November 30

Harvest Monday 30/11/20

It’s that time of year when I start to make a list of everything that can be harvested this month or that I have in storage just to make sure that I use it. I hate getting to March/April and finding that I have squash that have rotted or potatoes that have sprouted because I haven’t used them in time. I walked around the allotments and made my list and then took it home to plan the menus for the week. It really cuts down on the shopping list and time I spend faffing around thinking about what to eat.

I listed:- leeks. spinach (maybe a bit too much), fennel, Black Spanish radish (I don’t like them. They taste soapy.), parsley, coriander, sprouts, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, hispi type cabbage, leeks, lambs lettuce, lettuce, parsnips, chinese cabbage, chard, celariac, two types of kale, carrots, mustards, landcress, rocket and chervil.  In store I have winter squash, potatoes, onions and garlic.

So for a sausage casserole today one of the things I  picked was some fennel. I have settled on growing Rondo as it seems to be slower to bolt and grows well both outdoors and in the polytunnel. The outdoor fennel is finished so it is on to the first group grown in the polytunnel. I have a second group but they are for next year as they are still very small at the moment. I have always wondered what to do with the fronds as it seems such a waste but a friend showed me a recipe for fennel pesto and to that is now in the freezer ready to use when we next have pasta.

If it isn’t too cold we still have a salad at lunch time. If it is cold we have soup, but today was a sunny, bright-blue-sky type of day so to bulk out the lettuce, landcress and rocket, I picked some lambs lettuce.  This is Favor and in my normal, slightly slapdash way, I am not sure where I got the seed from. I buy as much seed as I can from Kings because we do this as an allotment association and get the seed quite a bit cheaper. However, as I am on a seed saving mission, I bought some from companies that sell open pollinated varieties especially so that you can save the seed such as Real Seeds, Vital Seeds and The Seed Cooperative.  I’ll save some seed and see what happens anyway.  Favor has quite big, dark green leaves and grows into a dense, compact plant so we only need two of the plants for the salad.

The celariac, Prinz,  needs harvesting. Last winter I left it in the ground as I am in the south and the winters are mild but the woodlice got into them and were a complete nuisance, going right into the middle of some. Charles Dowding harvests all his in November and stores them in a cold shed so I will do the same.

I have also harvested a LOT of twiggy peasticks and bean poles this week by coppicing the hazels on the wildlife plot. I can probably provide supports for all 300 allotments as there were about 9 hazels which had not been cut for quite a few years. Some of the wands are more than 5m long. I will write more about this during the week.

What is really good in your garden at the moment?

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September 5

When your vegetables have offspring!

I love fennel and this year has been a particularly good year for it on plots 11 and 24.  I grew two types; Rondo and Doux de Florence.  They both did well, fattening up before bolting – something which I struggle with here on sandy soil but they have very different habits.

As Rondo matures, it tends to get wider and wider, becoming like its name suggests rounder. The scales (I’m not quite sure what you all each overlap of fennel) get thicker and are quite juicy when eaten raw or cooked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doux de Florence seems to get taller as it matures and bolted. Maybe I should have eaten this type of fennel when it was younger and smaller.  The bulbs that were left all bolted at the same time which means we need to eat quite a bit of fennel NOW!

The Doux de Florence did also do one other thing.  Just before they bolted, offspring appeared attached at the base of the bulbs at the sides first and then all around. I haven’t ever seen this before so when I pulled each bulb there were actually three or four fennel which could be snapped off and eaten too.

I don’t usually grow tomatoes outdoors because of blight. I grow them in the polytunnel but this year, I put four plants an a small patch of land behind the green house as I thought this would protect them a little bit. They have grown into large plants with a few tomatoes – something to do with the compost I put on the ground before planting.  The best have been Sungold, probably as they are small and much more likely to ripen. I’ll repeat this next year but only with cherry type tomatoes.

What is doing well on your plot?

August 27

Harvest Monday

On Wednesday and Thursday last week the weather felt a bit autumny. Slightly cooler mornings with dew and balmy sunshine by mid day. Today we have strong winds and rain. I am very thankful for the rain as the allotments are so dry and I have been watering every other day even though the heatwave is well and truly over.

The harvests continue, however, regardless of the weather. I pick every two or three days just because I don’t want to miss anything. Below is Friday’s harvest.

I am still finding it difficult to believe that these are the last of my blackberries. I do have canes that ripen in October but I have moved them this year so there will be no harvests from them until next autumn.  I don’t know what type they are, they were given to me by a nearby allotmenteer, but they have long, stiff fairly upright canes and I had placed them where they caught all the prevailing winds.  The second time they were all blown over I decided to move them to a more sheltered spot which I have done.

The fennel bulbs are now big enough to start to harvest and they are delicious. I sowed three different types: Montebianco, Doux de Florence and Di Firenze (I’m not sure whether the last two are the same plant just with French and Italian names).  Whilst it has been a difficult year for fennel, the Montebianco has bolted very quickly with the Di Firenze producing good, round bulbs. I love roasted fennel where the edges go a little bit caramely  or raw in a salad with grapefruit, avocado and Manchego cheese.

The cabbage is Dutchman and has done very well.  It makes a very tasty slaw. I much prefer raw cabbage to cooked cabbage and so we eat a lot of this!

At the bottom of the basket are the onions I grew from seed. Let’s just say they are not enormous!    The seed sown onions were sown a little late but were regularly watered and were grown on a sandy soil.  The white onions are Aisla Craig, the red are Red Baron and the shallots are Figaro. As I look at the picture, the shallots definitely did better than the onions.

Not an impressive harvest.

A much better harvest.

The set onions have not been watered by me once, just rainfall, and were grown on a clay soil. I don’t know the variety because these were the last lot of sets in the supermarket near the garden and they had lost their labels. The onions are flat bottomed making them very irritating to peel so I wonder if they are Stuttgart Giant. I have no idea about the shallots.

I tried seeds  because I always found that the red onion sets bolted and I wondered if seeds were the way to go. Can you believe it? Neither seeds nor sets bolted this year. The conclusions from this very variable trial have not helped me decide one way or the other. I’ll run this trial again  next year but try and get the onion seed started earlier.

One thing I will say about both groups of onions is that shop bought onions rarely induce tears  but these make me cry copiously when cutting them. It must mean that they have more of the chemical compounds in them that do this and are therefore probably have more nutrients in general.

Do you use seed or sets when growing onions? How have they done this year?