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A Pitta Bread Recipe & Sad Potatoes

It’s been a strange week at the allotment as there has been some lovely ‘highs’ and one massive ‘low’ which I’ll tell you about in a minute.

The highs first…..The produce is coming thick and fast and I am picking peas, podding them and blanching them as soon as possible (and I’ve still not managed the one hour turn around that ‘Birds Eye’ do, lol)….but they still taste delicious!…together with the mange tout that my husband and youngest daughter fight over when I cook them for dinner.

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I’m picking salads crops almost daily now and I can honestly say they taste far better than supermarket salads, that don’t seem to have any taste.

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The cucumber in the photo is from a spare plant that I put in my polytunnel at the allotment and it has been producing cucmbers for about a month now.  The plant was grown at exactly the same time as the other three plants that I have in my greenhouse at home, but this plant is far further forward than the others.

It could be that this plant was planted into the ground in my polytunnel (the greenhouse plants are in pots), or it could be I have shading over my greenhouse at home which has slowed the growth?….I will probably never know.

My greenhouse cucumbers

My greenhouse cucumbers

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This week I picked my first beetroot and boiled it for a salad tea.  It was so sweet!

These are the beetroot that I sowed in newspaper pots back on the 8th April and transplanted to my allotment a few weeks ago.  I have read that beetroot dosen’t like to be transplanted, but by growing it in newspaper pots there is no root disturbance and they can be sown earlier, before the ground has warmed up.

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I’ve also been picking my first gherkins from my polytunnel.  This year I haven’t grown so many as I find that they don’t last too long when you pickle them.  So I have only grown enough for a few jars over summer.

I pickled my first crop this week.  It’s really easy to pickle gherkins and I wrote how to do it here if anyone is interested.

Gherkins that I pickled this week

Gherkins that I pickled this week

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One thing I did at the allotment this week (with Mr Thrift’s help) was to start a new compost area.  I have a problem with rats in my compost bins over winter, so I decided to put my bins on slabs to see if this may help.  We laid some spare slabs in the utility area and I will start to gradually move my dalek compost bins over each time I empty one.

These bins are where I put my peelings, etc.

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And now for this weeks allotment ‘low’…..my potatoes have succumbed to the dreaded ‘blight’!

I didn’t spot it at first and dug up my first potatoes of the year (which incidently were mouth wateringly delicious):

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These are my second early potatoes called ‘Marfona’.  As you can see they are still quite small, as these actually grow much bigger and can be used as baking potatoes.

…..But then I spotted the tell tale signs of blight!

First I spotted the marks on the leaves:

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And when I looked underneath I found a couple of stems where it had spread:

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There was no doubt about it….it was blight.

I always find potato growing such hard work and it is so disappointing when this happens!

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Blight is a wind blown fungus that can travel long distances.  It spreads when the temperature is above 10C and the humidity is above 75% for two consecutive days, known as a ‘Smith Period’.   In the UK outbreaks can occur from June onwards and apparently it is usually seen in the south west first.

The early stages of blight can be easily missed and not all plants are affected at the same time, however it will spread rapidly.

Symptoms usually seen are brown patches that appear on the leaves and stems and spread very rapidly.

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I noticed that the blight had only spread over half of my ‘picasso’ potatoes (early main crop) and half of my ‘marfona’ potato crop (2nd early), but I know it spreads really quickly.

If you catch blight early enough you can stop the fungus from going down into the potatoes by cutting off all the foliage, so none of it is above the soil and then leaving the potatoes underground for at least two weeks without digging them up (so hopefully they are protected).

So this is what I did.

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Unfortuanately, my potatoes won’t grow any bigger now, but I will be happy with the potatoes I have if this saves them.

Incidentally, you CAN put the blighted top growth in your compost as blight can not live on dead plant material….but it will survive in the seed (i.e.potato) which is another reason to use fresh seed potatoes each year and dig up any ‘volunteers’ that grow around your plot.

I noticed that my ‘desiree’ potatoes and tomatoes that are growing in a different patch have not yet been affected, so I will be monitoring them very, very closely.

