Monday 19 December 2011

Has Bean Year?

It was an atrocious year for drying beans* in Edinburgh this year. It just wasn't warm enough and it was too wet. The slugs had a field day. Then the autumn winds flattened any dwarf beans that weren't staked.  (The ony thing they avoided was being struck by lightening)

So when it dawned on me (in October) that, despite the lack of a bumper bean crop, summer was definitely over.  I gathered whatever I could and put them on racks in the shed to dry.   Then I rather forgot about them...   until today when I needed a few beans for soup (ribollita).  I didn't have that much hope of finding anything useable within.

Bean pods
 Despite having been jumbled together the different colours reveal the state of play: The Canadian Wonder (red) and the Malagrowther reversion (mottled white) did at least produce something.  The four Borlotti beans have been thrown in with the Malagrowthers. I am concluding that Italian seeds need an Italian climate.

Shelled beans

....except that the Cavolo Nero does very well in Scotland too!

Last of the Cavolo Nero

*The runners beas did well.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

SAD? Bring on the colour

It's been pretty horrible outside in recent days and with the shorter days there's not much to do outside. I'm not very good about Christmas shopping,  or lists, so I dusted off last year's plot spreadsheet and updated it for next year:

Then I finally got around to listing the seeds left over from this year... and realised I could colour code them too! Anything less than 1.00 is an open packet. The dates are the "sow before" dates

Wow, when it comes down to it,  it doesn't look like I need to buy any seeds after all!  Top up on carrots, leeks and lettuce I reckon. Maybe I can still justify introducing a bit of variety with new varieties that mature at different times.  The brassicas never fail before the best before date, but other open packets might not be as reliable. I don't think I will be growing any more chilli, tomatoes or cucumbers after this year's failures.  By the way, does anyone know which group the radishes should go in?    

Sunday 27 November 2011

First parsnip

I dug up my first parsnip today. They are a bit thin on the ground this year so I was worried how big they would be.  This roasted up nicely and fed four. (Despite having a larger core than I would have wanted.)

Saturday 19 November 2011

Focus on salads

It's late November and the temperatures are "high for the time of year". Good news for the late sowings where my new potatoes had been.  Lettuce 'Cocarde'


Lamb's lettuce:

Spinach beat


And the real surprise has been a couple of thriving coriander plants!

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Worming the Compost and Planning for Next Year's Rotation.

It's time to seed the allotment dalek compost bin with worms from my home compost heap.

Here's what they look like close up: 

Although I have removed any horseradish or mares' tail along the way there are a lot of grass roots and such like in the allotment compost heap. I'm hopinge the little slithery tikes will help break them down over the winter.
Meantime here's the state of play from a rotational point of view. I now operate a five year rotation of Potatoes/Beans/Brassicas/Alliums/Other Roots.

Next year's bean patch - currently leeks for the winter: 

Next year's Alliums patch

And in between them next years Brassica patch. (Currently lettuce rocket radishes watercress and lambs lettuce - and in need of a weed)

Next year's potato patch.   There are still parsnips and spinach beet growing here alongside the perenial globe artechoke. beyond that all the carrots have gone.

Last of all, this year's brassica patch is to be next year's  Other Roots  (other than potatoes)

I will be treating each of these areas differently over the winter in readiness for their new role next year.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Pull the other one

Today I dug up my first home grown celeriac. It had a lot of roots.

Celeriac roots

I also pulled a neep (swede/rutabaga) grown in the very next row.

Swede vs celeriac

The neep was sown direct outdoors, as a bit of an afterthought, the celeriac got a head start by about two months, started off indoors in my new propogator. It was watered copiously whenever it was dry.

The neep was pecked by pigeons until, when I noticed, I strung a looped string between two canes to distract them. It was touch and go whether to just pull them up at that point.

After trimming off the peripheral root there wasn't much left of the celeriac:

Size matters
 When it boils down to it my novelty celeriac was a waste of time, whereas the traditional neep grew away like topsy. Half of me thinks that I'll never try to grow celeiac again.  (The other half thinks I'm going to crack this nut next year - there must be some trick I am missing)

 To make matters worse I happened to see Masterchef tonight and virtually EVERY dish had celeriac in it.

p.s. Hope you like the new look and the bigger pictures. Also please note that I've set up a link to my new blog Edinburgh Album which I will use for my photo excursions around town, and around the country, from now on. The Allotment blog will continue, and  if things go well I might even start one just for bread.

p.s. I have started one for bread called 'Rye Smile' and you can link to it through Links above!

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Escape to the Pentlands

Lending their name to numerous potato varieties* the Pentland Hills on Edinburgh's doorstep offer the chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Last Sunday we climbed Capelaw.

Bonaly Resevoir with Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth

Setting off

The Pentland Range

Allermuir Hill and Fala Knowe

Midlothian - Roslin's down there behind the low cloud

Winter sun


Heading back to Edinburgh

*This is the flimsiest excuse for putting these pictures on my allotment blog, but as a matter of fact the Scottish Plant Breeding Station was based at the foot of the Pentlands, near Roslin (behind those clouds) from 1921 to 1981 when they produced various innovative "Pentland" varieties of potatoes, many of which are popular varieties today.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Autumn Round Up

Autumn - Craiglockhart Hill
 We've not had any snow but the season has definitely turned, and it's time to get out and about.  We used our extra hour on Sunday to climb the highest peak in the Pentland Hills:

View toward Edinburgh from Scald Law

Back at home there's graft required at the plot:

 These leeks will be good eating next spring. (The leaf is sorrel)

  First season for artechokes and these appeared:

  The brassica patch is in full production:

Brassica patch
   Another autumn activity, jam and chutney making. Harbinger did manage some ripe fruit but there were plenty of green fruit.



