September 2006


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Saturday September 2nd
What a day! Weather was foul, and I started off early by making chilli jelly after having had apple puree dripping in the jelly bag overnight. It was supposed to be dry in the morning, but wasn´t. Realised with an hour to go that I needed to get my skates on re: the late summer show, so dashed off to get my marrow, apples and hopefully some decent raspberries.
Discovered that trying to fish for large Bramley´s seedling apples whilst trying not to fall down the slippery bank whilst looking up into the rain isn´t fun. Ended up with about a dozen large-ish ones, of which I thought I could get five matching ones without too many holes. Ditto the eaters, and also got about 25 rasps. Snipping them with stems isn´t easy! But eventually staggered to the gate with my load and whooshed up to the church hall with 20 minutes to go. I needed them, too. Mike helped me sort out the apples and I almost went back out again with the marrow given the sizes of some of the others! Rasps didn´t look too bad, but there were a couple of nice plates of brambles. Mine would have been way too sticky.
Went back again at 3pm to see if they´d done anything and to my amazement, my Bramley had came first of five. The eater came second of three, the Delia cucumber chutney got a 1st (thought at first it was a bit of a shoo-in as there were no other entries, but I did get a nice comment from the judge on the taste, and I noticed that some classes with one entry had only a second or third so it wasn´t a given), the marrow came nowhere and the raspberries came third out of four. Bought four strips of raffle tickets this time, since I had won nothing last time and it´s all for the society funds anyway. And got third prize. Even more amazing, the first two folk had ignored a half bottle of Bollinger champagne, which is about the only one Sir will touch. That will do nicely for a special occasion!
Then you could have knocked me down with a feather. My apple and raspberry winnings, together with 
July´s 2nd and 3rd in soft fruit were somehow enough to win me the Society Fruit Cup!!!!!!!!

020906_1 020906_2

Got home and decided to see how the chillies were doing. Considering we didn´t put them in large enough pots, they aren´t doing badly... and are coming into flower again.

Got stuck in the car park afterwards as the church was holding a wedding and they´d hemmed me in, so bursting to tell someone, phoned Dad and he couldn´t believe it either!


An unknown from a bought ripe chilli - think it´s a Brazilian mini-bonnet. Amazing shape!


This one´s a Fiesta, one of the BBC trial ones.


Haven´t dared try one of these yet. The parent chilli was another bought unknown one that we thought was mild and it blew Sir´s head off when he put the lot in some coleslaw. We hastily saved seed...

Old Mother´s. Lovely colours and a bit hot.


Orange nightmares, well ok, Bulgarian Carrots. I ate 1mm3 raw and couldn´t taste anything else for quite some time. Sir thinks they´re great. I don´t!


... which is weird, as I love these ones. Known in this house as Drazi Chillies (because they´re green and purple - and if you get the reference, ;-) but more properly Purple Venezuelan. Pea sized, and if immature, once cooked, pea coloured. Lethal.

Sunday September 3rd
Dashed up to get a few things after the wind dropped to bearable levels and staggered back once again with a trugful. Four sweetcorn (which I´d hoped to freeze, but they got as far as Sir who decided they looked like immediate food), and at long last, a decent picking of runner beans! More tomatoes, more courgettes, more minicorn. Then spent hours slicing, peeling and packing! Need about a pound of runners before I can do some runner bean chutney, so that´s on the cards for the larger, stringier ones. Trouble with beans at this time of year is that they´ve started to get coarser, and so I´m getting first crops with more string that I ought and so am going to try and pick them when they are only half an inch or so wide.

Tuesday September 5th
Raspberry jam night, partially from this year´s, but mostly the squashier ones that were frozen last year. 3˝lb made, and the whitecurrants from Chris and Patsy boiled to a pulp and put in the jelly bag to strain overnight. Whitecurrant or redcurrant jelly apparenly only needs a minute of boiling with more sugar than I´d been previously using, so we shall see.

