Sunday 30 September 2012

Scotch Bonnet Chilli - a late addition

Last weekend I went to my local Garden Centre to buy some bulbs, but you know how it is, I didn't buy just bulbs... For instance I got an "End of Season Clearance" Scotch Bonnet chilli plant for just 50p. It looked a good healthy plant and it had three fruits on it as well as several flowers. A bargain too good to miss, I thought...

I reckon that if I keep this plant indoors when the weather turns cold I should be able to persuade its fruit to ripen. The plant itself is not very big (maybe 15" tall) and will easily fit on a windowsill.

Meanwhile, my other chillis are producing lots of ripe fruit now. I had a clear-out of the freezer today and replaced last year's remaining chillis with some from this year. Rather than just throw them away, I used the old ones to make another batch of chilli oil.

Here are the ones I have just harvested, posing...

These green chillis were harvested last week, and they are now in the freezer. We like to have some red ones and some green ones, to give greater flexibility in the kitchen.

Half hidden behind the chillis, in amongst the Runner Beans I have a "volunteer" tomato plant growing. I thought it was going to succumb to the blight like everything else, so didn't pay it much  attention, but it is surviving and has now produced lots of very tiny fruits. They are still green, but I wouldn't be surprised if they go yellow when they ripen, since the only tomato type with such small fruit that I have ever grown was "Currant Goldrush", which has golden yellow fruits. I suspect that this is a plant that has grown from seeds preserved in my compost bin.

Talking of tomatoes, what do you think of this "nosey" one?

Saturday 29 September 2012

Cherokee Trail of Tears beans

After ten days drying indoors, my Cherokee beans were ready for shelling. They were dry and crisp, and had lost most of their colouring, becoming a light ochre / beige colour. Picking them up, I could feel and hear the beans rattling about inside the pods.

Shelling this number of beans took me some considerable time - and gave me a dose of RSI ! These beans also seemed keen to make a last-ditch bid for freedom, pinging all over the place as I snapped open the pods. I think I have picked them all up off the floor now...

The pods were well filled, with the best ones having 7 or 8 beans inside.

When the task was finished I had 700 grams of lovely glossy black beans:

I consider this to be a very satisfactory crop, since the plants had only occupied half of one of my 1m x 2.4m raised beds. I think a 2-person serving will be somewhere in the region of 100g, so this will be six or seven meals worth. Jane is already looking through her cookbooks for suitable recipes. The ones about Mexican and South-West USA cuisine seem the most promising... Anyone got any recipe suggestions?

Friday 28 September 2012

The Autumn glow

This post is a 99% visual one. The lovely Autumn light has afforded lots of photo opportunities recently. I think words would be superfluous...

The Autumn light has some indefinable quality that just isn't there in the Summer. It's not harsh, its mellow...

Thursday 27 September 2012

Aubergine "Hummous"

Can you have Aubergine Hummous? Or does Hummous have to be made with Chick Peas? Who cares anyway? I have used some of my home-grown Aubergines to make a Hummous-like substance...

Amazingly, despite the cooler weather we are now experiencing, the Aubergine plants are still surviving. They don't look so special, but they definitely have not given up yet:

Both plants still have a number of small fruits on them:

I had six smallish Aubergines in the fridge that needed using up, so I decided to make them into a dish a bit like Hummous. As usual I didn't follow a recipe, I just used my instinct. This is what I did:

I chopped a small red onion and softened it in about a tablespoonful of sunflower oil in a frying-pan. When the onion was soft I added  the following:-
  • 4 small cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 6 small aubergines, chopped into 1-inch sections
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded
  • 1 small chilli, de-seeded and chopped
  • a squeeze of tomato puree
  • a small pinch of ground cumin and some salt and pepper
  • about 150ml chicken stock
I cooked the mixture over a low heat for about 30 minutes, by which time the stock had been absorbed and the aubergines had gone very soft.

I turned off the heat and allowed the mixture to cool for a few minutes before blitzing it in the food-processor until it became a smooth paste, which I decanted into a suitable dish and garnished with parsley and some fresh chilli.

This dish can be used just like Hummous, ideally spread thickly on some herby flat-breads. It was surprisingly pleasant. Tasty; almost creamy in texture, without any of the bitterness or sliminess that I often associate with aubergines. I say that because you know that until recently I have been rather anti aubergines in general. I was particularly pleased that when my daughter Emma tried it she declared it to be "absolutely lovely" - and that comes from someone who I would say is normally even less likely than me to praise the aubergine.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

What's left in the garden in September?

The Summer crops are winding-down now, and my focus is on things like Winter brassicas, but before we forget Summer completely, here's a Situation Report on some of the plants in my garden that are finishing rather than starting.

The Runner Beans have done amazingly well this year, and they are just putting on another spurt of energy. There are fading crimson flowers and tiny bean pods all over the place! To look at them, anyone would think it was June, not September.

Photo taken 22 September

Some of the new crop are already quite large, so I'm hoping they will mature before the frost kills them off. We haven't had any frost yet, but it did get down to 2 degrees (Celsius) one night last week.

The Beetroot are still going strong too, although the rows are considerably depleted now. Despite having been in the ground for ages, none of the roots have grown very big. This suits me fine. And it's not as if they have gone woody either - they are still really tender when cooked.

This little Cabbage ("Golden Acre") is one that I grew in a pot. It never got very big, just enough for a two-person serving, but in terms of quality it was superb.

I have a couple more of this variety growing in the soil so it will be interesting to compare them.

"Golden Acre" in one of the raised beds

The Bronze Fennel flowers have faded and given way to seeds now. They are very picturesque, but I probably won't be harvesting them since we don't use a huge amount of Fennel in our cooking and we still have plenty in store.

The Blueberries that I pruned after harvesting have put up several new stems. In fact the pruning gave the bushes a new lease of life and they have produced loads of new leaves even on the old stems. That's a shame really, since it is now time for them to fall off!

My new Strawberry plants grown from runners are looking good, and I have now severed their "umbilical cords". I have 10 Strawberry plants now instead of the four I bought earlier in the year. I just need to plan where to grow them next year!

The "Iznik" cucumber plants look very ragged and disshevelled:

I'm not cutting them down just yet though, because they are still continuing to produce fruit:

One thing we can say for sure: this week most gardens in Britain have been VERY well watered - naturally.

Tuesday 25 September 2012


Those of you who have followed my blog some some while will know full well that I am very fond of the Dogwood family of shrubs, and I have examples of several types in my garden. At this time of year the plants are full of interest because this is when the leaves turn colour and eventually fall off, revealing the brightly-coloured stems.

Undoubtedly the one I like best is the golden one - especially since I love the contrast it makes with the neighbouring purple Cotinus.

The symettrical spearhead-shaped leaves are a greenish-yellow colour, with prominent veins.

Last year I managed to root two cuttings from this shrub. I gave one away, but the other is coming along nicely down by the shed:

This is a branch of the one I call "Cornus Milton Keynesii" because I have grown it from cuttings brought back from the side of a road in (the town called) Milton Keynes:

And this is a close-up of the same branch:

Here's one whose foliage is just beginning to put on some Autumn colour - in this case purple.

Here's an arty photo with light and shade emphasising the colour contrasts:

This is my oldest Dogwood bush - "Midwinter Fire". I cut it right down to ground level earlier this year, but it has bounced back very virorously. I hope its colour will be good this Winter.

Midwinter Fire

This one is "Cornus Alba Kesselringii", which has stems that are very dark purple, almost black. The plant is still young (in its second year) so it hasn't really had a chance to show off yet, but I'm hoping for a good display this time.


Of course it's not only the foliage of the Dogwoods that I find attractive, but also the berries. They start off green...

And when mature they are white.

To me they look like little beads made of ivory!

Monday 24 September 2012

Beetroot Tabbouleh

Whilst on holiday in Turkey the other day we encountered for the first time a dish which was described as "Bulghur and Beetroot salad", which seems to be rather similar in concept to Tabbouleh, in that it is based on Bulghur (aka Cracked Wheat) and includes lots of herbs - in this case predominantly Mint - but the star ingredient was Beetroot. It was a delicious dish, so I've tried to recreate it here at home.

This is where it starts:

These ones are a mixture of "Detroit" and "Red Ace".

I think it is actually 5 x Detroit and 1 x Red Ace (the redder one, at left of the photo above).

The first task was to cook the beetroot - boiled for about 40 mins in a large pan. After draining, the beetroot was cooled, peeled and cut into very small dice. I also put about 50 grams of Bulghur in a pyrex bowl and then "cooked" it by covering it generously with boiling water and leaving it to stand for about an hour, during which time it absorbed all the water.

Only 4 ingredients: beetroot, bulghur, mint, oil

I gathered a couple of large handfuls of fresh Mint from the garden and used my hachoire / mezzaluna to chop it finely. Then it was simply a matter of combining the ingredients together, with a little splash of oil to keep them moist. The result was very pleasing to taste - and visually stunning!