Tag Archives: Courgettes

Planting Plans: Brassicas & Squash

It’s a month like this where we’re extra grateful for the fresh winter veg that the allotment is providing us. Yes, there’s still a smattering left in our big freezer, even a giant marrow still residing in our kitchen awaiting roasting, but it’s the freshly harvested things that make you feel so good. The snow did little damage to our cabbage and kale. A touch of white fly, but that seems to be under control now. With the slightly warmer weather recently, I’m hoping for everything to “bulk up” just a bit more. The purple broccoli is just sending out the first colourful florets, the kale leafing out some more and the cabbages are forming nice firm hearts. Impatience got the better of us and a few of the cabbages have already been used. Fried up with a generous portion of pancetta. (insert Homer Simpson-like drooling noises here.)

This brings me to a quick run down of the brassicas and squashes we’re planning on in the coming year. Firstly, something we tragically missed out on last year, which is brussels sprouts. Again laziness and a lack of space has meant I doing these from ordered plants. I do love sprouts and not just for Christmas. If they do well enough, I may just not bother with cabbage in the future. I like the idea of being able to harvest a few handfuls of sprouts to cook as and when I need, rather  than contending with one huge head of cabbage. Although, given our current tiny cabbages this hasn’t posed as much of an issue for us really.

The cabbages we have growing at the moment are Tundra, a great winter cabbage. As we haven’t completely given up on cabbage yet, we’re trying out Savoy cabbage next year. I’ve had some excellent Savoy cabbage dishes in the past, so it’ll be nice to see if I can recreate some.

New this year will also be cauliflower and in keeping with our love of purple vegetables, we’ll be growing Graffiti. It’ll make for an interesting looking cauliflower cheese.

Winter crops galore

Winter crops galore

Some repeats will be pak choi, kale and purple sprouting broccoli. All grew really well, but suffered a bit due to my lack of diligence regarding pests. The pak choi was greedily munched by slugs and white fly ruined a significant portion of the kale leaves. However, the last twelve months have been all about riding the learning curve, so I am determined to not let the pests get the upper hand again this year.

Squashes were another success for us, but this year will be more about keeping a strict limit on how much we grow. We discovered that there is only so much courgette any one household can consume! Even with baking, frying and grilling in spades, we really did suffer a glut in the summer months. So with just a few plants, we’ll be growing butternut squash, Atena courgettes and one, just one pumpkin plant.

Last year's rather odd double Atena courgette

Last year’s rather odd double Atena courgette

Ultimately, I’m glad we had the forethought to grow a few winter crops this season, I never imagined we would appreciate it so much. While our decent sized plot will never make us self-sufficent, we should really up the productivity of the plot over the coldest months. We owe it to ourselves to help us get through the toughest time of the year.

Mangled and Mutant

In the course of harvesting over the last few months, we’ve had plenty of comedic carrots, curious courgettes and one very peculiar pumpkin. I like to think of our not-so-perfect  veg as being rather like X-Men. They’re simply mutant individuals with super powers.

Double courgette

Odd cucumbers

We certainly had a good laugh at our odd-shaped cucumbers. The mangled carrots, such as the one that placed second in the Ugly Veg class, were great, even if they were a bit of a faff to wash/peel/chop. I was hoping the tomato crop would have provided us with at least a couple Little Bottom fruits. I’ll have to settle for the multitude of Willy Carrots we got instead. The super powers clearly not just tasting great, but making us laugh until we were could hardly breath. Dangerous indeed…

I’ll leave you with a story in pictures of our Mutant Pumpkin.

Funny pumpkin

Bigger than your average supermarket pumpkin.

 

Silly face for a funny pumpkin.

Bit weird, as is the pumpkin.

From mutant to mangled and straight into the freezer.

 

Autumn Tidy

The days are getting shorter, the mornings nippy-er and I’m feeling sleepy-er. Must be the oncoming winter, that or I just need to get to bed earlier.