Wednesday September 6th
Lovely day today, so went up straight after work so I could get stuff picked while I could still see it! I had to refrain from picking any more marrows because I didn´t think I could carry them! Not with all the rest of the stuff... This time I got half a dozen sweetcorn (mostly destined for the freezer), all the reasonably ripe tomatoes, a cabbage, a few raspberries, courgettes (oh dear one´s got away...), non-sprouting onions (that´ll teach us not to pick all of them in July!), runner beans and hurray some French beans (though not many). These are still the old plants which were stunted: I really hope that there´s at least one harvest from the new plants which are only just at full size. If August had been warmer, they´d have been ready now, but it wasn´t, so no use muttering! Peeked at the carrot bed, which now seems stuffed with leaves. Pulled a couple of miniature carrot thinnings, partially because I could, and partially to thin. Amazing how fast they´ve grown! Even more amazing was the size of the beetroot - I finally pulled some cylindra and they´re huge - even bigger than large sweetcorn.


Massive maincrop beetroot - they are supposed to store very well


The carrot bed (with radishes on left - some already picked)

Ended up with a large basketful as well as some more gladioli and dahlias. Next time - more marrows and more apples I suspect. At least my runner beans are still intact after last weekend´s wind - some folk had lost their wigwams with the beans snapped off at the base. Having had that happen in 2004 (in the period I didn´t get to write the diary!) I feel for them. I´m glad I put permanent end posts in to stop it happening again as they´ve worked extremely well. I did, however, find the tomatoes rather more horizontal than I´d hoped, and I really need to put stronger stakes in next year. Live and learn - which is really the motto of gardening! Now if only I could work out how to grow decent onions...
Made the whitecurrant jelly when I got back - and yes, it does set incredibly fast. Two jars of beautifully clear pale pink jelly from a pint of juice (no added water, but I admit, a bit of added Port). Different taste to redcurrant, too. Subtler. Had to take the bulk of the jars of jam to the garage as storage in the house was getting a bit short. Still have loads from last year in the understairs cupboard! Oh well!


Today´s haul. And I never went near the spuds or the marrows...

Saturday September 9th
Lovely day - very warm and pleasant.
Went up to the lottie very briefly with Paul to get some shallots, and of course ended up with rather more than just shallots. A few more courgettes bit the dust, but the big decision was to cut one of the red cabbages and try out the braised red cabbage recipe I'd got. Also went to get some more sweetcorn and was horrified to discover that the corner plant had smut. AARGH! It was only one swollen ear, and I disposed of the whole thing (P pulled up the plant) so hopefully it'll be contained. But I do have enough beds to be able to quarantine this one too… from reading the allotment boards, it's quite common this year, sadly. I'd hoped I'd avoided it! Now going to have to watch all of them very carefully.
 Spent the rest of the day mostly in the kitchen (as was the weekend, really). We started off by sorting out the cabbage: what a monster. It wouldn't fit on the kitchen scales (too heavy) and so we had to resort to the rough estimate of the bathroom scales. 9lb. Woops! 

cabbage_1 cabbage_2

We spent a while shredding 2lb of the rather dense cabbage and apple peeling and onion chopping, then discovered that the quantity wouldn't fit in any oven casserole, so we popped it in the slow cooker instead. It only just fit! Left it alone to bubble for several hours.


Meanwhile, today was also aubergine and garlic chutney, followed by runner bean chutney. Realised a bit late that the runner bean chutney was effectively runner bean piccalilli so I am not expecting to like it. Have two jars of that, and I can always give it away. The aubergine and garlic was lovely, though. Bit sharp at the moment but I am expecting it to mellow in storage. I seem to remember the green tomato chutney of last year did.
And for tea, ate the last of the Kestrel spuds as mash, with red cabbage and bratwurst. Yum.