Monday 24 October 2011

2011 The year of the...

2011 - The year of the….

I’ve been pondering what I will remember this year for.

Carrot. A contender for best performer this certainly qualifies for ”most improved”. Previously I had abandoned carrots because of the root fly, but armed with fine nets last year saw some fly free results. The only problem was remembering to lift the nets frequently enough to catch the weeds before they smothered the carrots (assuming they had germinated in the first place). Emboldened by the absence of tunnelling bugs I bought 8 varieties of carrot seed and 2011 saw the best crop yet as a result of blanket sowing under three nets. Proof that if you keep on going (and weeding and sowing) some good will come of it.

Blueberry. I was proud when my three autumn (2010) sown blueberry “twigs” survived the harsh winter and had high hopes of a bumper crop spread across the season. They could not have been more pampered. I buried a plastic liner and filled it with ericaceous compost, topped out the patch with an improvised metal cage with fleece for warmth and netting to keep the birds off. Whenever it was dry (there was a dry week or two in May in Edinburgh) I watered. End result 6 berries. There is some encouraging leaf and branch development so maybe next year they will come into their own(?).

Strawberry. I planted out four new varieties at the plot. A dozen each of Cambridge Favourite, Florence, Judibell and a late entrant was “ever bearer” Albion. As with carrots and blueberries the target was blanket coverage from as early to as late in the season as possible. Things started well as our established “Honeoye” got into early production but the Cambridge favourite never seemed to quite ripen, the Florence were big but few. As the rains kept coming the slugs moved in and polished of the fruit there was before we could pick it.

Beans. In fact 2011 has been a bad year for beans. Just too short a season and too wet. The runner berans cropped for maybe a month, the French and Italian beans never really got going. There's hardly anything for drying this year!

Celeriac  - should have been a surefire winner. Grown from seed early in the season the weather was good for them (wet). I haven't picked them yet because they are too small to bother with. An experiment I don't think I will repeat.

On reflection, considering the weather conditions and the havoc wreaked on the salads, strawberries, beans and other crops,   I think I will remember 2011 as the year of the SLUG!

Saturday 8 October 2011

Don't Be An Old Sourdough

I have to record how proud I am of my latest experiment. I've been baking a loaf most days for the last month or two, but this one is different - it doesn't have any shop bought yeast in it! It's a sourdough made with "wild" yeast which gives it a generous acidic flavour.

Sourdough loaf

Here's how it started out:

Loaf rising in cheap "banneton"

And for good measure here's a rye flour cousin:

Rye Loaf
 In the past I have been a purist about adding commercial yeast to sourdough, but nowadays I have become more pragmatic.  If the results are good (light, crusty, tasty) then commercial yeast is a perfeclty legitimate ingredient in my book. All the same it is nice to prove you can make a decent loaf without it! Also the flavour is addictive and you will find yourself adding some sourdough starter to all the bread you make to give it that lift that you don't get with supermarket bread. Once bitten...

Saturday 1 October 2011

End of Seasoning - Herbs

Do you remember the new herb bed? Back in June it looked like this:

but now each plant has run its course for the first season. Some have flourished and disappeared (Fenugreek, Chervil and Summer Savory) Others have established themselves (Rosemary Sage and Thyme) but the cuckoo in the nest has been the Sorrel! I've sown some more at the plot and I am going to dig this patch up. Anyone know any good sorrel recipes?  

All in all I am delighted with the new "parterre". As you can see from the picture below the loose leaf lettuces are turning into pagodas while the wild rocket is going wild.  In the background my outdoor tomato experiment has returned a negative response. Not one fruit. Not to be repeated.

On the plants with some protection (my plastic greenhouse)  fruits have appeared.  The Sungold cherry tomatoes have been enjoying the indian summer. The second variety (Harbinger) has even put on a late spurt to produce one ripe fruit!

..but there's plenty more for the green tomato chutney!

Friday 16 September 2011

Red Potatoes?

A novelty this year has been Highland Burgundy potatoes. Considering the disappointing yields on new potatoes this year perhaps the biggest surprise was that they came through well, along with the other main crop spuds. Flash photography makes them look rather ordinarily red skinned. After experimentation this picture is the nearest I could get to their daylight appearance:

Highland Burgundy
The skins are rather rough with crazy paving patches and corky spots.  These must be related to Shetland Black. But inside is a novelty. Inside the characteristic halo the body of the tubor is red.

Red to the core

And it stays that colour after cooking. (The texture turns from firm to mushy in a trice) Flavour wise it is good , yes, just good. Well you can't expect too much from a spectacular looking spud can you? (And storage may possibly improve them.)

Red mash
But, do you know, I reckon this potato is the one for my Borscht!

And here's an update on the tomatoes:

Links to Shetland Black posts: