Archive for June, 2013

Brighton and Hove Open Gardens – tomorrow!

open allotment floral borderPlot #103 is taking part in the Open Gardens scheme – come and see us tomorrow between 11am and 5pm at Weald Allotments, Weald Avenue, Hove, BN3 7JN. There are two other plots on the same site open to visitors aAnd plot # 326 is selling an amazing range of cakes and jellies (and home-made elderberry squash), while plots 238/239 offer an insight into organic growing of vegetables and fruit – come and see us!

We have a ‘bran tub’ although the tub is full of compost, not bran and for a donation of your choice you can fish around and pull out a packet of Mr Fothergill’s seeds: anything from lettuce to basil and melons to onions … and I’ll have copies of Minding My Peas and Cucumbers and The Allotment Diaries for sale.

Tickets available from http://sussexbeacon.org.uk/opengardens/ – at a very special rate for tomorrow only.

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Chive vinegar update – one week on

chive vinegar bottled This is how the chive vinegar looks after a week – I wanted a fairly mild infusion for salad dressings so I decanted it and bottled it. Isn’t it beautiful?

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Floral salads – stunning ways to use allotment crops

chives 1I was going to post this yesterday, but I had to rewrite the recipe and the post – I’d made several references to it being a ‘Nigella’ type recipe, which is the shorthand I use to describe something home-made but also rather voluptuous and impressive. Today I don’t choose to talk about Nigella at all – her privacy, her personal life and her relationship with her husband are entirely her business.

So instead, let’s take another well known chef and shove this recipe into his ballpark. I think it would work well to describe this as a ‘Heston’ type recipe too, for quite different reasons: namely, it’s an alchemical recipe and it’s stunningly spectacular.

It’s also incredibly easy.

chives 2Ingredients

• As many chive heads as you can gather. My recommendation is to get a blend of the wide open, pale lilac ones, which contain the highest concentration of the volatile oil that gives the chive its flavour, and a goodly number of the less open, darker pink heads, which contain less oil but more colour. Mixed together about 70% pale to 30% dark, you get the best flavour and the best colour too.
• Wine vinegar – the lighter in colour the better. I find Italian wine vinegar tends to be a little more golden than French, don’t know why, different grapes perhaps? For this I’d use the French.

Method

chives 31. Cut the heads with just enough stem to hold the florets in place. Cut too short and they will fall apart, too long and the flavour won’t be as delicate.
2. Wash the flowers, but don’t leave them in soak as that will wash away a lot of the flavour. Rinse well to remove any insects and either spin in a salad spinner or dry gently in an old tea towel.
3. Put the flower heads in a jar, packing them quite tightly. Pour over the vinegar. Seal. Put in a cool dark place. That’s it. This is a cold infusion vinegar – simple, isn’t it?

After just 48 hours you will see the colour form in the vinegar and if you open the jar now, it will already have a lovely oniony redolence. Leave for between two and six weeks, depending on the depth of flavour you like, and then strain and rebottle in a sterilised container.

The final vinegar will fall somewhere between blush pink and neon fuchsia, and have a quite pronounced garlic odour but a more subtle onion flavour. Keep in the fridge and use up within three months.

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Allotment netting

103 fruit cage 2Yesterday we had a Grow and Tell session at the allotment. Amongst other things, we explored the way that bird predation has destroyed many of the spring crops this year. Whilst slugs and snails haven’t been massively in evidence, birds definitely have, and many of us have had crops from fruit bushes to brassicas to salads stripped by hungry birds.

As a result, plot #103 is shrouded in every possible form of net and covering. The strawberries have a net anyway, on their specially designed roundabout bed, the fruit cage around the currants is made from netting, (the photo shows it just after construction in April) canes and those balls that have loads of sockets in them to accommodate said canes, and the brassica cage is a collapsible netting affair that moves around the plot every year. On top of that, there’s a bunch of upside down dump stacks (the things shops use to pile up sale items), a plethora of cloches and even some sieves and colanders that are no longer fit for kitchen use but work to cover up seedlings!

I also have a recipe to share, but I’ll post that tomorrow.

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Open Gardens – Sunday 30 June

103 edible border 1 aug 2011Plot #103 (aka The Voodoo Plot) is taking part in the Open Gardens Scheme this year. You can find all the details of the gardens that are open, and pre-order tickets: here. Two other allotments on the site are opening too, so there’s a nice variety of growing styles and allotment philosophies to experience.

We’ll be having the horticultural equivalent of a bran tub, where for a small donation of your choice you can plunge your gardening gloved hand into the bucket and pull out a packet of seeds! There are some excellent varieties on offer, so there will be some lucky growers! And, of course, I shall have books on sale …

So if you’ve ever wondered if the plot on which “Minding My Peas and Cucumbers” and “The Allotment Dairies” is based was real, this is your chance to come and find out!

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June allotment recipe

soldier bean flower saladIf you grew drying beans last year, this is the month to use them up, so that you can enjoy fresh beans in salads and other dishes. Home-dried beans are at their best if eaten before they reach a year of storage, so this is a good time to try out some hearty summer salads, as the hungry gap still has a big grip on most allotments and there isn’t too much fresh produce to be harvested yet.

We grow soldier beans for salads and because they are bush beans that only need a single stake to support them, and borlotti beans for baking and pasta, but in previous years we’ve grown Cherokee Trail of Tears, navy beans, and limas. It’s a great way to have protein-rich winter store cupboard food. Remember that allotment grown beans may cook quicker than shop-bought dried ones as they probably haven’t been stored for as long or desiccated so much.

Ingredients

Salad
200 grams dried beans
Large handful of spinach, washed and torn
Large handful of rocket, washed and torn
Optional: celery leaves, lovage leaves, fennel fronds or seeds (all of which are said to reduce the flatulence caused by eating beans!)

Dressing
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or home-made tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon walnut oil
Pinch salt
Pinch pepper
Fresh thyme, minced

Method

• Cook your beans gently until tender (usually 25-35 minutes for soldier, navy, lima and Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, longer for Borlotti beans) and refresh under cold running water.
• In a large bowl, combine the two kinds of greens. In a smaller bowl, mix the beans and any chosen flatulence-reducing herb.
• Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad. Chill if not eating immediately.

In the photo I’ve added rosemary and rocket flowers to the salad, along with some oriental leaves and a couple of sliced radishes – we throw in whatever we have around!

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