and stir the onion regularly.

Pour over the stock, add 2 sprigs of tarragon and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 mins, then turn the chicken, add the asparagus and cook for 3 mins more. Chop the remaining tarragon.

 

Stir the crème fraîche and tarragon into the pan with the chicken and heat through, stirring, for a few secs. Serve with the new potatoes

I hope you all have a good April and for those of you who will be celebrating the religious holidays, Happy Easter, Happy Passover or just Happy Holidays!

November 2016!

This month is cold!!! There have been frozen fingers at the allotment and to be honest I just wanted to stay inside!

The first Saturday of the month we got down to plot 2 and removed the last of the bean frames and dug over the bed ready for new raised beds to go in sometime soon! I also finally got the elephant garlic, normal garlic, shallots and winter onions planted. After two weeks the garlic was already showing little shoots!

20161204_1245401
Garlic shoots are popping up!

The next day we just popped down to plot 1 to harvest some veg for our Sunday roast but ended up clearing away some rotting cabbages. Eventually the cold got to us and we retreated back indoors!

20161204_1430201
Beds are dug over, manured and covered for the winter!

In the middle of November, we dug over half the old brassica beds and covered with plastic except for one, where we have sown ‘Super Aquadulce Claudia’ broad beans for overwintering. We laid more bark chip in plot 1 and dug up the Oca in plot 3.

20161204_1431021
Winter broad beans have been sown and covered with fleece!

I am quite disappointed with the Oca. We had four plants and the tubers that we dug up were either very tiny and pointless to eat or were hollowed out by slugs or possibly wireworm. Not happy. We managed to get a handful of tubers but they were so tiny that it wasn’t worth doping anything with them. I have decided that next year I will give the Oca a miss!

Sam has dug over his little raised beds on plot 3 – you may remember he challenged himself to grow as much as he can in those two beds but unfortunately that didn’t come to much fruition. I think this is largely due to lack of planning! We did get some veg from it; broad beans, cabbage, carrots, radishes, runner beans but not any decent quantity. Birds were the biggest problem for Sam! So instead of growing veg in next year, he will be growing wild flowers, the seed of which he has now sown! We then retreated home and had a go at making our own butter! It was surprisingly easy yet hard work at the same time!

20161112_1717361
The butter we made -one of two blocks!

The rain then stopped us from doing anything at the allotment the following weekend except to offload our garden leaves into the compost bin and fill up the bird feeding station! We were also far too busy buying toys and treats in preparation for our new dog China!

IMG-20161123-WA0007.jpeg
Our beautiful new border collie – China!

Last weekend, I trundled off to the allotment and set about turning the compost – a mammoth task in itself! I also cleared the polytunnel, mulched with well rotted manure, put down weed control membrane and covered that with straw. I want to set the polytunnel up ready for the seedlings that I will be growing in the next year!

20161204_124514[1].jpg
Polytunnel is set up for plants next season. Just need some more staging!

I also got started with clearing the fruit cage! All the autumn-fruiting raspberry canes were cut down, the grape was pruned as were the red currants. They were all given a thick mulch or well-rotted manure. I just need to clear the weeds from around the black currants and mulch them too.

20161204_124654[1].jpg
Raspberries have been cut down and the bed has been mulched with well-rotted manure!

I didn’t manage to clear the strawberry patch again but then there is always December…if it is not too cold!

Most importantly, the Christmas Tree has gone up and the air is starting to feel festive!!

20161205_0715291
It’s almost Christmas!

June recipes

I am a little late in posting this but here are my recipes of the month. This month there hasn’t been a lot to harvest than radishes, broad beans and strawberries and so a couple of the recipes use these ingredients but I have also included a non-seasonal dishes which I tried this month and absolutely loved!

Strawberry jam

As I have ended up putting so many strawberries in the freezer, as I simply cant get through the huge quantity I have, I thought I’d share my strawberry jam recipe with you which is just perfect spread over the scone recipe I posted previously.

  • 1kg Strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
  • 1kg suger with added pectin
  • juice of 2 lemons

Place a saucer in the freezer. Add the chopped strawberries into a jam pan with the lemon juice and cook on a medium heat. Once the strawberries have softened, you can add all of the sugar mixing thoroughly with the fruit. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the pan up to a boil and allow to boil rapidly for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer remove any scum as it forms. When the jam has started to thicken, test that the jam is ready by removing the saucer from the freezer and dropping some of the jam onto the cold surface. Wait a couple of minutes and then test the set of the jam with your finger. If the jam has set and/or wrinkles when you touch it – it is ready. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes and allow any bubbles to dissipate. Then add the jam to sterilised jars and seal.

