August 2018

13th August - It's all about the TOMATOES!!!! This week we have harvested over 30kg of tomatoes so far, in a range of shapes, colours and sizes, and we eat tomatoes with virtually every meal. Harvest Monday is indeed mainly Tomatoes this week!

Red Wine & Garlic with Oregano

However, most of them are being turned into sauces, water-bathed and stored for use during the rest of the year. Prepared like this, they will last for at least a year. So far, we have:

 9 jars of Curry-base 

3 jars of Red Wine & Garlic with Oregano 

7 jars of Tomato & Basil

and today's effort will be a Barbecue-style sauce, followed by Tomato Jam in the morning

Some years I have made huge batches of just two sauces, but this year I am trying to ring the changes so that we have a wider choice from our stores. I am also going to slow roast two trays' worth in the oven, with olive oil and herbs, then open freeze them and pack into zip-lock bags. This way they will take up less precious freezer space, and be able to be used in anything tomatoes would normally be added to. Having roasted cherry tomatoes for soup last week, I thought that cooler and much slower should dry them to the point they are a leathery texture rather then crisp, as they would be from the dehydrator, plus I can get a larger quantity in the oven at one time. I'll let you know how this goes.

I'd also like to make something special with the orange and yellow ones. Two years ago I made Yellow Tomato and Basil Jam which was luscious, but I fancy a jammy type of preserve with smoked paprika perhaps..... 

Lots of crops are continuing to ripen:

Cucumbers: which will be made into a relish with Coriander leaves, as well as some Bread & Butter Pickles (Recipes in Preserves)

Runner Beans: I have found that those green plastic bags designed to keep vegetable fresh for longer are ideal for keeping runner beans in the fridge in good condition. I am picking the small amount of good pods almost daily, and keeping them until there'ss enough to use. I am not freezing many this year, as we ended up with too many last year and got a little tired of them.

The wire fence erected last week seems to have kept the rabbit away from the bean stems, but now he has turned his attention to the Florence Fennel... yes, another wire construction is now around them. Huh!

Sweetcorn is now finished. This last ear wasn't fully pollinated and most of the grains were misshapen. I shall be taking the plants out, which will leave space to sow some turnips

Fruit & Nut Cake (with courgettes)

Courgettes have been in a steady stream, and several found their way invisibly into the Curry-Base Sauce, and with 500g in this cake (Recipes 2018)  there are not many left in the fridge right now.

The two round ones will be grated for Courgette Fritters (Recipe 2018) for tomorrow's lunch, and a further couple will be cooked with dinner on Wednesday. By then of course, there will be more to cut!

That single Parthenon plant in the tunnel is still producing fruits, and has certainly been worth it's space. It has even grown a sort of side branch, which is also now flowering. I can certainly recommend this one to anyone who only has space for one courgette plant, or only wants a modest number to use, not a sackful at a time!

Blackberry & Apple Cranachan

Blackberries are another regular from the plot, and as well as jam and jelly, we had Blackberry & Apple Cranachan this week (Recipes 2018). This is made with Greek yoghourt rather than double cream, and is an almost-healthy pudding! 

There are still lots of green berries on the bushes, so I shall have to think of some other ways to use them, aprt from crumbles and pies...maybe a cake? We do have a fairly long run of bushes, and usually this year they are all ripening at the same time. Usually the large-fruited ones are much later than this: another anomaly this Summer. They store in the fridge for a day or two, but after that they begin to spoil, so they do need to be used up fairly quickly, and with around half a kilo every day or two, it's another regular kitchen job to fit in while the jars of sauce are in the water bath

And that is where I am leaving Harvest Monday this week. Flowers are another welcome gift from the plot though. Most of our new dahlias are now starting to flower, although a few are still at that first-bud stage, and with the old favourites still with us too, we certainly have plenty to choose from when it comes to cutting!

 

Our asters are clearly enjoying the sunshine, as they are better than they have ever been in other years. The open centres are enjoyed by pollen-loving insects too.

Marmalade Hoverfly on Cosmos flower

This week's Wildlife Spot goes to a very common little insect: the Marmalade Hoverfly. It is a harmless little fellow, feeding on pollen and suddenly present in massive numbers. It's larvae, which are like tiny greenish-grey leech-shaped grubs, feed on aphids though, so the current population explosion means these little grubs have been doing a grand job munching through the aphids, which is excellent news.

The adults especially like flat headed flowers like fennel, and right now we have masses of these on the plots, so there is plenty for them to eat too.

Definitely one of the Good Guys!

And that is where I am ending this week, as the tomatoes are calling... I shall be back next Monday, to talk about sowing some follow-on crops to keep harvests going through the Autumn and into the Winter

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll get back to you as soon as I can

6th August - Sunflowers are loving this weather! So glad that I chose shorter varieties this year, as they are so much easier to enjoy than those that are towering up into the sky, and they make excellent cut flowers too.

To start off with Harvest Monday then, here are some of the Sunflowers that have filled our vases with a glorious look of Summer, maybe not an edible harvest, well not until the seeds ripen, and only then if we get to them before the birds, but a harvest to share none-the-less:

It has been a busy week with harvests every day, so here is a selection of what we have gathered. Courgettes have been left until last recently, as we have so many: his week they are first on the table instead. These are just a few of the ones we have picked, and were tasty in stir fry, great grilled with roast chicken and easily incorporated into a quick batch of muffins! 

