An Onion Trial, Tomato Soup And Freezing Parsley

Hi all, I hope you had a good weekend.

Since the New Year, I have only been blogging twice a week and I am finding it really hard to cover everything I actually do in just two posts a week.  So I try and cover as much as possible, but I do miss out a lot, so I would like to apologise for that.  If there is anything you would like me to write about, or anything that puzzles you, please let me know.

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The weather was good here yesterday, so I managed to dig up two more rows of potatoes and dry them ready for storing.  These potatoes are a variety called ‘Piccasso’ which I have grown a lot over the years.  They are great for roasting, mashing and baking and I find they boil and hold their shape well.  So they are a good all rounder, which are great for storing over the winter.

My potatoes drying in the sun

My potatoes drying in the sun

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A couple of weeks ago, I took up my over-wintering onions.   This is a job I usually do in July, but this is another crop that was behind due to the cold spring we had.

My over-wintering onions last year didn’t do very well at all, due to an attack of the ‘allium leaf miner’.  So in autumn last year, I planted seed sown over-wintering onions (rather than sets), in the hope that they would grow stronger than the sets I usually plant.  I also covered them in environmesh to protect them.

My onions growing under environmesh

My onions growing under environmesh

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The allium leaf miner is a pest that was only detected in Britain in 2002.  It has been spreading rapidly since and spread to many places in the Midlands for the first time two years ago. 

The allium leaf miner isn’t choosy which allium it attacks.  Alliums include onions, leeks, garlic and shallots.

You can read more about the pest here.

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I am really pleased with the results, as none of them suffered from the allium leaf miner and this year I have lovely, large onions, which are now drying in my mini greenhouse ready for use:

My onions drying in my mini-greenhouse

I will use my over-wintering onions first, as they don’t store for as long as summer onions do.  I usually chop them up and freeze them, ready to use when my summer onions have ran out.  However, as it’s been such a good growing year, I am struggling with space in my freezers.

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Yesterday, I also managed to pull up my summer onions.  I planted a variety of onions this year so I could compare them and find out if one variety was more resistant to the allium leaf miner than the others, as my summer onions also suffered badly last year from this new pest.

  I sowed some seeds back in January called Bedfordshire Champion and in March I planted two different varieties of onions sets, one variety called ‘Sturon‘ and another called ‘Turbo‘.  Incidentally, both of these onion sets have been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

My onion patch at the beginning of July

My onion patch at the beginning of July

The results (drumroll please)…..

I didn’t suffer very badly this year at all with the allium leaf miner, even though my summer onions weren’t covered in environmesh.  However, a few onions were affected on all three varieties, so I can safely assume that the allium leaf miner is not fussy about which onion variety it chooses and it didn’t make a difference whether the onion was grown from a seed or sets.

I don’t know yet which onion I prefer, as I need to taste them first and I would like to see how well they all store over the winter.  But on first impressions, it’s definately ‘Sturon‘ that has given me the biggest onion.

I have now set out my onions to dry for a few weeks, ready for storing over the winter:

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Last week I sowed a green manure called ‘Phacelia’ and I am pleased to say that it has germinated and growing well now.  I like using this particular green manure as I don’t need to worry about my rotational beds as it isn’t a brassicca, legume, allium or part of the potato family.  I usually sow it at this time of year in any areas that become available.

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‘Phacelia tanacetifolia’ is good for sowing between March and September and it takes between one and three months to grow depending on growing conditions.

It is a green manure that tolerates most soils, which is why I chose it, as I have a heavy clay soil.

If you leave phacelia to flower, it is a beautiful lavender colour that the bees absolutely love, which is why I grow it in my wildflower area.  The one drawback is that if you leave it to flower it self seeds like mad.

As I am sowing it as a green manure, I will chop it down and fork it in to the soil before it flowers, so it doesn’t grow and become a weed to me next year.

Phacelia in flower

Phacelia in flower

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I just thought I would tell you about the winter salads that I mentioned on Friday’s blog post.  I am amazed to tell you that the winter lettuce (arctic king) and my mizuna have germinated in just four days!  I am amazed by this.  These will go into my polytunnel when I have a space in a few weeks time:

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I’ve been busy in my kitchen this week too, blanching and freezing my crops.  One of the things I have frozen is my parsley.  I don’t bother drying it, as I only really use it in a handful of recipes, including homemade garlic bread (you can find the recipe here).