One thing I am wondering, is when I used the ‘Nemaslug’ (nemotodes) for the first time last month as a trial, I had to keep the soil moist for two weeks (which I wasn’t happy about at the time as it was a lot of work).  I wonder if all my watering increased the chance of blight as the leaves were continually wetted for two weeks?….I suppose I will never know.

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At home this week….

I cleaned three old photo frames using bi-carb, water and an old toothbrush.  And they came up lovely.

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I also sowed up a hole in my old ‘comfy’ trousers, which will keep them going a bit longer.

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And I decided to make some pitta bread at the weekend to go with my homemade houmous.

So it has been a good frugal week.

I realised I haven’t shared my pitta bread recipe with you before.  I use my breadmaker to knead the dough, but you can just as easily knead it yourself.

I hope this easy recipe will help someone out there:

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Pitta Bread

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500 grams strong white flour

2 teaspoons of fast action dried yeast

25 grams margarine or butter

½ teaspoon salt

310 ml water

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Put all the above ingredients into your breadmaker on a ‘dough’ setting or ‘pizza dough’ setting.

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When the dough is ready, preheat your oven Gas 7 / 425F /220C.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a rough ball.

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On a floured board, use a rolling pin to make oval shapes approx. 4″ x 8″

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Put them on a greased baking sheet.

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Put in the oven for 5 mins and then turn them over and for a further 5 mins until they are cooked.

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Wrap them in a tea towel to keep them soft and warm if you aren’t quite ready to eat them.

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Enjoy with home made houmous (recipe here).

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

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How to Make Newspaper Plant Pots

It has been a showery week at my allotment.  On Tuesday it lashed down with rain for half an hour and even hailed.  I sat in my car and had lunch watching it, but soon afterwards the sun was shining again:

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Yesterday was officially the first day of spring and spring flowers are looking beautiful.  I noticed my Hyacinths at my allotment are flowering lovely in my flower patch.  I bought these bulbs for just 10p in a sale, approximately four or five years ago and they have given a good show each spring:

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This week I have been concentrating on tidying up last year’s brassica beds, where I will shortly be planting my shallots and onions.

I started by digging up my remaining brussells and freezing them. I am very pleased with my sprouts this year, they are an F1 variety called ‘Igor’.  For years I couldn’t grow sprouts without them ‘blowing’ (which means loose, open sprouts), even though I tried everything that the experts told me to do.  In the end, I tried growing an F1 variety and I now have success:

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I washed and prepared the brussells, blanched them and then ‘open froze’ them (if you are unsure how to freeze vegetables, you can read about it here).

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I also lifted my remaining swedes this week.  I have lots of people tell me that their swedes become ‘woody’ if they leave them in the ground too long.  I have never had this problem, but I have read that two reasons for ‘woody’ swedes are either a lack of water at some stage while they are growing or a lack of nutrients in the soil.  I must admit I only ever water mine if it’s really, really dry, but I do plant mine where I have manured the autumn before and I give the ground a feed of blood, fish and bone a couple of weeks before I plant my swedes out (I sow my swedes in mid-April in newspaper pots).

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I noticed the kale at my allotment is about to flower.  It usually lasts a bit longer before it flowers, but I can only assume it is because it has been mild for the last couple of weeks.  I chopped the flower buds off in the hope it will last a bit longer as it doesn’t freeze very well and I have so much of it left for us to eat.

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I also noticed that my spring broccoli is nearly ready to pick (my youngest daughter will be pleased as it is her favourite vegetable):

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I spent time this week making the edges of my paths neat, where my ‘poached egg plants’ grow.  I love the poached egg plants I have, as they have a pretty flower (that looks like a poached egg) and they attract hoverflies which eat aphids. They also attract lots of bees too:

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But on top of this, the plants are also useful, as excess plants can be dug into the soil like a green manure.  So I think it is a very useful plant to grow and self seeds easily every year.

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Finally this week at the allotment, I forked my old brassica beds over lightly, ready for this years crops:

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At home this week I sowed some spring onions.

We all have one crop that we can’t grow at our allotment and Spring onions is my crop.  I always found that hardly any seeds would germinate, even though Spring onions are supposed to be so easy to grow.  I eventually learnt a trick to get around this…I plant a small pinch of seed into modules full of compost, which I grow on until they are a couple of inches high.  I then plant them out in bunches and they grow just fine this way:

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 I also spent time ‘pricking out’ my seedlings that I sowed on the 6th March.  These are red cabbage, white cabbage and some brussel sprouts.