However, the recent cold nights have put an end to many things at the allotment. We’ve harvested the last of the squashes, courgettes, onion and summer carrots. The faded plants are cleared out and the beds weeded one last time. It’s a happy time weeding, knowing that when we come back in a week, the beds are still weed free!

Happy Pumpkin.

Happy harvester.

With the fridge and freezer packed with of lots of lovely veg, there’s still more to come off the plot. Our late sowing of carrots is looking fine and I’m hoping they’ll supply us for the next couple of months. Especially the purple ones, my favourite by far.

Final carrot crop of the year.

The winter crop of kale, sprouting broccoli and winter cabbage is looking good and safely netted to keep the marauding pigeons off. They got slightly hit  by white fly, but nothing to cause real concern. I have to confess, every time I look at that patch, I’m still stunned we started all that from just four little seed packets. Old hat to some people I’m sure, but I’m still basking in the allotment newbie glow of Actually Achieving Something From Seed.

Winter crops galore

I don’t really thing of this time of year as anything but harvesting, but there are things that we can get a head start on. For us, it was getting our garlic crop into the ground. This time last year, the plot was choked with weeds and all our efforts were just put to clearing it out. We planted garlic in late January and got a decent, albeit small crop. I’m hoping an early start will pay off by giving us larger bulbs to harvest next summer. Already looking forward to covering all our meals with lashings of stinky, tasty garlic.

Garlic in!

Normally, I tend to dread winter, but this year it’s such a different feeling. There’s still the slight sadness in seeing the lushness of the summer fade, but the anticipation for next year is already building. I’m looking forward to the cold winter days planning for next spring. Bring on the short days and nippy weather, I’ve got planning to do. In between all those wintertime naps of course.

Reaping the Rewards

Well, it’s been a brief hiatus recently. I have been to the plot fairly regularly  but not doing masses of work there, just harvesting really. It’s great, it must be what it’s like for those celebrity chefs that “grow their own” veg. Sadly, the reality is that I did all the work myself, not the hired help of my imagination.

Basket of goodies.

I certainly haven’t been the only one enjoying the bounty of our hard work. My parents came over for three weeks in September and it was a joy to cook for them using the produce from the plot. The oven roasted potatoes cooked with duck fat, sea salt and fresh rosemary was a big hit. Sweet carrots, steamed with a pat of butter and a touch of ginger were also appreciated…

I think the best reward from the plot yet has been taking my parents there and seeing them enjoy the allotment as much as I have over the last year. My dad loved taking photos of all the birds found on the allotment site, while my mum got stuck in, helping me weed and harvest. I dearly wish they could come there with me every week, it was tough seeing them fly back to Canada.

Proud parents.

With the recent wet weather, I got slightly panicky and we dug up the last of the potatoes and the remaining summer carrots. Four carrier bags worth of potatoes will be keeping us and several friends well fed for the next little while. However, it’s been our outstanding carrot crop that has been making me puff with pride this year. We have gotten our fair share of Rude Willy Carrots, but also some fantastic beauties. Silly willies or not, they all have tasted amazing, a sweetness I’ve never tasted in a shop-bought carrot.

Beaut!

The first frosts have yet to set in, so there’s plenty more harvesting to do. The last of the squashes and courgettes have yet to be collected. As the cold weather really sets in, there’s plenty still to do. With no hired help (sigh) the final clean up will need to be done and there’s still garlic to go in yet. Before we really start into that though, we’ll munch another sweet carrot and take a moment to saviour the joy of our hard work and the rewards it has brought.

Crazy for carrots!

The Cutthroat World of Vegetable Showing

When we dug up some rather fine purple carrots a couple of weeks ago, we thought we might actually have something worthy of the allotment’s upcoming annual show. Suddenly, the care and pampering of our veg was taken to a new level. Actually, I just got a bit more diligent about removing pests.  Can’t have them ruining my prize veg, now can I?

