We love growing Aviditas tomatoes which are a cherry plum, we choose grafted plants as they give us such a large crop. They are equally good cooked or raw, are simplicity itself to freeze, just pop them whole into freezer bags and taste absolutely delicious, I think they are even nicer than a piccolo.
This time of year makes my heart sing with happiness as I squirrel away many pounds of tomatoes ready for hearty stews, ragus and soups with which to chase the winter blues away. You can’t beat home grown toms nestled in your freezer come January.
Having tried Kimchi in various restaurants over the last few years and always enjoying it, I thought I might start to make my own – and then a glut of cucumbers appeared, so I ordered some Korean chilli powder and dried fish paste and googled recipes.
This didn’t take long at all to make, and it made a lovely addition to our lunchtime Buddha bowls, that we always really enjoy. I might try the Chinese cabbage versions next.
At the moment I feel like I want to potter in the kitchen in the evening. I feel like it may be connected to the grief. I don’t want to sit and knit or sew, too much time to wander off daydreaming to find myself upset again, reading books can trigger memories as well, and I just can’t take it at the moment. But cooking immerses me completely. But there is only so much cooking you can do, Dad is getting well fed at the moment with roast dinners and cakes whipped up quickly in the Kenwood at nearly midnight. So my attention has turned to creating preserves out of all of our lovely veg from the plot.
It has good balance so I used it as a template to make another large batch of chutney.
Vegetables were duly chopped and simmered to within an inch of their lives.
I think we were about four and a half hours in at this stage.
And eventually with careful stirring we had these.
At the same time I used up some peaches that I had in the fridge and some lovely chillis to make this tasty jam/chutney and this time I used my own home made cider vinegar. This tastes so good already, I can’t wait to try it with a tangy cheese.
And then that evening, because I am just a little bit crazy at the moment.
I decided to make a batch of sweet Piccalilli – and I know it is going to be so good. Actually a piccalilli is reasonably quick to make, just a bit messy and you do need some good sized pans and colanders.
I do feel happier to have some home made preserves filling my cupboards again. I can see many more preserving adventures in the dead of night in my near future. Rest assured I am quite happy pottering about in my kitchen at the witching hour, I find it very restful, its so quiet and I really love that at the moment.
I hope you enjoy my little video of our allotment.
I did find a cucumber, it was staring me in the face when I went back into the greenhouse, which I picked along with a few tomatoes and that lovely little cauliflower for our Sunday lunch.
I’ve had to cut some of the brokali before it goes over, so I will be able to use that later in the week. Cutting the plant encourages it to send out new spurs, at the moment the plants are proving very vigorous, so it will be interesting to discover how productive they remain and if we can keep them going right into the winter.
I do prefer the yellow courgettes, they are so much easier to spot and one has less chance of peering under their huge leaves only to discover a huge marrow shaped courgette. As always the courgette glut is upon us, but I adore them gently fried in butter with garlic, black pepper and then a few tomatoes, piled high on sour dough toast with either a scrapping of a good cheese or a poached egg on top, it makes a marvellous lunch.
I had hoped to be able to pick the broad beans as we go along, but the black fly have put paid to any smaller pods ripening and these would have only been a few pods at most. A few black fly seem a small price to pay for home grown organic veg. I’ve only recently found a love of broad beans, one of the few vegetables that I disliked as a child, unless they were the first pickings, when they were tiny tender beans. I just remember the chewy strong flavour of beans that were probably just past their best. From the couple that I nibbled on raw at the plot, these should be a delight and I’m looking forward to cooking them gently and serving them simply to enjoy their true essence. Also I have a few beans left and I may well just push a few into the ground to see if we can get a late autumn crop, nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.
It is the saddest of truths that we all hope to outlive our parents and that to do so is so very painful. Mum died at home surrounded by family in my arms. It is the most painful experience I have ever endured, and still remains very raw. But I am glad that I gave her what she wanted and I was able to fulfil my promise of looking after her at home. In these dark days of Covid, to be lost and confused on a hospital ward as she was some three weeks earlier, with only telephone contact is not what we would have wanted for her and nor did she. I can’t praise the NHS highly enough, they really came through with such a comprehensive care package that we never felt anxious and were able to look after her needs emotionally whilst a fantastic team did all the heavy work.