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I planted the seedlings in paper pots that I made:

Newspaper Pots

Newspaper pots are great to make as they are extremely cheap and environmetally friendly to use, as the recycled materials decompose when you put them in the ground.  This also helps the plants that do not like root disturbance, e.g. swedes, that can be sown in the pots and then planted a few weeks later, still in the newspaper pots.  The plants find it easy to grow their roots through the damp pots when they are in the ground.

I was once asked if I used a special tool to make my newspaper plant pots…the answer is “no”.  You can buy a ‘Newspaper Pot Maker’ for approximately £10, but I prefer to make my pots using either a baked bean tin, or a soya sauce bottle, depending on the size of pot that I require and some masking tape…(the masking tape decomposes along with the newspaper in the ground).

I thought it would be useful to write how I make the pots again, as I have a lot of new people reading my blog now.  So this is how I make easy newspaper pots:

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How To Make Newspaper Pots:

 

You need a newspaper, some masking tape and a soya sauce bottle for small pots or a baked bean tin for larger pots

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Fold a sheet of newspaper into thirds

(if the newspaper is very large you may need to fold the sheet in half first)

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Roll the paper around the bottle, so the newspaper is over lapping the base of the bottle

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Ensure you don’t roll the newspaper too tightly, or it will be hard to remove the paper from the bottle.

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Use a small piece of masking tape to secure the paper at the top and then fold in the newspaper over the bottom of the bottle.

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Secure the bottom of the pot with a small piece of masking tape.

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You can use different sized tins and bottles depending on the size of pot required.  For example, I use a baked bean tin to make pots ready for when I ‘prick out’ my tomato plants.

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I find it’s best to make the pots and use them straight away, as sometimes the masking tape becomes ‘unstuck’ if you make them too far in advance.

Important:

When your plant is ready to go into the ground, make sure all of the newspaper is under the soil, or the paper will act like a wick and dry the compost out.

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I hope this has been useful.

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

Have a good weekend!

Fast Food At Home…A Microwaved Syrup Sponge Recipe

This week has been really busy.

I started by sorting my three freezers out.  When we were moving our freezers, I must admit I just rammed everything in anyhow, so they really did need sorting as I hadn’t a clue what we had in them…which is not good for meal planning.

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So I took everything out and put it all back in a reasonable order:

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I did this with all three freezers and wrote a list of what was in each freezer

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I need to start meal planning now at the weekend to make sure I don’t over spend on my food budget.

One thing I did find in my freezer contents was a bag of left over vegetables.  Everytime I have left over cooked vegetables after a meal, I freeze them.  When I have enough, I make a ‘use it up curry’.   So this is what we had for tea on Thursday:

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I’ve also been preparing for my youngest daughters birthday yesterday.  I can’t quite believe she is now fourteen…where did time go to?  It only seems like yesterday that I was holding her in my arms when she was just a few hours old…and now she is growing into a beautiful young lady before my eyes.

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So on Wednesday I made a dairyfree cake for her birthday (as she is dairy intolerant).  She asked for a chocolate cake with jam in the middle which is what she always asks for, but I wanted to make it extra special.  I decided to make it two tiers and cover it with dairyfree butter icing.  I used my faithful ‘throw it all in’ cake recipe, which you can find here.  She loved it, so I was really pleased:

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It didn’t look quite as good as I had hoped, but it looked great when it was sliced:

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My daughter invited a few of her close friends for tea yesterday.  When my girls were growing up I really hated ‘party bags’ with plastic rubbish in them, that got tossed away within a few minutes of opening the bags.  I felt it was such a waste of money.  So over the years I have made or bought things in the sales that I thought would actually get used, or I have sometimes made individual decorated cakes and bagged them up separately so they looked really special.

This year I thought my daughter would like something a little bit more grown up, so I bought little boxes of Cadburys Roses (they cost me £1 each in the sale) and I ‘poshed’ them up with cellophane and ribbon and a little note which ‘thanked’ her friends for celebrating her birthday with her:

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 My daughter had a lovely time with her friends.