Sunday September 10th
Duck day.Went for the full roast dinner, minus the mashed spuds as we figured we'd had those yesterday and I didn't want to go up to the lottie to dig some Picassos as I'd have got diverted!
Decided to use the morning to do the first bottle of passata: I had 4lb of San Marzanos waiting to be processed, so I got cracking. Just filled the litre bottle nicely. I do wish the silly things weren't so prone to blossom end rot though. It starts inside rather than out, so it's worth cutting them in half lengthways to check: I´ve done a
special page for passata making here.
 Also put on the enormous beetroots - the cylindra were about a lb each and so I needed to simmer them for several hours, and in the cauldron as they didn't fit in anything else! Least I got to recycle the boiling water from the passata.
After lunch, forced myself to get moving again and went to South Heath for bird seed and ericaceous compost, and of course ended up getting extras - the bulbs are on display, and I got two packs of tulips (one white with maroon edge and one maroon with white edge!) and some white chionodoxa to go with my blue ones. Potted up the two new blueberries and so they're now in the back garden for the season. I'll take them up to the lottie next spring when they're still dormant. It was so warm I stayed outside, and potted on the baby African violets, and the strelitzia babies (another seed's germinated - so now I *know* my own seed are viable!), and sowed another potful of the strelitzia seeds while I was at it.

Monday September 11th
Day off, since the forecast was so good. And it was glorious. Spent a few hours of it indoors again, making yet more chutney and passata. The chutney was beetroot and apple, and yummy! I can´t wait for it to be mature. It was good enough to eat now! And has put a dent in the pile of beet I cooked yesterday. Then the passata - this time with the yellow paste tomatoes Cream Sausage, and some Sungellas I found lurking at the back of the freezer from last year. It gave the whole batch a pale orange colour.


Cream sausage tomatoes

Didn´t make it up to the lottie, as I decided it was about time I stopped dithering about the nightmare mass of wild violets in the front garden, and started properly handweeding them out.

Thursday September 16th
Dash up to allotment to pick some tomatoes and dig potatoes, as there were blight warnings out again. Ended up finding myself with rather more stuff than I could comfortably carry. Half a carrier bag of potatoes, of which some were the vitelotte blues (tiddlers), some surprise lurking Red Dukes (thought I'd got all of those!) and some a few rattes (even smaller than the vitelottes, though the plants were hopeless too this year). I didn't think much would come of the Pink Fir apples either, but was surprised – got some rather decent tubers from the one plant I dug up. Moved onto the Picasso, and dug two whoppers up as well as some smaller ones. This bed is where the maincrop Sárpo Mira are, so I can hope they too have been large. Will know in a month or so! Added half a carrier of courgettes (oops) and then found that another corn on the cob had smut – and irritatingly, this time the gall had popped. Argh. Definitely going to have to quarantine it now! Picked as many large cobs as I could see, as they are getting a bit past it. Got a pile of runner beans, a trugful of tomatoes (including some greens, in case the blight does indeed strike), one of the Stowell's evergreen corn and then got carried away and picked four butternuts. There are 11 of them in total, and I need to get as many as I can off and ripening elsewhere as I can before the weather changes for much colder conditions. Then realised that even with putting the squashes in the rucksack, I was going to struggle as I also had my fork to carry, so got back to the car gradually! Ate a couple of cobs, one the heritage one, though it wasn't nearly as sweet as the supersweets. The latter one was overripe and mealy, too, so not exactly a successful meal. Hopefully the ones I froze are better. Away this weekend so hopefully things won´t be too bad when I get back, especially since we´ve had a long string of Smith periods and blight is getting pretty much inevitable.

Monday September 18th
Webmistress´s update: I´m thinking of changing the width of this diary to be 1000 rather than 800 pixels (which was designed for 800x600 screen resolution).  I don´t know how many folk still use 800x600 but if anyone would find it a problem, let me know.  It wouldn´t make too much difference - the images already peek beyond the rough 800 wide limit I try and keep the text to - and this paragraph is sized to be the larger width so you can see how it will work (or not).