20160705_082517[1].jpg

Brazilian Fish Stew

I tried a new recipe this month called ‘Moqueca’ or Brazilian fish stew/soup. I had some swordfish steaks left over in the freezer and needed a inventive way of using them and stumbled across this recipe. There is nothing seasonal about this recipe (it will be more in season when its time to harvest peppers and tomatoes) but I did enjoy it and thought I’d share it with you!

(recipe amended from this article on Simply Recipes by Elise Bauer)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs of fillets of swordfish cut into large cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • juice of 1 lime
  • Pinch of red chilli flakes
  • Olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red pepper, de-seeded, and chopped
  • 3 chopped  fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped spring onion and coriander to garnish

Place fish pieces in a bowl and marinate with the garlic, lime juice and chilli flakes. Season with salt and pepper and keep chilled. In a large pan, add the olive oil and heat on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook a few minutes until softened. Add the bell pepper, brown sugar and paprika. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes longer, until the pepper begins to soften. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered. Once the vegetables have softened, add the cubes of marinated swordfish. Pour coconut milk over the fish and vegetables.

Bring the stew to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 -20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. You may need to add more salt, sugar, lime juice, paprika, pepper, or chili flakes to get the soup to the desired seasoning for your taste. Once seasoned to taste and the stew has thickened slightly, serve with rice and garnish with coriander and spring onions.

Sausage, pea and courgette risotto (adapted from Eat-In Magazine)

Despite the fact that my pea plants have  been absolutely destroyed this year by various armies, fresh British peas are available now in the stores and it is a product we should make use of. Fresh peas are ten times better than the frozen ones! Also it’s my vegetable of the month so I’d thought I’d include this Risotto recipe. The peas can easily be replaced by broad beans or, if you are like me, have a mixture of both!

20160705_082629[1].jpg
Image: Eat In magazine
  • cooking oil spray (something like fry-light)
  • 2 large courgettes, diced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 125g risotto rice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 700ml hot chicken or veg stock,
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 10 chicken sausages (or any sausage of your choice)
  • 325g of podded peas (or use defrosted petit pois or broad beans or a mixture)
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • extra basil and parmesan shavings for a garnish

Spray a large non-stick frying pan with the cooking spray and over a medium heat, saute the courgettes for 5 minutes or until reduced by a third. Transfer to bowl and set aside. Spray the pan again with the cooking spray and reduce the heat to medium. Saute the onion for 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in the risotto rice and garlic for 1 minute. Add a splash of the hot stock, along with the nutmeg and mustard and season. If you are using fresh peas or broad beans, add them to the hot stock to cook whilst the risotto is being made. Turn the heat low on the frying pan and gradually add the remaining stock , a ladle at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed before adding another. This will take 10-150 mins and approximately 100ml should be left with the peas and/or broad beans in. The peas and broad beans can be taken off the heat and drained and set aside. Meanwhile, spray another non-stick frying pan with cooking spray over a medium high heat. Squeeze out small blobs from 10 chicken sausages into the pan (discard the casings) and fry for 3 minutes, turning once, until cooked and golden brown. Stir the sausages, courgettes, cooked peas/broad beans or defrosted petit pois, and the basil leaves into the risotto mixture. Add a splach of boiling water if it’s too thick. Cook for 2 minutes or until piping hot. Serve, garnished with extra basil leaves and parmesan.

 

 

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

spanish-roast-fish-with-broad-beans-chorizo.jpg

March 2016

Oh how March has flown by!

The first week of March was just as hectic in work as February was, however, the second week of March found me unemployed and fancy free so I had plenty of time to do a little catch up! First thing I did was to get my sow on!

I planted up the remaining onion sets into little cardboard tubes to give them a head start before planting out in April. I also sown my two varieties of Broad bean (1 red, 1 green), potted on my peppers, aubergines, cabbages and broccoli/calabrese and sown some herb seeds, mainly chives, basil, oregano and lemon balm. I also had a chance to start my big pea experiment with my first sowing of peas (only a month later than I had planned!)

20160308_122040
Onions are nicely growing away. They will be planted in the allotment soon.

It also left me time to visit the allotment, I finally moved all my herbs down to plot three to start my herb garden, and finished digging over the leek bed and as I have written in a previous post, we finished building all the raised beds in plot 1 – finally completing the planned structure!

The third week of March saw us planting out onions and the plum and cherry trees as well as the free Honeoye and Florence strawberry runners I received in the post. And finally, we have dug the pond beds and gotten rid of all the grass! Cross that off my to do list!!

