Saturday 31 March 2012

Rhubarb delight

 Here's the first of the rhubarb this year.  It is worth covering one crown each year to "blanche" it, if only because you accelerate the crop by a couple of weeks. And I use the term "blanche" on purpose. "Forcing" is are far more industrial process where the whole plant is dug up, frosted and then removed to dark heated sheds. Even though I love the acidity of outdoor grown rhubarb, I am entranced by the crinkley yellow leaves and the anaemic pink stems. Right alongside my blanching bin the 'outdoor' rhubarb has dark red stems with grass green leaves -  and is short and stunted by comparison (despite the Scottish heatwave of the past week). Now the cold wind is up it will be a couple of weeks before it is ready for picking. In the meantime we luxuriate with our homegrown rhubarb and bypass the forced rhubarb in the supermarket, retailing at £8 per kilo!

Monday 26 March 2012

G for Garlic

This weekend was a corker -  record temperatures. By virtue of the fact that I am no longer on the committee I had two hours of sunshine to work on my plot this Sunday. I took with me my Epicure first early potatoes (as you'd expect from my last post), some Early Onward peas, soaked overnight, Onion seeds and some onion sets that I had brought on in cells at home. All missions accomplished. But on arrival the garlic provided a welcome surprise. I've only tried to grow garlic once before and it was not a good  or rewarding experience. But waiting to greet  yesterday was this:   

Garlic in March

Not only is there healthy growth, but as yet there are no weeds!!!  Surely this is going to be a success this time....?

I love sowing the first row of onions:

1st row to sow
 In fact I sowed both pre-soaked and dry peas just to see if it made much of a difference.

Peas soaked and dry
 But pride of place still goes to the garlic!

At the end of the row is my dalek rhubarb forcer - Yes for those who have noticed my omission, F preceeds G, but I got a bit carried away! For good measure here's my belated F for forcing Rhubarb.

Saturday 24 March 2012

E is for Epicure

Epicure Potatoes Chitting
I used to think that all new potatoes were waxy. Then I tried Duke of York, Edzell Blues and Epicure. You won't find Epicure in your supermarket because they are unevenly shapen and have deep eyes.  But they are worth growing for the flavour and texture. Also their earlieness. They have a reputation for hardiness and having seen my own crop get singed by the frost before coming on strong again, I can vouch for this. That's one reason they are popular in Scotland even though they are an English import being first grown in Christchurch, Hampshire by James Clark in 1897.  I'm planting mine this weekend.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Dishing the dirt

This year I'm doing something new. I'm sterilising my pots and trays. It's one of those things that we all know we should do...  Last time (about 10 years ago to be honest) I used Jeyes's Fluid  -and boy did it STINK.  A truly horrible experience. Never again.  This time I've filled the trug with a solution of Milton Sterilising Fluid. This is what is used for sterilising baby feeding equipment. I recall spilling some on my clothes and it bleached them good. The smell is more like a public swimming pool, much better than the tar like smell of Jeye's. Everything gets a soak of a few hours in the trug and then a good scrub with that brush before being dried off. That should remove any dirt!

For anyone who thinks this is a boring topic...  I have to agree. But boring can be the basis for all the excitement that follows.

I can't resist mentioning a reference to dirt that amuses me. Residents of the town of Wick in northern Scotland  are proud to be known as "Dirty Wickers". Adopting the local parlance the Wick Heritage Centre proudly sells "Dirty Weeeker" T-shirts  Why?  First of all you have to be aware that the linguistic  heritage in this area is more Norse than Scots or Anglo Saxon. The word "Dirdie" means (or used to mean)  busy, industrious, hard working. Wick had a justifiable reputation as a centre of industry during the herring boom which thrived 100 years ago. A "dirdie" Wicker was a "true"  Wicker and proud to be so. Times have changed but the language has yet to catch up!

Sunday 4 March 2012

C for chives

I don't think there is any more dramatic herald of spring than chives. I thought they were dead, but the "green shoots of spring" are shooting away:

Something else sprouting: rhubarb.  I covered one of the crowns with a bin today. A bit tardy I know, but it should still make a difference.

Rhubarb emerging

Now can you guess what inspired  my fleece cloches?

Here's a clue - or rather the answer!