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Before I go, I thought I would share a recipe with you that I cooked on Wednesday night.  It was a cold night and it was one of those nights where I just fancied something hot, sweet and filling to eat.  So, I cooked a Microwave Syrup Sponge.  It is so quick and easy to make and far cheaper than nipping out to your local shop to buy something on the spur of the moment:

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Microwaved Syrup Sponge Recipe:

100g margarine or butter, plus some for greasing the bowl

100g granulated sugar

2 eggs

100g self-raising flour

2-3 tablespoons of milk

2 tablespoons of golden syrup

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Beat the margarine and sugar together.

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Add the eggs and beat together.

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Fold in the flour and add enough milk to achieve dropping consistency

 (so it drops off the spoon easily).

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Grease a microwave bowl with margarine.

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Drop the syrup in the bottom of the bowl and put the mixture on top.

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Cover the bowl with a small plate or Microwave Clingfilm, leaving a small gap for the steam to escape.

Microwave on ‘high’ for 8 minutes (based on an 700W microwave).

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Leave to stand for a couple of minutes before turning it out.

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Serve with custard or ice-cream.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

Preserving And Storing Crops – Part Two

Today I thought I would write about freezing our excess crops.

Last Friday I wrote about ‘Simple Living In The Modern day’.   The freezer is a modern day appliance that makes life a lot easier for us, as we now have the luxury of being able to bulk buy, cook ahead, batch bake and preserve our excess crops (or bargains from the supermarket).

One of my three freezers

One of my three freezers

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The first electric freezers were manufactured in 1945, but I remember it wasn’t until the 1970’s that my family had one.  I remember at this time, ‘freezer centres’ sprung up all over the place.  This revolutionised the way we preserve our food, as we can now store most crops in our freezers.  In fact we have three freezers that are usually fit to busting at this time of the year.

    The only two drawbacks with freezers after paying for the freezer in the first place, is they run on electricity, which costs money and if they lose power for long periods (i.e. in more rural areas in winter) the food inside will perish. 

I find the amount I save by using my ‘A- rated’ freezers to preserve my crops, outweighs how much it costs to run them and I am lucky that we live in a town as so far we haven’t lost power for more than a few hours at any time.

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In event of a power failure, a full freezer should stay frozen for up to 24 hours, provided you don’t open it to check, as warm air will speed up the thawing process.  A half full freezer should stay frozen for up to 12 hours, but it’s important you check your own freezer manual.

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Another one of my freezers

Another one of my freezers

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Freezing is easy as most vegetables just need ‘blanching’ for a minute or two before freezing.  I always thought that blanching increased the length of time you can store the produce (though I know not everyone blanches their vegetables before freezing and they seem to be fine).  However, after researching this I have found the following on ‘Wiki Answers’:

“Blanching slows or stops the action of enzymes. Up until harvest time, enzymes cause vegetables to grow and mature. If vegetables are not blanched, or blanching is not long enough, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage causing off-colours, off-flavours and toughening.”

I have now learnt something new.

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As regards to fruit, I never blanch my excess fruit and we have fruit all year round to add to yoghurts, ice-creams, pies etc. though it must be noted it does go soft and a bit mushy when it’s defrosted but it’s fine to eat.  The only exception to this is apples as they go brown if you freeze them without blanching (though I have frozen bags of un-blanched crab apples, washed, top and tailed ready for crab apple jelly and they work fine).

 

My Fruit freezer

My Fruit freezer

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How to blanch vegetables:

…Add your vegetables to a pan of boiling water and then bring the water back to boiling point again and then boil the vegetables for the recommended time (usually 1 or 2 minutes depending on size and particular vegetable).  Drain the vegetables and immediately plunge them into very cold water, to stop the cooking process.

(I have a freezer book that tells me how long to blanch each vegetable for, but you can find the recommended blanching times on the internet these days).

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What Is Open Freezing?

This is a way to stop all the vegetables in a freezer bag from sticking together in one great big lump, so it’s easy to remove a few at a time e.g. a portion of peas when you need them.

 When you have blanched your vegetables, lay them on a tray and freeze them.  When they are frozen, remove them from the tray and pop them into a freezer bag/container and put them back into your freezer.