I also have to commend Sam for the brilliant bonfire he got going! That weekend was a particularly cold one and it was nice the eat our lunch next to the warmth of the fire (even though we reeked of smoke afterwards)!!

First early potatoes were planted into potato growbags (International kidney and Annabelle) so wont be long until we will be tucking into some delicious new potatoes! We also planted ginger into a large pot which will be kept indoors as I am a little unsure of what I am supposed to do with this!

The fourth week of March saw us sowing grass seed in the little orchard we have now established, and planting up the pond beds with some lovely fragrant perennials including Lavender, Borage, Aquilegia, Foxgloves and Hollyhock. We have also managed to get some plants into the pond! Some rushes around the edge and some marginal plants such as Marsh Marigold and Water Mint. We also spent out on a beautiful yellow waterlily which I am looking forward to watching it bloom! The pond still needs a bit more improvement but once all the plants get established. it should stop looking so bare and the pond liner shouldn’t be so visible. Frog spawn is in (thanks Stacey!) so hopefully in a few months time little frogs will be hopping around!

20160328_150832
Pond has been planted up and frog spawn has gone in!

Other than that we got a start on digging over what will become the bean and pea bed. The asparagus bed is at the bottom of this bed and it was covered in nettles. I started trying to gently remove the nettles so I wouldn’t disturb any growing asparagus but quickly came to the conclusion that this was impossible so Sam and I started digging up and hacking away at it! If the asparagus survives and hasn’t been chopped up or dug out then that’s wonderful, if not then I guess I am going to have to have another go at planting up an asparagus bed (because the last one worked so well)!

20160325_145035

Some sowing has finally been down out in the allotment, I have sown leeks, radishes, lettuce and spinach as well as planting out some lettuce plants I procured from Wyevale garden centre. (My new job is next to a Wyevale Garden Centre!!!) At home, I  re-potted my two banana trees and removed the extra suckers. The suckers have been potted up and will be given new homes.

20160330_075528
Banana suckers.

And whilst we had a four day weekend this last weekend what with it being Easter and all,  only one and a bit of those days were actually spent at the allotment!  Instead, I attended the rather fabulous wedding of my two occasional allotment helpers – Jenny and Adam! I watched my beautiful friend get married to the love of her life! And don’t they make a beautiful couple!

IMG-20160328-WA0000

I wish them all the best on their journey through life and may they grow many vegetables together!

Jobs for March

March is upon us and the next six months will be full throttle at the allotment. I know it will be back to working full weekends at the allotment…and I can’t wait!

I never thought I would enjoy all the digging, weeding and general hard work on the allotment so much…maybe I should have been a gardener or farmer?

Having not got as much done in February as I would have liked due to work commitments, the list is even longer for March! Plus, it’s almost that time of the year where I can start sowing most of my seeds so basically, I better get a move on!

I had a little sort through my seeds this weekend to decide what should and shouldn’t be sown. In previous years I have been a little impatient and started sowing ealier than I should so I am trying to learn from my mistakes and will wait until April to do most of the sowing.

Plot 1

  • Build carrot bed – there will be no carrots without one so must get a wiggle on!
  • Build seed bed – a large bookcase of ours has broken so we are going to use the structure to make a temporary seed bed
  • Remove old compost pile from the side of the shed
  • Put up growhouse where old compost pile used to be
  • Mow the grass

Plot 2

  • Weed the fruit cage
  • Weed onions and garlic
  • Clear and prepare bean/pea bed
  • Get new cover for polytunnel
  • Weed asparagus bed
  • Clear grass from around the pond
  • Finish pond ‘wall’
  • Plant remaining fruit trees
  • Mow grass

Plot 3

  • Clear unwanted shrubs and weeds from herb garden
  • Plant new herbs
  • Clear away old bean plants and prepare bean/pea beds
  • Clear away old raspberry canes
  • Clear area where polytunnel will go
  • Sort out shed
  • Mow grass

At home

  • Pot on pepper, chilli and aubergine seedlings
  • Start off rest of onions
  • Plant first early potatoes in grow bags (end of March)

Although I am sowing most of my seeds in April, there are a few things I want to get started this month.

Sowing

  • Broad beans
  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Spring onions
  • Parsnips
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts

I wanted to start the broad beans and peas in February and then a second sowing in March but I will just have to move that forward.

I was reading an article about Peas and it suggested that I stop sowing peas from early April to avoid the dreaded pea moth, which I get every year, but it didn’t say when I could start sowing again after this to get some late season peas? Does anyone have any ideas?

Or do I feel another experiment coming on?