Archive for the ‘Tomatoes’ Category

The Met office has sheepishly apologised for predicting a ‘barbecue summer’ that has been resoundingly rained off.  I have to say I don’t understand why they feel personally responsible for the maverick weather we get in this country – but all the same it’s quite enjoyable watching them eat humble pie when they get it wrong.

I am not sure whether to moan about this summer’s weather or not.   It has been warm enough to ripen tomatoes, peppers and chilis outside in August, whereas I can remember previous years where even in Autumn I have been desperately holding out for some sun to ripen crops.  In addition, the watering duties have been negligible compared to the usual fretting every other day.  Crops have swelled beautifully, although weeds and lawns have needed more maintenance. The humidity has made blight more likely, which has been devastating for those affected.

But for me one of the mixed blessings of gardening is that each year brings its successes and failures.  One plant’s meat is another plant’s poison, and I quite like having gluts of different crops each year (and of course courgettes every year), and I accept the outright failures.

This week’s surprise bonus was the sunflowers, which have done really well.   They can be seen here towering over the roof of the wendy house.

allotment aug 13th 09 006

The beans and courgettes have gone over while we were away, but the outdoor tomatoes, chillis and peppers have been an unexpected bonus.  I can’t claim any credit for this, but hats off to Jamie for a fantastic year.

allotment aug 13th 09 001

Unfortunately haven’t been to the Warren yet since coming back from hols, because of a heavy cold.  It is bad enough to worry it might be Swine Flu, but not bad enough so that I feel like I am going to die, which as I remember is a giveaway sign of actual flu.  So another false alarm probably.

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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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I just thought I would post a photo of the tomatoes now they have ripened.

Red tomatoes

Red tomatoes

Jamie had heard that if you put the green ones together with the red ones, they ripen. Something to do with some chemical they give off. Another tip is to use ripe bananas which apparently give off the same chemical (I wonder if that is the same one that is supposed to make wasps angry?)

Anyway, whatever it was it seems to have worked – this is about 3 weeks after the first photo (below) and they have literally just sat on the kitchen floor in a bag.

Now we just need to eat them. For me it just isn’t a raw tomatoes time of year, so they are just sitting there making me feel guilty. (Since doing this blog I am realising what a large part ‘guilt’ plays in my life!) I think they will have to be oven-roasted with garlic and oils or something, just to make them more appetising. For next year, Perry and George have given us one of their ‘Black Russian’ tomatoes to save the seed from. Hopefully these will taste better – they swear by them!

Also, Jamie wants me to put on a photo of the bouquet garni he made from the allotment herbs.

Ta da......

Ta da......

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Green tomatoes

Last week we picked about a hundredweight of tomatoes, most of which were green. Fortunately, the blight that was affecting most plots had only just reached ours last week, so Jamie decided to store them to see which ones were affected. Hardly any of them started to go the trademark brown colour, which left us with the dilemma of what to do with them all……

what's left of the tomatoes

what's left of the tomatoes

Jamie started a pasta sauce, with tomatoes, old red wine (vinegar!), garlic and oil. We’ll see later on whether it tastes nice.

tomato sauce in the making

tomato sauce in the making

Out of interest, the dark green squashes are still sitting by the side of the stove, waiting to be used. : D

Still here.....

Still here.....

They have got very hard skin and don’t seem to have deteriorated yet, so hopefully we will still get time to do something cool with them. Even tempted to see if they will keep till Halloween??

Although that is a month’s time.

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