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Open freezing currants

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A Few Of My Top Tips For Freezing Fruit And Vegetables:

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Nearly every fruit and vegetable can be frozen in some way or another, it’s just a matter of finding out what works best for you.

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  • Courgettes can be frozen ready sliced, by open freezing them and then bagged up ready to add to spaghetti bolognaise, pasta sauces etc. or they can be grated and bagged up in 340g bags, ready to add to cheesy courgette scones.
Open freezing courgettes

Open freezing courgettes

  • Tomatoes can be frozen in bags (without blanching), ready to make tomato soup at a later day.  I just wash them and chop them in half and bag them up in the weight required for your recipe.
A bag of tomatoes ready for soup

A bag of tomatoes frozen ready for soup

  • Tomatoes can also be cooked with a little bit of water and then ‘blitz’ with a liquidizer to make a tomato sauce to use in pasta sauces, spag bogs etc. instead of using shop bought passata.  I freeze this in ready weighed out portions of 500 grams and I just defrost it before using.

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  • I find pumpkin is better to cook first and freeze in bags ready weighed out.  This way it can be added to soups and cakes etc. and it takes up far less room.

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When I need to dig up my winter crops (i.e. my leeks and parsnips) to prepare the soil for my next crops, I freeze them:

  • I wash and slice up my leeks and bag them up (again in useable quantities) and then freeze them.  Leeks and onions can make other things in your freezer smell, so I do wrap them up well in newspaper first, to prevent this.

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  • I wash and peel my parsnips and cut them ready for ‘roasting’.  I then open freeze them, without blanching and then pop them into a freezer bag.  They are great to use straight from frozen and make Sunday lunch easier to cook.

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  • I also quite often freeze excess fruit the day I pick it (e.g. Strawberries, gooseberries, currants, plums, rhubarb etc.).  I use the fruit to make jam when I have more time in the winter, by adding the frozen fruit straight into the pan.

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  • Sweet corn is delicious when it has been picked and eaten within the hour.  I blanch my sweet corn whole and freeze it in bags of four or five corn on the cobs.  It is lovely to eat this in the depths of winter.

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  • I Trim off the leaves of parsley and wash them.  I put the lot in a freezer bag and freeze.  I use it from frozen by crumbling it into my meals as I cook them.

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  • Just before my Jerusalem artichokes start to sprout in March/April time, I freeze them.  I wash and cut them ready for ‘roasting’.  I open freeze them, without blanching and then pop them into a freezer bag.  They are great to use straight from frozen and again they make Sunday lunch easier to cook.

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  • I slice my cooked beetroot and open freeze and then pop it into bags ready for use.  This gives an alternative to pickled beetroot and can also be used in a chocolate beetroot cake. 
Beetroot ready to freeze

Beetroot ready to freeze

  • I use my freezer to freeze individual plastic bottles of apple juice that I press myself.  It’s easy to pop a bottle in my daughters lunchbox in the morning and it defrosts by lunchtime, keeping her lunch box cold until then:

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I can honestly say the only fruit or vegetables I haven’t frozen in some way or another is cucumbers and lettuce as they don’t freeze very well.  Although cucmbers and lettuce can be used in a gardener’s soup, which so far I haven’t tried to make yet, but with the amount of cucumbers I picked yesterday, I may just have a go!

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I couldn’t be without our freezers as they make my life so much easier to store my excess produce.  I wonder if anyone reading this has any top tips for freezing excess fruit and vegetables too?  If so I would love you to hear from you.

On Monday I will be writing my usual monthly post ‘What to do in the kitchen garden in September’ and I will follow this next Friday with ‘Preserving And Storing Our Crops – Part 3’.

Tuesdays harvest

Tuesdays harvest

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back again on Monday at the usual time.

What Do You Do With Hundreds Of Courgettes?

I always look forward to the first courgette of the year as it means summer really is here.  I get excited watching it grow, waiting for the day I can pick it:

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When I do pick it, I nearly always use it in a lovely courgette, onion and cheese omelette and we always comment on how lovely it is to have the courgettes at last, as it seems such a long time since we last picked them the year before.

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The first couple of weeks are like a ‘courgette honeymoon’, as it’s so lovely to use them in our summer meals.

