Saturday, 28 July 2012

Potato trial: second early potatoes

Today is the turn of the second early potatoes, those of you that regularly read my blog will know that my first earlies were a bit of a disaster. You can read about it here…
I didn’t hold much hope for the second early potatoes because of the poor showing of the first early potatoes. I did have the British Queen first early still to dig up as I left these a few more weeks in the hope of a bigger crop. And I also found a second container at the allotment with more Winston in so these may have a better crop also; I forgot I had 2 containers with them in! Bonus!! The second early potatoes are Dr Macintosh and Doon Pearl both old heritage varieties and I was particularly looking forward to trying the Dr Macintosh I just love the name from the first time I saw them on the website JBA I knew I had to grow them.

So first up was the British Queen, I was pleasantly surprised with them, as I only had 5 tubes left after the sub-zero temperatures back in February took half of them away.  In total I had a crop of 1lb 8oz enough for a few feedings for the family and all the tubes were of a good size.
Next up was the second tub of Winston. The first tub back in May was very poor with only a handful of potatoes but the second crop lifted today was much better, infact some of the tubers were very large almost what you would expect of main crop potatoes. Total weight was 2lb 7oz not to shabby at all.
Then onto Doon Pearl, they produced some really nice sized tubers and again I only had 5 tubers left after the February frosts got to them they produced a crop of 1lb 10oz.
Lastly was the Dr Macintosh the crop I held in high hopes “drum roll” they produced 2lb 15oz of potatoes I was very chuffed and they also produced the most consisted in size also.
So after I got them home and cleaned them up, I decided to cook a few of each off to see what ones tasted best.
When cooking freshly dug potatoes if quite important to SLOWLY cook them bring them to the boil then finished them at a low simmer this will stop them from falling apart,
Out of the 4 the best I feel was the Dr Macintosh they were really fluffy inside and not to waxy and had a really earthy taste, I don’t know why these are not a common potato? I would really recommend these to anyone who fancies growing something different.

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Monday, 16 July 2012

"Know Your Onions"

It’s been a good year for me anyway with my onions, normally with wet weather I find onions not to do so well, but this year I have had a bumper crop, only had 4 onions go to seed and they were all red Barons. Last year my onions were well pathetic, in fact the worst of all the crops I grew. I was determined to get a good crop this year.

I want to pull them now in case the rust that affected my garlic appears again and ruins my crop of onions.
I know onions don’t like to much water so this year when we had a spell of persistent wet weather I covered them over so they wouldn’t get to wet, I think it has paid off some of the bulbs are huge.
I haven’t the room to dig them all up just yet as I have them drying in the shed hung up over some rope. Normally I would dry them outside over a ladder but you need sun for that (it’s a big yellow thing that sits in the sky and makes things warm and helps plants to grow…so I have heard!) and this wet weather will not help them dry out! I am hoping the other half I have left in will be ok for another 2-3 weeks them I can pick them and dry them too.

Once they are dry I am going to have a go at platting them like you do with garic I have read that this helps them last longer and store well like it, you never know unless you try right?
Onions are such a versatile crop and to me as a chef, I couldn’t imagine a recipe without it in I am really looking forward to cooking with my first proper batch of home grown onions.

How’s your onion crop this year???

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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

French beans or No French beans?

Just a short visit to the allotment this week, to pick a few things quick tidy up and check over to see what’s what. The French beans planted a few weeks ago are looking very sorry for themselves very yellow and not really much growth, after a closer inspection the soil! Well I should say mud/clay I may give royal Dolton a call to see if they want to buy the ground….will make some cracking plates. I was also thinking of making myself a Masai mud hut and doing away with the shed. On a serious note, my beans have far too much water than they can cope with and no sun to help them grow, I am going to give them a few more weeks and if nothing changes weather wise and condition wise I will pull them out and cover the soil to try to dry it out.
On the other hand this weather has made my courgettes romp away I have had my first pickings today and can’t wait to eat them tonight.
The strawberries are still going strong and have had another good picking today, may get one more next week if I am lucky.
My raspberries have done really well this year; they were planted last autumn and won’t really get the best from them until next year but I did get a few from my summer raspberries and going to knock up a raspberry crème brulee tonight for dinner:

The recipe I am going to use is:
600ml double cream
50g golden caster sugar
1 vanilla pod stripped
8 egg yolks
They are really easy to make simply bring the cream and sugar to a slow boil then whisk the egg yolks together then pour the hot mixture over the eggs and whisk then add the vanilla pod.
Place the raspberries in the bottom of your ramekins then top up with the mixture bake in the oven in a water bath (a roasting tray with water in it) this will stop them from burning or splitting they will take about 20 minutes to set. Remove from oven and allow to cool, and go cold. Cover the top with icing sugar and place under a grill to caramelise the top and give a crunchy top.

Hope you enjoy it if you chose to make it………

Let’s hope this weather improves sometime soon.  

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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

learning from my mistakes...

Last year my Brassicas didn’t really come too much, I planted cabbage, sprouting broccoli & Brussels sprouts I had a few cabbages but the  sprouts & broccoli were a disaster, so this year I want to try to do better and actually get a harvest from them.

The first mistake I made last year was that I planted the sprouts and Broccoli far too close to each other and didn’t allow room for growth and for air to get between them. Also I didn’t stake them until they were mature so it was hard to get them growing straight. Also they were completely infested with black fly to the point where I just gave up on them and pulled them up and burnt them.

So this year is going to be different the first thing that is different is I actually grew them from seed rather than them given to me by a friend secondly I have given the soil a really good digging over added some lime and also loads of egg shells crushed up, this will give them a boost of calcium that they need when growing.(read my earlier post about the egg shell)

I have also given them a lot of room to grow I have only put 4 or 5 per row and in the sprouting broccoli case only 4 per row I will give them 2 weeks then they will all be staked and tied in at an early stage to help them grow tall and strong

I have also got a bottle of washing up liquid ready diluted down in a spray to get the black fly before they start a lot of people suggested this to me last year so I will give it a bash this year.

Lastly I have netted them from the start, I didn’t really have a problem with birds eating them last year but i am not taking any chances.

So that’s the brassicas planted out for another year let’s hope I get to try the fruits of my labour this year…..

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