The show was held to today and when we arrived in the early morning, there was a noticeable buzz about the site. I could see several people scouring their plots for something presentable. I heard quite a lot of conversations in near by plots that went along the lines of;

“Find anything?”

“No, the birds/foxes/slugs have got there first.”

Still, with some searching and a show schedule in one hand, we managed to pull together enough things to enter eight classes. The purple carrots and “beautiful” onions were our main contenders. The herb patch hasn’t completely gone to seed and produced a decent collection of herb bunches. Similarly  the purple dwarf beans and squash plants contributed some fine specimens. Finally, our lovely little orange sunflowers managed to just squeak out the minimum number of stems required to enter the flower class.

Getting prepped

We headed up to the site’s community building, produce and vases in hand. I used to do horse shows when I was younger and it’s been many years since I felt that slight flutter; a delicious mix of excitement and apprehension.  I did actually have a tiny moment of paranoia, which made me reluctant to leave my entries unattended, worrying they might be “tampered”with! Okay, maybe it’s not quite like that, especially at this level.   At least, not that I saw…

In the end, my fears were clearly unfounded as we placed in all our classes except one! The courgettes were the only non-placing entry, but admittedly they were a bit mismatched, albeit the only yellow variety entered.

Third place in the Other Vegetable class for our slightly over grown summer squashes.

 

Third place in the Flower class for our orange sunflowers. First went to a vase of stunning blood red dahlias, so I can’t fault that choice!

Second place in the Dwarf Bean class for our suddenly-ready-today purple beans. We have masses of them, so getting matching lengths wasn’t a problem.

A second place for Ugliest Vegetable class with our last minute entry of a mangled carrot we dug up in the process of looking for perfectly shaped ones.

First place in the Herb Collection class. Went for as much visual contrast as I could, which was only possible with the wide variety of herbs we have.

 

First in the Carrot class for our much better looking purple carrots. The only purple carrots in the whole show. Lots of compliments, comments and questions about these.

 

Yet another first for our onions this time, described by one of our plot neighbours as “beautiful.” Lots of queries from everyone about where we bought the sets (Marshals), what variety they were (Fen Globe) and when we planted them (March).

At the end of the show, many of the entries were auctioned off to raise some money for the association. Most things went for 10 to 20p generally, all our veg were snapped up pretty quickly. However, I did go a little pink when the onions came up. They went for a whopping 50p, out doing anything else auctioned off. One of the organisers commented that they were amazed I was willing to part with them. It’s quite hard to modestly say, “it’s okay, I have plenty more where those came from.”

Scott told me that someone asked him which plot was ours, which had produced so well. When they were told, they replied, “ah yes, the one with the blue shed.” Yes, the Blue Shed Plot, a force to be reckoned with when it comes to vegetable showing.

Ankle Biters

*scratch scratch*

Things are coming along beautifully at the allotment. Broad beans finishing up just as the first sowing of French beans have gone into full swing. I must confess I much prefer French beans and am getting a bit tired of broad beans. I find them rather bland compared to other beans. Maybe I just need to expand my cooking repertoire with them.

French Beans…mmmmm.

*scratch scratch*

Squashes are coming along well too, even picked a few summer squashes. Added into a fantastic Sunday roast on the weekend. Eagerly awaiting the teeny tiny courgettes to grow so I can get started on those as well.

Lovely Patty Pan Squashes

*scratch scratch*

Chopped all the potato foliage down as it was getting terrible blight. The taters themselves have been coming up just fine though, not a massive haul due to a nearly sun-free few months, but perfectly tasty.

Wee potato harvest

*scratch scratch*

Got lots of weeding done, everything looking very tidy indeed. I just keep uncovering a gawd awful number of ants’ nests. Massive ones too.

*scratch scratch*

Any suggestions for dealing with them!?

*scratch scratch*

Ouch.