Every day I check for more courgettes on my plants and the plants keep producing them.  They just keep coming…

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…and coming…

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…and coming…

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…and coming!

In fact by mid-summer they seem to be laughing at me and ‘popping out’ overnight from where they have been hiding and every basket of goodies havested at the allotment has a least a couple of courgettes in:

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So what on earth can you do with all the courgettes that you pick?

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I have read quite a few articles in books and magazines on this subject, but half the recipes I’ve read are not really realistic for everyday meals, or are really time consuming recipes (and I haven’t got too much time to cook the courgettes as I’m too busy picking them).

So I thought I would talk about what I do with the millions of courgettes that I grow:-

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I use courgettes in everyday meals like pasta bolognaise, curries and chilli’s…

Pasta Bolognaise

Pasta Bolognaise

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I also use them in pies like my Chicken, Courgette and Broccoli Pie.  You can find the recipe here.

Chicken, Courgette and Broccoli Pie

Chicken, Courgette and Broccoli Pie

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Courgette Frittata’s are nice too.  The recipe is here.

Courgette Frittata

Courgette Frittata

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I also add them in the Pasta / Pizza Sauce recipe I make.  After it is cooked I whizz the sauce up with my stick blender and no one ever knows and then I use my sauce as normal.  You can find my pasta / pizza sauce recipe here.

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Courgette chutney is one of my favourite chutneys.  I use this recipe, but replace the scallopini’s (patty pans) with courgettes.  It keeps for ages and is lovely served with cold meats and on sandwiches.

Courgette Chutney

Courgette Chutney

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I also use courgettes to make savoury scones.  Cheese and courgette scones are absolutely delicious and can be frozen ready to pop into lunch boxes in the morning, before work and school.  The recipe for cheese and courgette scones is here.

Cheese and Courgette Scones

Cheese and Courgette Scones

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One of the favourite things I make with courgettes is a Chocolate Courgette Tray Bake Cake.  No one ever knows the cake has courgettes in and this way the kids get a few extra vitamins, without realising it.  The recipe is here.

Chocolate Courgette Tray Bake Cake

Chocolate Courgette Tray Bake Cake

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One other thing I do with my courgettes is to freeze them.  I have a bag of sliced courgettes and diced courgettes which I open freeze on trays before bagging up, so they don’t stick together.  I never blanch my courgettes first and they always seem to be ok for use over the winter.

I also bag up grated courgettes in the exact quantities ready to make the courgette cheese scones.  This way I can just take a bag out of the freezer the night before, to defrost ready to make the scones.

Courgettes sliced and diced ready for freezing

Courgettes sliced and diced ready for freezing

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Finally, I use the courgettes in different soups.  A particularly nice soup is a Courgette, Potato and Cheese soup.  The recipe is below:

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Courgette, Potato And Cheese Soup

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500g potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces

1 pint of vegetable stock

1 kg of courgettes, washed and chopped into small pieces

1 bunch of spring onions, washed and sliced small

100g grated cheese

Salt and pepper

Ground nutmeg to serve.

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Put the potatoes into a large pan, cover with the vegetable stock and bring it to the boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the courgettes and simmer for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Put a few spring onions aside to garnish the soup when you serve it.  Put the remaining spring onions in the pan and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

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Add the cheese, stirring it until it has melted.

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Take the pan off the heat and use a stick blender or liquidiser to smooth the soup.

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Return the pan to the heat and bring back to the boil, adding salt and pepper as required.

Serve the soup with a sprinkling of ground nutmeg and garnish with the remaining spring onions.

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I hope you enjoyed my blog today.  If you do anything different with your courgettes, it would be lovely to hear from you, so please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

I’ll be back on Friday at 4pm.

Have a good week.

Fruit, Fruit And More Fruit

The weather has been wonderful this week, which has made it quite difficult to work down at the allotment as most days it has been too hot to do anything….but I’m certainly not complaining.

One of my two lavender hedges that line my two paths

One of my two lavender hedges that line my two paths

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I have hoed a little bit this week and tied my outdoor cucumbers up.   I also tied my tomato plants up and continued to ‘nip’ off their side shoots.  I gave them a good water with my homemade comfrey feed too, as the first little tomatoes are forming on each plant.  If the weather stays like this for a while, it will keep the dreaded ‘blight’ away and just maybe we will get a good crop.

