Tag Archive | Winter salads

A Cucamelon Review & Winter Salads

The mornings have been quite chilly this week, feeling very much like autumn is here.

On Wednesday we had some well needed rain overnight and when the sun came out in the early morning it was a beautiful sight, with rains drops glistening around the allotment.

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This week I have been concentrating on my polytunnel, getting it ready for winter.

The crops in my polytunnel had just about finished, except for a few tomatoes (which I will ripen at home) and some peppers and melons that were ready for picking:

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….and I mustn’t forget  the thousand ‘cucamelons’ dangling at me, ready to pick.

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A Quick Cucamelon Review:

Every year I like to grow something different and this year I chose ‘cucamelons’ .  I had read different reports about them and came to the conclusion that they are a bit like ‘marmite’, you either love them or hate them….so I decided to grow them for myself.

  The fruits are grape sized and they are supposed to taste of cucumber with a hint of lime, but I am yet to taste one that actually had the hint of lime in it.  The cucamelon can be eaten whole or chopped up in salads.  The skin has the texture of a sweet pepper, so it has a bite to it….inside it is like a mini cucumber.

They were easy to grow in my polytunnel and after a slow start they started to take over, smothering my tomato plants that grew next to them, but I’ve got to say there were millions of fruits that just kept coming and coming and coming!

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Unfortunately my family didn’t like them and after forcing them at anyone that came into our house, I found that not many other people liked them either.   I didn’t think they were too bad, until I ate quite a few for tea one day and ended up with bad indigestion all night!

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Needless to say, I won’t be growing these again….but we live and learn.

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Winter Salads:

Last month I sowed some winter salads ready for my polytunnel and they have grown quite well and were ready for planting.   However first I needed to clear the crops that were left in my polytunnel:

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One surprise I did find in my polytunnel when I was clearing it, was some carrots that I had completely forgotten about…and they had grown really well.  Carrots can be stored in compost at home until they are needed, but I know these carrots won’t last long in our house as everyone loves them.

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After I had cleared the crops, I forked the soil over and gave the soil a covering of homemade compost.  I also raked in some blood, fish and bone where I would be planting my salads:

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The winter salads that I chose to grow were mizuna, winter lettuce, corn salad, rocket and perpetual spinach.  I also grew some beetroot as a trial, to see if I could use the small leaves over winter in salads (though I’m not expecting to grow a decent sized root).

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After planting the above crops I gave them a good watering and I must say the polytunnel did look different….another reminder that autumn is here:

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One of the things I have learnt from bitter experience, whether you grow plants in a cloche, a greenhouse or a polytunnel, you need to provide ventilation during the autumn or winter months.  If you don’t then the humid conditions will be a breeding ground for grey mould, which will smother and kill your plants.  So on fine days I open the doors on my polytunnel throughout the winter months.

“Grey mould is caused by a fungus called ‘Botrytis cinerea’ which can infect plants at any time of the year.  It can enter a plant through a wound or infect a weak  plant under stress.  It will also infect healthy plants in humid conditions”.

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At home this week I have continued to use up my ripening tomatoes to make soup and passata…

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 …and I only have a few left to use now, which again shows me that Autumn is here and the wonderful harvest of summer is nearly behind us.

Now it’s the time that the Autumn harvest of pumpkins, butternut squashes, apples etc. begins.  The nights start to draw in and the leaves on the trees begin to fall.

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This is my favourite time of year when I start to reflect on my gardening year and work out what crops have been a success and which haven’t.  It’s the time of the year when things start to slow down slightly at the allotment, giving me time to breathe and admier the late summer flowers on my plot.

When I work my plot on a crisp Autumn morning it makes me feel glad to be alive.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back next Friday at my usual time. 

 

The Start Of A New Gardening Year.

I thought I’d start today by saying a ‘Big Welcome’ to anyone that has recently started to follow my blog and a big ‘Thank you’ to the Somerset Waste Partnership, who have included a link to my blog on their website here,  I feel most honoured.

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This week there has definitely been a feel of spring in the air, as temperatures have been mild compared to the cold, winter weather that we have had lately.