It is really easy to freeze parsley:

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Start by chopping all the leaves off the stalks and wash them

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Leave the  leaves to drain so the leaves are not too wet when you freeze them.

Pop the leaves in a freezer bag and put the bag in your freezer.

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Use the frozen parsley straight from the bag.  You will find it crumbles easily ready for use when it is frozen.

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My tomatoes are ripening well now, both inside my greenhouse and outdoors at my allotment:

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I decided it was time to make my tomato soup as my daughter loves it.  This is how I make it:

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Tomato and Basil Soup

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1400g ripe tomatoes cut in half

2 medium onions chopped

2 medium potatoes chopped small

2 tablespoons of olive oil

550ml of vegetable stock

2 garlic cloves chopped

3 teaspoons of dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

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Gently heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and potato and soften for approximately 15 minutes, without it all browning.

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Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes.

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Add the stock, garlic and basil.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

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Use a hand blender to blend the soup roughly and then pass the whole lot through a sieve to extract the seeds.  Throw away the contents of the sieve.

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Re-heat the soup and serve.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm.

Have a good week!

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18 thoughts on “An Onion Trial, Tomato Soup And Freezing Parsley

  1. Bees love the phacelia flowers – we grew a lot of it last year.

    Re your blog and not being able to fit everything in. I took the decision a while ago not to try and cover everything in my blog so I have a diary page, recipes, harvesting and sowing pages on my website to cover the day to day tasks. People can either visit them or not as the urge takes them. (The links are on the tabs at the top of my blog so the two areas mesh together.

    I use my blog more to write magazine type articles that take my fancy at the time. Maybe you could create a separate section for sort of listing your activities and use the blog to go into more detail about things that you feel you would like to cover in full.

    I just find I get more interest in blogging this way as this is my eighth year of blogging and I would be bored if I had to repeat everything every year. Blogging is as much a creative outlet for me as it is information for visitors.

    • Thanks for that Sue. I really am going to have to give this some thought. I only get to read other blogs (including yours) quickly, I perhaps should have a good look at yours then, to see what you do.

  2. Something that I do with some of the onions each year – I chop a pile of them in the food processor and set them my well-coated with oil slow cooker with a few glugs of olive oil and let them cook down for several hours until I have a mess of caramelized onions that I can freeze in small baggies for use on pizzas, etc. During the year. I fill my slow cooker right to the brim (it’s a big one) and let them cook all day. I’d also leave them in the porchor garage to cook or the house will smell like cooked onions for days.

  3. I always learn something when i read your blog, i have never frozen parsley and limped along with it in the winter, brilliant tip thanks.
    Sue

  4. Your onions look, as always, just lovely! I have quite a number of baby shoots coming up, so I am hopeful 🙂
    Your little tomatoe plants look like he couple of rogues that are popping up by themselves in my garden! (I have plaves stuff around them to try to protect them a bit as it is Bl**dy cold at the moment!!
    Yummy yummy! I can’t wait for tomato season! I want to try your soup NOW though!

  5. I do love reading your blog, I look forward to it every week. You amaze me how you fit everything in. Your allotment always look brilliant, they are very time consuming. I only have one and I struggle to keep on top of that with both me and and husband working on it, although I would much rather be down at the lottie than doing housework (is that bad?). Will definately try your tomato soup, sounds lovely. It has been a brilliant year hasn’t it for fruit and veg after last years disappointing results. You always inspire me and we are definately on the same wave length. I hate waste, not much goes in the bin in our household. My large chest freezer is bulging at the seams at the moment, but I know when winter comes I could live out of the freezer for quite a few months. Well done, keep on blogging.

    • Comments like your make blogging seem worthwhile, thank you for that.

      Housework or working down the allotment?….I know which I would choose everytime lol. Our house is just a three bedroom semi so it doesn’t take too much to keep on top of the cleaning, providing everyone puts their things away which doesn’t always happen lol. What I do lag behind with are ‘spring cleaning’ jobs as I never seem to get around to doing them.
      I too hate waste and we like to challenge ourselves to throw away as little food as possible. It just makes sense to do this as I am not adding to landfill sites and it saves money too.

      Anyway, thanks again for your lovely comment.

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