Archive for the ‘Carrots’ Category

I have a confession to make.  It is at least a month since I have even got to either allotment – I have just been too busy, too ill or too lazy.  I have spent the summer gallivanting around and have loved every minute of shirking my duties.   Jamie has been running there as part of his evening run to keep it ticking over, and he had reassured me that they looked okay (ish).

Today I got the shock of my life when I revisited them both.  All the crops that I had carefully sown have gone to seed or been overgrown, and generally looked very neglected.  This cabbage sums up the damage:

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The plot now needs some serious weeding and replanting for next year.

Despite the complete wasteland that the allotment seemed, I was still able to bring home some great picks of the day,which I have rinsed ready to put in the pot later:

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I am going to put the mix of sweetcorn, potatoes, carrots, peppers, chilli and borlotti beans into a huge cooking pot over a bonfire, along with some braising steak, onions, beef stock and some fresh tarragon picked today.

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This is all going into a dutch oven on the fire.  Watch this space, I will post the results tomorrow, if they were worth a look.

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I am going to eat my stew with oven roasted tomato and parmesan bread that I made earlier:

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This was made using the tomatoes from the plot a few weeks ago, which had been overnight-roasted according to the recipe on Make Grow Gather.  This created the perfect addition to home made bread:


So, two hours later, here we are with food cooking on the fire:

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I haven’t tasted it yet, but I can’t wait:

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It looks a lot better and browner after a few hours of cooking.  Here was the final result.  It actually seemed like a real Ray Mears kind of meal, with lots of whole veg and a bit of spice.

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Granted, it still looks pretty grim with the flash on the camera, but it tasted amazing, with a Central American accent, with sweetcorn, Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, chillis, peppers and potatoes.


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Reflections on winter

Although nothing really goes on at the allotment during Winter, plants are hibernating and starting to prepare for their next season of growth.

In the same way, gardeners are musing the possibilities for next year.  One of the things I love about the British seasons is the necessity of downing tools for a couple of months.  Each year offers a second chance at things that didn’t work and excitement about trying something new.

First visit of 2009

We popped to the allotment today to put the Christmas tree back and get some digging and weeding done.  It was great to be back out in the fresh air.  The strawberry patch was looking overcrowded by weeds, so we cleared them and the annual beds, ready for the year ahead.

This year’s seeds have arrived

I have heard from many sources that newer varieties are bred for uniformity and qualities that make them suitable for cropping on a large scale (like maturing at the same time).  I am not really bothered about mass production, but I really want my crops to taste good – otherwise what is the point?  I thought it was worth trying older varieties that were bred for flavour.

I have bought a selection of interesting seeds from ‘The Real Seed Company’ and will be growing these alongside some more modern versions.


This year’s selections are as follows:

‘Ashworth’ sweetcorn: reputed to be a very early variety – so should ripen while we are visiting the allotment every day in summer, rather than ripening once we have slackened off and the birds get to it first.

‘Long Lisse de Meaux’ Carrot: Red blunt tipped carrot for late season harvest, and old French variety chosen for its excellent keeping qualities in a cellar, apparently.

‘Waltham’ Butternut squash: An improved butternut that is mostly neck, with a rich flavour.  Also stores well.  Hopefully this will be a nice tasting squash – they are such good value to grow if they taste ok.

‘Patisson Blanc’ Patty-Pan Squash: French heirloom variety of white scallop squash with flat white fruit.  Delicious used young as if a courgette.

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean: A very rare bean. The tall plants have purple flowers and beans with green or red tinged pods.  One of the best beans ever from the Cherokee Indians.

‘Golden Sweet’ yellow-podded mange-tout peas: Incredibly rare.  Tall plants with lemon yellow pods.  This will be a good addition to last year’s purple podded peas.

‘Gardener’s Delight (supersweet Irish version): small red cherry tomato with very sweet flavour.  I am on a search of a tasty home-grown tomato which will ripen properly outside.

‘Leaf Selection’ Coriander: slow to bolt coriander.  The usual problem with Coriander is the speed with which it sets flowers, changing the leaf shape.  This will hopefully avoid the problem.

‘Winter Marvel’ Winter butterhead lettuce: A cold resistant lettuce from France.  Something to fill in the gaps before spring gets going.

Hot off the press

We got a letter today telling us that we have been given a plot at the very sought after ‘Warren’ site, which is walking distance away.  There are only ten plots there, and I have been on a waiting list for a plot there since September 2000.  Of course we could never leave our beloved Stanley Road plot, but having one walking distance away might prove useful, especially if we ever move house closer to it : ).

The new one will be for growing vines and fruit cages, whereas we will keep annuals on the Stanley Road site, because the social aspect means we will probably go there more often to keep an eye on things.

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Late summer sun

Looking towards the wendy house and the lavender

Looking towards the wendy house and the lavender

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous still, sunny autumn days.  We took the girls to the allotment to see what was left to harvest of this year’s crops. 

The dahlias are finally slowing down. In some ways I am sorry to see them end. The house has been full of flowers all summer. No-one in the plots nearby particularly wants any more of them, although we have managed to repay a few of our gifts by giving them away. I hope it’s the thought that counts, because we don’t really have a surplus of anything else worth giving away!

I read a couple of weeks ago that Northern parts of the country should start taking up their carrots, so decided to pull ours out before the risk of any frost.  Much to my surprise and in contrast to the ones I had impatiently plucked out back in July, we got a fairly decent crop.  Admittedly the carrots resembled something grown in the aftermath of Chernobyl, with their multi-forked mutilated roots, but I suppose they will taste the same.  With our stony soil and my rather disastrous use of supposedly ‘degradable’ peat pots to plant them in, I was just pleased to get a result at all.

Months of anticipation resulted in...

Months of anticipation resulted in...

Carrot cake! That’s what I will do with them because they don’t really look that appetising. The girls have been begging me to make cake for ages. Back later.

Fern is determined she won’t eat carrots, but the same recipe will do for carrot and banana cakes, and luckily there are 3 bananas going brown on the kitchen windowsill.

450g self raising flour
450g light brown muscovado sugar (although various store-cupboard cakes have included white sugar, golden syrup and honey – which does tend to dominate the flavour somewhat unless it is a very mild version like acacia)
350ml sunflower oil
450g grated carrot or 6 mashed bananas (or in this case half of each)
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
2 pinches of salt
6 eggs

Mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients. Then mix the two together, place in tins and put in the oven at 180 degrees C. Leave for approx 50 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

Carrot in the round tin, banana in the loaf tin

Carrot in the round tin, banana in the loaf tin

We made good inroads into the banana cake

The finished articles

The finished articles

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