I have noticed that bulbs are growing nicely, the tiny shoots of my autumn raspberries are forming and unfortunately the weeds are starting to germinate.  In fact, I saw my first dandelion ready to open its yellow flower this week.  This is a stark reminder that the soil is beginning to warm up and spring is on its way and it’s now time to finish winter jobs.

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Before I went on holiday last week, I laid plastic sheeting over the beds that I will soon be planting my onions and shallots in.  This will help to warm the soil nicely for them.

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 I also planted my shallots in newspaper pots and put them in my cold greenhouse, to give them a head start.  Next month when they have rooted, I will plant the shallots, still in their newspaper pots, as the pots will compost down in the soil.  This will also help to stop the birds pulling them up, thinking they are worms.

I will show you how I make the newspaper pots in my  blog post on Monday.

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Also before my holiday, I cut back my Michaelmas Daisys, ready for the year ahead.  They look so unattractive at this time of year and yet they look so beautiful in the autumn and attract many beneficial insects:

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The rhubarb is going nicely now.  I don’t know what variety I have, as I inherited it with the plot, but it is a very early variety.

Two weeks ago I covered some of the rhubarb with a bin to ‘force’ it.  This will give ‘sweet tasting pink stems’ in a few weeks.

The Rhubarb at my plot

The Rhubarb at my plot

This week, I cut back my autumn raspberries to ground level, which is a job I do every February.  Autumn raspberries are treated differently to summer raspberries, as autumn raspberries bear fruit on the new year’s growth, so they can be cut right down to ground level at this time of year.

I have had my autumn raspberries for quite some time and unfortunately they have quite a lot of couch grass and bindweed in amongst them, so I decided it was time to dig them up and start again in a different bed.

I split a few roots and replanted them in a new bed with plenty of compost worked into it and in the next few days I will feed the plants by scattering some sulphate of potash around the roots.  I was very careful not to transport the weeds too.

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Another job I completed this week, was to dig up all my Jerusalem artichokes.  My family love these roasted in olive oil and my daughters eat them like sweets.

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Jerusalem artichokes are one of the easiest vegetables that I know of to grow.  Each February, I dig up any that remain in the soil and replant the biggest ones, approximately 30cm apart and 30cm deep.  Every other year I dig manure into the bed before I replant them and in November, I cut down the old stems so they don’t suffer from the wind dislodging them from the soil.  You can dig them up all through the winter when you need them, as they store really well in the ground and they rarely suffer from any pests or diseases.

One thing to be noted though, is they are thugs and once you have them you will find it hard to get rid of them.  So make sure you plant them in an area away from the rest of your vegetables, or you will regret it.

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Remember the area between my summer raspberries, that I prepared the soil and sowed grass seed in the autumn?…I have now edged it with a plastic ‘Lawn Edge’ from Wilkinson’s and gave it a quick mow on a high setting (as it was so long) and I think it has really made a difference:

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This week I have also opened up my oldest compost heap.  It is now 3½ years old and it contained all types of perrenial weeds.  As you can see all the weeds have completely died off and a beautiful, sweet smelling compost is left.

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This proves that perrennial weeds can be composted, provided they are left long enough to fully decompose.  So many books I have read tell people to burn them, which really isn’t a very environmently friendly thing to do.  This way you are returning them to the ground and adding nutrients into the bargain.

One thing to be noted though, there may be weed seeds in the compost, which is why I quickly hoe off the seedlings as they germinate.

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I spread some of the compost in my polytunnel, after I gave it a quick weed and dug up the last of my turnips and celeriac.

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The winter salads are doing well in the polytunnel and are ready for eating and I planted some ‘leggy’ broadbeans that I couldn’t plant earlier due to the wet weather in January.

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For those who are new to my blog, my dad has a small area on my 4th, newest plot.  He had his own allotment for many years, but sadly age caught up with him and a full plot became far too much to manage.  Last Spring, he asked if he could possibly have a small part of my plot to look after and I thought this was a great idea, as I can make sure he doesn’t do too much.

  I love it with him there.

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April 2012

So finally this week, I bought our old garden chair from our back garden at home.  I put it in a small area next to my dads patch, so he can sit down when he is tired.  I made a little table out of bricks and an old piece of crazy paving, so he now has somewhere to put his flask of coffee when he sits down.