This is so far such a good year for Beetroot, and this week I pulled up a couple of the cylindrical ones. They were sticking up out of the ground by about 10cm, and there was even more under the ground. I haven't grown these for years, but I now wonder why, as they are so easy to cut into nice even slices, which will pack well into jars when I get to make some pickles. These ones were roast alongside potatoes, and had a deep, sweet flavour. Lots more in the ground too

Another crop which is doing amazingly well are the Carrots. They seem to be relishing this hot weather, and although some are far from pretty they all taste great. The ones outside under the fine netting are watered every third day, with a really good soak, which is keeping them growing. The most recent sowing is beginning now to bulk up, so this routine suits them, it seems.

In the polytunnel are the remaining Early Red Horn, and two of them are here... huge beasts.... one plant has thrown up a flowering stem so I am going to let it grow on. This is an 18th Century heirloom variety from The Netherlands, and it has done so well it is worth keeping ifI can. Being in the tunnel there is little chance of cross pollination with Wild Carrot, which is in flower now in the water meadow behind our site, and I am hoping for viable seed that comes true.

The little carrot on the plate is a Sweet Candle from the box. It was a bit squeezed for space: I missed this one on the last thinning, but it is good to see it is stumping up now and looking the right sort of shape. Fingers crossed that its brothers in the box, which have much wider crowns, are as good-looking

Sweetcorn is coming to an end now. It has thrived in the tunnel, and most of the cobs have been well filled.  I wish now I had grown more plants, which is something I'll try to remember when planning for next year. Growing dwarf french beans amongst them has made very productive use of the space, and if the sweetcorn were slightly better spaced it would be easier to harvest the beans. Another thing to take into account in the future!

This is the first time we have had enough corn to freeze, and it is very satisfying to have some stored away, to give us a taste of Summer when it is cold and damp at the end of the year. 

A male flower on the sweetcorn developed these unusual growths which looked and tasted like corn, albeit rather a tough version. It didn't seem to affect the cobs on that plant in any way. Never seen anyhting like ti... very strange! If anyone knows more about how/why this happened I'd appreciate you letting me know please

Cucumbers are even more prolific than courgette right now: this week I have cut fourteen, some of which we have eaten, a couple have been shared with friends, and the majority have been made into more Dilly Cucumber Pickles. It is surprising how many can be fitted into a jar once they have been de-seeded!

  • Here is one batch of cucumbers, rinsed off after salting overnight, before they were dried off and packed into their jar

  • Dill self seeded from last year, and grew into big plants, full of flowers, which are perfect for including in the pickles for fantastic flavour

  • The final pickles packed in the jar, topped up with hot white wine vinegar. These will be stored in the dark to keep their colour fresh

French Beans have continued to be plentiful. Both the yellow Orinoco and the green Speedy in the tunnel have no more developing beans, so they have had a feed of tomato fertiliser to boost them back into flower if possible. I'd rather do this than sow more seeds to try to get a late crop.

The climbing beans outside have been terrific too, and I think they also need a feed if they are continue to flower.

There are now lots in the freezer, in small ziplock bags of a "double serving" size for convenience, so a break from picking will be fine for a while

 

Runner Beans however, are a whole different story. They have really suffered in this hot, dry weather, very slow to set any beans and then any that did eventually grow developing so slowly that they have been too tough to even eat.

The white flowered Moonlight has been slow to even develop any flowers, but at last this week I have been able to pick some beans from these plants, taking them when they are about 15cm or so in length and are definitely tender

However, the resident rabbit bit through the stems of two of them whilst grazing on the lower leaves, so these are now dead. I made a barrier fence out of wire mesh to try to keep it away from the other stems, which seems to be working, thank goodness. Just typical that the plants which are producing edible beans are the ones the rabbit ate!! I just wish we could get rid of the blasted thing. We only see it occasionally and it shows no inclination to leave through the open gateways. It seems to mainly live on windfall apples, which is probably better fare than the dry sere grass everywhere to be honest.

I've stripped off all the tough bean pods, doubled the watering and given the plants all a feed, in the hope things improve

Tomatoes are still ripening quite quickly, and there are certainly plenty of them! These are one day's picking from the outdoor plants, and we are eating them at almost every meal in one for or another. Now that I have cleared all the other harvests, the bulk of the tomato crop can be dealt with

Having seen a photo of a rather tasty -looking soup on Mark Willis' blog, I thought I'd have a go at making something similar. Mark served it cold with tiny raw vegetable dice and sour dough croutons, so I may well do something in a similar vein. Either way, it is very refreshing indeed, so thank you for the idea, Mark

  • Roasted cherry tomatoes, with onions, garlic and basil, drizzled with a smidgeon of olive oil, salt & pepper

  • Blitzed, sieved, with a teaspoonful of sugar and a touch more salt, it is now in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch

There are some further harvest this week, to round off Harvest Monday

  • Jalapeno Chillies

  • Chard

  • Coriander Seeds

  • Onions (from sets)

Thiw week I planted out the Kohl Rabi seedlings in the tunnel, where they will be slightly shaed and protected from the white butterflies that are everwhere this year. 

It is certainly a good year for butterflies in this area, with two further species on the plot this week. Both of these are very small, barely a centimetre in size, and so are easily overlooked. This week's Wildlife Spot goes jointly to the Small Blue and the Small Skipper butterflies

  • Small Blue Butterfly

  • Small Skipper BUtterfly

Having shared pctures of our sunflowers, I'm ending with another of our flowers: a dahlia. This is one of our new ones, called Bom Bini, and it gives such a bright splash of colour you can see it right across the plot

Next Monday, I'll share pictures of some of the others. I hope everyone is harvesting well and enjoying the Summer, despite the trials of watering that many of us continue to face right now

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll get back to you as soon as I can