Wednesday September 20th
Having looked at all the tomatoes yesterday that I´d picked last Thursday, and discovered that a large number of them were blight-ridden, realised that just because the plants look ok doesn´t mean that the spores aren´t waiting for the right conditions... which in this case obviously meant a nice warm lounge with humidity from a kitchen. Bah. And there´s been four consecutive days with Smith periods, so thought I´d better go up to the lottie and see if there were any left that could be eaten. There were. Just. The plants were riddled with the blight and lots of my lovely tomatoes too, and I spent some time snipping trusses off. Even allowing for the blighted ones, there was a Waitrose green bagful of green San Marzano and a mushroom box of yellows. So more than I quite know what to do with! Also picked the butternuts and a couple of marrows: not so much because they were ripe, but because Vince came over and said he´d lost more produce. We really do have a very persistent thief on the site. I didn´t want to lose the butternuts (15 in total off 6 plants!) so had to take everything to the car in the wheelbarrow. The butternuts are now in the garage for the winter.
The good news is that I have a decent picking of French beans at last! Don´t know if there´ll be second helpings, but there´s enough for P to freeze for Christmas. Also got more apples, as
green tomato chutney is on the cards for the next few days!


Wheelbarrowloads of stuff - where to put it?

Tomato Blight - blackened stems, blotchy fruit, dead leaves. These plants were fine as late as last Sunday, according to Chris.

Saturday September 23rd
Went up in lovely conditions late afternoon, and discovered a concerted effort to pick a damson tree on a currently untended plot. You only had to shake the tree to get rained on by the fruit, it was so ripe. Ended up hanging on a branch for dear life to keep it horizontal while it was being picked. Ended up with 1.3kg of them for my efforts, as well as some bullaces (not quite ripe though!). Oh dear, more jam! Least it stops me being tempted to jam the Victoria plums Vince gave me last week. Went to the Bramley and picked a rucksackful. They are huge this year - not like the last time there was a large crop, when most


were tiny and not very usable. I only really went up for the rest of the shallots! They were lovely and dry now, after being left on the raised chicken wire but under the cover of a corrugated plastic cloche top. Cleaned off a layer of the skin, showing me exactly why they´re called Golden Gourmet. Very pretty.
Moved on to the beetroot, pulling three whoppers (the largest being 1lb 12oz) and then risked pulling a scorzonera, which has got rapidly larger as of late. Has a few decent roots too. Decided in the light of the tomato devastation to cut back all non-S
árpo potatoes just in case. The Pink Fir Apples are either dying back or slightly blighted: I wasn´t about to take the risk. The Sárpo Mira are growing happily still, very green and lush. They won´t start to die back for about another month. In cutting back the Salad Blue volunteers, one came up with the stem I was tugging. It was rather large, so I think there´ll be some more decent spuds under the ground. Excellent - more blue roasties for Christmas! Then went to thin the Avonresister parsnips a bit. I´d not done them before, and I pulled four smaller ones up, which should give the larger ones enough space to expand more. Ditto carrots - got some lovely little ones, as well as a pair of very twined-together ones! The fun bit was the 6" radish though - whopper! Must do


something with that! Finished off the veg picking with another white cabbage. Again a decent-sized one (been good for them this year) and not far off 2lb in weight. Considering they´re only supposed to be small, that´s not bad!
Finally looked at the dahlias - the large cactus-flower had flopped so fetched a spare broom handle and tied it up. Loads of flowers on all the dahlias, so took home another bunch after deadheading the plants.


On the downside, I found one of these beasties on a lonicera nitida hedge at home, followed by three more (two pupae and one deformed adult) when I looked harder. Reported it to the survey site


Sunday September 24th
Another cookery day. This time, loads of damson jam (and a mad, mad scrabble for empty jam jars!) and peeling shallots and putting in salt water as preparation for a jar of sweet pickled shallots. I´d forgotten how sticky plum jams get...


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