I finished it off with some left over woodchip and I think he will be pleased when he sees it.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 6pm.

Winter Salads And An Egg Free, Dairy Free Cake

At my allotment this weekend, I planted some winter lettuces, winter hardy spring onions, corn salad and mizuna in my polytunnel.  I’m hoping to use some of these during the winter in salads and again in the spring.

It’s still warm in my polytunnel in the day, so I’m hoping they will have a growth spurt before winter.

My husband helped me to bring home my daughter’s rather large pumpkin and the butternut squashes I have grown this year.

The pumpkin weighed 55 lbs, so unfortunately we didn’t beat our record of 76 lbs.

 I have put the squashes in our greenhouse at home, so they can continue to ‘cure’ in the sun, so they will store into the winter time.

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A week of Dairy Free / Egg Free Recipes:

Firstly… My daughter’s dairy intolerance:

Gradually over two years, my daughter had more and more episodes of feeling sick, tummy aches and generally feeling ill.

We visited the doctors several times and each time we were told it was something different, including indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome and even puberty that was causing it.

In August 2011, thanks to my sister, we finally put two and two together and realised it was dairy products causing the problem.  My daughter was referred to hospital and it was found she was severely lactose intolerant.  Since then we have also found she can only tolerate a small amount of dairy products with the lactose taken out of them.

As with all people who have allergies and intolerances, I visited the ‘Free From’ aisles at the supermarkets and was taken aback by how expensive these items are.  After trying some of these items, I was also taken back by how awful some of these are.

As an example, Tesco’s own ‘Free From’ jam tarts are £2.00 for a box of six jam tarts:

I bought these a few weeks ago as my daughter had some friends for tea unexpectedly.

Below is a jam tart from the box I bought:

As you can see, I think there must have been a jam shortage on the day they made these at the factory.

 I learnt my lesson, as surprise surprise, they didn’t get eaten.

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A year after she was diagnosed, thankfully I have realised that I can actually make nearly everything she used to enjoy to eat, from scratch and things I make do actually taste normal, using the following ingredients:

Soya Milk, Lactose Free Milk and Pure Margarine

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A couple of months ago we had our fascia’s and guttering replaced by a company called  ‘J P Property Improvements’.  They did a wonderful job and were really nice chaps.  I made them some biscuits for them to have on their tea break and we got talking about my daughters dairy intolerance and it turns out that the boss’s daughter also has a dairy intolerance and an egg allergy.

He went on to say his daughter would love a proper birthday cake but they know this is impossible, as all the recipes they have tried for an egg free cake haven’t been very good.

As you have probably realised by now, I like a challenge and I have now made a dairy free / egg free cake that I think their daughter would love.

We are very lucky in Leicester as there is a shop that I regularly use, that sells dairy free, gluten free, wheat free etc. You can visit her website here.  Rosi managed to get me an egg replacement to use in my cake:

All I had to do, was mix one teaspoon of the egg replacement powder with one tablespoon of water per egg required.

I did find that the cakes do not rise as well with the egg replacement, so I added an extra teaspoon of baking powder and I actually made extra mix to make a third layer.

I used the same recipe I used for my husbands birthday cake.  You can find the recipe here.

I used the Pure dairy free margarine and I replaced the eggs with the egg replacement.  I also used soya milk to get the dropping consistancy.

For the chocolate sponge layer, I added one tablespoon of cocoa powder to the mix and I didn’t use the vanilla extract.

I think the cake is more crumbly than a normal cake but it does taste the same.

I sandwiched the layers together with jam:

I then covered the cake with a dairy free chocolate frosting, which again was the same one I used on my husbands birthday cake, here.  I used the Pure dairy free margarine instead of normal margarine.

I decorated the cake using grated dairy free chocolate and dairy free chocolate buttons:

Both the dairy free chocolate and buttons can easily be bought from supermarkets.

The cake is still fairly cheap to make, even with all the alternative ingredients and it tastes really nice too.

I’m hoping his daughter was really pleased with it:

An Egg Free, Dairy Free Cake

Thank you for reading my blog today.