Dad of course is completely lost, having been married for 64 years there is a rather large Mum shaped hole. But he is doing well, he’s mastered the washing machine, is starting to integrate back into society as safely as he can and has found the ready meal aisle in Waitrose, its early days but the first shoots of growth look promising. And the beauty of having a large family is that we all rally around and one of us is either seeing him or is in contact with him morning, noon, afternoon and evening.
We had a lovely service for Mum, with just my brothers, sister and our children, which started off with a last trip up the town for Mum to see who was out and about, she would have loved that, her favourite thing was to just ‘nip up the town’. How lucky to live in a place nearly all your life that you can do that. The humanist was perfect and outlined Mum’s very eclectic past wonderfully and we had a very small, but perfectly formed wake, with us all making sandwiches together and drinking tea and gin, doing all the good stuff that families do best. It was perfect, with its mismatched china, begged and borrowed crockery and cutlery and two big cakes to sustain us when we started to fade. Mum would have been proud.
I’m still deep in grief, but this weekend I am aiming to get back up to my allotment, to wrestle with weeds, pick some runner and broad beans and try to come to terms with all that has been. There is an awful lot I don’t understand and an awful lot of why’s, but in my heart I know it was her time and there was nothing more any of us could have done.
I can’t remember who started the conversation, but during an impromptu evening walk with a very good friend I commented that I would love to do this every morning, early. And so it was a plan was formed.
The next morning, at ten to six, I texted to say I was up and received a reply that so were they and we were on.
6.30 a.m. we were off on our walk, chatting rather loudly, I’m sorry if we woke you up with our laughter as we trotted up the town and round the Abbey Fields meeting many lovely dogs, admiring all of the birds and exclaiming loudly with wonder at the size of the fish as they jumped out of the water to catch flies in the early morning light. The ducks were still fast asleep.
It was then that I remembered that it was the Summer Solstice. The start of new beginnings and light and joy. The promise of the sun, no matter how hard the winter, that it will always return.
I felt comforted by this accidental happening, our new plans to land on such an auspicious day.
I think it bodes well especially after the grimness of the last six months, to have plans with good solid foundations for growth, exercise and health coupled hand in hand with laughter, fun and joy. And that is what is going to get me up in the early hours of the morning.
The first of the mange tout, how wonderful. The fact that they went with some left over curry is neither here nor there, (I just had to cook them this evening!) they were a first taste of the summer vegetables on the plot and were delicious.
At this time of year you either see weeds sprouting through with the beetroot and carrots or a perfectly manicured plot. We tend to favour a few weeds, mainly because I am a bit clumsy and it is very easy to accidentally remove seedlings, so I just hoe as close as I dare and pick the biggest offenders out by hand. I do try, but bending over for hours on end is not the best way to see the world. But it is tiring and unless we have a decent carrot crop this year, and not one riddled with carrot fly we shall not be bothering with them again and instead shall grow and plant a row of globe artichokes and buy some organic carrots locally instead. Although, I will miss that carroty flavour, there’s nothing like a fresh carrot, the flavour is so strong compared to shop bought.
But enough of my musings, what is happening on the plot. Well there is a lot of green, its always promising at this time of the year, before the bugs or fungus get a hold, and promising swathes of verdant there are.
And a bit of blue.
The blueberries are having a field day. We only have one tiny bush, it must measure less than a metre tall, but boy is it loaded with berries this year. It must have enjoyed the compost we put on it in the autumn, must remember to do that again.
All of the peas, beans and mange tout are doing well. The greenhouse is full of tomatoes and cucumbers flowering, we are eating our lettuce and spring onions nearly every day. The new potatoes have yet to flower but the plants are looking good. Pumpkins and courgettes seem to be doing okay. The beetroot is coming on nicely, all the brassicas are doing well.
We have a swathe of two varieties of corn on the cobs, which will do very nicely when they are ripe. There are never any wasted!
And a new one this year, Brokali Atlantis, an F1 of a combination of broccoli and kale, hence the spelling. Apparently it produces delicious sweet long tender shoots and is a combination of Chinese and European brocolli and has the potential for high yields. And from what I remember it has a reasonable germination rate. I know it is vigorous and is doing well, I may well crop a little after this bout or two of rain to see what we have.