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I noticed the outdoor grapes vines that I planted last year are beginning to take shape.  I am training them on a post and wire support:

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I also noticed my first little patty pans are growing and my first courgette.  I always get excited when I spot my first courgette of the year, even though I know I will be fed up with them when so many follow afterwards.

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The flowers on my plot are doing well now and I have noticed that my calendulas are beginning to flower in ‘calendula alley’ next to my polytunnel (I call it this as it is the path I use to get to my fruit trees and it was also covered in beautiful calendula’s last year).

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My sweet peas are growing well too, but my dad’s are looking even nicer in his patch at the front of my allotment:

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My wild flowers are doing well and are a hive of activity with all the bees and insects buzzing around.

My neighbour has kindly let me take a photograph of his wildflowers, to show you all.  It is the first time he has grown a wildflower patch and I think they are looking really beautiful….if you are reading this Julian, you should be proud of it.  It’s great to know we are helping the bee population at our allotment site.  I hope more people follow suit:

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Most of this week has been spent picking the fruit and vegetables I have grown.  In fact, my thumbs now hurt from shelling all the peas and broad beans.    It really seems to be is a bumper year so far, even though things are a little late coming.

I am finding that after a long wait, the fruit all seems to be coming at once!

I’m still picking strawberries and we have all eaten so many over the last two weeks that my whole family must have a ‘strawberry glow’.  I have given lots away and also made my first lot of strawberry jam of the summer this week, which i have been sharing with my allotment friends.

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I picked my last lot of rhubarb for this year.  It’s best to stop picking rhubarb at the beginning of July so it can build up its energy stores after this, ready for winter.

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This week I found my white currants and red currants were also ready to pick.  I also found a few black currants ready to pick too.

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I’ve got to say, I really hate picking and preparing currants, as they are so fiddly and I hate pulling the little green stalks out, but my daughters love them so it is all worthwhile.

I froze most of the currants by ‘open freezing’ on a tray before putting them into a bag when they were frozen.  I’ve got to say that when they were frozen, they looked like little jewels glistening on my tray.  They looked too good to eat.

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I’m starting to harvest my raspberries this week, but I think I ate more than I actually picked as I really love them:

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Also this week I found my gooseberries were ready, so I picked all of these too.  You can see them in the smaller basket at the bottom of the photo:

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We have been eating so many of the fruit and vegetables that I picked this week, but I am also freezing the surplus ready for the long, cold winter.  During these bleak and dreary days I use the fruit to make pies, crumbles, jams, jellies cordials etc. and it’s lovely to be reminded of summer again when it’s cold outside.

I didn’t quite realise how many bags of fruit and vegetables that I had frozen this week, until I looked yesterday.  I have three bags of broad beans, 1½ bags of peas, a small bag of mangetout, one bag of rhubarb, one bag of gooseberries, one bag of mixed currants and an astounding eight bags of strawberries!…but I am confident it will all get used before next summer, it’s a good job we have three freezers.

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Gooseberries are a fruit that I used to eat like cherries when I was a child (just like my daughters still do), but now I can’t eat them unless they are cooked as my taste must have changed over the years.

A lovely way to use gooseberries is to make a gooseberry fool.  It is a very easy recipe (I only post easy / simple recipes on my blog) and it tastes absolutely delicious.

If you need to look back at this recipe, or any other recipe, just click the word ‘recipe’ at the top of my blog and all my recipes will appear listed on a page, ready for you to ‘click’ on for easy access.

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A Gooseberry Fool Recipe

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2 large handfuls of gooseberries (washed, topped and tailed)

5 or 6 digestive biscuits

150g low fat Greek yoghurt

90 ml double cream

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of caster sugar

A little bit of grated chocolate to serve.

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Put the gooseberries and granulated sugar into a saucepan.

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Cook over a low heat for approximately five minutes, stirring all the time, until the mixture thickens.

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Chill the sugar and gooseberry mix in the fridge for about an hour.

Whip the cream and caster sugar until it just holds the ‘peaks’ when you take your whisk out.

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Fold in the Greek yoghurt and gooseberry sugar mix.

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Crush the digestive biscuits in a bag, by bashing with a rolling pin.

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Put the biscuit crumbs into the bottom of four small dishes.

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Top the biscuit crumbs with the gooseberry mix.

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Leave the dishes in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill.

Just before serving, grate a little chocolate over the top for show.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 4pm.  Have a good weekend and enjoy the good weather!

Completing Planting And A Bumper Harvest

I have so much to write about today, as I have been working so hard at my allotment this week.  I wanted to finish planting all my crops before the long school holidays begin, in exactly one weeks time.  The schools here in Leicestershire break up earlier than the rest of the country.

I started by planted some more perpetual spinach:

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….And some more spring onions.  I sow my spring onions in modules as I always had a very bad germination rate when I sowed them straight into the ground (though I don’t know why as they are supposed to be an easy plant to grow).  By sowing a few seeds in each module, I find it almost guarantees a high germination rate.  I don’t thin the spring onions either, I just plant them as they are when they are ready:

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In the right hand photograph above, you can just see the newly planted spring onions and you can see the ones I planted out three or four weeks ago growing nicely behind.

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I also planted out my spring broccoli, curly kale and some more khol rabi.  All of the brassicas were planted in firm soil which I had dug and manured last autumn.  I also walked over the area before planting.

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As the ground was dry when I planted the brassicas out, I dug a hole for each plant and filled it with water.  When the water had drained away, I then planted them.  This allows the water to go deep into the ground to encourage the roots to also grow deep to find the water.  It also helps to stop the water from evaporating quickly after planting.

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I also planted some quick growing turnips too, but you may have to enlarge the photograph below to see them:

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All my brassicas have nets over, to stop the dreaded pigeons eating them.

While I was working in my brassica patch, I removed any yellowing leaves from my remaining spring cabbages. This will help to stop the build up of any pests or diseases lurking in them.  These cabbages were planted a month after my first spring cabbages and they are now starting to heart up nicely, so I will start to use these now.

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I have now officially ran out of room in my brassica beds and so I can finally say I have finished my summer brassica planting:

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This week I cut my comfrey down.  I prefer to cut my comfrey down before it flowers, but I just wasn’t quick enough this month.  If you have been reading regularly, you will know that I have already made comfrey tea this year (which incidentally is a wonderful high potash fertiliser used for all fruit and flowers e.g. it is a great tomato feed).  You can read how to make comfrey tea here.

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I have also added a vast amount of comfrey to my compost bins already this year.  So when I cut it down at this time of the year, I lay it down between my main crop potatoes instead.  This acts as a mulch to help to stop water evapourating from the ground and also helps to stop annual weeds from germinating.  When the comfrey breaks down, I just dig it into the ground to add nutrients to the soil.

I think comfrey is a wonderful plant!

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This week  I also cleared my old perpetual spinach that had ran to seed and planted my french beans in it’s place:

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I cleared my broad beans in my polytunnel that had finished producing beans:

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And I cleared my poached egg plants that had finally finished flowering either side of my path.  I transplanted some self seeded calendula plants in it’s place, though it looks quite bare at the moment it will soon grow and look pretty and be a bonus for the bees:

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Another thing I have started to do is to ‘nip’ the tops of my runnerbeans off as they reach the top of their supports.  This helps the plants to ‘bush out’ further down and produce more beans:

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This week’s harvest:

Plants have been growing slowly due to the cold spring we have had.  However, the plants are finally now producing and I seem to be having a bumper harvest.

I’ve started to pick my outdoor broadbeans this week and I have needed to pick them every other day:

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I have found my peas are just great, even though they a month behind.  My back has ached just picking them:

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So too is the mangetout (even though some are a little larger than I would have liked, as I didn’t notice they were ready):

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My potatoes taste delicious (especially with a knob of butter) and we are eating lots of lettuces, watercress and spring onions….I love summer so much.

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And my strawberries…well what can I say other than it really is a bumper crop and I’m picking carrier bags full every two days:

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Of course the down side is that I had to defrost my freezer ready for all the fruit and vegetables that I have been bringing home….

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.,….but it will be worth it when we are still tasting ‘summer’ in the long cold winter months.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday with some Jam making tips.

Hope you have a good weekend.